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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

[Event Cancelled] Take a Tennis Masterclass with Emma Raducanu at this Luxury Resort in the Maldives

Tennis star Emma Raducanu

[UPDATE: Emma Raducanu will no longer be visiting the Amilla Maldives Resort for this event. Emma’s tennis clinic had been due to take place on October 27th.]

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu will be visiting Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences this autumn to share her skills with guests. The British tennis player whose mother is Chinese and father Romanian will be visiting Amilla Maldives Resort in Baa Atoll, Maldives, as part of Amilla’s Festival of Life running from October 25th until November 1st. 

Emma will offer guests a 60-minute tennis clinic at the resort’s court, set in the jungle at the heart of the island and recently refurbished to US Open standards. She will also attend a meet and greet event at the resort, and hopes to encourage even more people of all ages to play tennis. 

“I’m delighted to discover the Maldives for the first time and I would like to thank Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences for this opportunity. I will share my experience with the guests and have an amazing time there,” says Emma.

Emma’s masterclass for guests is being organised in conjunction with LUX Tennis, the operator of Amilla’s tennis activities. Amilla Maldives regularly hosts tennis pros throughout the year and has a regular resident pro on hand to coach resort guests. 

To secure a spot or find out more email


What it’s like inside Buckingham Palace – you can visit the 19 State Rooms over the Summer, including a special Platinum Jubilee exhibition

Buckingham Palace. Credit: Andrew Holt. Copyright The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

[FURTHER UPDATE The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace will reopen to visitors on Thursday, 22 September. The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews will not reopen to the public in 2022. The special displays at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse marking the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II will not reopen.]

[UPDATE The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are closed until further notice following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th. The Queen’s coffin is being brought to Buckingham Palace from Scotland on the evening of September 13th and will rest in the Bow Room and then the Throne Room for family and staff respectively to pay their respects. The Queen’s coffin will leave Buckingham Palace at 2.22pm on September 14th to lie in in state at Westminster Hall. Rest in Peace your Majesty]

Walking up the red carpeted, gold leafed, double pronged Grand Staircase, it’s hard not to channel “You shall go to the ball!” I’m at Buckingham Palace to visit the State Rooms which are open to the public this summer, until October 2nd, for the first time since 2019. Chopstix had a preview of the self guided tour – a week later Jeff Bezos apparently booked on the Exclusive Evening Tour.

The State Rooms, where the British royal family meet and entertain official visitors, lie deep beyond the famous façade, in the West Wing of the Palace. Entry for the paying public (tickets for adults are £30 with concessions available) is not through the front gates but at the side on Buckingham Palace Road. Though once through “airport-style security” (where they are much more polite than at any airport I’ve been to) we access the same grand rooms as the dignitaries.

But first we’re given a few rules – no chewing of gum (“you can’t imagine where we find it”), no photographs of the State Rooms and no loos until the end of the tour. 

Buckingham Palace Grand Staircase. Photographer: Derry Moore. The Royal Collection Trust Her Majesty Elizabeth II

First taste of the splendour is the aptly named Grand Staircase. The theatrical look is not accidental – the staircase was designed, like all The State Rooms, by John Nash who had a background in theatre set design. George 1V commissioned Nash to transform the then Buckingham House into a palace. Even the most jaded person couldn’t fail to be awed by the sheer magnificence and exquisite craftsmanship.

The self-guided tour (the free audio guide gives interesting insight into the history, art and design details) loops through the 19 State Rooms. Each room flows on to the next and the dramatic Throne Room comes so early on it can take you by surprise. Through the glorious in its own right Green Drawing Room my eye is drawn to two prominently placed thrones in the next room. 

Buckingham Palace Green Drawing Room. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The theatrics are dialled up to maximum in the Throne Room: wall to wall crimson red with several crystal chandeliers and of course, thrones. One is embroidered “ER II” and the other, poignantly, “P” for the late Prince Philip. Fans of Prince William and Kate Middleton will recognise the room as the setting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding portraits.

Buckingham Palace Throne Room. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

We are gently guided one way through the Palace by a subtly roped off areas. Uniformed staffers are positioned along the route, probably to check we don’t touch or photograph anything but all unfailingly friendly. 

The Picture Gallery has recently been renovated as part of a massive repair plan for the Palace. The long, glass roofed room is lined with works by the world’s most famous painters including Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer. 

Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

The presence of Queen Victoria looms large in the next room, the East Gallery, which is packed with portraits of the monarch and her family. Each year the Summer Opening includes a special display in the Ball Supper Room, commissioned by Victoria and based between the East Gallery and the Ballroom. 

For 2022 in celebration of the Queen’s seventy year reign the exhibition is Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession featuring portraits taken by official Royal photographer, the late Dorothy Wilding. 

Wildings’ photographs were the basis for Queen’s image on British stamps, bank notes and coins. The portraits were also distributed to British embassies around the world.

Dorothy Wilding portrait of the Queen. Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved

Past the exhibition the tour resumes in the enormous Ballroom, commissioned by Queen Victoria as she was running out of space for guests in the Blue Drawing Room. Today the lavish space is used for state banquets and investitures.

Following on from here the rest of the State Rooms overlook the Palace’s vast grounds. While there’s an initial urge to gawp at the Queen’s back garden, the sheer magnificence of the interiors ultimately keeps your interest inside. This run of rooms is the grandest including the Music Room, originally known as the Bow Drawing Room, with its striking blue columns and where Prince Charles was christened, and culminating in the ravishing White Drawing Room which includes a secret door used by the royals.

Downstairs, we walk through the Marble Hall which was created specifically to house marble sculptures. At the bottom of the stairs themselves is a full length sculpture of Mars and Venus carved from a single block.

Buckingham Palace and gardens. The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The tour then leads out through the Bow Room to the garden where, conveniently, there’s a cafe set up on the West Terrace. Overlooking the lawn and lake, it’s a pleasant spot to sit for a coffee in a Buckingham Palace branded paper cup.

For more amusing Buckingham Palace branded merchandise there’s a large shop strategically placed on the way out of the grounds. You may also be tempted to stock up on an (admittedly cute) stuffed toy corgi or a bottle of Her Majesty’s gin. 

As a bonus the way out is a seven minute walk around the edge of the gardens. Exiting on a busy London road which leads to “the Queen’s favourite hotel” The Goring in one direction and Hyde Park Corner in the other, no carriage awaits me. Before I set off on foot though I do feel as if I should check for a pumpkin with six mice.

The new Raffles London hotel is Licensed to Thrill

Raffles London at the OWO

The instructions were to arrive at “the Spies Entrance” in Whitehall at 6 o’clock sharp. This intriguing missive was not an assignation with M or Moneypenny but an invite to take a “first look” at Raffles London at the OWO (the Old War Office) – the Singapore hotel brand’s inaugural UK outpost, owned in part by the Hinduja Group.

Completed in 1906, the building was the centre of operations through two world wars and home to the British secret service. Lawrence of Arabia had a desk here and James Bond creator Ian Fleming was a regular visitor. It’s no coincidence that several Bond films had scenes shot at the OWO including Skyfall where Daniel Craig’s 007 stands on top of the building looking moodily over the rooftops.

Raffles London at the OWO

As it turns out the Spies Entrance, formerly frequented by agents, is discreetly positioned at the back of the building and is now the access for the Raffles’ luxury apartments. The main hotel entry is on Whitehall itself, the road running between the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square that also gives its name to the wider area. 

While the Edwardian Baroque façade of this vast building is currently hidden behind hoardings, once inside the sheer scale of the place is immediately noticeable. And although the transformation into a 120 roomed luxury hotel is still in progress, what’s already apparent is the restored original features such as oak panelled walls, grand fireplaces and cornicing on the soaringly high ceilings.  

From the entrance hall leads an impressive marble staircase on which successive statesman have stepped. Overhead is a balcony where Winston Churchill would address the staff, Raffles London managing director Philippe Leboeuf (who has moved from the Mandarin Oriental Group) tells us. And on the upper floors the mosaic laid corridors – some two miles of them – were once abuzz with running messenger boys. 

Raffles London at the OWO

The former secretary of state’s office that at varying times belonged to Lord Kitchener, David Lloyd George, Churchill and John Profumo is being turned into a sprawling suite. The space directly overlooks Horse Guards, the historic military headquarters and home to the Household Cavalry Museum. 

We’re also shown inside one of the turrets facing Whitehall complete with huge, curved glass windows which is a spectacular space for a guest room. In the middle portion of the hotel overlooking a large courtyard another suite, The Poppy, will occupy three storeys.

On completion the hotel will have a total of eleven restaurants and bars to be rolled out gradually. Three of them – a brasserie, a fine dining room and a chef’s table – will be overseen by chef Mauro Colagreco who has a three Michelin starred restaurant in France.

Raffles London at the OWO

A new addition is four subterranean floors underneath the existing building that will house a spa and health club including a swimming pool, gym, yoga studio, sauna and steam, partnering with Guerlain and Pillar.

Raffles at The OWO is due to open between this December and March 2023. The hotel will also be open several days a year for tours, making the building and its fascinating history accessible to the public (as well as guests) for the first time.

Where was Persuasion filmed? The Netflix Locations in the Henry Golding Film You Can Visit

Persuasion. (L to R) Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Netflix’s new production of Persuasion which includes Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding in its ensemble cast, has had Jane Austen purists reaching for the smelling salts. Austen’s final completed novel follows the travails of heartbroken heroine Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) who had previously been “persuaded” to reject the marriage proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth as he had no status or fortune. 

When Wentworth re appears several years later Anne is also been wooed by the charming and handsome William Elliot (Henry Golding) who as her distant cousin is heir to her family home, Kellynch Hall in Somerset, south west England. Netflix’s version has been criticised for gauchely including modern day language and breaking the fourth wall with knowing quips direct to the camera à la Fleabag. 

But although the adaptation has sparked controversy over its inauthenticity, what Netflix has stayed true to is the locations. Austen’s novel was partly set in the south west England settings of Lyme Regis in Dorset and Bath in Somerset – one of the rare instances the author referenced real life places in her fiction. And both were used as filming locations for the Netflix production.

Persuasion. (L to R) Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

The streaming company has found that the settings of its dramas are a key part of their appeal to viewers. In a press release last month a spokesperson announced that the location of a Netflix series or film frequently becomes the destination that viewers most want to visit. The release goes on to say that viewers also have an increased interest in the well known landmarks, history and food and drink of said locations as a result and “Now we want to find new ways to connect members to the stories, and the places, that they love.”

So Netflix recently partnered with SANDEMANs New Europe Tours for a series of free guided walking tours of Paris, Madrid and London that not only shared the history of the cities but highlighted locations from Netflix shows such as Emily in Paris and Bridgerton and revealed behind the scenes insights. 

Time will tell if the tours will be extended and if Persuasion will be added to the roster. In the meantime, a number of locations in the production are open to the public. Kellynch Hall, which Anne’s vain and feckless father Sir Walter (Richard E Grant) has to rent to Admiral Croft in order to make money, is alas a private house (Trafalgar Park in Wiltshire). But here are the locations you can visit.

Lyme Regis, Dorset

Persuasion. Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Jane Austen was apparently a fan of “Lyme”, a picturesque and historic seaside town on the south coast of England, and its surrounding countryside. The author stayed there at least twice with her family – as her letters record – and included the location in Persuasion. 

In the novel she wrote “ the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.”

The town features in several key scenes including where Anne first encounters William. Lyme Cobb – a distinctive harbour wall built to protect the town – is also central. Notably when the party are out for a stroll and Anne’s friend Louisa Musgrove falls. The exact location is thought to be the precarious “granny’s teeth” stone steps that link the upper and low levels of the Cobb.

Lyme Regis has several sand and pebble beaches and cliff top walks which also feature in the film. The scenic South West Coast Path National Trail passes through the town and takes in the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast with stunning views over Lyme Bay.

The area is also known for its dramatic Jurassic Coastline – one of the most important sites in the world for fossil hunters. 

Lyme Regis Museum, built on the site of 19th century fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning’s home, also includes several Austen artifacts loaned by the author’s descendants.

Austen is said to have stayed on Broad Street and a plaque on Pyne House there reads “This is the most likely lodging of Jane Austen”. No doubt it will now become an Instagram hotspot for Netflix Persuasion fans despite the brutal reviews.

Chenies Manor, Buckinghamshire

For the Musgrove family’s Uppercross estate two locations were used. The scenes for “the great house” were filmed at Brympton House, Somerset which is only accessible via private hire. The interiors of Uppercross Cottage – home to Anne’s sister Mary and her husband, Charles Musgrove – were filmed at the sprawling tudor manor house, Chenies, in Rickmansworth.

Guided tours detailing the house’s colourful history – described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “a fascinating puzzle” – are available, bookable in advance. And the pretty gardens play host to plant and flower festivals in the summer months. 

West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Persuasion. (L to R) Lydia Rose Bewley as Penelope Clay, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot, Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Yolanda Kettle as Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

This beautiful Palladian style house stands in for the grand residence of Lady Dalrymple and her daughter – relations of the Elliots. The bucolic parkland was also the filming location for Uppercross’s woods and meadows – setting for Anne and her friends’ frequent walks.

The house was commissioned in the 18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hell Fire Club. Not the high school Dungeons and Dragons group from Stranger Things Season Four but the louche club for upper class rakes otherwise known as the Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe.

The house is open to the public from June to August and the grounds from April to August.

Osterley Park and House, Greater London

Persuasion. Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Standing in for Bath’s assembly rooms is this Georgian country estate on the far reaches of  West London (you can reach it on the Picadilly tube line en route to Heathrow). The house was originally built in the 1570s but transformed in the 1760s and is preserved as it would have been in the 1780s. Its Entrance Hall and Long Gallery (above) is the setting for Bath society gatherings in the Netflix production. Check before visiting as the property is closed for filming (rumoured to be Bridgerton season three) on some dates this summer.


Persuasion. (L to R) Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russell, Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

The city renowned for its honey stone Georgian architecture and highly fashionable during Austen’s time makes several appearances in the film. The striking façade of Royal Crescent features in a scene of Anne and Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird) walking together in intense discussion. The two were also filmed on the colonnaded Bath Street (above) – the high street store windows propped with Regency finery and renamed Madame LeFroy Haberdasher and Milliner. Bath Street is also where you’ll find the entrance to the Thermae Spa – a modern incarnation of the ancient hot springs that drew visitor’s to the town in Austen’s day.

Gravel Walk, a footpath which links Royal Crescent with Queen’s Square, appears both in the book and the film location as the backdrop for – without giving anything away – the most important scene of all.

You Can Rent the French Riviera Villa from Downton Abbey – and Other Exclusive Private Homes Complete with Staff

You can rent the French Riviera villa on Downton Abbey: A New Era
Villa Rocabella from Downton Abbey A New Era is available to rent through Homanie

“I’ve come into possession of a villa in the South of France,” announces the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the upcoming Downton Abbey film. And you can too – complete with a butler and other staff – at least for a few nights or several weeks. The Côte d’Azur villa featured in the movie is just one of the exclusive private homes available to rent through Homanie, a new breed of luxury holiday leases providing equally luxurious hotel level service.

Launched in March 2021, the company’s remit is dream homes with incredible views in exceptional locations with some fifty properties across France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Added to this Homanie offers “five star service by The Homanists – women and men who are selected for their expertise.” Think chefs, housekeepers, gym trainers and yoga instructors. The whole package is yours from an average of 50 to 60 000€ (around US$53,000 to US$63,000) a week in summer, depending on the property, with some reaching 180 000E (about US$190,000) a week.

Luxury holiday rentals already exist of course but there’s a growing trend for combining the privacy and space of a unique holiday lease with the service and amenities of a deluxe hotel. “Up until now, renting a property has been synonymous with ‘self catering’ – a quick handover of the keys and service which is often cursory. Homanie is now changing all of this by offering an innovative, five star hotel service,” says a spokeswoman for the company.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Ca’n Miquelet villa

Similarly from this summer fans of Mandarin Oriental will have the chance to experience the hotel brand in a new way. In a collaboration with StayOne, specialists in “the finest one per cent of holiday homes”, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has launched a collection of exclusive private houses to rent. Each of which comes with “service provided by a team who have been meticulously trained by Mandarin Oriental”.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – from a Spanish private island to an English country estate – include a 24 hour concierge service, in house private chef and daily housekeeping, right down to MO robes and bathroom amenities. 

“The luxury home rental market is a fast-growing segment of leisure travel,” says Luca Finardi, Area Vice President & Head of Operations at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group which became a minority investor in StayOne in late 2020. “We saw the opportunity to introduce luxury experiences that combine the best of both brands. StayOne have the perfect homes, and Mandarin Oriental has the brand reputation to deliver unique personalised service in a luxury environment.”

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Cirencester Estate

The inaugural selection of eight properties are based in the South of France, the Balearic islands Ibiza and Mallorca and the Cotswolds in England. “Destinations were selected based on customer demand among our Fan base in the most popular leisure destinations,” says Finardi. “Looking forward, Mandarin Oriental and StayOne will collaborate to identify seasonal collections; diversifying the portfolio and handpicking villas in other key destinations around the world.” 

Other hotel brands also have affinities with luxury rentals around the world including North America and Asia. Marriott International launched Homes & Villas in 2019 and prior to that Accor hotel group bought upscale holiday rental company onefinestay. 

“While no formal crossover programming or services exist between Accor hotel brands and onefinestay, we are capable of addressing needs or requests our guests or clients may have. This could take the shape of a hotel chef preparing a bespoke, private dinner at a onefinestay property,” says Garth Simmons, CEO Accor Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Tagomago villa

Members of the Fans of MO loyalty scheme will be offered further benefits and experiences while staying at the Exclusive Homes. And both Accor and Marriott allow guests to earn and redeem reward points at the onefinestay and Homes & Villas properties respectively. 

On a smaller scale ÀNI Private Resorts offers four private homes for rent with full service in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Anguilla and the Dominican Republic. And in London only, Domus Stay has privately owned high end apartments to exclusive townhouses on its books for short stay rentals with the opportunity to arrange guest services such as personal trainers, VIP gallery tours, private wine tastings and art classes. 

Multi-generational holidays and landmark occasions are ideally suited for the larger properties. “Customers of luxury villas usually choose them for different reasons to choosing luxury hotels and we wanted to develop this for our clients,” says Finardi. “We saw an opportunity of being able to offer private, stand-alone accommodation options in destinations we have yet to have opened a hotel. Ideally for the coming together of family and friends to celebrate key events.”

Exclusive Mediterranean villa available to rent through Homanie

And companies have seen increased interest as the world opens up again. “We have noticed since the pandemic a real increase in demand for holidays in private mansions as travellers now favour more intimate places where they feel more secured against the risk of Covid,” says the Homanie spokeswoman. 

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