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Posts from the ‘Honeymoons’ Category

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Best and Worst Hotels of the Year


Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

The Good

Good is an understatement: exceptional would be more apt when describing the best hotel Chopstix checked into this year: the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India.

There are some hotels that have such a stellar reputation that staying at them can be a disappointment. Not so the Lake Palace which actually exceeded  our expectations.

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Is this the Best Hotel in the World?

Taj umaid palace exterior on horizon

Is the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, on a hill overlooking Jodhpur in Rajasthan, northern India, really the Best Hotel in the World as declared by Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2016? Having stayed earlier this year, Chopstix can confirm it’s definitely up there. Here’s why:

1.The sheer scale and grandeur – Yes it’s a palace and it’s staggeringly vast (our first sight of the place was from the plane coming into Jodhpur airport, it’s so big and majestic you can’t miss it). The sight of it is overwhelming when you draw up outside and that feeling never really leaves you throughout your stay.

2.The Royal Welcome – we don’t want to spoil the surprise but it really is special.

3.The Maharaja lives here – Maharaja Gaj Sing and his family still occupy one of the wings. In fact his Highness doesn’t want you to think of it as a hotel but a home.

4.The lobby – you’ll be lead here for a welcoming drink of bubbly when you arrive and take a moment to sit down and marvel at this marble wonder with domed ceiling. International designers flock here for inspiration – Rolex modelled a watch face on the design.

Taj umaid palace lobby fisheye view

5.The elevator – just off the lobby, manned by a uniformed butler and including a cushioned banquette.

6.The indoor pool -subterranean, circular, art deco and flanked by steamer chairs. Need we say more.

7.The outdoor pool – with a view of the impressive Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.

Taj Umaid swimming pool with Fort

8.The gardens – vast and ornamental. And home to several strutting peacocks.

Umaid Bhawan Palace/Jodhpur/India

9.The restaurants – choose between the outdoor terrace of Pillars with a stunning view of the gardens and Fort, both flood lit at night or lavish Risala (which also has a pretty terrace). Or don’t – you can opt for either menu (European or Indian) at both restaurants.

Taj Umaid Pillars restaurant

10.The service – attentive without being obtrusive. And the only hotel we’ve stayed at where we were asked what they could improve – the answer is nothing.




The Only Way to See the Taj Mahal

Oberoi view from balcony

If like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge you’re planning a visit to the Taj Mahal, there’s only one way to do it in style and that’s by staying at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra.

Not only does this glamorous, film set of a resort have a bird’s eye view of the iconic monument from most of its rooms and terraces, it’s also the only hotel in Agra to have private access via golf buggy right up to the gates.

Finding Bliss in Bali

Alila Villas Soori, Bali

Alila Villas Soori, Bali

[UPDATE: The resort is now named Soori Bali and is no longer part of the Alila group.]

We’ve been sitting on this one for a while. In truth, we really didn’t want to tell you about it. When we visit somewhere so special, we don’t always want the secret to be out. But then again it would be a shame if you never heard about Alila Villa Soori on Bali.

Tucked away on the quiet west coast of the island, an hour’s (luxury) car ride from the airport, if you’re seeking the packed beaches and bars of Bali, this is not for you. If however you’re looking for peace, pampering, great food and a gorgeous spa this is the spot.

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Most Romantic Hotels in the UK

Lucknam Park

Lucknam Park

Lucknam Park, Wiltshire – For Jane Austen Lovers

Lucknam Park is the perfect country house hotel: neither stuffily chintzy nor brought incongruously up to date with over-designed styling, it’s a mix of old world good looks, modern comforts, friendly service and fabulous food.

Once you’ve driven up the mile long, tree-flanked avenue to the splendid Palladian house, indulge in a traditional afternoon tea (scones with clotted cream and homemade jam) in the beautiful drawing room with views over the parkland. Then set off on the hour-long walk along he estate’s perimeter wall, or horsey types can head for the hotel’s impressive equestrian centre – just enough fresh air and exercise to have you hungry again for dinner

The Michelin-starred Park restaurant, headed up by chef Hywel Jones, is pure Jane Austen, all chandeliers, swagged curtains and bow windows. The food here is on the elaborate side but it’s never a case of style over substance.


Lucknam Park

Then there’s the spa. Ah – the spa, a super slick surprise behind the main house. Swim in the indoor pool complete with roaring fireplace (yes, you read that correctly), loll about in the hot rooms and outdoor hydro pool and try a treatment using herbs from the hotel’s vegetable garden. Bath, Austen’s stomping ground, is only six miles away but with so much to occupy you at Lucknam who knows if you’ll make it there.


The Old Swan

The Old Swan, Minster Lovell – For Log Fire Lovers

Imagine the ideal country inn and you’ll picture The Old Swan. Exposed beams and brick, flagstone floors, log fires, cosy nooks, inviting bar… this is a wonderful weekend retreat in the Cotswolds countryside.

When it comes to eating, choose between the more formal restaurant with vaulted ceiling and rich wool tapestries or the pub like but equally appealing dining room.

Old Swan & Minster Mill

Old Swan

Settle down by the fire for a nightcap (the snug is for residents only) before climbing the wooden stairs to one of the most comfortable beds you’ve ever slept in.

Bring your hiking boots as there are walks aplenty almost from the front door.

Gilpin Lake House

Gilpin Lake House

Gilpin Lake House, Cumbria – For Water Lovers

Staying at the lake House feels like steoppping into your own home – albeit with a number of staff at hand. With just six bedrooms and overlooking a private tarn, the house is intimate and relaxed. Part of that comes from the comfortable interiors but also from the personable service.

Tea is laid out every afternoon in the conservatory, where the very decent breakfast is served too. Dinner is over at Gilpin Lodge, the renowned hotel and restaurant owned by the same family. Its a few minute away but a driver is provided.

Gilpin Lake House treatment room.jpg

Gilpin Lake House

Walks in the rugged countryside are de rigour. Afterwards there’s the Lake House’s indoor pool, sauna and outdoor hot tub to enjoy as well as a massage room overlooking the lake.


Ynyshir Hall

Ynyshir Hall, Powys – For Royalty Lovers

Queen Victoria’s former country residence in Wales has been revamped into a luxurious small hotel by convivial couple Rob and Joan Reen.

Artist Rob’s striking paintings adorn the cosy bedrooms and chic dining room. A wealth of local produce is showcased in the Michelin starred restaurant including meat from the excellent village butcher, fish from nearby Borth and herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden. But the menu is anything but provincial.


Ynyshir Hall

Outside of the comfortable cocoon of the hotel with its sumptuous fabrics and lush colours, there are some stunning walks in this pretty corner of Wales. Either around the Dovey estuary where Ynyshir Hall nestles or a more strenuous hill climb – you may even spot local resident Robert Plant of Stairway to Heaven fame.

[UPDATE: Ynyshir Hall is now Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, open Tuesday to Sunday morning.]

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