I’m not one to succumb to any delusions of grandeur but when it’s practically forced upon you, it’s very hard to resist. The Grand Hotel Oslo welcomed me with the belief that every one of their guests has the right to feel grand, and because that sounded all too tempting, I happily obliged. As I said, I seemed to have left my backbone at their front door and resistance was futile… there was nothing wrong with being delusional and lapping up this life of grandeur for just a weekend, was there? The lobby was all luxe and opulence, the staff were all smiles and agreeableness.; I was liking this place already and we hadn’t yet step foot in our room…
The Grand Hotel Oslo is a grand old dame of the city so it’s hardly a surprise that she likes to treat her guests like royalty too. Actually, since the doors opened in 1874, they’ve had real royalty, world leaders, movie and music stars making this their home during their time in Oslo… and now they can add a certain someone and I to their list. Though, I suspect we won’t make it onto their wall of fame! Aside from the old world charm, we also loved the location. With a view of the Royal Palace to the right and the rest of bustling Karl Johan gate, with its shops and bars, outstretched to the left, this was the perfect base for our weekend in the city!
I’ve always considered air travel to be a luxury. The fact that we can fly across lands and oceans and find ourselves in a different country or continent within hours (ok, sometimes days for those of us flying home to NZ) will never cease to amaze me. Having the privilege of flying so frequently and easily is a luxury I don’t take for granted, but never had I flown in such luxury until I experienced Business Class with Emirates. It’s something I’ve always wanted to treat myself to but could never justify the price, or was never crafty enough to manipulate any loyalty programmes to help pay for it, so when Emirates gave us the option to upgrade for a fraction of the usual price, it was a deal we couldn’t turn down.
Even though we’re seasoned fliers, we’ve recently been spoilt with the short flight times across Europe and as a result, the thought of sitting on a plane for around ten hours at a time now fills us with a sense of dread. My bum goes numb at the thought of all that seat shuffling, my stomach turns a little with every flashback to those horrendous inflight meals, and there’s that waiting game to find out who you’ll have the pleasure of shuffling and snoring, I mean, sitting next to… Travelling with a partner has somewhat reduced that last anxiety, and now, travelling in Business Class has done the same for the first two. Here’s what we thought…
As London-dwellers with no need for a car, I get a little thrill when we decide to rent one of those four-wheeled contraptions and embark on a road trip! Regardless of whether it’s a long or short journey, I love that feeling of jumping in the car and hitting the road. A certain someone gets behind the wheel, which leaves me armed with the navigating… this has led to many wrong-turns along the way and while this causes me to flap in panic, he assures me that it’s all part of the fun. And such fun it always is… especially when we speed further away from the London skyline and into the lush green English countryside.
A recent roadie took us to Woburn, a rather posh and pretty village in Bedfordshire. We were lured there by a visit to the renown Paris House Restaurant, but decided to make a weekend of it when we discovered that there was a grand estate to explore, and much relaxing that could be done with fresh air and rolling fields as our surroundings. When looking for a place to rest our heads, I knew we had to stay at The Woburn Hotel, a charming property right in the heart of the village!
Our weekend at Alpenpalace Deluxe Hotel & Spa Resort was a leisurely one and definitely a little out of the ordinary for us. We saw views from mountaintops instead of tower-tops, the paths we traversed were paved with dirt and not cobbles, and the only noise we woke up to was the sing-song of the local birds. It really couldn’t be any further from the hustle of our usual weekend city breaks but there was one thing which remained the same… the food. It wouldn’t be a Connie Consumes weekend getaway if there wasn’t some decent food on the adventure!
All room bookings at Alpenpalace are half board which means you get your breakfast and dinner included in the rate, though in reality they offer you so much more than just two standard meals. The thought of eating at the same restaurant for three days and nights in a row did make me feel a little uneasy… I’m the girl with the big bucket restaurant lists, remember?! But from our first meal to our last, everything dished up by Head Chef Andreas Schwienbacher and his team was delicious. They created feasts which were comforting, creative and showcased the South Tyrolean produce – something which are they are rightfully very proud of.
Like most other Antipodean expats, a certain someone and I love a weekend city break. In fact, when the Brits ask me why on earth we would ditch gloriously green New Zealand for a life of grey in London, I often say it’s because of the ease of the city break. A leisurely entrance on a Friday, immersing ourselves in the local sights and food on a Saturday and Sunday, followed by a speedy exit on a Monday; we’ve got our routine mastered. I like the pace of the city break, the sensory assault from all angles suits my short, scatty attention span just fine. But you know what? It can be a really exhausting way to travel.
I always knew this but it took a glass of champagne and a hotel balcony with views of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and blue skies, for me to really accept that sometimes it’s ok to go away for the weekend and just relax… We ditched the lists of ‘things to do and see’ and ‘places to eat’ in exchange for a few days of sunshine, fresh air, and absolutely no plans at the beautiful Alpenpalace Deluxe Hotel & Spa Resort in South Tyrol. Nestled in the Ahrntal Valley and surrounded by the Dolomites, this was the ultimate place for us to take a much needed breather…
When we choose which hotels to book, we consider four main things: price, location, quality, and value for money. Not an exhaustive list but they cover our essentials, and definitely not always in that order. Ideally all four factors rate reasonably highly, but sometimes you want to or have no choice but to value one factor more than the others… Are you splashing out on a romantic weekend away where quality is everything and price matters less? Maybe you’re planning on sightseeing all day long and just need something clean and functional in the heart of the city?
Or what if you happen to be embarking on an over 30 hour journey to the other side of the world and want to sleep in a bed between your two very long flights? You book a room in the only hotel in the airport, that’s what! And that is how we ended up checking into the Dubai International Hotel for less than 10 hours. In any other situation, it would be absolutely ludicrous, but faced with that transit time sandwiched between two even longer flights, the lure of a comfortable bed and hot shower was just too great! Since location was the only factor that mattered, we had to trust that everything else would be just fine too…
Being stranded on a tropical island doesn’t seem like the worst fate on earth until the beach frolicking grows tiresome and the call of the tummy can no longer be ignored. Only a teeny weeny problem if you’re anything like me and have no hunting, fishing or foraging skills; the prospect of playing Russian roulette with leaves and berries is not particularly appealing. In fact, it’s terrifying. And rather irrationally, it was a fear I had about spending three to four days on Pangkor Laut Resort.
I know, I know, I overreacted… we were knowingly going to a luxury resort on a private island. Not exactly washing up on a grim deserted island. My first world fear was not about the need to hone my scavenger skills, the issue was whether any of the food would be any good. Restaurants in resorts have a notorious reputation for being overpriced and underwhelming; where’s the incentive to wow where you’ve got a captive customer base?