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5 Nov 2018

Local guide: an afternoon in Kensington


Kensington as we know it: endless streets lined with white stucco houses, top notch museums, pricey restaurants and posh bars. Whilst some of my favourite eateries there are on the steeper side (Yashin comes to mind), there are many hidden gems worth heading over for, from old-fashioned tucked away boutiques to light and bright Middle Eastern joints to a popular Japanese haunt that serves one of the best matcha soft serves in town.

Last week, I was challenged to head over to Kensington and spend an afternoon exploring with the aim of sharing some less obvious places worth visiting. Whilst the museums are of course well worth your time and Kensington Gardens are indeed beautiful, my goal today is to hopefully introduce one or two places you may not have heard of. So whether you're a Londoner or visiting from out of town and looking to stay in the area, I hope I'm able to share with you a place or two that'll make you want to head West.

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Mere metres away from the hustle and bustle of Kensington High Street lies an alley you could easily miss - Kensington Church Walk. Lined with a few tightly squeezed vintage shops, walking down it feels like escaping modern day madness and stepping into a bygone era. This little byway is conveniently situated right next to some lovely little parks where you can enjoy a moment's respite (and, if you're as lucky as I was on this sunny afternoon, numerous friendly local cats will happily run over to you for a quick scratch on the head).

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London
Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

I took advantage of the sunny weather and strolled over to South Kensington, where I met up with a friend for lunch. We were lucky enough to grab a table at the lively Ceru restaurant, serving Levantine cuisine via tapas style sharing plates. Favourites include the apple, mint & pomegranate salad, zucchini & feta fritters and spice battered squid with harissa yoghurt.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Too stuffed to even consider looking at the dessert menu, we meandered a few steps down the road to Muriel's Kitchen, a popular brunch spot where I've had many a PR breakfast meeting, to grab some proper coffees.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

A short time later and my 'dessert stomach' has reared its head (if you know, you know). I already know exactly what I have to have. The minute I think of South Ken, I think of Tombo. Having visited Japan a handful of times, matcha soft serve is one of my favourite sweet treats and Tombo does one of the best ones I've tried in London. It's a cafe that serves sushi and Bento boxes, but you can also order the matcha ice cream to take away (in a cone or cup). 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

To me, this is the ideal way to spend an afternoon in Kensington. End the excursion with a visit to any one of the nearby museums (the Natural History Museum is a personal favourite and also has the loveliest ice rink set up outside it during winter months) and you've got a wonderful day out, whether alone or with friends/family. 

Thank you to Hotels.com for this collaboration. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all opinions and words are my own.

1 Nov 2018

Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
 Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Our driver pulled up at the guarded bridge, hopping out to unload our luggage. We stepped out of the car, squinting as the sun glistened off the sparkling water, and were immediately greeted by GM Tapa and his wife Jane, who accompanied us across the bridge as we chatted. We had arrived at Aman Sveti Stefan, an incredible hideaway set in a 15th century fortified village on a small island.

There are two options when staying at Aman Sveti Stefan during warmer months. You can opt to stay in one of the cottages on the SS island itself, or in one of the rooms across the water on the mainland at former royal summer residence, Villa Milocer. In winter, the island closes down for the season and the only rooms available are at VM. We stayed on the main island.

Each cottage on the island is unique. Whilst I've read other reviews that slated them for being 'bare bones', I personally appreciated the minimalism and especially adored the exposed stone walls. Our cottage had an abundance of space (a feature very typical of Amans), total privacy from the cobbled streets outside, and the soothing, neutral tones suited my tastes just fine. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

- Eat the truffle pasta at Arva. We had this at least 4 times. It is absolutely moreish.

- Whilst we're on the subject of truffles, spend an afternoon switching from loungers on the private Queen's beach (for guests only, whereas the other 2 beaches are open to the public for a fee) and the cabanas next to Queen's beach. Order the truffle pizza. Maybe order a second one. The Aperol Spritzes are refreshing, too.

- Have sunset drinks on the terrace next to restaurant Arva. If you're lucky enough to get a clear or only slightly cloudy day, the colours and view are magnificent. Plus you get baskets of delicious fresh popcorn to nibble on whilst you drink.

- Even if you happen to be staying in one of the rooms at VM during the summer months, do head over to the island to explore during the day even if only to get lost amongst the cobbled pathways. It's utterly charming (and you definitely will get lost).

- Brave the water - whilst it is likely to be a little cold, it is also wonderfully fresh and clear.

- Ask about the adventure experiences available. With only 3 days to unwind for Jarv's birthday, we missed out but should we return I would absolutely want to hike the nearby mountains with picturesque views and numerous monasteries to visit should you want a rest during your hike. You can also take a sailboat to nearby secluded bays for a picnic lunch.

My absolute favourite part of our stay was taking the private speedboat across from the main island to Villa Milocer for breakfast each morning. We attempted to switch things up one morning and have breakfast in the piazza on the island but the sheer number of other guests seated and the lack of any service staff in sight was enough to drive us instantly across the water to the infinitely more peaceful and romantic VM. That speedboat ride across the clear water is the most invigorating way I can imagine to start my day, plus I have never felt more 007 😄.

This was my second stay at an Aman property (the first being Amanoi - review coming soon). I can say that I am indeed on my way to Aman junkie status ... I haven't a bad word to say about either resort.

19 Jul 2018

A Weekend in Amsterdam

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amsterdam Guide

Can you believe, having lived in London for 10+ years, I hadn't made it to Amsterdam once until late last year? To put that into perspective, early last year I flew to New Zealand for a fortnight, flew back to London for a few short weeks and then flew all the way back to Fiji for another week. Yet Amsterdam, a mere 1 hour away, I hadn't found time for yet.

So when Jarv and I heard Wolf Alice were performing there, we decided it was high time (ha ha...) I finally visited the 'Venice of the North'. The weather wasn't ideal, with both wind and heavy rain, but it was November so that was hardly surprising. Everything else about the short weekend was a delight, from accommodation to food to wandering aimlessly around the city.

STAY

We started with a night at the Intercontinental Amstel, a landmark hotel (standing since 1867) sat proudly on the East bank of the river Amstel, which in 2007 even made the list of World's Best Hotels. With its grandiose interiors and old-world charm, the Amstel has housed prestigious guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Jackson in its day. 

Our room was a tad 'grandma's house' for my taste, but I can still appreciate the traditional touches and I must say that breakfast overlooking the river was the highlight of our stay at the Intercontinental Amstel - excellent cooked-to-order dishes, a beautifully laid out buffet, a wonderful tea selection and gracious service all served to set us up for the day in the best way possible.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam

For the second half of our stay we wandered over to the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam. Another historical building, it was once a monastery before becoming Amsterdam's City Hall for almost 200 years.

We were greeted by our own butler who escorted us up to our room, explained its features and expertly poured us two welcome glasses of Veuve Clicquot before taking his leave. 

Featuring jewel tones and an exposed brick wall, our room was a little more 'modern elegance' than the previous hotel, if smaller. From the window: a calming and picturesque view of one of Amsterdam's lovely canals.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

EAT & DRINK

BAR-becue Castell Amsterdam: incredible steaks cooked to perfection (and as rare as you ask for!), delivered in generous portions. The restaurant features communal-style seating on plush leather sofas (or dining at the bar where the action is, which is what we did).

Mr. Crab: an abundance of freshly caught seafood in all its glory, piled high on tiered troughs of ice. Light, healthy and delicious.

De Koffieschenkerij: Tasty sandwiches, good coffee, chill vibes (and incredible looking pastries that I refrained from gobbling up ... this time), all inside Amsterdam's oldest building.

I'm sorry to say I don't have many more recommendations just yet as our trip was short and sweet (plus some of the meals we had were room service, etc.), however we will surely return soon to explore even more of this gorgeous city so ... TBC.

In the meanwhile, if you have any suggestions of areas/museums/restaurants/bars I should visit the next time I'm there, I'd always love to hear those too.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | De Koffieschenkerij Amsterdam
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mr. Crab Amsterdam