If you’re kicking yourself for not organising a bank holiday hideaway, seek solace in planning a future escape (three days of picnics and park life are looking unlikely – as usual – with storm clouds on the horizon). We’d like to point you in the direction of the delightful Derwent House, in colourful Cape Town. Not only will a stay here be wallet-friendly, with the hotel’s great-value rates (and member offer – see below), it will also be jetlag-free, thanks to the one-hour time difference – if you hail from Brit shores that is.
Here at Smith HQ, when we’re not living, breathing and loving boutique hotels, we’re drooling over delectable dinners in London, long lunches in Languedoc, superior coffee in the capital and wine-tasting events – even wedding cakes made of cheese. (We take our ‘tastemaker’ title quite seriously, you see.) Typing is mainly practised one-handed, to enable a non-stop snack stream to pass unhindered into our greedy (but still oh-so-selective) bellies.
In short, we’ve decided to put more foodie posts on the blog menu, and resurrect our series of interviews with the food world’s Michelin-starred great and good (see our previous interviews with the awesome Alain Ducasse and mighty Michael Caines).
Since we’ve been knocking around in Edinburgh recently to update you on this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we thought we’d make our first port of call 21212, to check up on maverick chef Paul Kitching (above right).
The August bank holiday (sorry non-UK readers, you may look away now) creeps up on you sometimes, suddenly popping onto the horizon the week before it strikes, and reminding you that it’s the last bona fide long-weekend opportunity before Christmas. Not got a getaway arranged yet? Oh well, never mind, you’ll never find anywhere with availability now; may as well give up.
Not really. Just joshing with you there.
Every now and again, a hotel comes along into our collection with a wondrous name. Past favourites have included Huvafen Fushi, Alila Villas Hadahaa (we just like saying them), and now [adopt rolling-credits boomy voice], allow us to introduce, from a galaxy far, far away, the Domes of Elounda in Crete…
Why this week? Last-minute summer sun awaits on the scorched sands of Crete, and a seven-night stay in late September and early October will only cost the price of six with their special Smith offer.
Not a lot of people know this, but – let us share with you our little secret – Mr & Mrs Smith have been hard at work on a brand new, ultra-slick series of London hotel videos that will give you a Smith-style tour around some of the capital’s best luxury boutique hotels. You’ll have to wait a few more weeks to catch your first glimpse of these one-minute wonders, but in the meantime, we’ll bring you news on location from the footage-filming frontline, where (as you’d expect at London’s finest hotels) it’s all long lunches, spa pampering and champagne blood, sweat and a lotta luvvie tears, obv.
Baglioni London – where the spa was recently taken over and refurbished by those brilliant beauty-enhancers from SPC at Stoke Park – was an obvious contender for a place among our premiere clutch of films (along with properties including the historic Gore, bucolic Bingham and iconic Blakes boutique hotel – more of those in Smith Travel Blog posts to come…). As well as footage of its rooms and suites overlooking Kensington Gardens, burnished-gold cocktail bar and decadent Brunello restaurant, we shot a behind-the-scenes interview with chef Andrea Vercelli. And since we were giving the whole hotel this under-the-microscope treatment, we thought it only right and proper that we should test out the new SPC spa. Just for you. Selfless, I know.
Never let it be said that we would turn down a friend in an hour of need. Especially when said friend is offering dinner. Travel blogger Heather Cowper (who so expertly guided the Smith blog around the gastronomic delights of Lisbon not too long ago, and penned a review of Hotel Avenide Liberdade to boot) recently invited us to join her and a flotilla of fellow foodies to Knightsbridge’s latest dining sensation: Bar Boulud.
Style Country pub gone gourmet
Setting Panoramic peaks
Why this week? This week, and every week up until the end of September for that matter, Smith members can stay for three nights over the weekend and only pay for two. The catch? You’ve got to have a 10-course dinner at one of Australia’s best restaurants as part of the deal.
We know what you’re thinking: how on earth do I pick out the cream of the comedy and avoid the am-dram dullards at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
How do we know this? Because entertainer, comedian and all-round showmanship-wonder Chris Cox has been peering into his murky toughened glass ball, and he told us. Not via high-energy brainwaves and mind-bending telepathy, but via high-energy thumb and mobile telephony.
Chris has performed sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival, in London’s West End and at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, won numerous awards and plaudits from critics and colleagues (Ricky Gervais said he was ‘brilliant’).
Using, as he puts it, ‘a mongrel hybrid mix of witty chit chat, magic, psychology, body language, influencing, devilish good looks… and lying’, he has provided us with the insider’s insider guide to surviving (and enjoying) the Edinburgh Fringe (including such gems as, how to make a giant ball out of flyers, where to fill your face-hole, and the tip-top acts to catch).
Beloved Smith & Friends self-catering property Château de Lartigolle in Gers is known for hosting special social shindigs, and this summer they really wowed us with their Burlesque event. Hope you like my and Gavin Mitchell’s snapshots of this rather sexy soirée.
As well as serving a feast in their party-perfect vaulted cellar, London’s Tassel Club entertained revellers with risqué performances from a Marilyn-esque Banbury Cross and Bettie-Page-y Annette Betté Kallow (although what truly took our breath away was Miss Peacock’s magnificent hula-hooping).
Soundtracking these festivities throughout were top-hatted tune-spinners Bart & Baker and the Parisian DJs’ unique electro-poppy blend of swing. But enough of this chit-chat – what you really want are some snapshots from these sexy shenanigans, yes? So here we go…
Former fashionista Elizabeth Kiester gave up a crazy-glam-hectic New York lifestyle (complete with full Sex and the City trappings, requisite high heels and sashimi-platter lunch dates) to give something back to the Khmer people she’d fallen in love with on a trip to Cambodia.
She sold her apartment, packed her bags and (quite literally) set up shop in Siem Reap. Which is where we discovered her, while researching star stays for our next hotel guide, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: South-East Asia (out later this year).
The result, Wanderlust, is a lifestyle concept boutique selling hand-made clothing and homewares, all created by local women – it’s been so successful that there are already three outlets in Cambodia.
We caught up with the one-woman responsible-retail wonder, Elizabeth Kiester, at home in Siem Reap…
Tell us a bit about Wanderlust, Elizabeth – how did it come about? What drew you to Cambodia in the first place?
I came to Cambodia in 2008 on a short-term volunteer holiday through an American NGO. I wanted to take a vacation, but I really wanted to do something. I was at crossroads in my life, and the idea of a week on a beach just didn’t appeal at the time. I have always loved south-east Asia and Cambodia was on my ‘must check out’ list. So I came to Siem Reap and installed water pumps in rural villages, painted a pagoda, and taught songs and English to the kids at a local orphanage.
I just loved the magic of the place: the light, the sounds, the unfamiliar and strange smells, and the sense of hope that I felt everywhere, in every eye and every smile – even in every tear I saw shed. I wanted to be part of it on a deeper level, and try to do what I could to help instill a sense of security in the Khmer people, and above all, to celebrate and make noise about all of it.
When? 6–31 August
Where? Edinburgh, Scotland
What? A million people throng the steep streets of Edinburgh to celebrate music, theatre and comedy at the world’s biggest arts festival.
Style Before they were famous
Setting Athens of the north
IN THE KNOW
Head count Around a million people attend the Fringe over the course of August.
Packing tips Anything goes, so if you have an outlandish outfit that needs an airing, this is the place for it. Otherwise, take sensible shoes (for the cobbles) and a map to help you keep track of the 250-plus venues.
Bar chat If you were to watch every single performance at the festival back to back, it would take around five years, 11 months and 16 days.