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    Las Vegas And Mexico

    If you’re flying all the way across the Atlantic to America, you might as well make the most of it to see a couple of areas at once. Live Like a VIP’s Amar Sejpal combined hanging with Lady Gaga in Las Vegas with swimming with dolphins in Cancun, Mexico. If you fancy following in his jet-setter footsteps, these are his travel tips:

    When in Vegas…

    Daiquiris with Lady Gaga

    Itineraries become impossible to follow when you have 9am frozen daiquiris with Lady Gaga (in Madame Tussauds), 1pm gondola rides along the strip and you can’t tell the time inside the casinos, which are air-conditioned and feel the same at 5am and 5pm. Therefore, this article will not give you an hour by hour plan but I am about to tell you there are five things you must visit when in Las Vegas.

    Hyde (5/5)

    The only club in Vegas that opens up its back doors to the landscape of the rest of the strip is Hyde, situated in Bellagio. After being treated to a few drinks by some wonderful PR folk, Hyde certainly lived up to the party scene I was expecting in LV.

    The selections of music from DJ Five help to put in practice ‘stripper therapy’; a segment of a a programme frequently played in your hotel room TVs. Basically this is a nightspot to hit.

    Grand Canyon (3.5/5)

    Grand Canyon 2

    Learning that I couldn’t stomach a stroke of turbulence on smaller aircraft wasn’t how I wanted to experience the Grand Canyon tour. However the captain of Papillon’s tours put the seat belt sign on and flew us across one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. Located in Arizona, not too far from central LV, the tour offers amazing landscape and history. For example, American Indians still live in and around the canyon and have for thousands of years. And, fossil footprints have been left by more than 20 species of reptiles and amphibians but the fossilised skeletons or bones have never been found in the canyon.

    Grand Canyon

    Coyote Ugly (4/5)

    LeAnn Rimes once sang on the top of the bars of this place, making you feel like making love on a bar top was okay. While I didn’t personally try this, I did however watch boob-shaking women at Coyote Ugly.


    Identical to the film, the bar located in Hotel New York New York offers that traditional American bar feel but with cocktails to help you get over your ex-boyfriend i.e. a great fruity vodka mix, namely the Ex-Boyfriend.

    David Copperfield (4/5)

    David Copperfield doesn’t need advertising to put bums on the seats at his show at the MGM Hotel. Aged 57, Copperfield still pins the art of showmanship and magic on stage, giving the audience that exactly right performance.

    A standout trick worth paying a hundred something dollars for is his disappearing car act, making you question whether you’re having a hangover from hell. However pinching me that it was all real was David himself, pictured backstage with me below.

    David Copperfield


    XS with David Guetta (3.5/5)

    Living life like Jay Sean (the only comparable Asian male to myself), I was guided inside of XS, at Wynn hotel, where David Guetta was playing. Split into tens of seated booths, XS has a dance floor large enough for groups titling themselves as ‘wolf pack’ and ‘Minaj-esties’; resembling scenes from an urban edit of Grease.

    The club is set in front of a pool that converts into one of the most spacious open-air dance floors on the strip. Inside, the detail of décor is touched with chandeliers, red velvet and leopard print; all very swish and worthwhile.

    And then stopover in Cancun, Mexico…

    With my A-Z map of Cancun and Pesos at the ready, I was ready to haggle in the central markets, eat the most authentic burrito and party with an oversized sombrero. But do that after you’ve done these three things…

    Dolphin Discovery (5/5)

    Dolphin Discovery

    Flipping around with some dolphins is sine qua non/absolutely necessary. Thanks to Dolphin Discovery, I was treated to the Dolphin Royal Scheme, designed to exceed my expectations… and loosely knotted trunks! Me plus two dolphins meant I felt the rush of being pushed by two dolphins at top speed by my feet across the waters. Customers should ensure their bikini panties and trunks are tied firmly as the speed of the dolphins pushing you can cause them to unfasten and fly away. Bar this, another highlight is the dorsal taw, where the dolphins take you through the water as you hold onto their fins.

    Coco Bongo (5/5)

    Okay, so promoters bustle the streets of Cancun, insistent on wrapping a wristband around you. All the while where characters from The Mask, Spider-Man and Homer Simpson come in their tens to take pictures with you and then make you pay for it.

    I recommend Coco Bongo nightclub, which is a popular nightspot. It does exceed your expectation of the regular nightclub. Every 30 minutes a tribute performance of a film or artist will be flown above your head or be thrusting on stage, giving you a club/theatre experience you won’t find anywhere in the world.

    Coco Bongo

    Barter with street vendors or your hotel concierge for cheaper deal.  For here and all clubs in Cancun, you’ll be charged a heavy one-off fee for entrance but then you get unlimited free drinks inside.

    Chichen Itza (4/5)

    Located in the municipality of Yucatan, Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian city built by the Mayan civilisation. With the architecture originally built to tuck in a population of 4,000,000, the Mayans logically built the pyramids, stages and game courts to serve the purpose of easy communication and to enrich the closeness of the community.

    Chichen Itza, in translation, means ‘at the mouth of the well of the Itza’. Many Mayans still live here and have incredible stories to share if you talk to them. Including the fact that when babies were born, they would want their babies to resemble the Gods, which are based on aspects of nature. So they would gently and eventually reshape a baby’s soft skull to mirror that the shape of a jaguar or tiger.

    Safe and happy travels!  If you have any travel tips for us or questions about the areas, please comment below.

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    Fiji: A little island home

    Sometimes we all just need a break from the hectic VIP lifestyle. Like celebs; Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, why not treat yourself this winter to an island retreat in the beautiful islands of Fiji?

    Britney enjoying the Fiji island life

    Britney enjoying the Fiji island life

    I visited Fiji around this time last year: island hopping for 7 days on the Yasawa Flyer. The islands I visited were Bounty Island, Korovou and Oarsman Bay, and whilst I loved all 3, if I had to recommend one for VIPstyle, it would be Korovou – for it’s gorgeous natural wood cabin beach villas.

    Arriving via Nadi, island-life is really an escape. If you’re shopping and styling (hair, manicures, facials, etc.) Fiji islands – or at least the ones I visited – are not the place for you. An island retreat here is more about hammocks, beach walks and pampering massages by the sea.

    Fiji (3)
    There are of course excursions (largely water-based: scuba diving, snorkelling, exploring water caves and my favourite; a boat trip with an all you can eat buffet lunch, snorkelling, unlimited drinks (including wines and spirits), local-style entertainment and visiting islands; including the one where the Tom Hanks film ‘Castaway’ was filmed (guides can even point out the exact spot where he filmed the scene throwing the wooden mannequin over the cliff to test the rope).


    The island where Castaway was filmed

    But I found staying on the islands with amazing hospitality from locals was completely satisfying in itself.

    You are completely catered for (although a cooking lesson in traditional Fijian recipes is sometimes offered), there is a laundry service (although its likely that your clothes to be dried fire-side – so expect them to be returned smelling a little charcoally) and if you make time for locals, they will make time for you.

    Fiji (4)

    Fijian cooking lesson

    Nearest airport: Nadi (20 hours 45 minutes approx. from Heathrow)
    Currency: Fijian Dollar. £1 = FJ$2.92

    Time Difference: +11 hours
    Guestlist Tips: The national drink in Fiji is Kava. It is a mark of respect to the local culture and the villagers of any village you should enter to drink the Kava offered on your arrival. However, the taste is not particularly pleasant, so keep a packet of mints handy!

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    Travel: Escape While In London At The Dove Spa

    Reviewed by LLAVIP contributor Laura Studarus

    It’s a dilemma we’re all faced with: What to do when funds and time are low and the need for relaxation is at a high? For London, and a handful of cities scattered through Southern England, Dove hopes to provide an answer with their day spas—where most treatments begin under £50. (Dove: it’s more than that soap your mother used to scrub you down with as a child.)

    On holiday with a few hours to kill, I headed over to Dove Spa at Canary Wharf. Which, for the record, is stunning (If it’s a nice day be sure to go early, pack a lunch, and spend some quality time contemplatively into the Thames.) Sure its facility is limited to beauty procedures…but please, I didn’t fly all the way from Los Angeles to break a sweat.


    Located under a Virgin Active, the Dove’s basement salon and massage rooms are remarkably unintimidating.  A surprise for this relaxation newbie—although in retrospect it should have come as no shock, as Dove was the company who produced these ads. I was met by a duo of bright-eyed women, who genuinely seemed pleased I was there, and remained upbeat throughout. (Why yes, I would like a cup of tea…)

    My caregiver for the day—a tiny blond woman with a wispy voice and hands of steel—lead me into the backroom recounting the details of the “Pure Bliss” package in a soothing murmur that downgraded to a coo when she found out this was my first massage. A 15-minute massage. Facial. Manicure or pedicure. Perhaps sensing my confusion (again: spa newbie. A mere 24 hours earlier I found myself picturing a day at the spa in the same light one recounts a Game of Thrones episode.), each procedure was described in detail, down to asking the touch I preferred during the massage portion. (“Uh, hard,” I replied. “I’m from good German stock.”)


    Then, I was left to strip in the darkened room and wait. Despite my general feelings regarding my personal nudity in public places (to bastardize a Woody Allen quote, I’m not afraid of being naked, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.), I found it easy to get comfortable in the darkened, sweet smelling room—save for a few ominous bass rattles in the new age-style soundtrack. That relaxation doubled when the massage therapist returned and started working out the knots in my back. Yes, yes, YES….uh, what were we talking about again?

    After fifteen minutes she gently flipped me onto my back, and then began applying all manner of fragrant oils and lotions of my face. (The predominate smell was something akin to the ocean—although there were floral notes in the mix.) I would have asked more, as my skin is known to be ultra sensitive. But then again, I did fill out a form telling them such, and it’s hard to exercise journalistic curiosity when you’re close to purring with delight.

    5666 Dove Spa pamper package 1

    Massage and facial over, I dressed and joined my therapist in the nail salon where I was instructed to pick out a color for my manicure. To her credit, she didn’t laugh when I held out my ragged, typing cracked fingers and requested a simple clear coat. She neglected to clean the crap out from under my fingernails—but I will say, dirty or not, having someone bring shape to my claws made a world of difference.

    And so, I left Canary Wharf a changed woman, sold on the power of a rejuvenating afternoon. Sure, it wasn’t a weekend away, but the experience was rather nice on my wallet. That person staggering through the streets of London later that evening like a sweet smelling, boneless, uber relaxed zombie? Oh yeah…that was me.

     Essential Info

    Visit the Dove Spa website t0 book. Click on the tab that says Salons and you’ll be magically whisked away to a map that will allow you to pick the location closest to you. Or phone  0844 875 1575

    Price for massages start at £39.


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    Travel Mini Break: Live Like A VIP In Cannes

    When you’ve been busy working or looking after your family (or both) and you have free time you need to make the most of it. Recently I wrote about how I went on a mini break to Bath and Windsor (which was INCREDIBLE) but it involved at least three hours of driving. I kept forgetting that lots of European destinations were under a two hour flight away…so with that in mind I picked out Cannes for a weekend break. What can we do for 48 hours in Cannes? Armed with some Gucci sunglasses and a Mulberry handbag, I went off to investigate.


    It may sound a bit like I’m boasting at jetting off to Cannes but please read on because this blog post is about how we can all Live Like VIPs. I’m about to explain how you can keep costs down and suggest what is worth spending money on and what isn’t.

    But first of all, why Cannes? If you want to feel like a VIP, to walk down streets trodden by movie stars, drink Martinis and cocktails and a coupe de Champagne in bars frequented by old school Hollywood actors and directors then it has to be this French city that is world-famous for it’s film festival.

    Eva Longoria - 2012 Cannes Film Festival-02

    From mid-May to the end of May, the entire city is dedicated to all things movie and film with gala premieres in Le Palais Des Festivals and screenings taking place in various venues across the town. The biggest hotels on the Promenade, which is affectionately known La Croisette, host nightly parties in their bars and on their private beaches while super-yachts spill out of the main harbour, where demand for a berth is so precious it starts at 1000Euros rental a day…and no, that doesn’t include the boat. Nor the designer wardrobe you need to show off every day.


    I avoided the film festival for my mini break as I find it too crowded and I’m told July and August are also pretty busy. In September, you have more room on the city’s pavements and in the restaurants but it’s still warm enough to wear a bikini.


    One advantage of going slightly out of season is that the prices drop. During the film festival, I know that hotel rooms are in demand with many Hollywood studios booking up the main hotels on La Croisette so that the cheapest price you’ll get a room for is 600 Euros a night. Breakfast not included. Then it’s 50 Euros in season for breakfast, 35 Euros for a sunbed and 12 Euros for a bottle of water. Unless you really care about something, I don’t think its worth to spend this amount of money on one day’s accommodation.

    However, go in September, like I did, and you can stay in exactly the same hotel the stars stayed in for a fraction of the price. I never ever imagined I would see the inside of a room at the Hotel Martinez let alone sleep there for two nights but check out this photo. I did it!


    How can you do it to? Check out Booking.com and you’ll see that rates in September are from just £234 a night. Ok, that’s not cheap but it’s a hell of a lot better than £500. And I can promise you it’s VIP service – in that hotel during the Cannes film festival I’ve personally seen the staff waiting on celebrities including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jonny Depp and Tim Burton,  Damian Lewis, Cheryl Tweedy, Naomi Campbell, Eva Longoria and Mrs Carter herself – Beyonce. And if it’s good enough for Queen Bey…

    Hotels like the Martinez have two main attractions. One is the service as I mentioned above but the other is not the amenities in the hotel rooms. They’re clean and functional but the interior of the room is slightly dated. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why this was but I think it may be because I’ve stayed in Five Star hotels in Dubai and in Asia and they’re miles more sophisticated and decadent than the inside of the Martinez (which is meant to be a Five Star).

    However, the second attraction to the Martinez is brilliant – the location. The Martinez is located right near the row of designer shops open by the seafront. Every designer has a presence in Cannes including Roberto Cavalli, Giorgi Armani, Cartier, Dior, Chanel and a newly opened Michael Kors boutique. Look at how stunning and chic it all is. It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford anything, just walking in the shop and seeing the beautiful handbags and shoes is like being in an art gallery.


    So that’s the hotel sorted, now what to do with the time you’re not sleeping? One of the key social hangouts in Cannes is the beach but it’s a bit more complicated than that – you need to pick which beach club you visit. You would never catch a VIP with their towel spread out on the sand with no staff waiting on them (although it is possible to do this on a stretch of beach near the Palais des Festivals). It’s a lot more fabulous to lounge on a chic lounger with a plump cushion or double bed that’s as comfortable as the one you sleep in, with access to a drinks list served by waiters in pristine uniforms and a snack menu consisting of everything from sushi and wagyu beef burgers to a tangy Tuna Niçoise salad. I was pleased to see that in September prices are half price for a day bed – at the Martinez hotel’s private beach it’s €20 euros for non-hotel residents and €17 for residents. Go early and make a whole day of it and yes it’s expensive but the service makes it completely worth it. Beaches that the stars like are the private beaches of all the hotels plus a chic beach club called Le plage 45. Walk down La Croisette to look at the atmosphere in each before making your decision as you can look down at them from the pavement and assess how buzzing they are inside.


    After a day at the beach, I worked up a bit of an appetite. Partly because it was too hot to eat and partly because, quite frankly, the cost of food in these beach clubs are expensive. So I highly recommend Pizza Cresci, which local Cannes VIPs took me to. Here’s us dining al fresco.


    Fabian (in the hat) owns his own hair salons in Switzerland and Ivana (next to me) is a luxury yacht broker. I was lucky to have these insiders telling me what’s good but now I’m passing them on to you. You won’t be disappointed – I felt stuffed and well refreshed with wine and it was just 23 euros each! Better value than in London?

    Another top tip when it comes to eating and drinking is something the French call Rose-Lima. It’s rose wine with lemonade. I’m very much a Champagne girl – that will always be my number one drink – but a refreshing rose Lima may well be my second. And it’s so cheap! You can buy it by the glass or by a small bottle (50cl) as well as by bottles of magnums. All the restaurants have a decent selection of rose (unlike in the UK where you just get one) and I would highly advise going for one with a pale colour, which feels refreshing and light on the tongue especially when mixed with lemonade.


    Shopping in Cannes the next day, I saw there is something for all budgets. You don’t have to go designer as there’s a high street with all the top European brands like Mango and Zara and there’s also a few brands you won’t find in the UK like pimkie . Even if you don’t buy anything it can be quite fun to walk down the street to see what everyone else is wearing because French style tends to be more chic than what we have in the UK. Find a look you like worn by a Frenchwoman and then go online shopping when you’re back home.

    Shopping always makes me hungry and so we had a delicious lunch at a brasserie called New York, New York. In Cannes, you have to be careful to avoid the tourist traps on the main croisette, so go up away from the main hotels and past the Palais and you’ll see New York, New York on the opposite side of the road near to an area where the local French play boules. Sitting outside on the terrace makes you feel like you’re in a different world and a tasty beef carpaccio served with salad and thin French Fries is just 15 Euros. There’s also some delicious grilled fish and portions are hearty and satisfying! Coffee for afters…


    The weather was so good it was tempting to sleep it off on the beach but I wanted a bit more culture before I left. I found out about Galerie Arista  during the Cannes film festival, as the owners let out property in the area. I briefly visited the gallery while I was staying in their property as they hosted a cocktail party during the Film Festival but I never got a look to check it out properly. So I went back this time…and I was blown away.


    It’s modern, bright and full of strong and bold pieces – from art to sculpture. In fact, I preferred the sculpture. It’s a must- visit if you’re in Cannes – please check out their website for more.

    And to end this post on a sweet note, make sure you try some ice cream while you’re in Cannes! Cannes is very close to Italy and so you’ll find tons of Italian restaurants here as well as places to get a great quality gelato. Some of the beach front stalls have better quality ice creams than others so if it doesn’t set you on fire you must save the calories for something that’s worth eating. The beach shacks are on the other side of the road to the hotel and numbered and there are at least 15 spread out along the side. From number 10 I got banana-chocolate and tiramisu in a waffle coat.


    It was dreamy!


    Nearest Aiprot:  Nice. British Airways often have sales to European destinations like Nice – visit the BA website for details

    To get from Nice to Cannes, the cheapest option is an Express shuttle bus, 3o Euros return. Buy tickets in advance here.

    Currency: Euros. £1 = 1.19 Euro

    Travel Tips: Booking.com offers great deals on hotel accommodation. Don’t be scared to walk round before you buy. Because of the quantity of tourists Cannes receives each year there are hundreds of shops and restaurants so don’t part with your money until your REALLY like something and know you’re getting the best deal.

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    Jamaica Sunshine: VIP island life


    Looking for a VIP beauty spot with a gorgeous climate? Jamaica is a holiday hotspot for many celebrities. The tiny island is famed for sandy beaches, blue seas, reggae music and it’s unlikely bobsled team.


    It’s biggest ‘export’ is of course the globally renowned late Bob Marley – but in more recent times has seen the likes of Bob’s sons (including rapper Damian Marley and reggae artist and film producer Ziggy Marley), R’n’B legend Sean Paul and of course the fast man in the world; Usain Bolt have hailed from its shores.

    I arrived in Montego Bay, via  one of  only three international airports on the island. As there are only three airport, you never know who you might bump into as your flight lands – the likes of  Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and Gwen Stefani (who even named her son after the island’s capital, Kingston) are known to holiday in Jamaica. The famous bobsled and photos of it’s original Olympic Team (whom the film Cool Runnings is based on) can be seen at the Montego Bay Sangster airport.

    Montego Bay is one of the more tourist-orientated parts of Jamaica, where LL Cool J and Eddie Murphy choose to spend their running Jamaican holidays. From here, various tourism organisations run excursions such as swimming with dolphins, horse-riding along the beach and climbing the Dunn’s River Falls, which are Jamaica’s most famous waterfalls.

    On my visit I stayed at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa , which is in pretty close proximity to the Rose Hall; a former slave plantation said to be haunted by the plantation owner’s wife, the ‘White Witch’.  The late Johnny Cash recorded a song about the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall titled ‘The Ballad of Annie Palmer’. Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash owned a holiday home in Jamaica after falling in love with the island during one of their visits: their home Cinnamon Hill, was part of the Rose Hall Estate.

    It’s easy to see how anyone can fall in love with such a relaxing place: the pace of life (‘Jamaica time’) is relaxed, which admittedly takes a little getting used to when you’re waiting for buses or  timetabled excursions, and the sun is nearly always shining (just like Bob Marley’s lyrics). The food is also something that the locals are very proud of, one of the most common items on any menu is jerk chicken or jerk pork, made famous by Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce. ‘Jerk’ refers to a cooking procedure similar to Barbecuing which gives meat a little bit of a spicy kick, and Reggae Reggae Sauce certainly complements this.

    There are plenty of cocktails bars across the island (I’d recommend a visit to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville) and there are boat trips and catamarans that will take you to those further afield bars and restaurants and offer rum punches and/or foot massages while you travel – you could even try your chances at driving a boat if you give your guide enough friendly banter!

    Other great things to try while you’re there are quad biking up Mount Zion, snorkeling or scuba diving and horse trekking up the mountains or even in the sea!



    Nearest airport: Sangster Airport (9 hours 50 mins)

    Currency: £1 = 157.40 JMD (Jamaica Dollars).

    Time difference: -5 hours

    Travel tips: Pre-book taxis, transfers and day-tours via your hotel or travel agent. Flagging down taxis is not safe, or recommended, and can often led to disputes over prices, etc. Just remember you’re living in ‘Jamaica time’ during your stay though, so don’t panic if your taxis are running late – chances are, most of the other activities you’ve planned for your day are running late too. Just enjoy the chilled-out mentality!


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    Best Of British: Windsor And Bath Road Trip

    When I go abroad I like to hire a car to make sure I see all the key sites the country has to offer. Recently, I realised that I was doing this at the expense of discovering my own country – Great Britain. I’ve lived in London for 10 years and if I’m in the UK, I tend to spend my weekends in the capital because there’s always something going on. Talking to some American friends made me see that they had seen more of my country than I had so I made it my mission to change that.

    If I’m going to do something, I’m always on a mission to do it VIP style. Europcar car rental has a prestige division of it’s car rental service and I think it’s important to have a comfortable but Look at Me ride if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the road. At the Europcar Prestige depot in London’s Kings Cross, my hot date and I picked up a sexy, sporty Mercedes SLK.

    mercedes-slk-zoePrices for prestige car hire start at £108 but it’s worth every penny. For some models you need to be over 30 (because of insurance reasons) but the choice of cars is incredible. Browsing the Europcar website to choose what to hire is an experience in itself.

    We started at a reasonable hour (ie 8am) and so by 10am, we were at our first destination – Windsor Great Park. My mission for the weekend was to try the best of what the UK has to offer and to push myself away from my normal London routine. I had fond memories of horse riding when I was younger and I sometimes do it when I’m on holiday so I used Google to find details of stables in Windsor that organised hacks through the park.


    I’m a complete novice but after two hours on Flossie (above), I managed to canter. My date did the same and although our legs were shaking slightly at the end of the ride, by 12 noon we had completely left London behind us and felt part of  country life.

    And you know what else is great about the country? Quaint restaurants / pubs like The Fox and Hounds by the entrance of Windsor Great Park.


    We’d worked up an appetite on horseback so we filled our faces with Skate Wing and Sea Bass and shared a plate of home-made chips. The portions were hearty and we felt so satisfied and full after the meal, we shared a coffee to work out our plan for the rest of the day.

    The next destination was Bath as neither my date or I had ever bathed in the thermal pools. I’ve bathed in healing waters in Italy and Greece but never in my own country, so we set off for the Thermae Springs Spa in Bath. Ok, it’s not cheap – £26 each for two hours of access – but this was the view from the rooftop pool as we arrived.


    Our session was 7pm – 9pm so as we left it looked like this. The water is heated to 33 degrees and the contrast between the warm waters, the fresh air and the breathtaking scenery is a sensation that will be engraved on my memory for years to come. It tickled all my senses and it’s just unforgettable.


    If you’re planning to visit Bath for a weekend then make sure you book well in advance as it’s impossible to turn up on a Saturday and try to find accommodation. Visit Bath has a list of all the places to stay in the city and you can book in advance through the Visit Bath website. We didn’t do this so we had to stay in Bristol (long story) but when you’re driving a Merc you don’t mind the extra time on the road between Bath and Bristol too much.


    The best thing about getting out on the open road in the UK is you can decide when to stop. If you travel by train you miss a lot by being focused on the newspaper (or your work) while you wait to arrive at a destination. As we were driving back on the Sunday, we had our eyes peeled for a place to stop for brunch and found this delightful pub called the Pelican Inn in a village called Froxfield, located just off the A4 near Marlborough in Wiltshire.


    Although we hadn’t had breakfast, the lure of seeing Sunday Roasts served to other people looked too good to ignore and we both had Wiltshire Ham served with all the roast trimmings. It was satisfyingly HUGE – there were two yorkshire puddings and four crispy roast potatoes – and it was £11.50. We didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

    After a coffee (to ease digestion) it was off to Windsor Castle. We didn’t see any of the town on Saturday as horse-riding led straight to Bath, but I wanted to get a bit of culture into my weekend. On holiday, I try to go to museums and cathedrals and galleries and I was desperate to see this bit of history, just a few hours from my home city. It was spectacular.

    windsor castle hires istock

    It’s £17.75 to get into the castle and the exhibitions so we decided to walk round the outskirts. As I live in London where all the museums and galleries are free I take objection paying this much to visit an attraction. Walking round and looking at the building’s structure still helps you to think about what it was like in the ancient times.

    Have you been to Bath or Windsor yet? If not – what’s stopping you? Tell me on Twitter @zoegriffin how you get on!


    Visit the Europcar website for details of Prestige cars – prices and collection locations. In London you can collect them from several venues including King’s Cross, Victoria, Bayswater and Marble Arch.

    At Thermae Bath Spa, two hours of spa access is £26. You can buy longer stays or spa packages online

    For home-cooked and hearty food within driving distance of Windsor, visit The Fox and Hounds or The Pelican Inn. Both our meals were under £50 for two people and we left feeling FULL!

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    Sydney: Bars, Beaches and City Icons

    When it comes to VIP cities, Sydney has got to be high on the list of places to visit. Birth place of man of the moment;’Wolverine’ Hugh Jackman,Victoria’s Secret Angel Mirranda Kerr and Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids’ comedienne Rebel Wilson, the city has plenty of star quality.

    sydneyopera house

    So how do we do it VIP style? If you’ve never been you’re in luck as I have been and I’m gonna tell you all about the best bits. The first place on the agenda for most people visiting Sydney is the infamous Sydney Opera House. A tourist icon by day, offering tours and housing as many as 10 restaurants and bars, the Opera House, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, becomes a hub of activity at night. As well as performances of opera, dance, theatre and music, the outdoor Opera Bar just below the Opera House is a perfect place to start a night out. Excitingly, if you plan to visit this October, at the time of the official 40th anniversary, you may just catch the Danish Royals in town, as Denmark’s Crown Prince Couple will be visiting Sydney in October as patrons of the Opera House’s 40th celebrations, commemorating the fact that the Opera House is the most famous Australian-Danish collaboration.


    sydney bridge climb

    Staying in the Sydney Harbour area, during my visit I decided to following in the footsteps of celebrities like Matt Damon, Daniel Radcliffe and Will Ferrell by taking the challenge of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge climbs cost around AUS$200-$300, which is between £120 – £180, depending on what time of day you choose to go. It sounds pricey, but there are breath-taking views you’ll never see anywhere else, and you never know what VIPs you may bump into!

    Matt Damon

    Obviously, one of the biggest appeals of going to Australia is to check out the beaches! The two main beach spots are Bondi beach and Manly. Although Bondi beach has been made the most famous by the television show Bondi Rescue (and yes, they do film there regularly, so there’s plenty of opportunity to check out your favourite lifeguards at work! I did!), it is actually Manly beach that seems to be the most favoured amongst the celebrity jet-set. Perhaps its the surfing championships held every February that add to the appeal, but Manly really is the place of the celebrity beach-side apartments. Not sure if it’s as fun as trying to sneak your face into a television programme though?



    My recommendation for a night out after a hard day’s sunbathing would be Darling Harbour. A favourite hang out of Leonardo DiCaprio during the filming the Great Gatsby, Darling Harbour has tons of restaurants, bars and clubs, and even little road trains to take you up and down the harbour as you choose between venues! The Star Casino is probably the best place around here to indulge in a VIP experience, or alternately head to the other side of the city to World Bar, where shots come in teapots and Aussie sports men can be found winding down after busy days on the field. We bumped into three cricket players on the first night here.

    darling harbour

    Like any major city, Sydney is of course great for shopping! For high street bargains and a spot of glamour too, head to the giant Westfield shopping centre. It’s a huge mall home to a mix of bargain, high street and designer labels and some of Australia’s own chain stores such as Cotton On, Sports Girl, Dotti,Gloss and Rubi Shoes, and Australia’s two largest department stores, Myer and David Jones. Castlereagh, Elizabeth and King streets are the place to find the most famous designer brands, including Louis Vuitton Chanel and Gucci.

    louis vuitton australia

    Finally, Sydney plays host to a number of VIP events, as well as it’s ample annual sports calendar, the Vivid Sydney illuminations festival takes place every May, attracting global interest, or try your hand at celeb-spotting  at the Sydney Film Festival every June, or my favourite; the Sydney is Fashion Festival runs from August to September. Of course the biggest event on the VIP experiences calendar is New Year’s Eve! Watching the fireworks over the Opera House and Harbour bridge as midnight rolls around is incredible! To get a good view though (I’d recommend Mrs Macquaries Point), you have to be prepared to get there early. I mean super early! Queues start at 6am NYEs! Take plenty of water, because NYE is in the height of Aussie summertime.


    Essential Info:

    Nearest Airport: Sydney Airport (26 hours from London)

    Currency: £1 = AUS$1.65

    Time Difference: +9 hours

    Guestlist Tips: Top Shop is a rarity in Australia, and kind of a big deal. They have a more varied range than usual and can be found on the corner of King and George street.


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    New York: Shopping And Sightseeing

    Looking for a perfect VIP weekend? There is no other place to shop ‘til you drop or party all night long than ‘the city that never sleeps’; New York, New York. I’ve had a romantic view of New York for a long time, listening to the lyrics of artists such as Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Paloma Faith, musing about the city of opportunity, where dreams come true, etc. and it certainly delivered.

    City Scene

    It’s probably not the kind of place to visit on a whim, as unlike the more accessible city breaks in Europe, it is quite a pricey trip, but for anyone with a spot of Carrie envy, it’s incredible. There are plenty of inclusive packages available, but for the savvy shopper, buying each element separately can lead to finding bargains. I believe for me, the entire cost of the 4-day, 3-night, weekend; flights, accommodation and shopping and spending included, was around £800.

    Times Square

    I arrived at night time, to find myself taking an infamous yellow taxi cab through the bright lights of the city. Times Square is the place to start any evening, with its poster-like scenery, gift shops galore and of course the Broadway theatre district.


    Broadway is a great place to go celeb spotting, especially as so many big names grace the stages, such as Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy (until 3rd July 2013), Jane Lynch in Annie (until 14th July 2013) and soon Orlando Bloom will be taking to the stage in Romeo and Juliet (from 24th August to 24th November 2013). I decided to go for Mary Poppins for my first Broadway experience, to ease my way in light-heatedly, but I also ended up seeing theatre classic Phantom of The Opera too, and managed to get signatures from all of the cast. Often signed merchandise can be purchased in aid of a charity event – I paid $40 for mine for World Aids Day.

    Cast Signing

    I decided to stay downtown, near the former the site of the World Trade Center, now home to the One World Trade Center tower. I actually stayed in the Marriott Hotel, which received considerable damage during 9/11, with the building split in half by the collapsing South Tower and flattened by the fall of the North Tower. For this reason there is a real atmosphere of respect and patriotic pride in the re-built hotel. Visiting during off-peak season, room prices can be as low as $151 (£98 GBP) a night.

    NYC Taxis

    If your stay is only a weekend, I recommend saving money on taxis (which run by the meter and on the busy roads can clock up high fairs quickly) by booking on a tour bus, such as the City Sightseeing bus which offer 3 day hop-on, hop-off routes and of course point out all the places associated with celebrities and movies. Seeing the hotel Beyoncé often stays at, much of Donald Trumps’ empire, and the location where John Lennon was shot outside his apartment were things I may have missed if I hadn’t used the tour service, as well as some of the locations that popular TV shows such as Sex and the City and Seinfeld were filmed.
    The City Sightseeing Tour takes you to the city’s big attractions, such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, Broadway, Macy’s Department Store and The Ellis Island (State of Liberty) ferry point, but some of the fun also lies in discovering the unexpected! Along my tour we came across the famous busker ‘The Naked Cowboy’.

    Naked Cowboy

    Also, don’t be afraid to ask for more, I was able to get a guided tour of a city fire station (by a group of hot fireman) and listen to first hand stories of the tragic events of 9/11 just by knocking on the fire house door and asking. It was pretty cool to see this, often missed, side of New York City.

    Fire house

    Walking round central New York in the day time feels like you’ve stepped straight onto a movie set. Not least because there are so many recognisable movie locations! I felt caught up in a strange mix of King Kong, I Am Legend and Home Alone 2! If you a film enthusiast, don’t forget to stop by the Natural History Museum to reminisce scenes of Ben Stiller playing fetch with the T-Rex skeleton. You can even have your photo taken with Dum-Dum.
    Night at the Museum

    Embracing your inner Carrie Bradshaw is easy on 5th Avenue, with all the designer stores just a stone’s throw from one another, it’s a shopaholic’s heaven. The fancier stores are often protected by armed guards, reminding you just how expensive and luxurious these shops are.

    If you’re shopping more on a budget, I found some good department stores with high street prices, such as Century 21. There are also plenty of candy stores around, including M&M World and the Reese’s store and many more to indulge in a sweet treat. I also found that Saturday’s Central Market sells souvenirs, food, and confectionary treats at a reasonable.

    Street Market

    In terms of food, the US is pretty similar to the UK. There are some great diners around Times Square, as well as your standard fast food joints. For something a little different, why not stop by the beautiful decorated al fresco dining area at the Rockefeller Centre (an ice rink in winter) and watch the world go by? Or be a true tourist and grab breakfast at Grand Central Station!


    With so much to see and do, you’ll leave with thoughts of a return visit for sure. Is easy to understand the appeal the city has to its rich and famous, but also there are a lot of fun stories and quirky characters to be found. I also love the sheer number of pampered pooches around the city!

    Pampered pets


    Nearest Airport: John F. Kennedy International Airport (7.5 hours approx from London)
    Currency: US dollar. £1 = $1.54
    Time Difference: -5 hours
    Guestlist Tips: Instead of paying to go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty, take the free ferry to Staten Island, birth place of Christian Aguilera, which offers brilliant views as you pass the statue. With celeb properties on Staten Island, you never know who you may bump in to.

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    Ibis Hotels Make The Cutest Advert Ever

    I normally use this travel area to write about destinations I love, but today I want to write about an advert that I absolutely love. As soon as I saw this video of all these cute rabbits I just had to share it:


    What do you think? Does it make you want to stay in an Ibis? I wish hotel rooms came with bunnies included!


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    South Africa: Shamwari Game Reserve Safari

    addo - par 7

    A South African safari may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a luxury holiday, but with the South African rand at a four year low (over 15 Rand to the GB Pound), and unique experiences aplenty, there’s a lot that makes South Africa appealing.

    South Africa hasn’t really been in the tourism spotlight since the world cup was hosted there in 2010, but despite its now lack of gorgeous footballers from around the world, all the tourism attractions and improvements still remain. There’s Guinness World Record breaking bungee jumps for the adrenaline seekers

    bungee jump - 1st par

    And beachside horse-trekking for those looking for a touch of natural beauty; it is certainly a varied place.

    horse trekking - 1st par

    I wanted to stay somewhere central to these attractions, so the Eastern Cape was an easy choice. Port Elizabeth (P.E) is the main city in this area, and is a great place for shopping and nights out; albeit very Westernised. I wanted to venture a little further from city life, but still be within reasonable reach of a weekend stay in P.E, and so decided on Shamwari Game Reserve for accommodation.

    Shamwari Game reserve  - par 3

    Shamwari Game Reserve, with its vast landscapes, impressive wildlife and beautiful Bushman’s River, has its celebrity appeal; its most prestigious lodge, ‘Eagles Crag’, is famed for its swimming pool, where Tiger Woods proposed to his ex-wife Elin Nordegren. During my stay I was told to look out for John Travolta’s private plane, which he sometimes lands in the area when he visits.

    The reserve is also home to  two Born Free Foundation sanctuaries for rescued big cats, which were designed in partnership with actress and Born Free Foundation founder Virginia Mckenna CBE.

    Born free lion - par 5

    The Born Free sanctuaries have recently been featured in OK Magazine after being visited by Queen guitarist Brian May and singer Kerry Ellis for the launch of their charity single, and TV DIY favourite Nick Knowles proposed to his, now wife, Jessica Rose Moor there.

    Prices for accommodation vary greatly, as there are five different lodges, but I was able to stay on a much cheaper budget via a student volunteer program called World Wide Experience. Even so, volunteers are given the chance to stay in a luxury lodge for a night – which is super swanky!

    lodge -par 6 (2)

    So much of the lodge can be folded or rolled up (the walls are made up of thick canvas material) that you really get to enjoy the (predator-free) section of the reserve.

    lodge -par 6 (1)


    The bath tub was incredible!

    lodge -par 6 (4)

    Activities in the area include Addo Elephant Park, which offers elephant rides followed by outdoor candlelit suppers, Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre, where visitors can pay to talk an adult cheetah for a forest walk on a lead, and adrenaline activities such as sand boarding and  zip wiring.

    My beautiful picture

    Slightly further afield, perhaps for a weekend excursion, are the beautiful shores and beaches of Mossel Bay.

    mossel bay (3)

    Mossel Bay has beautiful blue waters and is littered with attractive beach side houses. It is popular for its Shark diving – but if being in a cage surrounded by Great Whites doesn’t sound like your idea of fun (it is terrifying) sit back on the white sands, well away from the shark territories, and catch some rays.

    mossel bay (2)


    Nearest Airport: Port Elizabeth (13.5 hours approx from London

    Currency: SA Rand  (ZAR) £1 = R15.68

    Time Difference: + 1 hour

    Guestlist tips:  check out www.shamwari.com/ Remember the seasons are opposite in South Africa, so dress warm from June – October. Take a scarf for game drives and some lip balm to protect you from the wind.

    by Kate Snowdon


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