The Farm, Jaipur

Jaipur is the busiest city I visited in India, but The Farm was a perfectly calm accommodation option, just half an hour outside the city. Run by couple Surya and Ritu, this boutique property has just five rooms and two suites (with private dip pools), each is eclectically decorated with artisan trinkets and colourful artwork.

The rooms are located around a central pool, with plenty of outdoor space to soak up the sunshine with a book and enjoy the fresh air. I enjoyed my stay in room 1, a beautiful bedroom with a large comfortable bed, and spacious bathroom with shower and separate bath. Every room has an individual geyser attached to it to offer natural hot water. This eco feature does mean hot water is limited, and unfortunately there wasn’t enough to run a bath.

The food was the highlight of our stay at The Farm. The room tariff includes three meals a day, vibrant home-cooked Indian cuisine with a touch of global inspiration. Extremely fresh and varied dishes were served to us each day, a mix of flavoursome recipes, tailored to our requests and dietary requirements. The on-site organic vegetable garden provides the kitchen with plenty of seasonal produce, which is the focus of most dishes.

Hot coffee was brought to the room each morning, an invigorating wake up. Breakfast was a delight, a series of offerings from tropical fresh fruits, just-squeezed orange juice, Indian pancakes and masala omelettes. My favourite morning meal was an innovative creation of pumpkin rice with pomegranate, onions, peanuts, herbs and spices.

Thanks to the small size of The Farm the staff are able to really concentrate on the few guests who are staying. I found all the staff to be very kind and attentive, always on hand to offer tasty snacks or refreshing drinks and happy to help with any itinerary assistance you might need.

Removed from the hustle and bustle of the Pink City this contemplative retreat is a blissful place to enjoy India’s charm without the stress of the city. When you do wish to experience Jaipur’s old town, the hotel can arrange a taxi or private car tour at very reasonable rates.

More information and book a room at The Farm here.

A Return Trip to The Scarlet, Cornwall

I often get asked by dithering lovebirds where I would recommend going for a romantic weekend away in England. I have no better suggestion than Cornwall. Easily accessible by train with almost exotic beaches and wonderful rugged landscapes, it is a relaxing and calm escape from busy city life.

A few weeks ago I visited the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall for the second time. When I first stayed in 2011, I was wowed by the luxurious eco design, natural yet indulgent environment and immaculate service, and was prepared to be less impressed second time round. Yet, stepping inside the serene Scarlet entrance I felt my heartbeat slow, my breathing regulate and my muscles relax, it was just as wonderful as before and I felt overwhelmed with happiness to be back.

After brief tour of the gorgeous facilities, we were dropped off at the spa, an ideal place for couples to truly unwind. We soaked for thirty minutes in the soothing cliff-edge hot tub with a glass of bubbly and admired the awe-inspiring views of the ocean. In the outdoor area there is also a natural pool for keen swimmers, though we favoured the warmer inside area and collapsed on the beanbags in the quiet relaxation room. Before my treatment I was asked to fill out an intriguing Ayurvedic form, illustrating my body and personality type; Vata, Pitta or Kapha. My therapist was gentle and friendly and asked me a few questions to establish where the stress and tension may be located, she then devised a completely bespoke combination of facial and massage to suits my needs. In line with the Ayurvedic approach, the Scarlet spa is very zen, with a muted colour scheme and cocoon-like pods for treatments. I felt sleepy immediately as I sunk into the warm bed surrounded in draped material and let my worries melt away.

The isolated location of the Scarlet means the spa is a popular part of the hotel. I had to fight for my space in the indoor pool, and the relaxation room was full of dressing-gowned guests! There are other pleasant rooms to rest and read, enjoy a cup of tea or play a game of pool. After a stint at the spa we retired to our room, trying out the giant bath, natural toiletries (Rosemary and Bergamot by St Kitts) and gazing out from the little balcony. We enjoyed one of the ‘generous rooms’ with an open plan bathroom with a luxuriously large bath, and separate wet room with a frosted glass door. The furniture is natural – warm wooden tables and soft grey chairs. The bed was wonderfully comfortable, the lighting subtle with numerous settings so you can ensure it is exactly as you wish.

The Scarlet is a hotel for foodies, the culinary offerings here are both health-conscious and indulgent. We were treated to dinner and breakfast in the sea-facing dining room. Chef Tom Hunter is thoughtful and inventive with an emphasis on seasonal Cornish produce, the dinner menu changes daily. Three courses cost £42.50 and there is a lovely variety to choose from. To preserve my appetite, I opted for a warm salad of chargrilled vegetables with westcomb ricotta cheese, heritage tomatoes and gremolata, a vibrant, colourful and healthy dish. My guest chose a more comforting bowl of Pappardelle pasta with roast crown prince squash and old Winchester, it was simple and brilliantly tasty.

Main courses were regal in their presentation. Loin of Dexter beef with braised ox cheek, bone marrow crust, dauphinoise potato and rainbow carrots was a delicious dish, the top meat drizzled with rich sauce and complemented by the lovely vegetables. For poultry fans, the Cornish chicken breast is a must, served with confit leg ravioli, honey glazed parsnips, chard and pearl barley, it is a fantastic combination of textures and flavours. Naturally the plate was scraped clean within minutes.

Our dessert choice was a no-brainer… we shared the White chocolate mousse with honeycomb, raspberries, pistachio cake and natural yoghurt sorbet. It was spectacular, the perfect spherical honeycomb ball filled with sweet silky white mousse and balanced with the red fruit and nutty cake cubes.

We woke, later than usual, with the blessing of no alarm, after deep restful sleep. Noticing the sun emerging from the clouds, we grabbed our jackets and headed for the long stretch of beach below the hotel. It was blissful inhaling the fresh salty sea air and absorbing our stunning surroundings. Tired out from our walk, we returned for homemade granola, fresh coffee and pancakes with roasted apples. What more could you wish for from a Cornish weekend away?

More information and book a stay at The Scarlet Hotel here.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***

Elephant Hills, Thailand

I have always been a city girl, most comfortable running around the streets of a crowded metropolis. When in Thailand though, I felt the desire to wander into less certain territory, to explore the less urban Asia and venture into a more exotic environment. London’s most exciting animal sighting is the occasional cheeky fox rustling in the rubbish, whereas Thailand’s wild rainforest is home to snakes, monkeys, bears and the biggest animal of all, the Asian elephant.

It is easy to get mixed up in cruel circus rides and elephant focused tourist traps in Thailand; Elephant Hills is not like that, they offer nature tours and luxury camping experiences with elephants who are nurtured in conditions similar to their natural habitat. Various packages are available, we enjoyed a magical and memorable 3 days and 2 nights, sleeping in the rainforest and on a lake, meeting incredible wildlife whilst appreciating a staggeringly beautiful backdrop of natural landscape. In short, I couldn’t be further away from my busy, cramped London life.

Picked up from our hotel early on Day 1, we had little idea of what to expect. The ‘essentials packing list’ indicated a basic itinerary… mosquito interaction and substantial walking seemed inevitable. Food, towels and water are all provided when you reach the camp. After a sleepy two hour drive we arrived at our destination: the deepest, darkest depths of Khao Sok National Park. The camp surpassed all my expectations, a clean and charming shelter where food is served and activities enjoyed, free wifi is accessible and a bar serves wine and beer. Boards display the array of species that you might be lucky enough to sight. There is a swimming pool for cooling off in free time. Our tent was spacious and breezy, despite the suffocating humidity outside. There was a toilet and a private shower with running water and even a set of complimentary toiletries to use. After a wholesome lunch of noodles, vegetables, curry and fruit, we were off to meet the elephants.

I have only glimpsed elephants from afar at the zoo when I was a child, they seemed smaller and less playful then. At Elephant Hills the great animals are paired with a mahouk each, a trained man who virtually lives with their animal, and speaks a special language to communicate with the creature. Seeing the elephants for the first time I was taken aback by their size, their huge legs and a long squirming trunk. I cowered as the rest of the group timidly greeted these new friends.

Elephants are considered holy animals in Thailand, worshipped throughout the country. At Elephant Hills the animals are respected and adored, visitors help with their daily routine rather than exploiting them. We washed and scrubbed a grubby elephant, much to its delight, then learnt to slice and dice the sugarcane, bananas and pineapples to offer to the greedy trunks. It was soon possible to identify what food each elephant favoured, as they would either guzzle or reject the item immediately… mine was particularly fussy! Meeting baby Haha and mother was a particular highlight, especially watching the interactions between the two elephants. Haha climbed up the fence eager to say hello and sniff out the new visitors.

That evening, after a brief Pad Thai cooking demonstration and a big meal, the camp groups sat down together to watch local school kids in a performance of traditional Thai dance. It was incredibly moving watching these five little girls in brightly coloured dresses and sashes dancing so beautifully, smiling excitedly throughout. Next morning we were off to Cheow Larn Lake, a mesmerising landscape. Here ten luxury tents with en-suite bathrooms are situated in the very centre of the lake, an intimate base for guests to use whilst exploring the tropical rainforest. Powered by both solar and wind energy and using unique waste management systems, Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp is designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. A three hour trek was a memorable experience, especially the dark and treacherous cave where we encountered spiders, bats and snakes!

The next morning we woke to the sound of monkey calls and bird conversations, it was unlike anything else I have ever known. The sun rose over the lush green canopy. For our final morning we went out in canoes to spot apes. After some frustrating, partial sightings the previous day, I was desperate to see properly these clever animals in their natural habitat. Our guides soon sourced the sounds of a known family of gibbons and within a few minutes we had spotted the rustling leaves and the long elastic limbs swinging from branch to branch. I could have watched for hours. On the way back home I fell asleep in the boat, exhausted and overwhelmed from the trip.

This company is extremely well organised, with friendly and well informed guides, great facilties and wholesome food. The activities ensure every guest has an extraordinary experience. It is lovely to enjoy the beaches and buddhas of Thailand but if you are interested in something spectacular and special, book an adventure with Elephant Hills, I promise it will be the highlight of your trip.

More information and book a trip to Elephant Hills here: