Thursday, February 26, 2015

Soma Bay, Egypt... A luxurious peninsula, full of surprises...

I’m sitting at work wearing a hat and a big scarf in front of my computer in London... Hard to believe that just a few days earlier, I’d spent the weekend snorkelling and sunning myself, just a 5 hour flight away...

Kempinski - Soma Bay

Where I hear you asking?!  Well, lucky for you that I don’t mind sharing with you the secret of Soma Bay – a gorgeous and exclusive Egyptian resort, just a 40 minute drive from Hurghada airport.  And so do-able for a weekend.  Board the early Friday morning flight from London Gatwick and be there in your luxurious hotel just in time for dinner.  3 fabulous days of sunbathing, spa, kite surfing, snorkelling, diving or golfing and you can make it back on the Monday evening flight, relaxed and invigorated for the week ahead.
So here’s your handy guide to a resort which pretty much has it all (and that’s before the planned expansion!)

Where to stay: The Kempinski
We stayed at the luxurious 5 star Kempinski Hotel in Soma Bay.  Staff are unbelievably pleasant, while the hotel itself is like a modern fortress, still however, managing to retain some Egyptian glamour and character.  

The open reception and lounge area with its high ceilings and impressive chandeliers  is a really comfortable place to chill out while you’re waiting for friends, or for the free bus which transports you around the bay; but the real highlight awaits at the back of the hotel.  
Moats and a lazy river intertwine with pathways and bridges, pools and sunbathing areas, all the way down to the private sandy beaches of the Red Sea coast.  Breakfast is particularly enjoyable, with this stunning view, while the choice is plentiful and of a very high standard.  Indulge in pancakes, omelettes, full cooked breakfasts and more fresh bread, fruit and pastries than you could ever manage to digest!  There’s also a fantastic range of fruit juices and even bottles of bubbles for those who want to start their holiday celebrations early in the day!
The rooms are spacious with contemporary decor and bedding that envelopes you and probably keeps you there longer than you should stay (given that the sun is shining every single day!)  Our room had a gorgeous balcony overlooking the bridges and waterways, with the same view from the super huge bath.
Extras include fluffy gowns, slippers, designer bathroom products and a real highlight was the nightly treats left in the room.  These varied from sumptuous desserts to gold macaroons and bowls overflowing with fresh fruit.
There are five outlets for food, so that you’ll definitely never go hungry including The View for breakfast and buffet style dinner, Al Mar located by the pool and fantastic for a relaxed lunch (the desserts are exquisite), but by far, my favourite had to be the Asian fusion Bamboo Shoot restaurant serving up a truly exceptional array of fantastic dishes with Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese influences.  I would whole-heartedly recommend the sushi starter selection with tuna, salmon and sea bass which melts in the mouth; the Murgh Makhani – chicken in a cashew nut and butter gravy and the hoisin sauce sliced beef which had that absolutely irresistible hoisin flavour that makes you keep going back for more, even though you were full 5 plates earlier!  Make sure you also leave room for the deep fried ice cream – it’s worth every mouthful.

At the foot of the Breakers Hotel (popular with surfers, snorkelers and kite surfers), is a 420 metre long jetty stretching far out into the stunning Red Sea.  The scene above the water is breathtaking in itself, but exploring underwater will leave you breathless!  Corals gardens heavily populated with all manner of beautiful sea life, walls, wrecks and reefs...  A beautifully blue lagoon is the perfect place for snorkelling, while there’s a number of exciting diving spots at Tubya Arbaa and Shaab Saiman to name but a few.  Here you might just be lucky enough to see crocodile fish, barracudas and even sharks!  The Orca Dive Center is well equipped to handle any level of diver or snorkeller, so there truly is something for everyone.

One of the coolest water sports of them all, who wouldn’t want to learn to kite-surf at a state-of-the-art centre equipped with all the best kiting kit and instructors?!  The shallow waters of Soma Bay (one of the three best shallow water spots worldwide) and the near on perfect wind conditions (300 days per year) mean it’s the ideal place for attracting the world’s best, while the bay also regularly plays host to the Red Sea Kite Surf World Cup. 

With no experience whatsoever, we took part in an introductory course with some of the Kite House’s brilliant instructors and were all absolutely addicted within an hour or two!  With a limited amount of time, we were only able to master the basics, getting our kites in the air and mastering the control technique, but in just four days, it’s possible to learn the full course with diploma and licence for just 560 euros.  Well worth every penny!

If you’re not feeling active, then the Kite House is still the place to hang out amongst the tanned, toned  and talented adrenalin junkies.  There’s a bar and restaurant, sunbeds and terrace and massage treatments with a gorgeous view of the beach.  There’s also wake boarding, paddle boarding and even fun rides if you fancy trying something different.  By far, the best thing about the Kite House has to be its staff.  Knowledgable pros with tonnes of experience and a down to earth manner which will never make you feel like a novice.  This will be my very first port of call on my next trip to Soma Bay!

...And relax...
If all the talk of activities is making you feel slightly tired, then Soma Bay has just the place.  The Cascades Spa and Thalasso Soma Bay is a treat for tired bodies and tired minds alike.  With 65 treatment rooms, the Cascades Spa is one of the biggest in the world and boasts experienced masseurs from Thailand, India and Bali to name but a few.  Every masseur is fully trained in their discipline and will be able to tell you all of the benefits of each individual treatment.  We tried out the giant 750 metres squared Thalasso tonic hydrotherapy pool which is a one hour treatment, if you move correctly around all of the jets and pools divided into separate zones.  It’s a fantastic massage and relaxation practice designed to rejuvenate the body from head to toe.  After the body has started to wind down, Cascades recommends a hot sauna or steam followed by one of the many treatments on offer.

So there you have it, Soma Bay really does have it all.  A complete treat for mind, body and soul.  And just 5 hours away from London.  When does the next flight leave?!


CUPPLR! - Bog off POF, online dating's going offline with a new matchmaking agency!

If Valentine’s Day had you temporarily disabling Facebook for fear of wanting to throw up over the endless gestures of love between your friends, then I have some great news for you. It’s time to say goodbye to those pof messages that a monkey could write (hey bbe, how are u?) and your thumbs can start recovering from the pain resembling arthritis, due to one too many Tinder swipes left on a boring Sunday. Online dating is going offline. And the reason, is a brand new concept called Cupplr.

Cupplr is the brainchild of Sandy Macdonald. Like every one of my single friends living in a big city, she knows all too well, the feeling of waiting on that text, being let down last minute, being lied to (we’ve all experienced the 5ft 10 guy who turns up 7 inches too short...what, think we wouldn’t notice?!) and the general game playing which comes with meeting someone on a dating site.

So, she’s taken matters into her own hands, and devised an agency which meets up with you face to face... (don’t worry, it’s waaay more relaxed than a therapy sesh). Paula Abdul really was talking about a select few when she wrote that tune with an animated oversized cat and the truth is that generally people who end up together, have similar likes and dislikes. So, she’ll chat you about exactly that in her rather swanky office in the city (it’s worth going in just for the coffee), and then she’ll match you with someone who has similar likes and dislikes! She’ll find out what you’re looking for, and then she’ll actually delve into the database and pick out a suitable suitor! I know! Why didn’t anyone think of this before?!

Well, she’d be lying if she said she was the first, but what she has done, is design this particular dating agency for the city worker, rather than the millionaire, billionaire businessman which many of these sites cater to. This is the answer for high-flyers with a bit of disposable income who want to invest a bit more time into the search for love... As opposed to the lazy dater who puts up a couple of pics on the net a) stroking a drugged up tiger b) wearing a huge pair of sunglasses so you can’t see their face c) taking a selfie in a mirror with a really untidy room in the background.

Alongside the matchmaking, Sandy can also offer support when it comes to relationship advice along the way and has a genuine interest in making a difference to people’s lives (which probably comes with her background as a Senior Social Worker...)

So if you’re a guy in the City and you’re serious about finding ‘the one’ for a long term relationship rather than a few tequilas and back to yours, then email The first 50 men get a free membership to try out the service which aims to provide 3-6 dates during the membership period.  Beats sitting around in your pants watching the footie, surely?

I'll also be helping out writing Cupplr's fantastic blog for all things to do with relationships.  Exciting!

Friday, February 06, 2015

The launch of The Athenaeum's very own Whisky!

If you've ever visited the bar in the Athenaeum Hotel on Park Lane, then you're probably thinking they have quite enough whiskies - over 300 at the last count... There's something altogether very special about the latest addition to their collection though and that's because it's a blend created especially for The Athenaeum.

'Warm, welcoming and surprising' was what the blenders had in mind with the 8 year old Speyside Scotch.  In fact over 40 blends were combined to get the unique flavour which I was lucky enough to sample this week.

The Speyside and Highland Malts provide the spiciness, while the smokiness was created through the use of sherry and bourbon casks as the whiskies matured.

The result is a powerful aroma on the nose - notes of honey, oats and citrus, a rich fruitiness and nuttiness on the palette with that hint of spice and a long lingering yet elegant finish leaving that spice on the tongue.

Quirky, lavish, unique, elegant... All words I'd use to describe the beautifully bottled Athenaeum Whisky, and of course, the hotel.  A fantastic emulation.

Head down to the Whisky Bar to warm your cockles on a cold night in London.  You'll be suitably impressed... Or if you're staying in one of the rooms, you'll also find your complimentary mini-bottle in the mini-bar.

The Athenaeum Speyside Scotch Whisky is now available to buy:
70cl bottle £130.00
20cl bottle £55.00
5cl bottle £10.00

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Chai Wu Launch at Harrods

I knew the headache this morning was inevitable!  Last night we were quaffing champagne and whisky cocktails at the rather glamorous opening of Chai Wu.  Owner of Mango Tree and founder of Pan Chai, Eddie Lim has opened this stunning new restaurant on the Fifth Floor of Harrods.

Sylwi and I supping on Moutard Brut

The interior, inspired by the five elements in Chinese philosophy, fire, water, wood, earth and metal, are complimented by marble, leather and timber to make for a beautifully decadent setting in which to eating some rather fantastic Asian cuisine!

Chai Wu

Canapes included warm purees of potato and wasabi with creme fraiche and beluga caviar, foie gras cones with yuzu and champagne jelly and absolutely delicious smoked duck tubed with crab, asparagus, caviar and crispy duck on top.  Mouth-wateringly good!

Chicken Satay on a stick

Dessert was also divine - especially the white and dark chocolate mousse!

Mmm... white and dark chocolate mousse!

We mingled with Gok Wan and Lizzie Cundy and were also lucky enough to hear talented London born pianist Ji Liu playing Chopin on a gorgeous grand piano.

The amazing Ji Liu
TV presenter Lizzie Cundy

It's open now, get booking!

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