Brochure porn, I think they call it. When you drool for hours over photographs of exotic destinations. Thing is, when it comes to The Maldives, I’ve never seen the money shot. I’ve never seen a photograph that actually captures the true beauty of this breathtaking garland of magical islands…
Right on cue, just in time for the renowned festivities of Wenceslas Square, snow has fallen on the Golden City. As we stroll across Charles Bridge, carols echo down from the tower. White-tipped Baroque buildings and a twinkle of Christmas lights create the backdrop. Hot wine and chestnuts fill the hole.
Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancun
‘Five star all-inclusive’ worries me. Can you really achieve a five-star experience on an all-inclusive basis? I instantly think of The Solana; love the programme, not sure I could cope with staying there. Thankfully as we drive along The Cancun Strip it echoes of South Beach rather than Benidorm. It’s surprisingly glamorous. At the top, lodged between a beautiful lagoon and the ocean, is a pristine shiny white building, it’s Le Blanc Spa Resort.
As I make my way down the mile long, sweeping avenue of lime and beech trees that lead to Lucknam Park, I’m stunned. A beautiful 17th century greystone mansion appears, set amongst parkland, rose and lavender gardens. An equestrian centre sits to the side. It suddenly feels like the backdrop to a romantic period drama. Inside, the theme continues, opulent Georgian-inspired drawing rooms, with Chesterfields, open fires and huge floral displays, lead on to perfectly manicured patios. It’s all very grand, very grand indeed. There’s even a wood-panelled library…
The Greenwich, TriBeCa
A hub for A-listers and fashionistas, Robert DeNiro’s ultra-cool downtown hotel and home from home, echoes a sumptuous private residence; 88 individually designed rooms and suites, cosy drawing rooms with roaring fires, Tibetan rugs and eclectic antiques, surround an enchanting Tuscan-style candle-lit courtyard. As I arrive a familiar face strolls past. I couldn’t possibly say who. This place is far to discreet for name dropping.
Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield, Sussex
In the middle of the rolling Sussex countryside, tucked behind a picture postcard Tudor village, you’ll find an enchanting Elizabethan house; it’s Ockenden Manor and it’s beautiful. Roaring log fires, cosy wood panelled bars and elegant drawing rooms with a wafting scent of fresh flowers. If you’re looking for the quintessential country house hotel, without the airs and graces, look no further, I’ve found it.
Picturesque villages, chocolate box cottages and endless rolling countryside, all within two hours of London. Switch off, chill out and head for a relaxing spa break in the enchanting Cotswolds.