I do like a list.
Whilst piecing together my thoughts about places I want to recommend for the year ahead as well as discussing my own plans, I realised that like myself, there are probably folk post Covid, who have a hankering to revisit their happy places and unwind in the familiarity of the known.
My own list is long but also reflects many of my clients’ desires too and it was one I felt compelled to share. I will be thrilled to discuss any of it further:
Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech, Morocco
I was introduced to this idyllic retreat on a work educational trip in November 2014 and it swiftly became an annual favourite for kick-starting my mandatory travel agent tan in the company of best friends.
Being located just 20 minutes from the Medina, this gorgeous hotel provides an oasis of calm in an otherwise frenetic city and provides a fantastic view of the Atlas Mountains from Morocco’s biggest and most luxurious swimming pool.
Last visited: May 2019
Next visit planned: November 2022
Where to eat: Al Ain
Essential eats: start with the Sh’hiwates (Moroccan salads), continue with Mechoui lamb shoulder and finish with Moroccan pastries
Favourite bits: huge and opulent suites with beautifully appointed terraces; incredible 2,000m2 pool and 3,500m2 spa.
Top tip: pick up a couple of bottles of your favourite tipple at UK duty-free for your room to help ease the pain of the final bar bill.
Hotel Berg, Keflavik, Iceland
There’s more to Iceland than Reykjavik and the Aurora Borealis. This boutique hotel is in a small fishing village on the Reykjanes Peninsula, minutes from Keflavik airport, 15 minutes from the Blue Lagoon spa and within easy driving distance of craters, caves and lava fields.
Just 45 minutes from Reykjavik, it works well as a top or tail of a longer trip, but as frequent visitors, Steve and I prefer to base ourselves here for the duration when staying in southern Iceland. The rooms are spacious and luxurious, the breakfast is generous and the icing on the cake is the geothermally heated rooftop pool which provides the perfect spot for Aurora viewing.
Last visited: December 2018
Next visit planned: March 2022. (Steve doesn’t know this and will only discover if he reads my blog. It’s how I like to inform him of our holiday plans!)
Where to eat: Kaffi Duus just across the harbour from the hotel.
Essential eats: start with creamy lobster soup, continue with the King of the Ocean platter or Icelandic lamb cutlets
Favourite bits: geothermally heated rooftop pool
Top tips: duty-free is located in Reykjavik Airport’s baggage claim area and will be your last chance to purchase booze at a reasonable cost during your stay. A hire car makes for a perfect mobile fridge in the winter months.
The Warwick, Geneva, Switzerland
There are swankier and far more expensive hotels on the shores of Lac Leman but very few, if any, will provide you with panoramic views of the lake and mountains from your own penthouse terrace sun lounger.
Last visited: May 2019
Next visit planned: June 2022
Where to eat: Chez Boubier; Parfums de Beyrouth; Restaurant Les Armures; La Perle du Lac.
Essential eats: entrecôte with café de Paris sauce; fondue; raclette; Filets de perches meunière; Falafel
Favourite bits: Penthouse suites available with views of Lac Leman, the Jet D’eau and Mont Blanc
Fairmont Flame Towers, Baku, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan for the Formula One Grand Prix was one of the best trips of my life. The Fairmont is on an elevated section of the city with spectacular views, including the Maiden Tower, the Caspian Sea and huge promenade, the Baku Eye; and we could even see our own F1 Grandstand from our room.
Last visited: April 2019
Next visit planned: for the Grand Prix April 2023
Where to eat: Shirvanshah Museum Restaurant, Dolma Restaurant, Firuze
Essential eats: Dushbara – small meat dumplings cooked in a lamb and minted broth
Favourite bits: the view of the city and Caspian Sea from the Fairmont is simply spectacular; the old town of Baku serves as a perfect contrast to the modern architecture of the new city.
Top tip: upgrade to a luxurious Gold Room on the 26th floor which includes a daily complimentary cocktail hour amongst its benefits.
Arrecife Gran Hotel, Lanzarote, Spain
Heaven help anyone who refers to my favourite volcanic island as Lanzagrotty! It's my go-to short-haul sunshine haven. With 17 floors, this is the only high-rise hotel on the island, but it can be forgiven as the recently renovated rooms give panoramic views of the island and the ocean, and it sits on a perfectly formed sandy beach.
Last visited: September 2021
Next visit planned: Off the cuff when in need of tapas and sunshine
Where to eat: Blue 17 – the hotel’s rooftop restaurant affording the best views and food in Lanzarote
Essential eats: truffled eggs benedict for breakfast
Favourite bits: the Aquaplus spa and hydrothermal circuit are for adults only
Top tip: spend a week in a villa or a beach resort hotel and spoil yourselves with two or three nights here at the end. It’s only a short hop to the airport.
Beachcomber Trou Aux Biches, Mauritius
My love for this Indian Ocean paradise is well documented.
Pristine palm-fringed white sandy beaches, sparkling crystal-clear turquoise waters, picturesque landscapes and year-round warm weather, it doesn’t get much better than Mauritius and the delightful Trou Aux Biches.
Last visited: May 2014
Next visit planned: September 2022 (postponed 50th birthday trip)
Where to eat: with a choice of seven restaurants included in the dine-around plan, it’s not an easy decision. My top two must be Blue Ginger for Thai or Mahiya for exquisite Indian cuisine.
Essential eats: Carpaccio of marlin with palm hearts
Favourite bits: this is one of the few hotels on the island to offer beachfront private pool suites.
Top tip: Spend seven nights in a Junior Suite then upgrade to a Beachfront Pool Suite for 3 nights at the end. Your holiday will end on a high note and will seem longer for it.
Hotel Place D’Armes, Montreal, Canada
This was the first stop of our east Canadian road trip and research had guided me to Old Montreal and the neo-classical architecture of this gorgeous hotel and the Notre-Dame Basilica which is just opposite. It was too chilly to take advantage of the rooftop terrace hence the need to return.
Last visited: March 2018
Next visit planned: Likely to be 2024 for the Montreal Grand Prix… price dependent
Where to eat: Brasserie 701, a chic French Brasserie
Essential eats: Brunch at the 701 – take the bottomless mimosa option
Favourite bits: location, brunch, ambience
Top tip: this hotel is pricey in peak seasons but the Hilton Embassy Suites are located just around the corner and I took a look – the rooms were huge and the hotel bar lively. It would make a great lower-cost alternative.
W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE (was the Yas Viceroy)
The hotel’s two remarkable buildings bridge the track at the Yas Marina Circuit and sparkle with lights at night. That would have been enough for me but the addition of a glorious lux room with balcony and view of the circuit, along with a rooftop pool, made for a perfect two-night stay during our honeymoon.
Last visited: September 2014
Next visit planned: not during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as it’s a little pricey. 10-year anniversary maybe.
Where to eat: Angar for great Indian; WET Deck for adults only cocktails
Essential eats: the butter chicken at Angar is renowned in Abu Dhabi – Steve concurred.
Favourite bits: car racing view and noise from my balcony, rooftop pool, Yas Marina Circuit walk
Top tip: in the low season, outside of main holiday periods, the prices are great and worth considering for a couple of nights before heading to the Maldives.
L’Archipel, Praslin, The Seychelles
Another fabulous gem introduced to me during an educational trip to Seychelles. This stunning archipelago is worth an island-hop and I was so glad that I got to explore Praslin as well as Mahé.
The image above says it all – a white sandy beach, a hillside estate, lush green palm trees and calm blue ocean. I adored the tranquillity of this boutique little enclave.
Last visited: October 2012
Next visit planned: I’m aiming for 2025 as part of a broader expedition
Where to eat: La Gigolette for authentic Creole cuisine; Private romantic barbecue on the beach
Essential eats: Lobster, garlic butter, fries and salad, on the beach
Favourite bits: the peace, the birds, only 32 rooms
Top tip: If you visit Seychelles, try to visit Praslin, even if only for the day. You mustn’t miss out on the Vallée de Mai or the best beach in the world, Anse Lazio.
The Oyster Box, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban, South Africa
In 2005, my job took me to KwaZulu-Natal where I spent six months living in Umhlanga, a popular resort town of Durban. The Oyster Box hotel served as a fabulous hangout for after-work drinkies, but my dad and brother would also stay here when visiting. Lucky them!
This beachfront escape has exquisite rooms at surprisingly good prices and who doesn’t love a lighthouse view?
Last visited: January - June 2005
Next visit planned: Sooner rather than later
Where to eat: The Ocean Terrace for seafood and wood-fired pizzas
Essential eats: Grilled prawns – the best I’ve ever eaten
Favourite bits: the location and view are unrivalled in the town; those prawns!
Top tip: If you’re not staying at the Oyster Box, book yourselves in for lunch or dinner
All of these are worthy of their special place in my heart, and all will be revisited over the years ahead. Please contact me for further details if they tempt you too.