Beat the credit crunch with our top 10 budget travel tips

Who says the financial gloom-mongers’ talk of a recession need rain on your parade? And who says you have to give up your well-earned spoil-yourself boutique breaks because of it? Here are Mr & Mrs Smith’s top ‘style on a shoestring’ tips for travelling smarter and making your money go further …

1. It may sound blindingly obvious, but if you travel closer to home, you’ll save a bundle on travel costs (especially with petrol prices taking a nosedive recently – although those just as concerned about saving the planet as they are saving cash might like to investigate advance fares and split tickets*). We’ve already extolled the virtues of the great British coast, but how about exploring some of its glorious countryside: the Cotswolds, the Peak District, Harrogate and the Dales, Devon, the Brecon Beacons… it’s all there for the taking.

Smith reviews: Clos du Léthé, a chic maison d’hôtes in Languedoc-Roussillon

As you may or may not know, one of the most important things we do at Mr & Mrs Smith is get every property in our hotel collection anonymously reviewed by a real-life couple: it’s the only way to really make sure the hotel lives up to our romantic expectations and is a tip-top together-time destination, whether it’s for a wild weekend away or picked for our list of super-romantic honeymoon hideaways.

Mr & Mrs Smith reviews are written by a panel of friends and people we admire, who we trust absolutely in terms of reporting back to us on Smith hotels. The only requirement is that our reviewers visit each hotel anonymously with a partner, and on their return, give us the kind of honest lowdown you would expect from a friend. Of course, sometimes Mr & Mrs Smith and their extended team of spies review hotels they find on their under-the-covers missions.

Infinity pool at Clos du Léthé hotel in Languedoc-Roussillon, France

We post new hotel reviews on the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection site every month, and now we’ll tip you off every time our spies are back with news. This week, we’ve reviewed Clos du Léthé, an art-filled boutique B&B just outside the mediaeval duchy of Uzès in southern France.

Will Beckett, restaurateur and cocktail connoisseur: we ask the questions

After Anthony’s post (Best steak in London?) about the so-good-we-drooled T-bones Team Smith had at the Hawksmoor steakhouse, we thought you might like to meet Will Beckett, the well-travelled man behind the meat, as it were. [Thinking to self: goodness, must rein in those cheesy puns.] A kindred soul of Smith’s, he’s not averse to globetrotting in the name of research – scouring the world for the finest cocktail ingredients and menu inspirations (and, from time to time, fine ale). So, while Will himself is on a tequila-tasting mission way down Mexico way, we bring you his porch-sitting, beach-dreaming, voodoo-drinking responses to Juliet’s travel-related grilling. [Really. Must.]

Game on: Michael Caines’ seasonal roast partridge recipe

Chef Michael Caines in the kitchens of Gidleigh Park hotel, DevonGame season is now officially here, so we’ve managed to persuade someone considerably better at cooking than us – chef Michael Caines – to devise a seasonal recipe for you: Roast Partridge with braised chicory, quince puree, toasted walnuts, wild mushrooms and a Gewürztraminer wine sauce. Ok, so it’s a bit involved, but trust us, it’s well worth the effort. You can do a lot of the prep earlier in the afternoon and then just finish off the meat, cook the prepared mushrooms and reheat the other elements when you’re ready to serve up.

Tamara’s travel blog chat

Just a quick post to let you know that last night I took part in a live blogging session representing Mr & Mrs Smith, alongside…

Michael Caines: ‘I think constantly about food’

Chef Michael Caines – not to be confused with the chirpy, one-dimensional cockney actor – has long been a Mr & Mrs Smith favourite. After learning his trade in the kitchens of such greats as Raymond Blanc, Bernard Loiseau and Joël Robuchon, Michael became head chef at Gidleigh Park in Devon, where he garnered two Michelin stars for his wonderful Modern European cuisine. He now heads up the Michael Caines Restaurants group – which oversees an enviable portfolio of restaurants, cafés and bars – and is co-owner of ABode Hotels, which offers stylish stays in five UK cities. He’s a busy man alright, which is why we were so delighted when he found a few moments to share his thoughts on all things culinary with us…

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Chef Michael Caines, Gidleigh ParkWhen did you first realise you wanted to be a chef?
I’ve always been around food, but I didn’t feel the calling till I was about 16. My dad had a large garden and my mum was always cooking, and I loved helping out in the kitchen – but I had no idea that you could be a chef for a career. Back then, you didn’t have celebrity chefs on TV, so there wasn’t anyone to inspire you. It was only when a friend of mine went off to do work experience in a restaurant kitchen that I started thinking ‘hang on…’

Two-for-one boutique hotel offer

Our Smith24 team have been working their hand-knitted merino socks off this morning – we've been flooded with calls in response to our two-nights-for-the-price-of-one offer,…

Sip it and see: wine-tasting at Chewton Glen

Baron Philippe de Rothschild tasting event at Chewton GlenThere can be few things more irksome than being left out while an entire roomful of smug people simultaneously rave about something you’ve never tried (like a super-exclusive wine) or somewhere you’ve never been (like a favourite hotel) – and believe me, at Mr & Mrs Smith, it’s a regular occurrence. It’s like being back in the playground, having missed that vital episode of Dynasty and therefore being condemned to permanent social Coventry. See sample conversation below.

New Forest spa hotel Chewton Glen, Hampshire Colleague 1: ‘I was at Chewton Glen for a spa weekend last month, we had such a great time…’

Colleague 2: ‘Oh yes, I love it there! The New Forest is so lovely. And aren’t the rooms great?’

Colleague 3: ‘Yes, we stayed in the Poachers Suite when we went down last year…’

Colleague 2: ‘That’s where we stayed too! The bathroom’s amazing, isn’t it? And what about that two-person shower, eh!’ [repeat ad nauseam with self-congratulatory smiles all round]

Even anonymous members of the public were rubbing it in, voting Chewton Glen on of the top three ‘Best UK hotels‘ in a recent poll in the Sunday Times Travel supplement.

It used to annoy me. But not any more. Because – drum roll please – I am now a fully signed-up member of the official Chewton Glen Fan Club and feel that entitles me to a lengthy gush about a wonderful wine-tasting evening I recently spent at Hampshire’s Most Splendiferous Spa-Enhanced Country-House Hotel.

Travolution’s snazzy new outfit

Since we've just had a bit of an online spruce-up ourselves (wider pages, streamlined hotel searches and overhauled booking system, since you ask), we're particularly…
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