The year is 1987; Wall Street and Fatal Attraction are the blockbusters of the year, Toni Morrison’s Beloved has just been published, legwarmers and shoulder pads are still a thing, and Jonathan Miller’s much loved production of The Barber of Seville is debuted.  Fast-forward 28 years and the production still stands firm as a crowd favourite, (happily unlike those legwarmers and shoulder pads) proving that new is not always better. Rossini’s comedic yet endearing work is a cornerstone in ‘dramma-giocoso’ opera and this production continues to uphold its reputation, even if there is that initial knee-jerk reaction of feeling confused on hearing English words replacing the familiar Italian.

In a work as full of energy and activity as Rossini’s Barber of Seville, comic timing is everything and this particular cast has mastered the delicate art of well timed physical comedy. Andrew Shore showed his penchant for comedic portrayals with his scene-stealing Bartolo. Other singing highlights included Morgan Pearse as a fresh-faced Figaro who sang the famous repeated “Figaro”s with much aplomb to the audience’s delight. Kathryn Rudge, who played the bright and charming Rosina, handled Rossini’s famously fiendish runs elegantly. These singers were generally well accompanied by the orchestra, save for a few noticeable moments when the balance was not right and the voices were obscured by heavier instruments.

Miller’s gem is still definitely worth going to see, even in it’s 12th revival, and that is something to applaud (as the audience did when Miller himself took a bow on stage). This production’s longevity is a testament to the phrase: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Although Tanya McCallin’s set is very much reminiscent of the time Rossini wrote the work, and the costume is all period dress, the energy and the comedy shown by the singers keeps this production current, and will carry on doing so for yet another few more revivals to come, I’m sure.

Catch the production in cinemas across the UK on Monday 19 October or go and see it at the Coliseum until 11 November. More information here.

Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy.

Shangri-La Vancouver

Every time I walk into a Shangri-La hotel, a sense of calm washes over me, body and mind. The Vancouver establishment is no different, although it is located in the centre of the bustling city, inside there is a quiet and serene atmosphere. It is business-like but always with time for luxury.

We were extremely comfortable in a deluxe one bedroom suite, which felt like a mini apartment. Every detail and amenity is here to ensure you have a seamless stay. The living room area was kitted out with a writing desk and plush sofa, and a bottle of red wine and a platter of lovely cheeses was laid out for our enjoyment.

The suite was decorated in creams and muted greys with accents of red from the oriental artwork on the walls. The kingsize bed looked very inviting, topped with numerous bouncy pillows. For ease and comfort the blinds and curtains are controlled by digital panels next to the bed… perfect for jetlagged customers who want to watch the sun rise over the city.

Next door the en-suite white marble clad bathroom definitely had the wow factor, with a regal bath, glass encased shower, cosy bathrobes and L’Occitane toiletries. I enjoyed several bubble baths during my one night stay!

The Asian influence is evident throughout the building and all its facilities, but there are also touches of international charm, which I noticed particularly in the upmarket eatery, Market run by acclaimed chef Jean-Georges. We ate here for dinner and breakfast the next morning, and on both occasions the food was wholesome and tasty.

In the evening Market has a glamorous feel, the lights are dimmed and everywhere I looked elegant couples or trendy friends were chatting and laughing. We trusted our waiter with the cocktail choices, all of which are made with house-made syrups and fresh ingredients. I would recommend the Ginger Margarita, a spicy, sweet drink with a salty kick. Our dinner was a feast of Mediterranean style dishes. I soon regretted us only ordering one portion of corn ravioli with cherry tomatoes, shallots and basil, as it was a delicate and delicious bowl of pasta, a must for vegetarian diners. For main course we tried a simply cooked beef tenderloin with bearnaise sauce and Parmesan crusted chicken with white asparagus. I found the chicken bland and unexciting, there was too much on the plate and it needed seasoning, but the steak was a faultless piece of meat, tender and rich and cooked to perfection with a crispy caramelised edge.

For breakfast the choices are much more obviously Canadian. The French toast with spiced apple, bacon and maple syrup is unmissable and the omelette was delicious too. Every morning the team offer a complimentary smoothie and we were pleased to taste the pretty purple blueberry special.


My favourite part of this city sanctuary hotel was the sophisticated Chi spa. I spent a wonderful ninety minutes here totally immersed in a signature Shangri-La treatment. The Chi Aroma Vitality began with a tea ritual, whilst my tired feet were cleansed and massaged. Then I was left to warm my muscles for ten minutes in a private steam room before I lay on the silky soft bed for a full body massage.

Whilst staying at the Shangri-La Vancouver, I was blissfully unaware of the city life outside. Suddenly searching for exciting shops and cafes didn’t seem so important, as I felt so content at the hotel. As a guest in an unfamiliar foreign city, I don’t think you could hope for anything more.

More information and book a stay at Shangri-La Vancouver here.

Top Five Restaurants in Vancouver

It is hard not to eat well in Vancouver. I was amazed by the diversity and high standard of all the eateries I experienced during my week in the city. Each establishment has its own personality and offers a menu which is thoughtful and unique, whether it is for a quick casual lunch or a smart evening meal. Here are five fantastic restaurants you must try on your visit to Vancouver.


Pidgin – On our first night in Vancouver we visited this stylish restaurant in an obviously undeveloped area of town. Jetlagged and weary Pidgin picked us up with strong cocktails and vibrant fusion food. It is an cool contemporary scene and the minimalist design let’s your mind focus entirely on Makoto Ono’s Asian-French inventions. Dishes like foie gras rice bowl with chestnuts, daikon and unagi glaze will challenge but excite any discerning foodie. The menu is designed for sharing, though a prix fixe menu is also available for 55 CAD. We chose a six plates from the intriguing menu; shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts was a mix of piquancy and subtlety. The lamb belly was a punchier dish served with ume-rosemary vinaigrette and marinated eggplant. Pidgin blurs the line between casual and fine dining with the hope that guests will feel comfortable and able to prioritise enjoying the delicious cuisine.

Don’t miss: fried chicken wings, a perfect balance of texture and flavour.


Maenam – Known for serving the best Thai food in Vancouver Maenam was a must try on my list. The small venue in the heart of Kitsilano has a cosy and friendly neighbourhood feel inside. Warm, oriental flavours fill the dining room as guests sip chilled wine and beer anticipating the Thai feast ahead. Co-owner and chef Angus An trained at (now closed) Michelin-starred Nahm in London before setting up on the streets of Vancouver. The restaurant prides itself on offering authentic Thai cuisine with a modern twist. We fell in love with the menu and consequently ordered far too much food, though it was lovely to have a variety to taste. Beef massaman curry is mild, thick and fragrant, a definite crowd pleaser. We also enjoyed the homemade thin and crispy roti bread (perfect for sauce dipping) and the wonderfully seasoned water spinach with pork belly and garlic. A rogue chilli left my mouth on fire, but it was worth it for food this good.

Don’t miss: 3 flavour paradise farm pork ribs (moo samrot) are spicy, sweet and utterly indulgent. The portion size looks big but will it won’t take you long to polish off this addictive delight.


Wildebeest – This restaurant is a meat eaters dream. A glamorous spot with a fine cocktail list and a menu that will entice you in. The open kitchen concentrates on nose to tail cooking, serving up plates of unusual cuts with quirky ingredient combinations, the results are always immaculate. Housed in a refurbished 19th century warehouse the venue has a grand but trendy feel. The chef presented us with a selection of their signature dishes which we relished as each arrived at our table. The crispy chicken terrine with chilli & chive aioli and pickled shallots were made as coquettes, seriously tasty little mouthfuls. Another highlight was the roasted bone marrow with buttered leeks and oyster mushrooms, an intense and innovative starter, particularly nice when spread on the grilled country bread. If you are a cocktail fan don’t miss the expert drinks from bartender Thor, we tried the White Dog and the Pisco Clover Club.

Don’t miss: handmade pappardelle with braised quail ragu, a buttery and comforting rustic dish.

Salt Tasting Room

Salt Tasting Room – This hip industrial space is a brilliant place to catch up with friends and is popular for dates. Found on historic Blood Alley in the Gastown district, it is a buzzing area of young creatives. The interior decor is basic but effective, with Philippe Starck designed stools, exposed brickwork walls and a giant chalkboard displaying the menu. It is a simple and brilliant concept, encouraging wine education and allowing visitors to sample a wide range of delicacies without spending a fortune. Each wine flight trio is the equivalent of 1.5 glasses of wine, which the staff recommend you try with accompanying meat, cheese and condiments. I loved the Viognier, a creamy and light white wine with natural aromatic notes of peach and pear. PS. The mini chocolate mousse desserts are unmissable.

Don’t miss: the wine flight, an opportunity to try a range of delicious wine varieties.


L’Abattoir – Arguably the best brunch spot in town L’Abattoir succeeds in the style and food departments. On the site of Vancouver’s first jail, this building has undergone a miraculous transformation. I adored the black and white tiled floors and the well equipped bar, which provides a striking entrance. Brunch is served from 10am-2pmon weekends and is popular with locals and visitors. After freshly brewed coffee we devoured homemade warm currant scones topped with fresh cream and raspberry jam. The select menu offers hearty savoury dishes like poached eggs with burrata cheese, tomato fondue and grilled bread. For a decadent addition order a side of rich duck sausage. Though famous for its brunch I’m sure L’Abattoir would excel at any time of day.

Don’t miss: the breakfast burger, an epic quarter pound patty with hash brown and fried egg.

All photos taken on my lovely Olympus Pen Lite E-PL7.

Andra Hotel, Seattle

Hotel Andra, Seattle

It was a relief to arrive at Hotel Andra. After a few nights of basic accommodation, this chic downtown design hotel felt ultra-luxurious. The main lobby was instantly welcoming, with a blazing fire and an interesting book collection on display. In the distance we could smell Greek aromas from acclaimed chef, Tom Douglas’ eatery (Lola) on site, which makes this venue a destination for foodies. Guests will be pleased to find that the hotel is within walking distance of many of Seattle’s most popular sights, including Pike Place market, the Space Needle and Seattle Art Museum.

There are 119 rooms and suites in the hotel, all of which are decorated with Scandinavian design in mind. We were on floor five in a spacious queen superia room. The open-plan space combined the bedroom, living area and mini kitchen all in one. I felt immediately at home, spreading out my luggage and relaxing on the comfortable sofa. The decor had a grown-up feel, with lyrical abstract prints on the walls. There was plenty of natural light, which I really appreciated, and despite the central location our room was always extremely quiet.

The bathroom and walk-in wardrobe give guests plenty of space to beautify and get ready for the day. The bathroom is immaculately finished and features a top-of-the-range power shower with suitably chic Face Stockholm toiletries. We spent more time than planned relaxing in the room thanks to the thoughtful modern features and when it was time to get into the huge bed I fell asleep instantly, waking up the next morning feeling refreshed and rested.

Despite opening in 2004 the hotel still feels new, with up to date facilities and well-maintained bedrooms. After a busy day exploring Seattle, I was so grateful for our cocoon of indulgence at Hotel Andra.

More information and book a room at Hotel Andra here.

The Burrard, Vancouver

Burrard Hotel

The Burrard is a special hotel. It stands out on a road of uniform shiny buildings with its retro theme and unique appeal. Centrally located, it is the ideal base for busy travellers who haven’t got a fortune to spend. First opened in 1956 as the Burrard Motor Inn, the long history of this quirky hotel contributes to its local reputation. Since the 50s it has undergone a transformative renovation to encorperate modern design and technology whilst keeping its style and personality.

Check-in was quick and easy, it doesn’t take long to get to your room in this boutique accommodation. We found our way to the top floor and admired the courtyard below, with white and block colour design – it certainly has a striking look.

We were in room 423, a basic but comfortable bedroom dominated by the large bed. The rooms are simply designed with vintage features adding character, such as decorative lamps and colourful artwork on the walls. The tiny en suite had everything we needed – a bath/shower, toiletries and other practical amenities. In the room we had complimentary wireless wifi, free national calls, flat-screen TV with movies (at no extra cost) and a coffee machine.

Downstairs there is a collection of vibrant photographs depicting seedy motel scenes, these prints add a tongue-in-cheek charm to the reception area, and emphasised the retro vibe. In the adjoining cafe, Container Coffee, we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast each morning. Yoghurt with fruit and granola was the perfect healthy sustenance before a day of sightseeing, and I particularly liked the Matchstick coffee from the local roasters which is served here.

Hotel guests are lucky enough to have the Burrard Brooklyn Cruiser bikes at their disposal during their stay. We made full use of this added bonus and spent two days cycling around the city – it was a lovely way to get to know our surroundings.

The Burrard staff are friendly and helpful, assisting with your trip in any way they can. We found the hotel to be a comfortable and fun place to start our holiday in Canada.

More information and book a room at The Burrard here.

Villa Marie, St Tropez

St Tropez has become the most popular place for celebrities and stars to holiday in the South of France. For 9 months of the year it is an idyllic seaside town with fresh seafood restaurants, picturesque white sand beaches and quaint museums and shops to look around. But in the heat of the summer everyone descends on this piece of coastline resulting in stifling crowds, awful traffic and tourist ridden beaches. So I have two recommendations for you: visit St Tropez outside of peak season; and stay outside of the main town in Ramatuelle, at the Villa Marie hotel.

This lovely sleepy little place overlooks St Tropez but is removed enough to give you a peaceful holiday – blissfully quiet and perfectly civilised. Villa Marie hotel is part of the sophisticated and traditionally French Sibuet Hotels group, an understated offering of 5* luxury located amongst a seven acre pine forest. There are 45 rooms and suites, each designed and consciously decorated by Jocelyne Sibuet.

We were in a cosy room on the ground floor, with a balcony that opened out to the forest and a path down to the swimming pool. Unusually the bathroom and bedroom were together in one long room, with just a toilet separately. I was delighted to find a wonderfully indulgent free standing bath, which I used at every opportunity to soak and unwind. The bed was gloriously soft and comfortable, and the natural surroundings were blissfully quiet in the night. The pale white, cream and grey colour scheme in the bedroom is subtle and calming, and suits the character of this area of France.

The terrace restaurant looks out to the sea and the menu is simple but focuses on fresh fish and seafood from the area. Drinking the hotel’s own deliciously crisp rose under the starry sky was a real pleasure for our last night in Provence. We chose a few dishes to share, highlights were; the calamari and vegetable tempura, light and crispy with flavoursome seafood inside and accompanied with a creamy rich aioli; and the asparagus and truffle risotto, a dish too tasty to be classified vegetarian. After the delicious dinner we retired to the sitting room inside to test our skills in a competitive game of Scrabble, whilst sipping fresh mint tea.


After an al fresco breakfast of coffee and croissants on the terrace, I enjoyed a brief massage at the hotel’s boutique spa. The shabby chic spa has a beachside feel and stocks all of the Pure Altitude products, the brand founded by owner Jocelyne. I specifically asked to try a treatment which used the range of products, and found the argan and neroli balm to be deeply relaxing and soothing. It was the perfect envigorating morning wake up and I imagine would be a great place to be pampered after a day at the beach.

Villa Marie is open from April to October inclusive every year. Instead of joining the Riviera regulars in the heat of summer, opt for a quieter time of year and enjoy a truly relaxing Provencal holiday.

More information and book a stay here.

Oh So French! Afternoon Tea, Kensington Hotel

South Kensington is the most obviously French area of London so it seems fitting that the Kensington Hotel has introduced an “Oh so French!” afternoon tea. This delightful offering celebrates the culinary traditions of France and pays tribute to the cultural character of the neighbourhood.

The £35 menu includes:

Selection of savouries

  • Goat’s cheese vol-au-vent puff pastry shell filled with creamy goat’s cheese & swiss chard
  • Pissaladiere crispy flat bread base with caramelised onions & anchovies
  • Quiche Lorraine with bacon, onion & cheese
  • Pan Bagnat crusty pain de champagne with tuna, olive oil, tomatoes & quail egg
  • Croque monsieur pan-fried ham & Gruyere finger sandwich with tomato tapenade

Selection of sweets

  • Passion fruit madeleines shell shaped sponge flavoured with vanilla & passion fruit
  • Rose macaroons with fresh berries pastel pink macaroons, with rose petals & wild berry butter cream
  • Strawberry millefeuille layers of crisp puff pastry with crème Chantilly & strawberries
  • Paris-brest baked almond choux with hazelnut crème patisserie
  • Cherry & pistachio clafoutis freshly baked clafoutis with Provence figs & toasted almonds

Aux Merveilleux de Fred brioches

  • Plain & chocolate chip brioches from Aux Merveilleux de Fred with apricot jam

There are plenty of tea varieties to choose from, and for an extra £10 you can make the tea experience more decadent with a glass of champagne.

Often, afternoon tea is a sickly sweet experience, but I loved that the ‘Oh So French’ menu included a range of delicious savoury bites. Particularly tasty were the cheesy and light vol-au-vents, and the cute mini croque monsieur that was so good I would have liked a full sized version.

The brioche buns were a surprising change from scones, and I did miss the traditional English counterpart. But the French are deservedly known as the finest pastry chefs in the world, and this was represented well in the top level of treats on the afternoon tea stand. My favourite were the exotically flavoured madeleines and the luxurious little millefeuille.

I always find the Kensington Hotel staff welcoming and the dining rooms are comfortable and relaxing. The ‘Oh So French’ afternoon tea suited me perfectly, fuelling my love of French food and entertaining me for an afternoon of fun in London.

More information and book here.

Everlasting summer with SmartBuyGlasses

I am currently on a five month trip around the world. While it is pouring with rain in England, I am enjoying the Californian sun where chic sunglasses are essential. Luckily, SmartBuyGlasses kitted me out with designer specs before I left the country so I’m all set for the beach.

I cannot recommend this online company enough. Offering 80,000 products, with over 180 brands there really is a pair for everyone, whether you like classic and conventional or unique and stand-out shades. This worldwide brand distribute globally and provide free and fast delivery (those in stock and marked “Fast Shipping” will arrive on your doorstep within 48 hours).

Conscious of giving something back, SmartBuyGlasses donates a pair of glasses for each pair purchased to their charity partners through their “Buy One, Give One” programme. They have donated over £1.8m worth of glasses to date.

If you need some help choosing the perfect pair, the buying guides offer insight into which celebrity is wearing which sunglasses! There is also a 24/7 online chat facility available to answer questions and some glasses even feature a “virtual try on” so you can check which frames suit you before ordering. But if you are unsure when your glasses arrive you have 100 days to return or exchange them.

SmartBuyGlasses guarantee the best price and all pairs come with a 2 year warranty. With each pair of glasses bought you will receive a free case and lens kit. I chose two contrasting pairs of sunglasses to cover every occasion. The Celine Caty are glamorous and make a statement. The oversized cats-eye, ‘Havana’ tortoiseshell frame give the wearer a vintage movie star look, and are perfect for days out in LA. Despite their size they are light and comfortable to wear, and will look good worn night and day. The striking Rayban Clubmasters are the ideal unisex holiday sunnies. I decided on the blue flash lenses, and despite the fun appearance, they still provide great protection from harmful rays.


Whether it is rain or shine where you are, SmartBuyGlasses will ensure you feel summery all year round with their stylish eyewear. Until 15 October 2015 you can get 10% off all glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses with the code: PROMO10. Shop here.

Domaine de la Baume, Tourtour

I’m not sure I want to tell you about Domaine de la Baume… This hidden hillside hotel feels like the best kept secret in Provence and is certainly the most magical hotel I have been to in this part of the world. Recently refurbished, my grandparents visited a few years’ ago and have gushed about the idyllic setting and sensational food ever since.

This 18th-century Provençal house is the former home of expressionist artist Bernard Buffet, and painterly memories of his life hang on the walls. Just three kilometres from the village of Tourtour (known as one of the most beautiful villages of France) it is hard not to instantly fall in love with the area. However, you will need a car to reach la Baume, and with only a tiny discreet signpost it is cleverly concealed and almost impossible to find.

The traditional yellow house is located amongst 99 acres of lush land, where a spectacular waterfall is found and the hotel’s olive oil is made. Domaine de la Baume is part of the Sibuet Hotels group and I was impressed to discover how involved the family are in the running of the group. Jocelyne Sibuet is the interior designer for all the hotels and she curates every item personally. She also runs the beauty brand, Pure Altitude, which is used through the bathrooms and spas.

The hotel has 15 rooms and suites, each with its own personality and style. Despite the rustic façade, the inside of the hotel is grand with period-style rooms. We were in the Torero suite downstairs and enjoyed the spacious but cosy feel of the bedroom and living space, equipped with discreet technology (flatscreen TV hidden behind a mirror) and comfortable furniture. The windows open out to wonderful views and aesthetically offer lots of natural light and fresh air. I loved the ensuite bathroom with a lovely big bath and powerful shower. I slept blissfully well at la Baume, catching up on sleep after an extremely busy summer.

There is plenty to do on site, make use of the tennis court and outdoor swimming pool, or simply walk around the Provençal gardens. But should you wish to venture further afield the staff are on hand to give suggestions of the local markets and exciting day trips. Nearby towns Tourtour and Aups are well worth seeing, or drive a little further to the famous Gorges du Verdon for some spectacular sights.

All guests are half-board (breakfast and dinner) which allows you to relax, and very soon after arriving la Baume felt like home. General Manager Davide ensures everyone is looked after and pampered during his or her stay, a trip to la Baume feels special. The chef François Martin and his wife Elodie as Pastry Chef take control of the kitchen and produce the finest food. On the first night we had dinner on the terrace, a beautiful view and starry sky ahead of us. The food is of the highest quality; exemplary produce is treated with respect and care by François. The predominantly Provençal dishes are created with skill and thought. Aubergine caviar to start and a prime but dainty cut of beef for main, with a very special rich meaty sauce.

On our second day at la Baume we were lucky enough to dine at the chef’s table in the kitchen, it was a magical and memorable lunch. My favourite dishes included an unusual purple risotto made with venere rice, ceps, olives and parmesan. It was a comforting bowl of buttery earthy food, and silence fell over the table as we devoured it. Little portions of exquisite meat and fish followed; pork that tasted too tender to be pork, beef that was wonderfully rich yet lean, and sauces that were good enough to drink. Everything looked beautiful and the smells of the kitchen surrounded us. The meal was paired with the Sibuet hotel’s Villa Marie wine, particularly delicious with the selection of local cheeses.

Secluded and stunning, Domaine de la Baume provides the perfect Provençal getaway. The service is quietly meticulous, the setting is sublime, and the food is better than you could ever imagine. Looking out of my window in rainy London, the stay I enjoyed at this fairytale house now seems like a distant dream.

More information and book a stay at Domaine de la Baume here.

Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence

The Colombe d’Or is a legendary hotel nestled in the fortified hill town of Saint-Paul de Vence. In the cobbled streets surrounding the house dawdling tourists examine the quaint alleys and admire the magnificent views. Behind the old walls of the Colombe d’Or however the atmosphere is exclusive and elegant.

Always family run the Colombe d’Or first opened as a café in 1920 and added rooms soon after. Run by the artistic Roux family for nearly 100 years now, there is a very personal and friendly feel to the place, whether you are a regular guest or a visiting diner. Famous for its exquisite private collection of art works the indoor dining room is an impressive museum of masters, including works by Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Miro and Chagall.

In the balmy summer months only visitors with connections get a table for lunch here. The menu is typically Provencal, simple classic dishes made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The timings are leisurely as the staff stroll around the terrace topping up glasses of local rose while guests chat about their summer holidays.

We enjoyed an al fresco lunch at the Colombe d’Or in early September, when the Riviera coast begins to calm down as tourists return home. Service was slow but it seemed to suit the environment, and encourages guests to sit back and relax in the romantic setting. The ornate menu features a range of dishes, it looks like it hasn’t changed much in decades. We feasted on a huge array of French delicacies for the Les Hors d’Oeuvre Colombe d’Or including thick cut pepper salami, roasted vegetables and crusty bread. For main course we each ate a whole roast poussin with sausages and creamy potato dauphinoise. It was rich and too heavy for me to finish, but the baby chicken (which had been carved at the table) was tender and had a wonderfully subtle flavour. For dessert we sampled the traditional Tarte de la Mere Roux, a soft and sweet apple tart, which had been cooked to perfection… though I felt it needed a dollop of cream to cut through the fruity acidity.

After our lunch we spent some time admiring the picturesque house and magnificent art collection. Despite its reputation and prestige the Colombe d’Or remains a quiet and intimate place to spend time whether you are staying in one of the rooms or just visiting for lunch.

More information here: