London’s Most Incredible Restaurants

London has a vibrant dining scene offering traditional English as well as delicious cuisines from around the world. The capital has rapidly adapted with well-developed restaurants. Some establishments serve tasty delicacies in elegant spaces perfect for fine dining. Recently, world-class and celebrity chefs have descended on the capital adding to the culinary attraction. New restaurants are offering boundary-pushing four-course menus with excellent service and presentation as well as affordable, quick meals on the go.

You can tell good restaurants by how popular and packed they are at peak dining hours. There are also industry benchmarks that rank restaurants according to the quality of culinary excellence, service delivery, and the overall dining experience. Let us look at some of the best places to eat in the capital, according to travel expert D. Scott Carruthers.

1. The Ledbury

The restaurant features a contemporary setting. It has been recognized with two Michelin stars and has been serving great dishes since 2012. The eatery has won numerous industry awards for exceptional cuisine and service. Some of the honors include recognition by Restaurant Magazine, S. Pellegrino, Zagat and the Sunday Times. The atmosphere is elegant and laidback; it says class without having to scream about it.

2. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

The celebrity chef, restaurateur, and author runs a vibrant flagship eatery along Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. It is friendly to people with various allergies. You only have to talk to the server about the ingredients you would prefer to skip. The dishes are made with fresh and seasonal ingredients to bring out the best flavors in modern French cooking. The eatery opened its doors in 1998 and remodeled the interior in 2013.

3. Pollen Street Social

Welcome to modern high dining in Mayfair. The restaurant has a sharp focus on the customer and is an excellent spot for the busy executive to socialize. It strives to make formal dining fun and enjoyable without the associated stiffness. The interior décor reflects this attitude. The cuisine is mostly a fusion of English and French dishes packed with bold taste and texture. It has won multiple awards such as Time Out, Food and Travel Magazine and Good Food Guide.

4. The Greenhouse

One of the best places to load up on French and modern European delicacies in Mayfair. The setting is luxurious and discreet with a spacy outdoor segment, creating a serene oasis in the heart of the district. The chefs have fantastic presentation and inspiration. It is one of the few fine-dining spots to boast a Wine Spectator Grand Award for offering high-quality wines.

5. Restaurant Story

The eatery takes classic British dining to the next level with a choice of either six-course or ten-course menus. The idea is a storybook with many different chapters. The patron chef Tom Sellers pushes his story through an evolving tasting menu and seasonal specials. In line with the story theme, each meal is a chapter in the book that courses through childhood, sea, land, garden, the end, and various snacks.

Conclusion

London has multiple exciting and compelling dining experiences. From the traditional gourmet districts of Soho to Convent Garden and Mayfair, there is a tasty match for every discerning palate. There are options for high dining through to down-to-earth, affordable eats. The above will help you get started on your journey to find the best spot that makes you go back repeatedly.

Great Family Activities to Try in the Cotswolds in Spring

Famous for the honey-coloured stone buildings that define this beautiful part of England the Cotswolds is best described as typically English in its bucolic tranquillity with sleepy villages like Castle Combe and Burford as well as great cities like Bath. Yet it is easily accessible and only around a two hour drive from London.

The spring weather in England can of course be changeable but here in the Cotswolds the climate is relatively mild and spring is a very good time to explore all that the region has to offer. There is no better time for families to get outdoors and sample the host of family activities and fun days out in the Cotswolds. Once you have chosen a place to stay, perhaps taking advantage of a private lakeside lodge at Cotswold Water Park, then you have the perfect base camp from where you can plan all your excursions.

 

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Situated at Burford this exciting attraction is sure to please all the family with all kinds of wildlife from lions to lemurs! For small children there is the Children’s Farmyard and petting area as well as a woodland adventure playground and much more besides. There is an on-site café, most of the site is dog-friendly and there is free car parking.

 

The Model Village

The Model Village at Bourton-on-the–Water is a beautiful scale replica of a Cotswold village complete with miniature beech, cherry and chestnut trees and a river which flows under the bridges. There is a shop and an on-site café/restaurant plus a bar with beer garden where you can relax with a bar meal.

 

Blenheim Palace

Families with an appreciation of history will no doubt want to see the historic Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Winston Churchill. This World Heritage site houses exquisite antique collections, tapestries and furniture as befitting its 300 year history, plus over 2000 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland and gardens. Sci-fi fans may be interested to know that scenes from the movie Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation were filmed here.

 

The Bird and Deer Park

Situated at Cranham and nestling in a beautiful valley the park offers visitors the chance to see reindeer, pygmy goats, fallow deer and even miniature Mediterranean donkeys. There is a Visitor Centre where you can get hot and cold drinks with cakes, sweets and ice cream.

 

Shopping

For families that like to spend time exploring the shops together there is no shortage of variety in the Cotswold towns and villages. From small, quaint villages offering original and artisan produce to larger towns like Cheltenham and Gloucester with big-name stores to market towns like Stroud – ‘the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds’ – you are certain to be spoiled for choice when it comes to souvenir ideas.

 

Events in the Cotswolds

There are so many events happening across the region you will wish you had booked a longer stay. Starting in March with the Gloucester Keys Home and Garden Party where you can meet celebrity gardeners, listen to music and browse a busy market the list of events continues through the year. From vintage fairs and the Prescott Hill Climb in April to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival in May and the delightful Downy Duckling Days at the Wetland Wildlife Reserve at Slimbridge, where children can see baby ducklings, goslings and cygnets, there are events for all the family to enjoy.

The Cotswolds are truly an area of great beauty and interest for all ages, with an abundance of manor house attractions, farms and gardens, art galleries and walking and cycling trails.

5 predictions for UK travel in 2016

Base of the Eiffel Tower

We’re well past January or even December of last year when most people were making their predictions for the year. But predictions are always accurate when they are closer to the time, aren’t they? So here’s my list of accurate predictions for 2016. Time will tell whether I was right to wait to make them.

Base of the Eiffel Tower
Less of the Eiffel Tower?

1) Staycations will increase

Staycation was the trend a few years back when the UK economy was weak, people were scared of losing their job and had not had a pay rise for a while. This year it’s back for a different reason: the heightened risk of air travel, especially across Europe. Airports are likely to react to the latest incident by starting security checks outside the building, causing even further inconvenience for passengers. Whether that one happens or not, many people will stick to a holiday within the UK, whether that’s a city break, caravanning, a trip to Scotland or a camping trip.

2) The Olympics and Euro 2016 will cause a lull in travel

Couple these big events with the current heightened risk of air travel and people will watch the games at home instead of booking their holiday over summer. Unless of course they are attending the events.

If you’re one of the few people not interested in either event, now will be the time to travel and avoid the crowds and peak prices.

3) The UK will leave the EU.

The EU is very weak at the moment: socially, politically and economically. Europe has lost control of migration, the political leaders are lacking in leadership and decisive actions about both this annd terrorism and many countries still have a weak economy. Greece in particular is showing no sign of recovery and will eventually have to default on its debt, have them written off or leave the EU. Oops, another prediction.

The Brits will see they have nothing much to gain by staying in the EU currently and will vote accordingly.

4) European travel will not get more expensive…

…following the Brexit, that is.
This is because the UK is a large prosperous country contributing a significant number of travellers to Europe, whether for business or holidays, especially to popular destinations in Spain. It’s not like the Portuguese are queuing up to go on holiday to Alicante…

Any increase in EU taxes, airport landing fees, custom duties, etc, will have a significant and detrimental impact on travel in these key destinations and would wreak havoc on the local economies, already fragile. The EU chiefs will do everything they can to welcome the Brits’ money, especially if there is already a decrease in the number of UK holidaymakers following my predictions #1 and #2.

Failing that, holidaymakers may seek to travel further to Croatia and so on, outside the EU. These countries will be sure to capitalise on this opportunity should EU travel become more expensive. So there’s always a cheap sunny destination awaiting the British should my prediction go wrong!

5) Half-term holidays will remain expensive

That’s an easy one. They have been more expensive for a while and this is not going to change anytime soon. it’s simple economics, demand and supply. Whether people believe or not that travel companies are putting up their price outrageously just to make more money, it is a fact that supply becomes more restricted during half-term periods. In reality, it’s likely to be both – travel companies increasing prices more than they need to. But it’s also possible that during times of low demand, they lower prices to attract more customers…

We’ll just have to live with that situation for now.

What’s your prediction for 2016?

The 5 most unusual campsites in Europe

treetop camping

It’s always a joy to swap the scenery of the UK for the thrills of Europe and there are plenty of well-equipped campsites to be found throughout the EU. But if you fancy staying somewhere a little out of the ordinary here’s our pick of the top 5 quirkiest campsites in Europe to make your trip even more memorable.

Treetop camping, Germany

treetop campingNot for the fainthearted, this German outdoor activities centre offers a range of camping options, from traditional tent pitches to this treetop slumber station hanging in the heart of the forest. The ‘Portaledge’ tent, designed to sleep two, is fully waterproof and engineered to endure all weather conditions, so you can be sure of a relaxing night’s sleep in the tree canopy come rain or shine.

The Woodland Yurt, Spain

Nestled amongst the secluded acres of private Mediterranean woodland, the Cloud House’s Mongolian yurt is a true place of relaxation. Complete with an outdoor kitchen for Al Fresco dining, a shower room and a decking area, you’ll be free to sit back and take in the stunning surroundings of the Genal Valley. The yurt even includes a roof window for the perfect view of the night sky. Able to comfortably sleep 4 people, it’s the ideal location for a peaceful family getaway.

The Cabin in the Air, France

These magical treehouses make a great alternative to traditional camping. With a variety of locations in sites all across France, each treehouse is completely unique and built according to the tree that supports it. You can choose from a range of cabin types depending on your group requirements but most cabins are accessible via a rope bridge to add to the sense of adventure, and sleep either 2 or 4 occupants.

Raft Camping, Belgium and The Netherlands

A truly unique experience, campers at these raft camping sites are able to drift off in a natural wooden hut floating on a 25 metre raft accessed only via canoe. The huts come equipped with a gas burner, 2 double mattresses and camping chairs and offer a great opportunity to take in the river wildlife of the surrounding area.

Geodesic dome camping, France

Situated in the stunning countryside French of Brittany, the L’igloo D’arvor is a 40 metre squared domed structure set amongst picturesque meadows. With a circular bed looking out through the enormous picture window, the bright and airy dome gives the most wonderful views of the quiet area. Designed to sleep 2 adults, L’igloo D’arvor is the perfect choice for those looking for a romantic camping break.

If you aren’t feeling so adventurous, but still want to experience the great outdoors, read the Guardian’s list of European glamping sites. Here you will find luxurious camping spots with little luxuries that will make the experience easier to handle.

Taking inspiration from the celebs with holidays in London

Physic Gardens in London

London is a great place to visit regardless of the season and one that is full of hidden gems. With Christmas almost upon us, now is the time to begin planning a decedent escape, and if you wish to go truly over the top why not look to celebrities such as Richard Rogers, Kim Cattrall and Jon Snow for inspiration?

Physic Garden in London

The Physic Garden

Kim Cattrall is said to be a big fan of the Physic Garden – an area of beauty and educational purposes. Situated in Chelsea, this particular garden boasts various events. You can even learn a little about how plants are used in medicine by an abundance of cultures, including the Chinese, the Maori and the North American Indians.

Thomas Hardy’s Tree

Jon Snow is often spotted in the capital, with one of his favourite hangouts said to be Thomas Hardy’s Tree. When the North-East Railway derailed and took out a large part of St Pancras Church Graveyard, Thomas Hardy was given the task of numbering the scattered gravestones. After sculpting Roman numerals on each, he stacked them around an old ash tree, where they still remain today.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

When in London, Norman Foster will often take a trip to Sir John Soane’s Museum – an area celebrated for its mastery of space. From drawings and curiosities to layers of sculptures and galleries, this is a fascinating place to visit.

The Print Room

This quaint venue, located just off Westbourne Grove, is a favourite of Lady Antonia Fraser. Aside from the entrance being hidden away, you certainly feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret theatre and one that boasts an abundance of revolutionary shows.

The Tate Modern

Richard Rogers is often seen wandering the Tate Modern, described as one of the best cultural centres in Europe. Aside from boasting the perfect setting, the Tate is also home a wide collection of contemporary masterpieces.

Getting to London is easy, especially as there are an abundance of routes to choose from. From planes to trains, there are many forms of transport operating in and around the area and an abundance of hotels, trips and attractions.

Driving In France: The Laws Of The Land

Driving in France

France is a great holiday destination; especially for people in the UK who can’t stand long travel. Just across the pond, you can find art, viticulture, and beautiful scenery (and pay next to nothing in travel costs). Of course, you’ll want to explore as much as you can, so you’re getting around by car; but are you prepared for French driving laws?

Driving in France

 

Motorway Breakdowns

If your vehicle kicks the bucket in the middle of the motorway, you can’t call your breakdown provider. In France, there are roadside motorway phones (very orange) every 2km, and you must report your breakdown to one of these. You’ll be towed away and taken to a destination, where you can finally meet your breakdown provider.

Driving Licence

You have to be 18 years or older to drive or ride a vehicle in France. If you were speedy and passed your test at 17, you won’t be allowed to drive. EU and EEA driving licences are accepted, and you don’t need to carry an International driving permit. As well as your driving licence, you need to have proof of your insurance, your passport, and your V5C certificate.

Stocking Your Car

By law, drivers have to carry reflective jackets, a warning triangle, headlamp beam deflectors, and a breathalyser. Yes, a breathalyser! Maybe the police can’t be bothered to carry them anymore…

No Honking

Between sunset and sunrise, there’s a strict ‘no honking’ policy, unless it is a serious necessity. To indicate a warning to fellow motorists, you may flash your lights.

Speed Limits

On the motorway, the max speed you’re allowed to reach is 130km/h or 110km/h in rainy conditions. For other roads, the speed limit is 90km/h or 80km/h in rainy conditions. In built-up areas, do not exceed 50km/h. If you’re caught driving more than 40km/h over the speed limit, you will have your licence confiscated on the spot.

Bear in mind that you’re not allowed devices in your car that detect speed cameras (so it’s wise to stick to the specified speed limit at all times – don’t want to put a serious dampener on your holiday by getting caught speeding!).

Alcohol

If you have more than a 0.05% level of alcohol in your blood and you’re behind the wheel, you’re likely to get caught. The police are allowed to conduct random breath tests.

If you’re caught speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, it’s likely that you’ll be tested for drugs too. This goes for riding a motorcycle without a helmet too!

Parking

You should only drive and park on the right side of the road, if you’re part of a two lane system. Bear in mind that you’re forbidden from parking in an area with an unbroken yellow line. On one way systems, you may be able to park on either side of the road.

Where to retire abroad?

Retire by the beach

Many people having reached the end of their working lives are choosing to retire somewhere outside of the UK. This could be to seek a warmer climate, explore the world or the result of children moving away and starting a family elsewhere.

Moving to another country is particularly large step and not a decision to be taken lightly so make sure that you first spend some time exploring different places that might be suitable.

The following are a handful of suggestions.

Retire by the beach

Portugal

Pros

  • The weather is generally good and much warmer than the UK although in some regions the winters can be extraordinarily cold.
  • Portugal has relatively little traffic, clean air and effective road networks.
  • Younger will have learnt English at school meaner that there is an emerging generation who speak English fluently as a second language.

Cons

  • In the summer the temperature can regularly exceed 40°C which may be uncomfortable for those not used to it.
  • Official procedures such as arranging visas are notoriously slow.
  • Food is more expensive, especially where imported British groceries are concerned.

visitportugal.com

Spain

Pros

  • With its “hotter down South and cooler up North” reputation you can decide what sort of climate would suit you best. The South is generally busier and more popular with holidaymakers whilst the North is seen as more modest and quiet.
  • The Spanish have a much slower pace of life than we do here in the UK and are well versed in having regular siestas during the day, especially after eating lunch.
  • Spain has a much lower cost of living than the UK meaning that the money you take with you will go further.

Cons

  • Low income and lack of jobs will mean that if you are hoping to supplement your income by working you might have a tough time finding a job or making ends meet.
  • Confusing number of very different regional dialects (Basque/Catalan etc). Many Spanish people from different parts of the country cannot understand one another.
  • Local corruption is cited by some as a negative part of Spanish life. There have been instances of the authorities bulldozing the homes of ex-pats due to confusing laws.

spain.info

Malta

Pros

  • English is very widely spoken in Malta so you should have no trouble understanding people or making yourself known.
  • Despite its small size there is close knit ex-pat community in Malta.
  • Summer boasts warm weather and scorching hot temperatures perfect for sun worshippers.

Cons

  • Some taxes may seem very high compared to the UK
  • Infrastructure such as pavements and roads in places is rather poor.
  • Heavy traffic and poor air quality in some cities might not be suitable for people with asthma or respiratory problems.
  • Incredibly cold winters match the gloriously hot summers!
  • There are countless other considerations to take into account when thinking of retiring abroad such as
  • Property – purchasing or renting? Check the local laws on this.
  • Finances – you will still need an open bank account and the means to receive your pension.
  • Expatriate medical insurance is important especially if there is no or little national healthcare.

visitmalta.com

There are many great reasons to retire abroad but make sure that you first do your research and get involved with people who have gone ahead and done it themselves.

4 ways to get bargains on European travel

Plane taking off

Unless you’re heading to Eastern Europe, travel in Europe is very expensive. With thriving metropolises with prices to rival London, expensive hotels and flights that really stretch budgets travelling in Europe can be a stressful on the wallet. Thankfully we’re on hand with 4 top tips to get a cheaper European break.

Plane taking off

Travel at the End of the season or in the Off Season

There’s a reason ticket, hotels, airfare and other prices go up during the holiday seasons –it’s because there is a huge increase in demand. People want to travel, attend parties and raves, see music festivals and concerts, visit their favourite beaches, relax with the family on an exclusive beach resort and drink beers in a pub that’s not in their locality. But, once you decide to travel in the off season when there isn’t that much demand or traffic, you’ll often find that you can get to your destination for 40% less or even more.

Consider Rental Apartments

For most holiday goers, the first thing they think about during their travels is accommodation –that’s a good thing. The downside however is that most people automatically think of hotels alone, not knowing that rentals and hostels can be cheaper and more rewarding. For instance, if you’re travelling to Amsterdam, you will find that rentals in Amsterdam are considerably cheaper than staying in hotels. So, look for apartment rentals or vacation swap opportunities. This alone can save you a lot of money.

Fly with Less Popular Airlines and Airports

You would think many people would know this, but they don’t. As a result, they end up spending way more than they should for airfare. There are over 55 low priced routes around Europe to locations of your choice. And when booking the planes, be sure to book those going to neighbouring and less busy airports. If possible arrange use buses or trains to connect from the airport to your hotel. If you have to take a taxi shop around for a decent deal – or, if you’re staying at a hotel, ask them to provide you with one.

Think Trains and Car Rentals

The great thing about Europe is that the cities are connected via a complex railway system. So, if you want, you can board a train in London and travel to France. And the best thing about this is that it’s cheaper than air travel. So, make sure that your route can’t be travelled via trains before boarding a flight. And if you’ll be spending more than a week in your holiday destination, be sure to consider the necessity of a rental. In cities taxis and local transport tends to be a lot cheaper than car rentals. Most big cities everything can be reached walking so you can save even more here. In rural areas a car is often a necessity but you’d be surprised how easy it can be to get around with local bus and train services.

The Best Resorts in Cyprus this Summer

Quiet beach in Cyprus

If you’re looking to take your family away on a summer holiday this year, but not sure about the destination, it’s time to get familiar with the spectacular island of Cyprus. Millions of families flock here every year, with the kids in tow and young adults leading the way to the great selection of bars and clubs.

There’s so much to do in Cyprus that it’s hard to know where to start your vacation adventure, however one is for sure, and that is vast array of luxury resorts. No matter what your budget, we’re sure you’ll be able to find a resort that matches your family’s needs, so let’s take a look at the best of them.

Quiet beach in Cyprus

Ayia Napa

Ayia Napa is one of the most iconic and talked about holiday resorts in Mediterranean Europe, and for good reason! Not only is the resort well-kept, with it’s crystal clear waters and perfect beaches, but it also offers a nightlife unmatched by any other resort on the island.

In such a naturally beautiful setting, you wouldn’t expect the party atmosphere to combine so well with families looking to relax, however they both come together seamlessly. Furthermore, there’s a amazing selection of apartments, hotels and shops located on the beach too, so everything you’ll even need on your holiday is literally minutes away.

Paphos

Paphos is another great resort in Cyprus, and located on the southwestern side of the island, it’s a little more traditional than the commercialised Ayia Napa. Not only is Paphos the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, but it offers a fantastic selection of old and new. The hotels and apartments here blend easily into the resort’s ancient and historic background, but offer sleek, modern accommodation on the inside.

When it comes to keeping yourself entertained in Paphos, how about some 18 hole golf courses, ancient castles, Roman theatres and luxury restaurants? Paphos is for the young couple looking to embrace the romance of their surroundings, while also taking in the vibrant, but not overwhelming nightlife.

Larnaca

Home to lazy palm trees, traditional cafés, food festivals and locals who love tourists, Larnaca is a wonderful place to bring the kids this summer. Although it is the third largest town in Cyprus, it’s reputation as a family paradise has brought it to the forefront of consumer choice, and has remained a popular vacation destination for many years.

Hiking in the countryside in Cyprus

From the Municipal Gallery to the Hala Sultan Tekke, Larnaca is rife with historical monuments, and has no less than 6 museums for tourists to choose from. Furthermore, there are some great sight-seeing tours available from the local hotels, and there are even some free ones given by seasoned locals looking to educate people about the history of the area. All in all, Larnaca is a must-see resort in Cyprus, even if you’re not planning on staying there. There are very good transport links from the other resorts to Larnaca, and a taxicab won’t cost you much either.

To France by ferry

Sea crossing at Dover

With the financial crisis still affecting us all in some way it’s good that you can at least find a way to enjoy a great value holiday in France…or Belgium and Holland if you fancy travelling that little bit further.

The ferry option

Sea crossing at Dover

When it comes to travel costs taking one of the cross channel ferries to France takes a lot of beating.

There’s also the added bonus that, when you take the car ferry to France, there aren’t any baggage restrictions. So you can take as much as you can get in the car, and that includes passengers!!

Most of ferry prices include the cost of taking your car and a certain number of passengers. Take MyFerryLink for example, the cost you pay includes the car and up to 9 passengers. So, if you work out the cost per passenger it will be really very low.

Indeed, MyFerryLink believe they offer the cheapest ferries to France with prices from £19 each way on their any duration ticket. So, if you were to travel for £19 one way and you had 9 passengers in total that would be just over £2 per person!!

Onboard the ferries, you’ll find amenities including restaurants, a bar, shop and children’s play area, great offers on perfumes, beer, wine etc, so you can make even more savings compared to high street prices.

The trip doesn’t start  in France but onboard the ferry!

Let loose in France

Once in France, which only takes 90 minutes by the way, you’ll find all sorts of bargains awaiting you.

There are a number of major shopping malls, one being Cité Europe in Calais, which is definitely worth a visit, especially as within Cité Europe there’s a large Carrefour supermarket where you can buy just about anything, with many offers available.

A little further on from Calais, but not that far and quite an easy drive is Lille, with many shops including a large Designer Outlet for money off all your favourite designer labels.

Remember, you’ll have your car with you, so not only can you drive afar but you can also fill the car up with shopping without having to worry about luggage restrictions. Bye bye Easyjet and Ryanair!

Here’s something to help:

http://www.calais-guide.co.uk/

What you get then

If you are still undecided between taking the plane or the ferry, the following list should help. The ferry option to France certainly saves you money all around:

  • Low price ticket
  • The bigger your group, the cheaper the ticket
  • Stretch your legs, move around, eat, drink, play and do some shopping
  • Unrestricted luggage allowance
  • Duty-free on selected items on board
  • No need to hire a car once on firm ground

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy the savings and have more to spend on your holiday. I’m off to the continent now.