Relais & Chateaus – Borgo San Felice, a Medieval village in the heart of Chianti

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice is an oasis of peace, nature and beauty on the Tuscan hills. Borgo San Felice is the only Relais & Chateaux 5-star hotel in the Chianti Classico area. Only an hour drive from Florence, this is the perfect base to explore the surrounding area as well as those green rolling hills you must have seen in postcards and movies for years.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Surrounded by 147 hectares of vineyards, lovely squares and narrow paths, Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice was founded in the 8th century and its beauty has remained intact since. In 1991 it was renewed completely and turned into a 5-star hotel, but the medieval village buildings haven’t been spoiled.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice features 33 rooms and 21stunning suites like these ones:

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

FOOD AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX BORGO SAN FELICE

There are several food options at Borgo San Felice. You can opt for a gourmet dinner at the restaurant Poggio Rosso or go for the traditional flavours of Tuscany at the Osteria Del Grigio. If you are feeling hungry during the day or after a swim, there is a pool bar and if you wish to try the wonderful wines at BSF you should head to the Winehouse.

Poggio Rosso: find out more here

Osteria del Grigio: find out more here

EXPLORE THE BEST OF CHIANTI CLASSICO 

Agricola San Felice, the Borgo San Felice’s Winery, produces 14 different wines and visiting its cellar is a great way to get familiar with wine production and ageing.
Leonardo Bellaccini, the enologist, in collaboration with several universities, established the “San Felice method” which is a perfect combination of old traditions with state of the art scientific innovation. Today, Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice also produces DOP extra-virgin olive oil on top of acclaimed wines like Campogiovanni, Brunello di Montalcino and Poggio Rosso as well as a selection of grappa and vin santo.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

SUSTAINABILITY & RESPECT FOR NATURE AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX BORGO SAN FELICE

At Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice, they fight soil erosion with the right terracing combined with a constant attention and analysis of the local flora and fauna. A great example of this approach is Vitiarium, where hundreds of species have been protected and cultivated for the past 30 years to prevent them to disappear.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

UMANA MENTE by ALLIANZ GROUP AT BORGO SAN FELICE

What’s the best way to pass on traditions from the elderly generations to the new one? What’s the only way to share invaluable skills about agriculture and nature? Well, the answer at Borgo San Felice is Umana Mente, an Allianz Group’s foundation that connects the elderly with young people with disabilities in a common project that is a vast vegetable garden.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

ABOUT RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with an unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

“EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Notes: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux “The Art of Living” press trip – all views are my own. As always.

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Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta, a little girl’s dream turned into magic

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Carmen who travelled the world with her dad Vittorio, a guide always under her arm and the dream to have a hotel as beautiful as the ones they were staying at. Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta is Carmen Moretti’s dream come true. Today, this gorgeous hotel, which opened twenty years ago, is one of the most renowned 5-star hotels in Italy and part of the French Relais & Chateaux Association.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA: THE MAISON

Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta shares with its guests the charm of its history and traditions also thanks to its strong connection to the Franciacorta region. L’Albereta entered the Relais & Chateaux network in 1998 with 10 rooms. Today it features 57 suites and bedrooms, each with its own style and details. You can choose from Classic, Superior or Deluxe rooms or pick a Suite Lake Tower, a Suite Contaldi Tower or a Bellavista Grand Suite. But if I was to go back I would surely book the Cabriolet Suite, a magical room where the roof above the bed opens to the sky showing you the starred sky. No doubts.

FOOD AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA

L’Albereta was associated to Gualtiero Marchesi, the patriarch of Italian haute cuisine, who was the head of the restaurant for twenty years. Today, Executive Chef Fabio Abbatista proposes a cuisine based on the excellence of ingredients, most of which come directly from the hill where L’Albereta is located: here are bred exquisite chickens and rabbits, while vegetables, aromatic herbs and fruits are produced by the family vegetable garden and picked up every day by the kitchen team.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

There are three restaurants at L’Albereta, each with its own identity and purpose.

LeoneFelice

Opened in 2014, LeoneFelice is a fine restaurant, with a contemporary décor made of the best Italian design where Executive Chef Fabio Abbattista, coming from Apulia proposes a cuisine that mixes the flavours of the south with the taste of the north in outstanding combinations and surprising dishes. The name of the restaurant is a tribute to the old guardian and gardener, Leone. He has always taken care of this house and garden with love and joy.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

If you wish to enjoy the unforgettable experience of discovering what really happens behind the scenes of a high-end restaurant you can book the Chef’s Table. A private table in the heart of the kitchen where the brigade alongside the head chef will cook a specific 6-course menu for you and your friends. The Chef Fabio Abbattista will accompany you during the entire experience sharing the ideas behind each dish and the products used to create them.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

The Chef’s Table of LeoneFelice can accommodate a party from 2 to 8 people (120 euro per person, wines excluded). Book far in advance since the waiting list is months long.

Open from Tuesday to Saturday – 7.30pm to 10.30pm
Tel. +39 030 7762603
leonefelice@albereta.it

VistaLago Bistrò

Set in the oldest room of this XIX villa and decorated with ancient frescos and Latin quotes about the art of hospitality, the VistaLago Bistrò offers its guests outstanding views over the Lake Iseo and the surrounding hills.

Open from 7.30am to 1.00am, it’s perfect from the breakfast as well as for cocktails before and after dinner. Throughout the day it proposes delicious snacks, a special selection of typical Italian and regional dishes for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch and afternoon tea at five.

So, if you are feeling peckish after a golf match, a ride on the lake or a cycle on the hills that surround the area, the VistaLago bistro is open all day and you’ll surely find something to satisfy both your stomach and palate.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Open from 7.30am to 1 am.

La Filiale

The kiosk La Filiale combines a menu entirely dedicated to Franco Pepe’s pizzas with outstanding Franciacorta wines. His world-famous pizzas are light and produced with hand-made dough and local ingredients.

The latest addition to L’Albereta, La Filiale is an informal restaurant, perfect to start out your evening with a “pizza a libretto” accompanied by a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 7 PM, Sunday from 12 PM to 3 PM and from 7 PM (closed for lunch on August). Take-Away available.

ESPACE CHENOT HEALTH WELLNESS SPA

Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta offers health and fitness programmes for those who are looking to detox and get fit in gorgeous settings. On top of specific and personalised training programmes, there is also a tailored food menu so that you don’t have to worry about calories and ingredients.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

 

For more information, click here

RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA: THE WINE & THE VINEYARDS

About Franciacorta

banner-consorzio-franciacorta

Franciacorta is a region of rolling hills extending from Mount Orfano (south of Rovato) to the southwest area to the shores of Lake Iseo, and from the river Oglio on the western border of the city of Brescia in the east. The soil made of glacial moraines consists of gravel, sand and limestone, drains well making it ideal for the cultivation of grapes and winemaking. The weather is mild and constant due to its location south of the foothills of the Alps and the tempering presence of large lakes making it perfect for nature and agriculture. In fact, since the Middle Ages, Franciacorta has boasted an intense cultivation of vineyards, olive groves and vegetable gardens. Consequently, the nobles choose this area to build their magnificient country residences. Today, Franciacorta features an incredible landscape with towers, castles, palaces and villas as well as rural churches and abbeys, making it the perfect destination for a road trip or a bike ride.

The first appearance of the name “Franzacurta” can be traced back to 1277, where it appears in the municipal statute of Brescia as a reference to the area south of Lake Iseo. Franzacurta or Franzia Curta was then an important area for the supply of wine to the city of Brescia. The name derives from the fact that here tax was not paid here “corte franca” (AKA nothing to do with France!)

For information about ideal Franciacorta and exploring the region, please visit the website of the Association La Strada del Franciacorta.

During our The Art of Wine Living tour organised by Relais & Chateaux, we had the opportunity to visit two famous wineries belonging to the Moretti family and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about Franciacorta’s wine and its production process.

Bellavista Winery

At Bellavista, they use time-proven cultivation methods, which comply with the rhythms of nature and do not try to cheat it with any artificial help. The privilege of the right vineyard exposures, mass selection and manual harvest and selection (vineyard by vineyard, row by row) are some of the essential elements that make Bellavista’s wines unique in the world.

The fermentation takes place in small white oak casks where the wine refines its Franciacorta character. The re-fermentation happens in bottles set in their vast cellars at a constant temperature of 13°C and then silent refinement over long years (more than six sometimes).

Here, manual work is still at the center of the production of wine and in fact they are one of the very few winery which hasn’t adopted a giro pallet but instead have hired an incredibly agile and fast guy who can turn 120 bottles in 20 seconds (don’t ask me how!!) for a total of 7000 bottles.

Bellavista Winery, Carmen Moretti’s family business uses the Leone grapes to produce 1000 bottles yearly of a pure Chardonnay that is unique in the world and can only be found here.

“Imperfections aren’t weaknesses, they are our strength and uniqueness” Mattia Vezzola – aenologo at Bellavista

Among the various Riserva wines, there is also a recent experiment of wine which is resting in 9-liter bottles made of Murano glass.

Contadi Castaldi

The name is a synthesis of the ancient history of Franciacorta and its vocation for outstanding agriculture. In 1500, when the Venetian Republic was at the height of its splendour, Franciacorta produced food and wine destined for the tables of princes, kings and rich merchants. For Franciacorta, the beautiful city of Venice was the market of choice for introducing its wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many quarries in the area gave rise to the Biasca brickyard, the old building that houses the Contadi Castaldi winery today. When the Franciacorta region was at the peak of its development in the 1980’s, Vittorio and Mariella Moretti decided to convert the brickyard into a winery. Its large spaces and long tunnels where the bricks were fired proved to be the perfect place for ageing Franciacorta vintages and welcoming wine lovers.

Contadi Castaldi is the only winery that owns winegrapes all over the Franciacorta territory.  It was a passion for the art of innovation that pushed their wine specialists to search the Franciacorta region to find the most evocative vineyards and the most passionate winegrowers.

About Relais & Châteaux

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with an unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD

 

 

Notes: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux “The Art of Living” press trip – all views are my own. As always.

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Relais & Châteaux Il Borro – A place like no other

Il Borro

Set in the middle of a superb 700-hectare Tuscan estate, the Relais & Châteaux Il Borro is an oasis of charm in the form of a mediaeval village with a villa, a farm, many traditional shops, a modern SPA and farm buildings. Vineyards, gardens, tennis courts and horse fields surround this incredible Tuscan paradise where wines and olive oil are produced by traditional methods and are an integral part of the landscape of the region. The property mixes ingredients like art, style and haute cuisine to the old traditions of the best wine-making creating a combination of sublime perfection that is best appreciated when spending a few days at Il Borro.

 Il Borro was the third hotel of our The Art of Wine Living press trip among some of the most stunning Italian Relais & Chateaux properties was. I only wish I could have stayed there for a week. Or two. Or forever.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

History and traditions OF Il BOrro

The story of Il Borro estate starts as a fortress built to defend a strategic area crossed by stretches of the Clodia and Cassia, two important Roman roads which made it the object of contrasts and disputes between local factions and noble families. In 1254, the Marquis Borro Borri, then mayor of Arezzo, bought the property but it was only in the 16th century, under Alessandro del Borro that the village took his current shape and look.

In the mid-Fifties, Il Borro passed to Duke Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta and in 1993 the Duke sold the entire property to the Ferragamo family during what Ferruccio Ferragamo often called “an enduring act of faith”. He and his son, Salvatore spent more than a decade restoring and refurbishing the ancient place while taking care and preserving its old traditions and history.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Today, walking around the medieval village and passing by the old shops and artisans’ workshops you can clearly feel and breath the values that the Ferragamo family wanted to protect and preserve: the atmosphere of the past times taken to today and to the future generations.

The borgo still features the ancient church which two times a month is still used for the religious function which attracts locals, guests and the staff. The integration with the local community is vivid and alive in all the aspects of the resort.

 

 
The art of WIne-making at Relais & Chateaux Il borrO

The winemaking revival at Il Borro begins in 1995, two years after the Ferragamo family bought the estate. Ferruccio decided to make the most of the temperate climate and the excellent exposure of the vineyards combined with an ideal soil for the cultivation of the vine.

In 2012 the estate converted to biodynamic agriculture with the aim of obtaining an even more fertile soil and an ever-better quality product with no use at all of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The whole production at Il Borro is organic since 2015 and in the same year, Il Borro produced the first two organic certified wines: Borrigiano and Petruna.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world” Ernest Hemingway

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Thanks to its eco-sustainable choices, biodynamic principles and respect for the environment, Il Borro is an example of sustainable agriculture and development as well as a zero carbon footprint estate.

A tour of the Il Borro Cellars is a journey to the heart of Tuscan wine-making tradition and a chance to learn more about this “art”. Here, in one of the oldest cellars in Italy, the first ever Chianti wine was produced, and today as then, the magic of winemaking continues with the same passion and commitment. Accompanied by experts you will see the different steps that turn simple grapes into fine wines and the vats, barrels and barriques that make this possible.

The labels produced at Il Borro are:

IL BORRO – 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet, 10% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot
ALESSANDRO DAL BORRO – 100% Syrah
POLISSENA – 100% Sangiovese
PIAN DI NOVA – 75% Syrah, 25% Sangiovese
LAMELLE – 100% Chardonnay
OCCHIO DI PERNICE VIN SANTO DEL CHIANTI – 100% Sangiovese
BOLLE DI BORRO – Classic Method Rosé, 100% Sangiovese
GRAPPA DEL BORRO – 100% organic Petit Verdot
BORRIGIANO – 35% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese
PETRUNA – 100% Sangiovese
ROSÈ DEL BORRO – 100% Sangiovese

We were lucky to be at Il Borro during their Winederful Harvesting Day 2017 and, after learning the ropes of grapes cropping, we were spoiled by a fantastic BBQ which we washed away with some of the delicious wine produced right in the estate and mentioned above.

Il Borro

 


SUSTAINABILITY & TRADITIONS 

Sustainability and respect for the local community and the territory are the guiding principles in everything Il Borro does. The Ferragamo family made a commitment to respect the local ecosystem so that every product would be a real expression of the territory. These principles are also applied to the production of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which began in 1996. The harvest is done manually and a biodynamic approach is used during the crushing and pressing phases.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Another great example of Il Borro’s sustainable approach is the Orto del Borro which takes an entire hectare of the property. It was certified as organic in 2014 and it employs centuries-old practices like crop rotation which allows the land to regenerate. The produce is used in the kitchens of the resort creating km-zero and tasty dishes.

With its constant focus on the ecosystem, in 2014 Il Borro also decided to welcome bees. 30 hives were set up in the natural reserve for the entirely organic production of honey and since 2015 they also have 200 chickens for the production of organic, free-range eggs.

FOOD & TAste At RElais & Chateaux, Il borro

Il Borro features three restaurants each with its own identity and style but all under the direction of the Executive Chef Andrea Campani. His cuisine is based on the idea that every dish deserves a special emotion and that eating should involve all our senses. The venues are open also to non-residents and aim to satisfy the tastes of all guests.

The Osteria del Borro is a gourmet restaurant where Andrea Campani offers the unique opportunity to discover the traditional Tuscan cuisine with a touch of futuristic taste. The venue features elegant and refined rooms making the place the perfect spot to enjoy a mouthwatering dinner. 

The Tuscan Bistro is a more informal restaurant, ideal to enjoy breakfast or a delicious meal with locally sourced products. The concept is also present in Florence as the Tuscan Bistro Firenze as well as in Dubai in the luxurious Hotel Al Naseem Madinat Jumeirah. The restaurant gained its Gambero Rosso Best Italian Restaurant award only 5 months after its opening.

The Vin Cafè offers light lunches, tea or a glass of wine that can be enjoyed admiring the picturesque medieval village or while sitting at the side of the infinity pool.

The Ferragamo Family: a story of fashion, style and art

In 1996, Salvatore and Ferruccio Ferragamo decided to replant the Il Borro vineyards and concomitant Ferruccio decided to start a unique and private collection of engravings with a wine theme. Today, after many years of research and scouting, some of these artworks are currently on display in the Ferragamo Museum, where visitors are taken on a journey through the Il Borro history, from Alessandro Del Borro to the Medici to the House of Savoy and the finally the Ferragamo family. The gallery includes artworks by great artists such as Mantegna, Picasso, Goya and Warhol.  

For info and booking: claudia.artini@ilborro.it   tel:+39 3665601139

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELLNESS & WELLBEING 

Right at the centre of the estate, there is an oasis of wellbeing where guests can keep in shape with gym or yoga classes, be pampered in the exclusive Spa Suite and enjoy regenerating treatments at the hands of expert therapists.

I must confess I had various massages in my life, but Valerie’s hands made miracles to my stressed back and neck. Truly, it was the best treatment ever!

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Whether you are strolling through the narrow streets of the village, relaxing at the pools, enjoying treatments at Il Borro Spa or the traditional cuisine at one of the restaurants, you will experience the same pleasure: that of a particular art of living only possible at Il Borro. 

About Relais & Châteaux

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with fan unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

“EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

 

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A slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas

You know I’m not a big fan of big, global, heartless hotel chains where you end up waking up in the same room whether you are in Paris, Rio or Sydney.  As you have already read here and seen on my Instagram, I’m a big fan of boutique hotels and quirky accommodations that have a personality and do things differently.

So, when I was invited by QT Resort for a stay at their slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas, I couldn’t decline the offer!

QT is not quite what you’d think, it’s not your ordinary hotel, it’s an eclectic mix of design and art, it’s style and luxury, with a touch of quirk all in #QTstyle!

The Experience

My day started with a wonderful SPA treatment at their spaQ where my incredibly talented masseuse managed to magically soothe each and every knot around my shoulders and back after five months of wild (read uncomfortable) camping around Australia. I literally felt like I had a new body when I left.

QT ResortAfter the restoring treatment, we were welcomed for lunch at Estilo where we had gorgeous mini-burgers and smashed avocado on toast… Yum!

We later went for a few laps at the olympic pool and I once again promised myself to learn how to play tennis while watching a couple hitting hard the ball.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping fantastic cocktails at the pool where the young brilliant barman asked us for our favourite spirits instead of a name which made every round a nice surprise to our thirsty palates.

QT Resort

Dinner was served at Bazaar, a beautifully-designed restaurant inspired by international street stalls, souks and bodegas that recreates a traditional marketplace which offered various options of vegetables, meat and fish. I obviously went for half a dozen oysters and some fresh salad before trying a couple of those cute mouthwatering desserts. Everything was of course washed away with a beautiful South Australian sauvignon blanc. I am not a big fan of buffet especially at dinner and I would have much preferred the usual experience of ordering a la carte instead, but still the idea behind is very original, but in my opinion it would work much better at lunch time.

QT Resort

 

Breakfast was probably my favourite meal at QT since it has about five or six different types of yoghurt (HURRAH!), LOADS of fresh fruit, pancakes and hash browns, eggs, sausages and bacon, and plenty of pastry. I think that nowadays hotels which want to really stand out from the mass should offer real espresso coffee along their breakfast: it would make everything so perfect rather than the usual instant coffee…

EXTRA

While away Bookshop & Cafe
This cute little cafe quickly became my favourite in the week I spent in Port Douglas. Not only they have a great selection of books about all topics, but they also serve wonderful coffees and delicious cakes. I went back there day after day and the staff won my personal award for the most welcoming and friendly service in the whole of Australia. Well done!

THE FACTS

I was a guest at QTResort Port Douglas, all views are my own. You can book your own stay through their website here. I enjoyed my QT 2 Bedroom Villa Garden View which is $439 per night with breakfast included or $395 if you are a QT Member: it’s completely free to join and you can earn points towards FREE nights!

QT is perfect for…. stylish tropical breaks and romantic weekends away

Address: 87 – 109 Port Douglas Road, 4877, QLD, Australia

 

What do you think of this hotel? Are you planning a trip to Port Douglas and considering a stay here? If you enjoyed this post or have any questions about this hotel, please leave me a comment in the box below! x

Want to read more about other special accommodations? Check out my brand new DREAM section here

Port Douglas

 

 

Hotel Hotel – Canberra | Australia

Hotel Hotel is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…(read more about my weekend in Canberra here or download my complete Canberra CREED guide here)

PERFECT FOR: a business, romantic or family stay
ADDRESS: NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra ACT 2601

WEBSITE: www.hotelhotel.com.au
INSTAGRAM: @hotel_hotel

Hampi’s Boulders, where Genius meets Nature

Hampi

If you haven’t heard of Hampi, don’t worry, you are not alone. I didn’t either until some Indian friends told me about it and showed me some pictures. It  took me about 3 minutes then to change my route and plans (once again!), and decide to go and see this beautiful city with my own eyes. Thankfully, I was invited to stay at the best and most magnificent resort I have ever seen and below there is a little photo essay to show you why, you should stay there too!

About Hampi
Hampi is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India located near Hospet town in the Karnataka state. Today, Hampi is a laid back village by the banks of Tungabadra river, but this was the capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history.
Hampi is probably more peculiar and fascinating in its current, ruined state, and in fact it attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Dotted around the hills made of boulders, rice fields and valleys there are more than 500 monuments, including temples, palaces, pavilions, elephants bastions, water tanks and much more.
Walking around Hampi is like stepping back in time, every corner is a surprise and if you keep your eyes open you might find yourself in a hidden village among the boulders…

Hampi’s Boulders
Hampi’s Boulders is the  first and only luxury option in the area. But it is not luxurious in the traditional sense of the word, but completely quirky and surely memorable. Hampi’s Boulders is an ‘eco-chic-wilderness’ resort that offers a choice of 13 themed rooms, but by far the best are the Star and the Crocodile Cottages with their royal furnishing, river views and outdoor showers. Nestled on the banks of the Tungabadra river, Hampi’s Boulders is situated 7 kms from the world heritage site of Hampi and it’s the perfect location for travellers who love nature, want to travel ethically and want to stay away from the tourist buzz of the village.

On top of a playground-like park, there is also a stone-carved swimming pool, barbecue and beach volley facilities. They also organise a wonderful “Walk of the Island” where you will enjoy unique and stunning views over the entire surroundings as well as Hampi ruins.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sit on one of the large boulders at sunrise and don’t forget to walk along the river at sunset; you can be lucky enough to spot some otters,  crocodile and all sort of tropical animals here.

Delhi – There is all India here.

New Delhi or Delhi as people still call it, it’s the reason why I am still here. I could blame the fact that it was my first  stop in India or maybe because there is so much India in Delhi, but the truth is that, on that very first day of my trip two months ago and as soon as I touched Indian soil and looked around, I knew that the three weeks officially planned weren’t going to be enough. I knew this country would have been mine for longer. I would have been hers for as long as possible.

Eight weeks later and with still four more to go, I can’t get my head around it or why I love it so much, I don’t know why it has a magnetic effect on me. What I know it’s that I’ve “post-poned” countries like Mynamar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from the first leg of my trip because of Delhi. I can’t get enough of this country and its people and I’m seriously thinking of moving here.
To Delhi? Possibly, the coffee scene here is spectacular and there is such a huge variety of bookstores.
My fundamentals are there, I just need to find a job now. Can you help me? 🙂

Here’s your:

Delhi’s Creed

COFFEE

Hauz Khas Social
This uber-cool, stylish and vaste co-working space in the Shoreditch-y part of Delhi, blends the best of the office and the café. At Social, you can buy a membership and swap your boring office desk with one of their hip booth. Combining work and play, Social turns into a urban hangout where cocktails are served and music start pumping on the speakers after 6pm.

Address: Haus Khas Village, 110016, New Delhi (but also in Mumbai and Bangalore)

Indian Coffee House
Like the one in Jaipur, this venue in Connaught Place is an iconic cafe in New Delhi. It’s open from 9am to 9pm and the food, which is great, is also very, very cheap. Coffee is also very special as it’s made with old coffee machines. Unlike many modern cafes, you can stay here reading your book or chatting with your friends for hours and no-one would ask you to order something else or to go. Vintage vibe, no wifi.
Address: 2nd Floor, Mohan Singh Palace, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place, Near Tivoli Cinema, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Ph. Credits: BBC News

Kunzum Travel Cafe
With a similar concept of Ziferblat in London, at Kunzum’s idea of “Pay what you like”,  you are not under any obligation to even pay for coffee or food or wifi.  It was Ajay Jain, a traveller and photographer who started this cool cafe where travellers still meet in person and interact.
Address: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi, Delhi 110016

Chill & Chai This cute cafe is part of Khoj, a not-for-profit contemporary arts organisation which offers space and programs to local artists, since 1997. You should totally order some food here as they change their menu every day and maybe also enjoy a cappuccino as I did. Free wi-fi comes as a bonus if you have emails to check or upload your cuppa on Instagram. Address: Khirki Extension, opposite to Select CityWalk Mall, Saket

READ

A person that doesn’t read lives just one life whereas a person that does lives a thousand.

For all of you, like me, gifted with a burning passion for reading and books, Delhi will satisfy your hunger as it offers a wealth of bookshops and all sorts of stories.

Cha Bar
I couldn’t include Cha Bar in the above section as this is not just the regular cafe, but it’s a house library also known for its wide variety of teas (more than for coffee). The place can be crowded sometimes, but you should always be able to find a quiet spot to enjoy your cuppa.
Address: Oxford Bookstore, N-81, Barakhamba Road, Block N, Cannaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Galgotia Book Shop
Walk around CP’s (Connaught Place) Inner Circle and on top of the various book stalls you will come across this fabulous bookstore tucked away in the corner of B Block. Your nose will awake right away by the musty smell of old books and then your eyes will be pleased by the endless shelves of literature treasures. There is any kind of book you are looking for here, from children’s stories to enciclopedias, from travel guides to dictionaries passing through adventures and romances.
Address: 17 B, Inner Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi-01

Full Circle
A very special bookstore with a cafe attached and owned by a publishing house. It sits in the heart of Khan Market and it also offers a great terrace where you can watch one of the most spectacular sunset in Delhi while forgetting you are actually IN Delhi. This bookshop is also stocked with a number of books on a wide variety of topics.
Address: Shop No.23, Khan Market, New Delhi-03

Books

EAT

Ivy & Bean
Great “Aussie”-style cafe in the Fashion district of New Delhi. Not sure there is much of Australia in their menu which included Italian and local dishes, but it’s surely a good place for some tasty food and good coffee.
Address: 119, Sishan House, Shahpur Jat, Siri Fort, New Delhi, Delhi 110049

Zen Restaurant

It might happen after some weeks of travels that you will get tired of Indian food, so this is a great Chinese option right in the center of the city.
Address: B-25, Connaught Place, Near Rajiv Chowk Metro Station Exit-2, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Cafe Lota
This is the perfect place for a local cuisine bite and a good coffee inside of the National Crafts Museum. It’s very popular with locals as well as expats and tourists.
Address: National Crafts Museum, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

DREAM

Once again, after Udaipur, I was kindly invited to stay at The Leela Palace in New Delhi and how could I possibly say no to the opportunity of being the princess of a fairytale once again?
I don’t know if it’s the fourteen thousand roses in display (read more below), the majestic interiors, the love for details, the art that takes your breath away or maybe the mouth-watering food that is served in all its four and award-winning restaurants, but The Leela has surely taken a predominant spot in my preferred luxury hotels in the world and I would recommend all of you to stay there while in Delhi.
This venue is one of the Leela flagship hotels and is one of the finest architectural marvels built from ground up in the last thirty years in downtown Delhi. Built in the shape of a butterfly, architecture inspired by Lutyens, art and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair, The Leela in New Delhi takes luxury to a completely different level.

https://www.instagram.com/p/9A772CMQ4w/

Capt. Nair, the founder of The Leela properties  a man with one of the most amazing entrepreneurial story  I’ve ever heard,  was a hotelier, a dreamer and a gardner. From his love for nature he planted over 1,000,000 trees and plants in their eight properties combined and thanks to Mrs Madhu Nair, every day, The Leela New Delhi has a minimum of 14,000 roses displayed in the hotel. They fly them in from Bangalore two times a week and in summers three times. Each silver urn holds 500 each and in addition, they have 2,000 international flowers that range from Australian or South African Banksia’s to Tulips, Hydrangeas from Holland.
What I love most about their love for flowers on top of the beautiful arrangements, is the fact that Leela recycles them in several ways: in winter they harvest all pedals and thereafter fill our fire urns inside the ponds outside Qube; in summers they support a local NGO, that turn them into Rangoli and vegetarian dye.

Address: Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi 110023

Dubai – The Future is Here

Dubai

Dubai is not only a world-record-breaking city in the desert with huge shopping malls and extravagant nightlife. Dubai is also a great place to enter a parallel, luxurious universe where ancient traditions meet with ambitious and revolutionary vision.
Personally, I wouldn’t see myself living there, but I’ll surely go back to explore more one day.

Here is your guide, as always divided in five sections:
Dream, Coffe, Explore, Eat and Read.
Enjoy and feel free to add suggestions by leaving your comment below.

DREAM 

Book your room at The Address,  right at the center of  downtown Dubai, where Burj Khalifa, The Mall and anything else you might need or want to do, is.
With its 196 rooms and suites, 7 restaurants, SPA, a magnificent view over the Burj Khalifa and its fountains shows, you can’t possibly find a better location in Dubai.

The Address The Address

BUT FIRST, COFFEE

Dubai doesn’t have a big coffee culture or maybe my research didn’t do so well there. I tried a couple of places I had found on the internet, one in Media City and the other in Internet City and both of them where shut, god knows since when (google mentioned them as both open). But I did find a little cute coffee shop very close to my accommodation.

Per Te

Per Te

Another very special place was at the Dubai Mall instead.

Shakespeare and Co. 

Shakespeare & Co.

EXPLORE

Old Dubai

Start your visit in Dubai on the old side
of the city, here, you will understand and see how Dubai was before becoming the world-known capital of finance and investments. Here it is the “simple”, no-frills Dubai, the one made of artisans and jewellers.
Make sure to get the boat to cross  the river for the true”old Dubai experience” .

Dubai Mall

As you know I’m a minimalist (or a I’m trying to become one…) so I really wasn’t keen to go to the biggest “entertainment” place in Dubai. But when you are there, even if you -like me- have no intention to spend a penny, you must visit this spectacular and fascinating architectural artwork. Not only the building itself, which breaths of genius creativity, but also each and every alley or souk has its own regional and unique style.

Desert Safari
Dubai was born in the desert. To be exact, it is not a super young city as most people think, in fact the first people to live there where back in 3000BC, when the area was inhabited by nomadic cattle herders. Yes, modern Dubai is young and striving to the future, but its history goes back a few centuries.
So, the desert, which surrounds the skyscrapers and the various malls is a must-see. Hire a jeep for a fun afternoon on the dunes, but I personally think you can easily skip the touristy evening at one of those fake and staged desert camps purposely created for us, western tourists.
Better if you ask your driver to stay on the dunes a little longer and to show you different perspective of the desert instead.
For info and booking of my driver please contact me directly via email.

BURJ KHALIFA

I normally don’t include the top landmarks in my mini-guides as they can easily be found in any #lonelyplanet or #roughguide, but I will make an exception this time as this is not only the tallest building in the world, but also a spectacular work of architecture, both from the outside – visible to everyone, anywhere in Dubai – and from the inside for the ones who go to the top.

dubai

Dubai Metro

Most people travel by taxi in Dubai, it is so hot there that walking from A to B is (almost) unberable, but while you are there, make sure to buy a daily travel card to taste the Dubai metro experience. Get a first class ticket so that you can stay on the front or last carriage and enjoy the spectacular view among the skyscrapers. Bring your camera!


EAT

The Farm

This fantastic venue, nestled in the heart of Al Barari and immersed in beautiful lakes and gardens, is a unique restaurant that focuses on healthy food and original recipes from all over Asia. Make sure to take a walk around the gardens after your meal to take in the magnificent settings.

The Farm

The Farm

READ

Dubai: The Story of the World’s Fastest City, 2013 by Jim Krane
City Of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism, 2010, by Jim Krane 

I didn’t find any relevant bookstore or library in Dubai – except the ones in the malls, but if you do know of any university or historic library there, please leave a comment below so I can add it to this guide. Thank you!

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Freedom

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
– Albert Camus

 

Is that true? Is that possible?

I have been questioning what Freedom is for a long time. And I have been wondering if I was free. Am I? What does really mean to be free?

I had some great input and answers on my instagram pool and while I agreed with some answers, I couldn’t understand others.

For some it’s “the ability to positively direct our lives” (@simplysimmybee), for others is the sensation felt while sitting on the top of a moutain in Ireland or in front of the ocean in awe of Mother’s Earth beauty (@the.red.brick.road), and for some is “time to spend with loved ones and things for ourselves (@Janne)

But what is Freedom?

For the Oxford Dictionary, Freedom is

the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited.

Taking this definition as a parameter, I doubt we could really be free. In any society, there are restrictions that don’t allow us to say, do or sometimes even think what we want. We respect other people’s feelings so we wouldn’t tell them if they look fat or if they are boring, right? (Well, unless you are an a**hole!)  We wouldn’t kill someone, would we? Some thoughts are also forbidden by some religions or cultures around the world. So, are we really free? We can’t always speak our thoughts and we can’t do everything we want without hurting someone or being outlaw, i.e. living in a country without the legitimate visa, killing, hurting, offending….

So, are we really free?

I acknowledge that we are much, much free-er than our ancestors, most of all us, women, in the Western world have achieved more in the last 50 years than in the previous thousands.

But F R E E D O M as expressed by the dictionary would be only achievable in complete isolation on top of a mountain or on Mars, where our actions wouldn’t affect other people’s lives. That level of freedom isn’t possible on our world.

However, for me Freedom is not the ability to do or say what I want. Freedom is the possibility to choose. It is the possibility to do the right thing for me (and others) in the right way and in the right moment. Freedom is the ability to let go of things that don’t add value to our lives so that we can focus on those who do. Freedom is the capacity to spend time doing the things we love and enjoy rather than being caged in doing what we are supposed to do. It’s freedom of choice.

Our society doesn’t allow that. We live to work and no longer work to live. Of course basic needs have to be fulfilled but consumerism have pushed us to pursue more than we can spend. The American dream transplanted a bit all over the world has made us slave of money and material possessions, on an endless and non-sense pursuit of more. More of what, you are asking? More of everything. How many televisions have you got in your house? How many smartphones? How many dresses or pair of shows you own? Whatever is the answer, they are too many. Advertising and social pressure makes us believe we need all of this, but we don’t.

We are no longer devoting time to have E N O U G H , we are wasting our lives to have more.

We can never be free if we don’t free ourselves of useless needs and superficial necessities that weight us down and fill our days and weeks for the majority of our awaken hours.

Could we have a better life if we had all the money in this world?

The answer is yes, for some who struggle to survive, but the reality is that over a certain threshold, there is no difference. There’s luxury, of course, but what’s the purpose of that? It’s just like fake filling, not real, not necessary.

And so, like many people I believe, we are not really free.

Not in the true, purest sense of Freedom.

But like many others, I believe w e c a n b e f r e e, we can make decisions to free up space in our lives, we can change the directions when things are not going as we want. We can turn things around more often than we believe.

 

Notes – the above is obviously a generalisation of our society, I’m well-aware that there are so many people struggling to get to the end of the month, or even have enough for the day or that are submitted to live in poverty or slavery.