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San Miguel De Allende, part 2

San Miguel De Allende, part 2

By on Nov 3, 2014 in Adventure, Food, Interior design, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

San Miguel De Allende is a vividly coloured historic town that sits approximately 270 km north of Mexico City, and has been made famous at various points throughout the last centuries for events such as being the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, a freedom fighter and national hero of the Mexican people, and by virtue of the fact that in 1810 the municipality of San Miguel was the first to be freed from Spanish rule by the Mexican army. San Miguel is steeped not only in history but also in creativity, and has been a hub for artists throughout the last eight decades. We were venturing there to experience the whole spectrum of sensations that such a site offers, and to admire the town’s UNESCO world listed heritage architecture. Our vehicle headed out at dawn, as the sun rose over the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt, a mountainous strata of land that sweeps east to west, featuring various snow-dusted peaks. As the jeep drew closer to San Miguel, a gap in the mountains revealed a cluster of hot air balloons floating peacefully eastwards. For those with an appetite for adventure travel, Mexico is a land of plenty. We rumbled off the main freeway and trundled into the steep winding cobbled streets of the main city, at which point the atmosphere changed almost instantly. High walls painted in shades of ochre and umbre create a maze framed all around by views out over surrounding hills and mountains. Bougainvillea and Wisteria grow bountifully in trellises and along the tops of walls, while the usual suspects aloe, cacti and various ornamental succulents pop up in terracotta pots that dot the door frames and flagstones about the town. It has distinct old world charm and a relaxed pace that feels at once homely. Our lodging, the Rosewood hotel, is a veritable palace that I was awestruck to learn has only been built, from scratch, in the last three years. Observing the fabric, and the style in which it has been constructed, you might justly suppose the building has been stood here for decades if not centuries. Stone has been quarried and timber felled locally. Fittings, fixtures and furniture are also from local craftsman and designers. This ethos of contextual and cultural awareness and empathy encapsulates the Rosewood...

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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende

By on Oct 20, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Mezcal, Reviews, Travel | 1 comment

Food wise, Mexico has an incredible amount of variety to offer the gourmet traveller, and whilst Oaxaca is known as the culinary capital of Mexico, there are a number of distinct regions with their own unique dishes, celebrating native produce, forming a base of traditional Mexican recipes that have been handed down over generations. Whilst there are understandably some influences from America, notably in cuisines in the North of the country, as well as significant influences from the Spanish who of course infiltrated Mexico, bringing animal husbandry and butchery with them, in fact the majority of Mexican cuisine is just that: Mexican. Provenance of some of the more notorious dishes such as the burrito can be ambiguous and most Mexicans will tell you the burrito is an American invention, whereas the taco (perhaps surprisingly), is an entirely Mexican staple. Signature ingredients include chilli (of course), achiote, lime, coriander, rice, eggs, avocado, corn flour, maize flour, beef, pork and chicken. However, as I discovered on a recent trip to San Miguel De Allende via Mexico City, there are many more styles of preparation and ingredients to explore, ranging from the exotic to the frankly bizarre. Preparation of Mexican meals can often be a painstakingly slow labour of love, resulting in a table that groans under the weight of food, at which the entire family will sit to dine. I will never forget the first meal I saw taking place in Mexico, in a big old rustic diner in the Yucatan with a high vaulted ceiling, timber beams and wagon wheels bolted to its stone walls. I had just arrived in Mexico for the first time, with a couple of London lads and a Swedish girl. We were agog at the vast frozen Margaritas that were brought to our table, in glasses the size of hollowed out footballs and swimming with premium gold tequila. Although we were four young and excitable travellers, freshly arrived in this magical land of mountains and deserts, soft sand beaches and palm trees, Mariachi bands and Mezcal, it was in fact the table of twenty or so Mexicans opposite us who commanded the most attention. This was an entire family, out to dine and mingle on Saturday night,...

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Mexico City day 2

Mexico City day 2

By on Mar 2, 2014 in Adventure, Airlines, Food, health, Hotels, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Awaking at 7 am, I drew back the curtains with eager anticipation for the day that lay ahead. The previous day’s exploration had felt epic, and our platoon were all pretty whacked by nightfall. Of course it’s always good to start the day with exercise, so I took a swim in the rooftop pool at our hotel, The Sheraton Isabel Maria. It was a special feeling to be swimming in a heated pool with amazing views out over Mexico City, and I pushed myself in order to build an appetite for a big breakfast. Our group chose to eat in the lounge on the 20th floor so we could appreciate the urban cityscape as we tucked into another hearty meal, which on this particular morning consisted of fried plantain and tamales with salsa. I chose plantain not just because it was delicious but also a good slow release energy food for the day ahead. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it certainly feels like it at the Sheraton Isabel Maria. Our hosts for this trip were various and as well as Starwood hotels, we were also accommodated by the Mexico City tourist agency and of course Aeromexico, who were naturally keen to show us seasoned travellers their new fleet of Boeing 787-8 planes which were awaiting inspection at their brand new hangar. In spite of the fact none of the group seemed too excited at the prospect, I was very keen, as it’s not often one gets to experience such unique aviation gold. Once we had cleared security we entered the hangar, and within a millisecond the group’s tune changed. It was quite breathtaking, to enter such a vast space, still gleaming in all it’s newness. The hangar is also used for events, including a mass (of course!) and opened out naturally onto the airfield and runways, where the planes stood waiting. We ventured out, cameras poised, and quite literally had a field day, snapping away at the inside of the turbines. Much to our surprise, we were given permission to pose inside the jet engines. This was a photo-opp not to be missed. Each of us took it in turns to shoot...

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In the lapland of luxury

In the lapland of luxury

By on Feb 11, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Lapland, Luxury, Real ale, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or so they say. “They” however weren’t bloggers. I jest of course. Writers, journos, bloggers, or anybody with the ability to generate publicity are often schmoozed in exchange for exposure (steady on) and there is nothing so criminal about that in itself. However it can prove tricky when you’re asked to experience and review something that falls well below what you might consider a reasonable standard. For my part I tend to pick a destination or press trip very carefully, vetting it for quality before attending, and quite simply if I don’t enjoy the experience I will tell my host and give them the opportunity to correct it or avoid publication. Harsh, but fair. However, occasionally you do strike gold, and end up having a fantastic experience, such as was the case in the run up to Christmas last year, when I headed along to the Ice Bar in London for a bash dedicated to all that is Northern Sweden’s Lapland, a destination I have long yearned to visit since reading AA Gill’s descriptions of riding across a starlit snowy tundra, downwind from a nitrate rich fug of husky guff, sleeping on blocks of ice wearing nothing but a reindeer pelt. Or was it a wolf skin? Lapland is a wild and expansive destination in the far North of Sweden, known for a range of profoundly unique points of attraction, both natural and man made. Aside from the fact there is obvious beauty in the sub-zero crystallisation of swathes of wide open countryside, draped in a thick blanket of snow, there is also the breathtaking spectacle of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; a natural phenomenon that occurs when magnetism created by solar flares, bounces off the earth’s outer atmosphere resulting in a celestial light show of swathes of luminescent refraction. Some clever people decided this would be an ideal spot to install a winter break destination so they built the Ice Hotel and yes, it is a hotel made entirely of ice. I’ve never been there, but a trip to The Ice Bar in London was the next best thing. First off we were taught how to sculpt ice, which was...

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A Corinthian column

A Corinthian column

By on Feb 3, 2014 in Commentary, Hotels, Interior design, London, Luxury, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

Shooting off this last set-piece in the Alexx in Londonland montage, I feel a twinge of nostalgic whimsy coupled with the sensation of watching a rolling epic grand narrative. Closing sequences of an elegiac movie play out whilst I lie, “beached in the offering of a private diary of deferred potential” as a puffed up tutor once put it in reference to a project I surfed around for some time before eventual completion in a series of water works; that is to say, writing based around the concept of water as a vehicle for expression. Those were heady days of cerebral, abstract and conceptual horseplay in the sticks of the shire of Devon and we were all young and helplessly hopeful, way way back in the mid to late nineties. We hop skip and prance our way from one scene to the next in the meandering story lines of our little lives. At best we can seek to determine the meter and stanza, leaving crucial aspects such as plot to divine or unseen forces. We can’t write the script because fate writes it for us; rather we might daub paint on the set, bash out a couple of rousing numbers, hoping with vainglory to get our names in the credits that flash past the viewer’s eyes at the end of it all. Corinthia was the inspiration for this theatrically filmic musing, by virtue of the grand sweeps and ornate embellishments that characterize her interior, evoking vintage Hollywood stage-set glamour, which by the tiniest flick of a switch in the imagination can transform you from Dave and Sarah of Beckenham into Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, or Bogart and Bacall. As with many of the places I am fortunate enough to muse about, one could easily argue such thoughts and expressions are essentially redundant, as accolades have already rolled in since their reopening as a luxury hotel in 2009. In spite of the pristine elegance it now displays, the restoration and improvements have been entirely sympathetic, in preserving the ornate fabric of the building as it was when originally built as the Metropole in 1885. The hotel became synonymous with high society living, hosting debutante balls and soirees that attracted many...

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Buddha drops the swag

Buddha drops the swag

By on Dec 2, 2013 in Asian, Food, Interior design, London, Luxury, Restaurants, Travel | 0 comments

It’s strangely ironic in a sense that Buddhism, which has been referred to as “the religion of choice” now has it’s very own bar / restaurant in the heart of Knightsbridge, one of London’s plushest districts. What would the Buddha himself have to say on the matter? Would he eat there? If so what would he order? Perhaps he would mooch about looking at the various statues of himself to establish which is most life like. Then again perhaps not. The first thing that struck me about Buddha Bar on entering was the darkness. It’s mesmerisingly dark. The tables and floor are dark wood, and lighting is moody, focussing on the sculptural objects. Ambient light as a result is dim by contrast, which they’ve fixed so to speak, with red lighting that creates a hue on your table top, causing food to glow dimly, with a sort of Satanic eeriness. As traditionalist as it may seem, I like to see my food in natural lighting, or something close to it at any rate. We commenced with bubbles then chose for starters Prawn “Rock Shrimp Style” served with a creamy spicy sauce, and squid, which was prepared similarly. I’m not sure whether to blame myself for ordering something deep fried instead of ordering sushi and sashimi, but I found the dishes both basically satisfactory, just nothing remarkable, although the creamy sauce had a pleasant melange of flavours, in spite of the overriding sensation of oiliness. Next, we shared English beef fillet with black garlic sauce and truffle mash, alongside steamed red Bream with lemongrass broth and Enoki mushrooms. The steak was pretty damn good, cooked to the perfect temperature and deliciously tender. Neither of us had tried black garlic sauce, and found it had a pleasing depth of flavour. Truffle mash was soft, creamy and easy on the palate. The bream dish was interesting and I felt that it would have been a good dish to eat on a mountainside after a long hike, breathing in fresh mountain air. Its a very delicate, light dish although there is a sourness in the broth that I wasn’t quite sure about. Where we went wrong was in sharing the two dishes between...

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