The country of castles

Wales is known as the ‘country’ of castles. There are lots of beautiful castles to visit and tonight I’m actually staying in one! Well, it’s not really a castle but very close I would say. I feel like a princess here!

The hotel is called Llangoed Hall and is just one and a half hour from Bristol or three hours by car from London. It’s located in the stuning Wye Valley in Brecon Beacons.  

The former building used to be the home of British designer Laura Ashley, and have lots of nobel history.

In 2014 it was awarded AA Hotel of the Year and has an award winning restaurant too. All food is produced on the grounds or in the local area.

The hotel has a lovely garden and you can borrow wellies and take a walk on the fields. And don’t get scared if the cows start chasing you! They are all very friendly, just want to say hello… :-)

-Helene-

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Rhossili Bay beats Mexico to top 10 beaches of the world

Baia do Sancho in Brazil, Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico, Italy, Australia, Hawaii… and Wales (!!). Surprised to hear Wales’s Rhossili Beach beat off the likes of Mexico to make it into the top 10 beaches in the world, based on reviews on TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award?

Rhossili isn’t the only gem on Britain’s shores. Here are 10 of our favourite jewels on the nation’s coastline!

Rhossili Bay, Swansea, Wales

Ranked number 9 out of 10 best beaches in the whole world in the Travellers’ Choice Award 2014, described as: ‘Truly the most beautiful beach. The sheer scale and wildness of the location add to the majesty’.

I’s not hard to see why the beach is so well loved. Walking along the clifftops is magnificent, swimming in the clean waters is refreshing, and the Welsh hospitality known for its warmth. You can even stay in National Trust holiday cottage the Old Rectory (its most popular cottage) and make a romantic weekend of it.

Bamburgh, Seahouses, Northumberland, England

The most open of beachscapes, dominated from a distance by the magnificent Bamburgh Castle. Golden sands, windswept landscape and acres of sky: even the most amateur photographer will come back with spectacular shots.

Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A small bay backed by dunes and pine trees, accessible only by a half mile walk from the nearest car park. Expect swathes of golden sand and crystal clear waters; Barafundle has been voted many times as one of the best beaches in Britain and as one of the world’s best.

St Andrews’ West Sands, Scotland

Stretching for almost two miles, and famous from the opening scene of ‘Chariots of Fire’, the beach is nestled between the refreshing sea swirl and the town’s world famous Old Course. The dunes which the beach backs onto provide a perfect sheltered spot for a picnic.

Dawlish Warren, Dawlish, Dorset, England

A fantastic 1 mile (2 kilometres) of sand jutting out across the wide mouth of a river estuary on the south coast; also a designated nature reserve, it attracts a great range of birds, including grebes, cormorants, herons and swans.

Lunan Bay, Montrose, Scotland

2 miles (3 kilometres) of lovely sand and beautiful dunes; equally good for surfing and bird-watching. Lunan was voted the best beach in Scotland in 2000,but has attracted visitors since the year 1010 when Vikings landed on the vast, sandy expanse of shore.

Mwnt, Ceredigion, Wales

Located down a lovely bumpy country lane in West Wales, Mwnt is a perfect cove of honey coloured sand, one of Britain loveliest hidden beaches. The whitewashed chapel above the beach has been here since the 6th Century and the hill above with its panoramic views is a great place to go dolphin watching.

Brighton Beach, Sussex, England

If you prefer your beaches populated, you can’t beat Brighton – a lively pier boasting old fashioned rides, traditional fish n chips at every corner, clean pebble beaches and a packed program of cultural events in town and some of the best nightlife in Britain combine for a great summer holiday at the seaside.

Tyrella Beach & conservation area, Northern Ireland

A small enclosed dune complex within Dundrum Bay, the wide, sandy 2km beach is the ideal spot for a long walk peppered by wild flowers and plenty of birdwatching opportunities.

Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly, off Cornwall, England

Not only is Tresco unlike anywhere in Britain, it’s like nowhere on earth. Seen from above, the turquoise and azure waters rival any in the Mediterranean, the sub-tropical climate lends itself to some weird and wonderful exotic plants that can be visited at the Tresco Abbey Gardens, and the beaches themselves are unspoilt and beautiful, perfect for snorkelling and seal-spotting.

See the Top 10 Beaches in the world on TripAdvisor at http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Beaches-cTop-g1

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Let The Right One In

The Swedish hit movie Let The Right One In (or ‘Låt Den Rätte Komma In’) have been adapted for stage and is opening in London West End on 26 March.

It’s a chilling tale of loneliness, love and legend. A great film if you ask me.

The story:
Oskar is a lonely boy from a broken home. He’s bullied at school and is longing for friendship. Eli is a troubled girl who’s just moved in next door. She never goes to school and is compelled to fill an eternal emptiness.
 
When a series of brutal killings plagues the neighbourhood, these two young misfits make a deep connection, sensing in each other a kindred spirit. But the shocking truth about Eli tests Oskar’s loyalty – and love – beyond all imaginable limits, in this chilling tale of loneliness, love and legend.

Tony and Olivier Award-winning director John Tiffany (Black Watch, Once) directs this major new production which was adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne following the international success of the original Swedish movie and the subsequent Hollywood remake. The creative team also includes Olivier Award-winning associate director Steven Hoggett (Black Watch, Beautiful Burnout, and American Idiot).

The play will run at Apollo Theatre from March 26th to September 27th 2014.  Tickets are available here

To watch a trailer, click here.

-Helene-

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London on a budget

 

People often ask me about ideas on London on a budget.  I recently did a trip to London staying at a low budget hotel and had a great 3 course dinner for less than £12!

The Pavilion Hotel offers rates from £69 including breakfast. I stayed in a single room and  breakfast, served on a tray in your room. It’s located close to Edgware Road, on Sussex Gardens and all rooms are different decorated, very cool and quirky. I stayed in the ‘Monochrome Marilyn’, my friend got to stay in The War & Peace room, which was located towards the street so she had some hard time sleeping from all the noise from the traffic. But what can you expect for £69 per night, right?

And by the way, if you’re on a GI diet or sugar detox…skip the hotel breakfast… :-)

There are a few coffee shops around the corner from the hotel, incl. Starbucks if you are looking for a healthier alternative.

Before going to bed we had a lovely meal at Brasserie Zédel located right by Piccadilly Circus. Great place, really good food at a bargain. You can have a set 3 course meal for less than £12! And I loved the atmospehere, very French, art-deco and very busy. Fully booked on a Wednesday night so make sure you book beforehand.

Earlier in the day I visited some great musuems: Kensington Palace and Victoria & Albert Musuem. All for free except for some of the exhibitions.

London doesn’t have to cost you much, you just have to be smart. Then of course,  I always  wish I had £1000 to shop for…shopping in London is very tempting….I will keep on dreaming….

-Helene-

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I love Christmas, it’s one of my favourite seasosn of the year. The same with Christmas decorations and carols, which is all part of getting into to the right spirit.

London is absolutely heaven this time of the year.

I recently visited Destination Christmas at Selfridges on Oxford Street, absolutely amazing. Take the lift to the top floor and volià, you’re in Christmas heaven!!

I bought some presents for my kids, there’s a big toy area, and got them wrapped by Selfridges’ own little helpers: the Elfridges. :-)

If you like me, have a daughter who’s into Monster High, I can really recommend a visit. The dolls are almost half price compared to Sweden.

Fortnum & Mason is a must visit too, especially for their seasonal tea and buscuits. I buy it just as much for the boxes as for the tea… 

The area around Covent Garden and Seven Dials are also two of my favourites.

If you’re into shopping, you might want to know that Seven Dials and St Martin’s Courtyard are hosting a Christmas Shopping Night Out on Thursday 5 December 5-9pm with 20% discount at over 120 shops, bars and restaurants.

And if you get the chance, stop by the hotel Claridge’s in Mayfair and have a  look at their special Christmas tree, designed by Dolce & Gabbana.

Happy Holidays!

-Helene-

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2014 a special year in Scotland

I recently enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Hunterian museum at Glasgow University, an amazing collection and Scotland’s oldest public museum dating from 1807. In these breath-taking surroundings I was reminded about how special a year 2014 is going to be in Scotland.

Homecoming is the name of an incredible range of events taking place throughout the year, it covers art, food & drink, music, outdoor activities – you name it. If you fancy a trip to Scotland, be sure to check the events listing so you can join in.

The Scots are also lucky enough to be holding two major sporting events next year; The Ryder Cup hosted at one of my favourite venues the Gleneagles hotel, September 23-28.

Glasgow is the host city of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games , this will be an incredible spectacle find out more here.

To commemorate the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, a state of the art attraction will be opening a couple of miles from Stirling on the site of the battlefield. The use of cutting edge technology means you will be able to experience the sights and sounds of a battle in 1314. Visitors get the chance to lead their own division of medieval soldiers into a dramatic 3D battle against the enemy (a fellow visitor). I can’t wait to try this!

If this really is your cup of tea, I would recommend that you time your visit around 28th 29th & 30th June, where you can experience Bannockburn Live with 45,000 visitors from around the world, there will be a brutal re-enactment of the battle alongside themed villages, showcasing; sights, sounds and atmosphere of medieval and modern Scotland. There will be a programme packed with music, Scottish food & drink, crafts, literature and outdoor activities. Tickets available here.

If medieval battles and world class sports are simply ‘not you’; have a wee peek at this film it’s not hard to find something in Scotland to your taste.

Slàinte – Gary

 

 

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Diana on the screen

Naomi Watts as Diana. Credit Laurie Sparham

Naomi Watts as Diana. Credit Laurie Sparham

Today, 4th of October is the Swedish premiere for the film Diana, bearing Naomi Watts posing as the famous, and much loved, Princess of Wales.

The film tells the story of the last two years of Diana’s life, and her romance with eminent heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan.

I was fortunate to attend the gala premiere in late September and if you love to see London on the screen, you will not be disappointed!

The film locations include Kensington Palace, the Princess’s home following her marriage to the Prince of Wales. (It is now the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and baby Prince George). Naturally you can’t go to the private side of Kensington Palace where the Royals reside, however you can explore the public part of the Palace and admire elegant dresses at Fashion Rules, an exhibition of glamorous dresses worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret, and Diana herself.

Naomi Watts take a jog in Kensington Gardens. Diana on the screen. Credit Laurie Sparham

Naomi Watts take a jog in Kensington Gardens. Diana on the screen. Credit Laurie Sparham

In the film, you will also see Naomi Watts take a jog in Kensington Gardens, as her character Diana.  

This is also where you’ll find the Diana Memorial Playground, which opened in 2000 in memory of the Princess and her love of the innocence of childhood. 

As the most famous woman in the world, Diana sometimes went out in disguise to avoid being recognised. Naomi Watts donned a brunette wig for filming with Naveen Andrew (who plays Diana’s love interest Dr Hasnat Khan in the film) at Soho jazz club Ronnie Scott’s – the ideal place for a first date in the capital. The famous club has been going since 1959, with live jazz from internationally celebrated musicians seven nights a week. On Fridays and Saturdays the club operates two ‘houses’, the first from 6pm-10pm and the second 10.30pm-3am, for fun late-night romancing.

Diana on the screen. Credit Laurie Sparham

Diana on the screen. Credit Laurie Sparham

Outside of the capital, Diana and Hasnat go on a romantic visit to Beachy Head in East Sussex in the film. The chalk cliffs of Beachy Head are the UK’s highest, a fantastic place to visit. Romantic couples can stroll along the cliffs, visit the lighthouse and finish off with a pint at the Beachy Head pub.

The Princess often wore clothes by British designer Jacques Azagury, and loved luxury shopping paradise Knightsbridge, where his shop is located. It’s also where you’ll find department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods, the boutiques of famous designers like Chanel, Fendi, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as some of Diana’s favourite restaurants, like classic Italian San Lorenzo.

Azagury have also made most of the oufits that are worn by Naomi Watts in the film.

P.S If you live in Sweden and happen be a subscriber of the publication M Magasin, you can enter a competition with the chance win a trip for two to London and travel in the footsteps of the film.  :-)

-Helene-

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Bend it like Beckham

Manchester United Museum and Tour just recently unveiled a special temporary exhibition to honour one of football’s most famous names: David Beckham.

David Beckham first signed as a schoolboy with the Club at the tender age of 14 and the exhibition records his career at Manchester United. From the training kit he wore as a teenager, to his first team shirts from big matches such as the 99 Champion’s League Final.

He made his first-team debut for Manchester United in 1992 aged 17, going on to win the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. Some of David’s winner’s medals and commemorative shirts feature as part of one of the displays.

In addition to this there are also interactive aspects to the exhibit which sounds really fun! Beckham is famed for the precision of his free kicks, so as a fan you can try to predict exactly where within the goal posts he will place the ball during one of his many famous strikes.

Just as famous off the pitch as he is on it, ‘Becks’ is also well known for his changing hairstyle and as a visitor you can relive some of these via an interchangeable portrait of his famous face.

The temporary David Beckham exhibition at the Old Trafford will be on display during the next 12 months.

-Helene-

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Amy Winehouse: a family portrait

There are so many great new exhibitions in London at the moment. One of them is an original exhibition about Amy Winehouse which has just opened, curated by the Jewish Museum with help from her brother Alex and sister-in-law Riva.

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait takes us beyond the hype and shows a more private side, and what she meant to her brother. A personal and intimate exhibition about a much-loved sister.

‘Being Jewish to me is about being together as a real family…It’s not about lighting candles and saying a brocha.’ Amy Winehouse, 2005

The family have given the Jewish Museum unprecedented access to Amy’s belongings, including her guitar, record collection and iconic outfits. Hosted in the heart of Amy’s Camden, this exhibition celebrates her passion for music, fashion, London and her family.

Many unseen photographs of Amy’s family life will be on display, revealing her strong Jewish roots and heritage as well as her close family relationships. Friday night dinners and Alex’s barmitzvah are captured in these images, and vintage photographs of their beloved grandmother Cynthia show what may have been the roots of Amy’s distinctive style.

Photographs are an important part of the exhibition and Amy’s own battered suitcase crammed with photographs of friends and family will be on display. It is this suitcase that Amy insisted her father come to look through with her a couple of days before her death in 2011 – the last time he saw her.

A must-see exhibition from my point of view!!

-Helene-

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Step into the magic world of Harry Potter

I think this is so cool. For the first time ever, you can explore Harry Potter behind the scenes on Google Maps. The intricate set of Diagon Alley at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. 

I haven’t yet seen the attraction myself so quite fun to be get the chance to see it up close and step into the set.

The 360 degree images include Ollivanders where Harry’s wand chose him, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes featuring a 20 –foot mannequin above the main entrance and the amazing medicinal world of Mr Mulpepper’s Apothecary with its fantastic collection of jars and cauldrons.

 During production it took the crew more than three months to build the set, while the graphic designers and prop team spent six months creating over 20,000 different items and packages which appear on the shops’ shelves. Amazing!!

See you in Diagon Alley! :-)   

-Helene-

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