Fairmont Royal York, Toronto

Every Fairmont hotel I have visited has had a different personality and feel. The Fairmont Royal York is perhaps the best known hotel in Toronto. Centrally located in the business downtown district and towering high, it is difficult to miss. It is nearby to many of the cities most popular attractions and connects underground to Union Station, which is just 20 minutes direct to the airport. So within an hour of stepping off our flight we were settling into our luxury bedroom.

Fairmont Royal York

The Royal York dates back to 1929 when it officially opened, boasting 28 floors and 1,048 rooms. Recently the hotel underwent a substantial renovation which took 5 years and cost millions of dollars. As well as the redesigned rooms, the update included renovations to the pool and spa and modernisation of the guest services.

When I visited just before Christmas, the hotel lobby was sparkling with Christmas decorations and lights. We were staying in a standard room on the fifth floor, small but well designed.

Fairmont Royal YorkFairmont Royal York

The lavish bed dominated our room, with a neatly arranged desk and armchair tucked into the remaining floor space. I was thankful for a large window overlooking the front of the hotel that provided some natural daylight, even though the weather was gloomy.

Fairmont Royal York

I was excited to find one of my favourite toiletry brands in the bathroom. Le Labo is a lovely French brand which I find does wonders for my hair and skin. I was impressed to see such a large hotel stocking it in all their rooms.

Fairmont Royal York

Breakfast can be enjoyed downstairs in the Epic Restaurant or ordered to the room. Choose from an array of cooked dishes, fresh fruit and baked treats. Guests who wish to dine in the hotel can sample a range of international cuisines, including Japanese delicacies at Benihana or informal Canadian food at Piper’s Pub.

There are also numerous facilities to satisfy the needs of business guests, and special rooms for weddings and celebratory occasions. For visitors in need of some rest and relaxation, a large spa is available for use complete with sauna, steam room, pool and gym.

For a quick stopover visit in Toronto, Fairmont Royal York was the perfect hotel… brilliant location, efficient service and comfortable bedrooms.

More information and book a room at Fairmont Royal York here.

Things to do in Kyoto

A visit to Japan would not be complete without a trip to Kyoto, the country’s cultural capital. From Tokyo you can hop onto the high-speed train and reach Kyoto within 3 hours, and it is so worth it even if just for a couple of days. The air feels cleaner, the streets are calmer and the Japanese traditions are much more present in even the smallest details. It is real Japan without the hype and chaos.


To Stay

The Suiran – The recently opened Suiran hotel is on the outskirts of town surrounded by significant temples and gardens. Located in the beautiful Arashiyama area, the district was once the destination for the emperor’s summer holidays. This boutique hotel is traditional but luxurious with open-air baths, an authentic tearoom and a Kaiseki (multi-course menu) restaurant. Be sure to leave time to visit nearby attractions like the Monkey Park, Tenryu-ji temple and the magical Sagano Bamboo Forest.

Hotel Anteroom – The accommodation options in the historic city of Kyoto vary from exclusive traditional ryokans to cheap, trendy hostels. Hotel Anteroom is a brilliant option for those desiring the privacy and comfort of a hotel at low cost. Design conscious bedrooms, stylish common spaces and an art gallery on site, it is a great base for chic travellers who want to explore the city.


To Eat

Yamamoto Menzo(u) – A favourite with tourists and locals for unbeatable traditional udon. After waiting in line patiently you will be pleased to get inside to feast on the flavoursome noodles and burdock or chicken tempura. The daily-made noodles have an amazingly light and bouncy texture and the broth has the perfect balance of umami.

Kappa Sakamoto – I can highly recommend this tiny, family run restaurant as a great place to try the traditional Kaiseki style of dining. Sakamoto was founded in 1977 by Keisuke Sakamoto and his son Ryuta is now the chef. In 2010 the restaurant was awarded a Michelin-star. Sit at the counter and let the chef treat you to a meal of his finest seasonal dishes.

Ten-yu – This famous tempura restaurant only has ten seats at the counter. We ordered the simple lunch menu, Tempura with rice donburi. The tempura was light and delicious, especially tasty when dipped in the sauce and daikon. The restaurant is minimalist and stylish, needless to say, we were the only tourists in a room of locals.


To Drink

Tsubomi – This quiet, unsuspecting, little shop and cafe is the perfect place to stop for afternoon tea and cake after a long day of sightseeing.

Arabica% – A trendy speciality coffee shop in the Arashiyama area. This small contemporary cafe serves amazing coffee to go that will warm you up as you wander through this enchanting part of Kyoto.

Gion Niti – A hidden bar in the Gion district ideal for a nightcap or light dinner. We enjoyed the strong Charlie Chaplin cocktail and Italian food snacks like martinated eggplant and Jamon Iberico pizza.

Rocking Chair – Recognised as one of the best cocktail bars in town, this stylish establishment is frequented by discerning drinkers. Let the experienced mixologists make you their own creation, I opted for a Japanese Hibiki whiskey based drink.

Ogawa Coffee – A modern coffee house in Kyoto station serving some excellent coffee. Go for their house blend which is smooth and flavoursome.


To See & Do

Shoren-in Garden – A buddhist temple built in the late 13th century, it is a quiet and intimate building to wander round and is surrounded by colourful tranquil gardens.

Geishas in Gion – It is amazing to see a Geisha shuffling through the Gion district of Kyoto, but sightings are rarer and rarer as they try to avoid the tourists by using quiet backstreets to move about town. If you buy a place at a prestigious tea ceremony with a Geisha it will cost you over £100! Instead head to Gion Corner where you can buy a ticket to a cultural show to learn about tea ceremonies, traditional flower arranging and the Geisha customs.

Fushimi Inari Shrine – This is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, in Kyoto. It has become one of the most recognisable images from Japan. The shrine sits at the base of the Inari mountain and includes trails and paths through the hundreds of wondrous red gates.

Funaoka Onsen – This is one of the oldest and most authentic bathhouses still in operation in Kyoto. Since 1923 locals and travelers have been coming here to soak their bodies in the waters and relax in this retreat. The baths are separated by gender and you are expected to go into the waters completely naked!


To Shop

Ichizawa Shinzaburo – This family-run canvas bag company has been in business for over 100 years producing aesthetic, simple and functional products. The bags are handmade from the finest strong canvas in a variety of colours and styles.

Morikage Shirt Shop – I fell in love with the unique and stylish shirts in this small boutique. The shop opened in 1993 as a made-to-order, customised shirt company. Now you can also buy them off the rack in a variety of materials and designs. I bought a green shirt with ruffles that is now a treasured part of my wardrobe.

Kyoto Design House – An emporium in the centre of town filled with hand-crafted products from designers across Kyoto and Japan. Pick up an inspiring gift for friends like the little boxes of traditional sweets.

Pass the Baton – Found in a redesigned traditional wooden townhouse, this diverse concept store stocks fun vintage accessories and modern homeware. There is also a tea and sake room on the premises.

Aritsuga Knives – Japan is known for the quality of its knives, and Aritsugu, a knife specialist in Nishiki Market, makes some of the best in the country. When you visit, the staff will examine your hands to ensure you pick the perfect knife for you. 

Nishiki Market – This bustling marketplace in downtown Kyoto sells every food product you could ever imagine. Wander through trying delicacies as you go, soaking up the atmoshere.

Kira Karacho – This sophisticated stationery brand is headed up by a husband and wife team. The intricate patterns made from woodblock printing and beautiful papers will captivate you. 


To Escape

Osaka – Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, after Tokyo, and to me it felt like the Japanese equivalent to Manchester or Liverpool, with lots of young people and a cool vibe. The food scene is thriving and we ate extremely well in our few days here. Try buckwheat soba noodles at Ayamedo, sweets from the Japanese confectioner Mochisho Shizuku, Kansai-style tempura at the 2-Michelin starred Yotaro Honten, and coffee at Moto Coffee. The Horie neighbourhood & Orange Street are lovely to wander around and explore, especially during the week when everyone is at work. I loved the variety of beautifully designed shops: Evam Eva for tailored clothing, Yumiko Iihoshi for stylish porcelain Ajikitcho, and Winged Wheel for appealing paper and envelopes of every colour. Hostel 64 is a reasonably priced, super hip hostel.

Hiroshima – This chilling city has a tumultous and heart-breaking history. While in town there are lots of war memorials to visit including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Children’s Peace Monument and Aioi Bridge. When it comes to meal times it is essential to try the famous Okonomiyaki dish at Mitchan Sohonten, and for a superior cup of coffee visit Obscura Coffee Roasters. If you have time take a day trip to the ethereal Miyajima Island to see the Itsukushima Shrine & O-torii gate.

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas at The Savoy

How could I resist an invite to be involved with the Savoy Christmas transformation? This beautiful art deco hotel is one of the most iconic accommodations in the city and this year they teamed up with Boodles to present a pretty in pink Christmas fantasia.

The SavoyThe Savoy

I arrived early in the afternoon for a tour of some of the hotels most special features. We visited the top suites, taking in the gorgeous views, the grand bedrooms and the impressive amenities. I could only imagine the long list of celebrities and royalty who had rested their heads in these luxurious rooms.

The SavoyThe Savoy

Then we headed to the renowned American Bar (consistently voted in the world top ten bars) and enjoyed saccarine sweet pink hot chocolate, topped with creamy and shards of chocolate. Before cocktails and dinner I had time to check out our bedroom which was filled with a stack of festive gifts. Savoy themed Christmas decorations, a Boodles writing set and champagne truffles were some of the treats I discovered wrapped up in my room. But best of all was the beautiful handmade gingerbread house, decorated with cherries, icing and even some candyfloss chimney smoke!

After a round of innovate cocktails in the American bar we headed to Kaspars for dinner. This popular grill restaurant offers premium seafood and steaks in a relaxed and stylish setting. During the Christmas season Kaspar’s is serving special festive menus including Christmas pudding and mulled wine.

The SavoyThe Savoy

As most of the Savoy guests were retiring to bed, we were sitting excitedly in the lobby waiting for the huge tree to arrive. Dressed in pink with a Boodles post office (for Christmas correspondence!) the beautiful tree lights up the entrance to the Savoy. The next morning it was wonderful to watch the expressions on peoples’ faces as they realised the tree had magically appeared overnight.

The Savoy

Our room-service breakfast was as lavish and delicious as it looks. Surely there is nothing better than sitting in a super comfortable Savoy bed, wrapped up in a beautiful duvet, enjoying fresh orange juice and waffles with berries?

Christmas is such a special time in London, and this year the Savoy have exceeded all expectations with their fantastic pink extravaganza, head to this historic hotel to experience the best of the festive season.

More information about Christmas experiences at the Savoy here.