Quinta Real Hotel, Oaxaca

Oaxaca is such a special part of Mexico, steeped in history and tradition. Quinta Real Hotel is found in the centre of the Unesco World Heritage historic town. The atmospheric building has a long and intriguing history, built in 1576 as the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena, the building was also once a jail before being transformed into a luxury hotel.

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It is the building and the grounds that make this hotel worth visiting. The stunning site has kept many of the original features and frescoes, and old tile floors have been carefully restored. The lush green gardens are landscaped with terraces, picturesque fountains, and dramatic arches… needless to say it is a popular venue for weddings and events.

Oaxaca

The bedrooms are a little bland in comparison to the common areas. The rooms are spacious but dark, with little natural light. Our windows looked out to the charming streets of Oaxaca town. A grand (and very comfortable) bed takes centre stage, and other facilities such as a writing desk and wardrobe are there should you need them. The rooms were blissfully cool (this part of Mexico can get very hot!) with a modern and quiet air conditioning unit.

Despite the generous size of the bedroom, the bathroom was tiny, with a shower, toilet and sink squeezed in. Everything was in good working order, with toiletries provided by Salvatore Ferragamo from Italy.

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When the sun is shining the Quinta Real pool is a glorious place to spend time. After a hot morning of sightseeing we escaped the busy town and took some time to relax by the pool with a book. There are plenty of sun-loungers for those needing a little Vitamin-D top-up, or shaded tables for a snack and drink near the bar.

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Quinta Real is a convenient and comfortable hotel to have as your home during a stay in Oaxaca. The historic building is enchanting, and if the bedrooms were updated it would be, without a double, the most special place to stay in town.

Quinta Real Oaxaca is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection. Rates start from £111 ($149) per room per night. For further information or to book please visit www.preferredhotels.com

Celebrate World Gin Day with Gordon Castle Scotland

Scotland is known best for its whisky, but recently I have had the pleasure of discovering a few of the country’s best gins…

Gordon Castle Estate, Walled Garden and the Gordon Castle Scotland brand are the results of eight years’ hard work by Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox since they took over the running of Gordon Castle Estate, Fochabers in 2008. Completed as one of Scotland’s largest houses in the 1770s by the Duke of Gordon, Gordon Castle is the spiritual home of the House of Gordon, one of Scotland’s oldest families.

Gordon Castle Gin

The estate is found in the Spey valley, in the heart of whisky country, with a stretch of the Spey River running through the estate, which boasts some of the best salmon fishing in the world. The Walled Garden at Gordon Castle has a long history, with evidence it existing in a guise since the 17th century. At over eight acres, The Walled Garden at Gordon Castle is one of the largest in the country and, once restored, will be the largest fully productive walled garden in Scotland. This historical place acts as the inspiration behind the luxury brand and since its launch in June 2014 now produces over 200 lifestyle products, luxury beauty products and premium gin, all inspired by the fruits, herbs and plants grown in the garden.

Gordon Castle Gin

Gordon Castle Gin is an award-winning premium gin handcrafted using botanicals grown in its very own Scottish Walled Garden, bringing you an air of history and provenance in every sip. Gordon Castle Gin is a crisp, elegant and refreshing gin with a lovely clean palate. Subtle notes of lavender linger in the back of the nose and within the mouth. The garden flavours give the spirit a clean and refreshing character.

Gordon Castle Gin

The thing I look forward to most about Fridays is getting home to a cold gin and tonic. This weekend, to celebrate World Gin Day (9th June), I will be raising a toast to this wonderful spirit with Gordon Castle botanical gin. The cocktail recipes with this unique spirit are endless, but this gin is particularly well paired with mint, lemon, lime and plenty ice. The two main tasting notes you may notice in the gin are lavender and garden mint, so if you have easy access to a lavender bush you can use this summery scent as a garnish if you wish.

You can taste this delicious gin for yourself at Gordon Castle Gin bar at the Taste of London Festival in Regent’s Park from the 13th-17th June.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Gordon Castle Scotland. Find out more information and buy a bottle of gin (£34.25 for 70cl) here.

Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a lovely destination year round, but from mid-March to mid-May the tulips are in bloom, making it the perfect Springtime getaway. Amsterdam airport is one of the busiest and most efficient in Europe, so it is quick and easy to reach the city from any major city. Hop on a flight after work on Thursday and enjoy three whole days in The Netherland’s capital.

Pulitzer Amsterdam

To Stay

The Pulitzer Amsterdam – This stylish hotel opened its doors in the summer of 2016, after an extensive renovation of the 25 connecting Golden Age canal houses which make up the property. The bold colour design and thoughtful touches make it a wonderful place to stay for a special weekend in Amsterdam.

The Hoxton Hotel, Amsterdam – The Hoxton brand is setting trends in every city it settles in. Affordable and fashionable this photogenic retreat is the perfect (centrally located) hotel for your romantic getaway.

Amsterdam food

To Eat

Choux – Choux was once a pop-up establishment but due to popularity opened in it’s permanent home at Spring House in 2015. The kitchen particularly excel with vegetarian dishes.

Guts & Glory – Every three months the Guts & Glory team pick a new theme for their rotating menu. I tried an inventive 3-course Dutch-inspired menu of delicious delicacies prepared and presented with care. A great restaurant for an affordable and exciting culinary adventure.

Bak Restaurant – Located in a cool industrial building, in the recently re-developed “Westelijk HavengebiedBak” area, Bak initially gained a loyal following as a pop-up before opening it’s permanent site a few years ago. With the constantly changing menu chef Benny Blisto showcases his favourite seasonal ingredients, the dishes are bold in flavour and appearance. There is also a range of great natural wines to accompany your meal.

Van Stapele – Pick up a snack at Van Stapele, the historic shop which only sells one thing… double chocolate cookies with an oozing white chocolate centre. Delicious!

Jansz – The pretty in pink dining room at Jansz is easy to fall in love with but it is certainly not style over substance at this eatery.  The classy restaurant is found in the Pulitzer Hotel, the service is friendly and efficient and the menu is filled with irresistible classic dishes. Don’t miss the meatball starter!

Breda – This modern eatery showcases seasonal ingredients and contemporary cooking techniques. Choose from the 3, 4 or 5 course menus and a mystery series of delicious food will be delivered to you at your table.

Amsterdam coffee

To Drink

Lot Sixty One – This boutique rustic cafe is located in Amsterdam West. The coffee is roasted daily and has a lovely rich taste. Sit and relax in the industrial-chic cafe while enjoying a warming coffee.

Bocca – Bocca was the first major speciality coffee company in Amsterdam, and with a big brand new flagship cafe there has never been a better time to visit. Bocca roast their own beans, supply a number of cafes and make a great range of espresso and drip coffees in their cafe.

Tales & Spirits – Sit at the bar in Tales & Spirits, one of the world’s 50 best bars. This dark and cosy bar is always full of cocktail fans. If you like a strong drink order the ‘Bartender’s Ketchup’ cocktail or let the master mixologists make you up something delicious off-menu.

Toki – Coffee Fans should not miss Toki (the word for your local hangout). The small but chic cafe has a team of expert baristas on hand to make you the perfect flat white. If you are hungry there is a delectable display of cakes and pastries.

Scandinavian Embassy – If you find yourself in the de Pijp district this small cafe is the best place to stop for speciality coffee. As the name suggests Scandinavian Embassy use a fine selection of Nordic and Swedish beans, and they also have the best cinnamon buns in town.

Amsterdam

To Do

Rijksmuseum – After an extensive 10 year renovation and restoration this magnificent museum has reopened, and should be the first stop on any cultural itinerary for Amsterdam. The huge historic building is dedicated to Dutch art from the Middle Ages to the current day. Most lovely perhaps are the Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings found in the Gallery of Honour. (Try to visit the museum on a weekday, as the weekends get very busy).

Canal Boat Tour – Some hotels have their own boats for private tours, otherwise you can book the Canal Cruise Ticket online and have instant access to the canal boat tour of your choice when you arrive in the city.

Amsterdam

To Shop

Indianaweg 10 – A retro emporium selling handpicked vintage clothing, charming homeware and quirky accessories. Indianaweg 10 is found in the trendy de Pijp area where there are a number of great shops and cafes.

Gather Shop – An aesthetically pleasing shop, with a carefully curated range of homeware, accessories and books arranged in a simple and clean way. The store Gather Shop is a great place to pick up a one-off gift.

Wildernis – A plant lovers dream shop, Wildernis stocks all kinds of pretty indoor and outdoor plants and accessories from watering cans to gardening tools, books to greeting cards.

Sukha – This beautiful shop on Haarlemmerstraat sells a range of natural, eco-friendly products such as handmade wool scarves and cardigans. The products are sourced from around the world, but you can also browse their Atelier Sukha label, sustainably made in Nepal and India.

Restored – Restored focuses on representing talented designers and small labels and offering them a platform to bring their products and visions to a wider audience. In the shop you can find are beautiful garments, accessories, and desirable books and magazines.