MTT Travel: The Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

The Town Hall Hotel review

On occasion I’m one of those people who gets smug about no longer living in London. I noticed it when I went for lunch with my Sister-in-Law recently; I started waxing lyrical about the low crime rates, big houses, affordable living costs and good schools out here. And it’s only 30 minutes into Euston!!! Amazing!!!!

I do adore living out here, it’s true. I have a house with a big garden for less than my old Shoreditch studio flat, I can afford a car and a gym membership and live within a 10 minute drive of one of the best schools in the county (that I didn’t have to fight to get my children into). The train service into the city is quick, regular and as long as you’re not travelling in peak times, relatively inexpensive.

But I still have to live with the fact I reside in Milton Keynes ;) It’s not the sexiest town in the country, that’s for sure. I can’t pop to Columbia Road flower market for my peonies at the weekend, our most exotic restaurant is probably Yo! Sushi and I don’t think we’ll see cold press coffee until 2020. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.

Because I save all that money by living outside of the big smoke I like to think I’m able to splurge on a hotel for the times I do need to travel in and stay. And we know how much I like a nice hotel, am I right? So when my blog pal Alice offered me a spontaneous ticket to see Blur at Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago I thought  it’s hotel time! and jumped on HotelTonight (a fab app for last minute hotel booking fans like me) to see what I could find.

The Town Hall Hotel review

The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green was available, a place I’ve wanted to try for a while. I swiftly booked it for £128 (rates on their website start at around £217) and checked in at the allotted time of 3pm. That is, after a really quick diversion to Spitalfields Anthropologie and Office to buy jeans and trainers, having packed only dresses and heels for Britmums the day before that were most definitely not suitable for Blur-watching.

The Town Hall Hotel review

I was offered an upgrade to one of their apartments upon arrival and if you know me at all you’ll know that ‘upgrade’ is one of my most favoured words. THANK YOU!

IMG_0661 copy

My room was lovely – on the ground floor it consisted of an entrance hall with wardrobe, a kitchen, living space, bedroom and wet room/loo. It was packed to the rafters with beautiful features; huge windows, fireplaces (x 2), antique furniture and a beautiful muted colour scheme.

IMG_0658 copyI sat down, made myself an espresso and got comfortable reading about the history of the beautiful Town Hall. Which I won’t ruin, you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself ;) Basically it originally opened in 1910 and has been through many iterations (including a famous film locations) before being saved from ruin and becoming the gorgeous hotel it is today.

The kitchen had absolutely everything you might need (and lots of things you probably won’t) so for those who stay for an extended period of time on business it is perfect to rustle up a bit of dinner or breakfast if you get tired of restaurant or room service dining.

The Town Hall Hotel reviewThe lounge area was lovely with a huge L-shaped sofa and big television. I obvs made good use of this and blasted out Kisstory while I was getting ready for Blur that evening.

On to the bathroom – it featured L’Occitane products (+1 point) and one of those dinner plate shower heads that releases so much water it makes you feel like you’re drowning. The glass loo and shower room were separated from the bathroom only by a white curtain so you’d have to make sure you knew whoever you were sharing with pretty darn well. Luckily me myself and I are pretty well-acquainted so we were happy.

The in-room facilities were good; I’m always disappointed by hotel hairdryers but this one did the job well. There were your standard bits and bobs – safe, umbrella, phone etc etc. Everything you might need.

The location is a bit out of the way but it’s a four minute walk to Bethnal Green tube station and from there you can get the Central Line straight into town. Bethnal Green has so much to do and see, too – it’s a real up-and-coming area for restaurants and bars, two of which are in the hotel itself.

11385641_1445856005717753_269390344_n

And Blur, how were they? I hear you ask.

AMAZING. Damon Albarn does not get older, only better, and Song 2 will go down in history as a gig-going highlight for me. It rained the whole time and my £10 hotel umbrella was confiscated but it was SO worth it. My night ended in a gay club in Stoke Newington with my hairdresser (who isn’t gay). As you do.

The Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

www.townhallhotel.com

 

 

MTT Travel: The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21


The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

If there’s one thing I like in life, it’s a nice hotel.

I will book into a hotel at every opportunity, I really do daydream about them. The robes, the room service, those huge bloody baths. I’m one of those bonkers people who will squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of their stay; if check-in is at 3pm I will arrive at 12pm to just enjoy the ambiance of the bar or lounge (free time to read magazines? I’M IN) before booking into my room. Once inside I will do a headless chicken impression, running around checking out the minibar, the safe, the comfort of the huge bed. I’ll put my robe on, order a club sandwich and get into bed before napping (unless I’m too excited to nap. Has happened).

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

Arriving at the Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 was a slightly different experience. For one it was 6am, I’d just got off a long-haul flight without sleeping and my body thought it was in a completely different time zone. We were in Bangkok and I don’t know if you’ve been but you don’t find many club sandwiches in Bangkok at 6am.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed upon arrival is that the staff were just so darned happy for that time in the morning. My not-yet successful journey to becoming a morning person has been well-documented so I always respect 6am smiles. I was smiling too, but mostly because I was delirious after 11 hours of sitting next to a stranger who liked small talk even when I pretended to be asleep.

IMG_2387IMG_2384

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 is located on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok which is one of the main commercial roads in the city. It’s adjoined to the next-door shopping mall, Terminal 21, which is handy if you’re feeling homesick as each of its floors are named after different areas of the world and London is one of them. Brick Lane was quite similar to what we are used to ;) It’s really convenient for central Bangkok and is a 2 second walk from the Asoke Sky Train station.

We were greeted with chilled glasses of orange juice in the most beautifully opulent foyer. Let me tell you, you know you’re in a good hotel when the pavement outside is marble.

Our bags were whisked away as we checked in, were handed our keys and shown to our rooms.

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

Mine was on the 21st floor and my ears popped as we went up in the super speedy lift. I walked into the room and BY GOD it was one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. The window was as wide and as tall as the room and the first thing I did was work out how to use the high-tech electric privacy blind so I could get the full effect. Gorgeous.

11101976_686446014798029_904836227_n

IMG_2440

IMG_2354

The room had everything you would want and need including a full-size fridge and microwave – robes, safe, multiple mirrors (excellent for selfies, I sampled them all, see?), plenty of hanging space and the biggest bed I’ve ever seen. Literally – I could roll over in it four times and not reach the other side (I checked). Club sandwich aside I was in hotel room heaven.

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

9am/jetlag/no sleep face

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

The bathroom was just as good with a massive shower and deep bath but the highlight was definitely the fancy heated loo seat with added bottom cleaner. I tried each and every setting (apart from the enema one because if you can bring yourself to push that button you’re a braver person than me) and sent my mum a text message saying I’d literally just given my bum a wash and blow dry.

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

By the time I’d surveyed my room properly it was 7am and I was ready to get in that ginormous bed for an hour. IT WAS SO GOOD, literally one of the nicest beds I’ve ever had the luck to lie down in. I used about a tenth of it and didn’t spend nearly enough time in it. I’d return to the Grande Centre Point purely for this beautifully magnificent bed.

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

9am came and it was time to drag myself out of that bed and to the in-house spa (I know I know, it’s tough being me). And I’m not over-egging it when I say this massage was one of the highlights of my trip. I ADORE a good massage and was a bit hesitant about how I’d find the notoriously brutal Thai rub-down I might get, but it was just gorgeous. Exactly what you need after a long flight. It was interesting to witness the differences from a UK massage, too; I was asked to shower beforehand and the therapists wore masks and then climbed on to the table to properly get my back sorted out. I loved it.

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

Post-massage I retreated to the pool for a bit more relaxation and WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT HOW AMAZING IT WAS. It literally needs no words. Infinity pool, relaxation pool, landscaped gardens, bosh.

It’s worth noting that, due to the buddhist religious beliefs of the owner of the hotel there is no alcohol served in The Grande Centre Point Hotel – including minibar. But there’s a supermarket in the basement of the shopping center next door and the hotel staff were happy for us to grab a couple of beers there and bring them to the pool or our room.

It’s also worth noting that Thai law permits the sale of alcohol in shops between 11am-2pm and 5pm-12am. It tastes better when you have to work harder for it.

IMG_2392 IMG_2390

The restaurant at The Grande Centre Point was buffet-style with traditional Thai dishes, sushi, Chinese dishes and pasta to order. I went with Thai food (it’s my new favourite, you know?) and of course had a stab at those gorgeous teeny tiny desserts, because how can you not? Buffets in the UK are traditionally rubbery, tasteless and crap but there was none of that here; I actually preferred this approach to food because you could go back for seconds (greedy? Moi?) and sample absolutely everything should you wish (I did).

IMG_2987IMG_2438

 

More shots of the view because it really was magnificent. Out of this world. I stayed in two different rooms on opposite sides of the hotel (both on the 21st floor) and each view was as good as the other.

When we returned to The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 at the end of our trip for our last night in Bangkok I really felt like I was coming home. It was such a lovely place to stay and if you’re looking for a luxurious and peaceful retreat in the centre of buzzing Bangkok I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. Comparatively I’d definitely rate it above the big chains we have in the UK such as Radisson or Hilton, and on a par with the most luxurious business-type hotel I’ve stayed in, which is the Threadneedles. I couldn’t fault it. Prices start at around £90 per night.

I stayed at The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 on a complimentary basis thanks to Tourism Authority Thailand. 

The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21
2,88 Sukhumvit Soi 19 (Wattana), Sukhumvit Rd., Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
www.grandecentrepointterminal21.com

 

MTT Loves Thailand

11137887_558523914290542_97928520_n

When it comes to my week in Thailand I’m not sure where to begin.

My pre-conceptions were all taken from Hollywood and tales of friends at beachside yoga retreats, but the reality was much more than I ever expected in so many ways.

I was invited by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to fly out for six days as part of their Thailand Academy Program. On phase three, this trip was to be all about traditional Thai textile production with a focus on cotton and silk for the UK delegates. I travelled to North East Thailand to a province called Surin to learn all about silk production and to experience an often undiscovered Thai way of life.

11188239_10155770488990206_1849304514593688507_n

Also along on the trip were designers from the UK and France and design students from Germany which would culminate in these designers producing original pieces from their respective countries in the traditional Thai fabrics and, as it would turn out, in traditional Thai summer 42 degree heat. As the Thais say there are three seasons in Thailand: hot, hotter and hottest. We arrived in the hottest season and I got sweaty in areas I didn’t even know could get sweaty. It was glorious (the weather, not the sweating)!

11186813_539686462837436_770524207_n

I was really lucky to be travelling with some of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the fashion biz: corset maker Ian Wallace who is just one of the most warm-hearted people ever as well as being founder of atelier The Whitechapel Workhouse and chief costume designer for Immodesty Blaise. Bryde Gordon, whose hilarity literally had me laughing the whole trip and is definitely the headwear designer for my theoretical next wedding (her eye for floral headgear is exquisite). May Wong who was effortlessly chic, lovely and talented and does the most incredible things with upcycled textiles. And not forgetting our wonderful TAT representative Bee, who just made the whole trip for us all (and happily answered my millions of questions).

On the ‘cotton’ leg of the trip were designers and founders of wonderful Kenyan-based business The Basket Room Camilla and Holly, textile genius Rose Sharp Jones and fellow blogger Jessica.

It was brilliant to be surrounded by so much happiness and creativity for the week and definitely got me through the pain of travelling and jetlag.

IMG_2986

I didn’t ‘do’ the travelling thing when I was younger and it’s something I’ve learned I really love now I’m a little older. This trip was many things to me – we slept minimally but I came home with a head and heart full of knowledge, peace and love (I’m basically a hippy now) and I’m so thankful for TAT for choosing me to experience all these wonderful things. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Now we’re back and almost over this jet lag it’s my job to write about this wonderful country and I can’t wait to experience it all over again in my pictures and words. The food, the culture, the people, the history… Thailand, I will be back for you.

What I Packed For Thailand (PS: see you in a week!)

What to pack for Thailand

When you read this I will be in Thailand. THAILAND.

I’ve never been to Thailand before so when I had an email a few weeks ago from Tourism Thailand asking, “hey, fancy week in our beautiful country?” I said nothing but HELL TO THE YES. A trip to Malaysia with my parents 7 years ago still goes down in history as the best holiday EVER so I obviously jumped on the chance to go back to Asia. Because THAILAND.

And then I needed a  new passport which took forever (translation: 2.5 weeks), was away from the babies for a week and the chicken pox happened and it was so hard when I left them on Thursday. Elfie wept and wept as I walked out the door and Hux spent the day asking if he could come on my trip and ugh, those beauties.

But sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and in the interest of expanding my mind this week I have to take a trip to Thailand and come back a well-rounded, cultured and suntanned individual. They will adore the week with their grandparents and, you know what, spending time away from the kids when I’m not at home is about 80% easier than when I’m able to go into their bedroom and sniff their pillows (it happens, you get me).

What to pack for Thailand

Tourism Thailand are taking a small group of fashion designers and media (that’ll be me then) on a cultural journey, starting in Bangkok and going all the way up to North East Thailand, to Surin. We’re going on ‘The Silk Trail’ – discovering traditional Thai crafts including silk weaving and dyeing, visiting a Handicrafts village and seeing everything this beautiful region has to offer. It’s going to be fantastic and you can follow along over on Instagram and Twitter; we’ll be using the hashtags #DiscoverThainess and #ThaiAcademy3 (sorry in advance for the spam).

But northern Thailand means domestic flights, and domestic flights means a luggage limit of 15kg. I am the girl who couldn’t take less than seven pairs of shoes for three days in Amsterdam so packing light is something I’ve literally never achieved. But by god, this time I think I’ve got it.

I HATE packing, hate it. Nothing more boring than packing. But this time I’ve worked really hard on it; rather than chucking everything I own in a suitcase and hoping for the best I’ve decided to plan, plan, plan. I’ve stuck to a palette of mostly grey, blue, white and black so that everything matches, with colour from my new cross-body bag (John Lewis – the perfect size for phone/passport/money), some necklaces and a SCRUNCHIE (I’ll try everything once).

Enjoy your guided tour around my suitcase:

What to pack for Thailand

3x short dresses – mine are from GAP, Billabong and a great tie-dye number from ASOS. The weather is going to get up to 38 degrees when we’re there and with all the sightseeing we’ll be doing I think I’ll need dresses that are comfy.

LBD – Ted Baker. For anything formal.

What to pack for Thailand

2x long dresses – for evenings or when I need to cover up more. Another tie-dye one from Primark and this current season lace detail maxidress from Forever 21.

2x jean shorts – There’s nothing I like more than a pair of denim shorts, and both of mine have been made by ex-favourite pairs of jeans, one Levis and one GAP. The secret is to use a pair that are a couple of sizes too big. Max comfort.

What to pack for Thailand

Vest tops – I have multiple versions from Zara, H&M, Aubin & Wills and American Apparel. Who doesn’t need a million vest tops?

Tshirts – One ‘boyfriend’ style (ASOS), one stripey top from H&M and a breton stripe from Boden because nobody does breton better.

Hat – obvs. This is from M&S men’s section.

Shoes – THREE PAIRS!! OK, four, as I’m wearing one. Birkinstocks and Havaianas, espadrilles as we’re visiting a couple of areas that require covered feet and my favourite go-with-everything wedges.

Trousers – I got these amazing ‘holiday trousers’ from Zara (my name, not theirs) and I love them. They’ll do me for night and evening.

What to pack for Thailand

What to pack for Thailand

Beauty-wise I’ve again gone really pared-down; miniature shampoo and conditioner (Soap and Glory is my favourite for these), and The Body Shop’s serum-in-oil and Vitamin E cream that will do me for morning and evening. A small bottle of Kiehl’s moisturiser to act as aftersun, Clinique moisturiser for my hand luggage and Bumble & Bumble’s sea salt spray to control my curly hair (I’ve left my GHD’s at home. PROUD). For make-up I’m going really simple with a Clinique foundation and concealer, bronzer, chubby eye stick, BeneFit’s They’re Real mascara, a brown eyeshadow, Clinique blusher, Rimmel eyebrow pencil and NARS lipstick.

After all this I literally felt like I might have a nervous breakdown but all this came to 11.6KG. BOOM! I’ve never gotten below 20 so for me this is momentous.

Packing: stressful or walk in the (holiday) park?

Half Term Happenings: South Bank

Half Term at SouthbankIt’s half term: are you climbing the walls yet?

I took a trip to South Bank in London a couple of weeks ago to seek out the best of the holiday activities this February to help us chase the boredom away. If you’ve never been here with your children before you really should – there’s a wonderful programme of events with activities from children 0+, so there’s really something for everyone!

Here’s my pick of what’s going on at Southbank:

Children take over the Southbank Centre for two weeks in February for the spectacular Imagine Children’s Festival (9-22 February). Catch readings from authors like Russell Brand and Judith Kerr and celebrate Alice in Wonderland’s 150th Anniversary with dancing, dressing up and croquet. Under 5’s can join in with Baby Yoga, Move & Shake and two shows from Half Moon Young People’s Theatre.

See London like never before – from a duck, with London Duck Tours!Start on a road tour of the City of Westminster, taking in sights like the Houses of Parliament, Coca-Cola London Eye and Big Ben before slipping into the Thames to see the city from the water. All this on a historic vehicle used for the D-day landings in 1944.

Get involved at IWM London for a free family printing activity. Have a go at drawing your favourite piece of art from the current exhibition – Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War – and transfer your design into a print you can keep. Print it: Truth and Memory is on from 14-22 February.

Wallace and Gromit/Chicken Run fan? Take part in the Aardman Messy Time for the Very Young (17-19 February), a programme of workshops atBFI Southbank, that truly do offer something for everyone. With activities from age 0 to 14 you can choose from Claymation, film making, messy play or creative crafts.

gilrays

Gillray’s, London Marriott County Hall, achieved what I thought was almost impossible: it’s a wonderful lunch (or dinner) destination for both children and their discerning parents. Spotting three families dining on our last trip here, the kids will love the ream of colouring-in sheets they’re presented with, the special kids eat free menu (proper food only: not an orange fish finger in sight) and the wonderfully friendly staff. Adults won’t be able to get enough of the gorgeous steaks, exemplary wine list and riverside location. Gillray’s really is a star on the South Bank.

Have a budding Marine Biologist in your family? Dive in and be wowed by the fascinating creatures of the deep at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium.  Fun for all, get as close as you dare to Sand Tiger Sharks, Black Tips and Grey Reefs – without getting wet!

Thank you ever so much for everyone at Southbank for inviting me down – you can see the original article over on their website

MTT Does Paxos

IMG_7754

There are many ways one can start a holiday at an airport. A leisurely stroll round duty free, a cooked breakfast (with a beer… cos once you’re through security it doesn’t count), a nice sit down in an executive lounge.

What you DON’T want is a one and a half hour check-in queue (thanks, Monarch) followed by security discovering TNT (traces of) in your handbag, delaying you further for half an hour, i.e. fifteen minutes before your flight leaves.

For one I’m glad I didn’t book the executive lounge for breakfast as we would have had only 3 seconds to enjoy it as I legged it through the departure lounge 15 minutes before we were due to take off… a walk that was supposed to take 25 minutes (gate number 25 is FAR AWAY at Gatwick South). I made it, nearly vomiting, but I made it.

IMG_7762

And the TNT? They let me off but only after a pretty thorough interview, a full body tap-down and the realisation that I’d cleaned my phone screen at the same time as my work computer and those chemicals were probably the culprit. I got a bit of a telling off (don’t tell jokes to airport security) and was made to throw my phone case away but with a couple of minutes to spare I was on my flight to Preveza, Greece. Thank god.

IMG_7774

IMG_7776

When we were looking at a place to go away, man friend wanted somewhere totally relaxing, quiet and beautiful. He was itching to go to Italy but I threw the Greek Islands out there: having spent a few holidays on a tiny island towards the north of Greece I knew how unspoilt they could be. After a bit (A LOT) of research we settled on Paxos, part of Paxi, the smallest group of Ionian islands.

One of the reasons Paxos remains so beautifully quiet and rowdy tourist-free is the effort it takes to get there. We flew out of Gatwick to tiny Preveza, and from there were taken on an hour long bus journey to the port town of Parga. The ferry from Parga to Paxos is another hour, and from there we picked up our jeep and happily followed our landlady for the week up to our villa near the hamlet of Magazia.

IMG_7778

IMG_7783

Paxos has three main villages; Gaios (where you’ll find the largest port), Loggos and Lakka. The island is only 8 miles in length so you can drive between them all in minutes on the road system. It’s worth noting that if you use Google Maps to navigate (as I did) the super steep dirt tracks around the island show up the same as the tarmac ones, which definitely made for some interesting journeys.

IMG_7835

IMG_7824

Oh, and put a drop pin to situate your villa on your map. It’s easier than you think to get lost on such a small island when you don’t have your villa’s address!

We booked through Ionian and Aegan Island Holidays who were great. By being disorganized and booking only a fortnight before we went we managed to save about £600 on the list price of the villa, and their private transfer from the airport to the island was fantastic with English-speaking reps there every step of the way.

We stayed at Villa Ita which was situated at one of the highest points of the island. It was a lovely two-bedroomed villa with its own private pool and absolutely astounding views. While perfect for two grown ups I will say that it wouldn’t have been suitable for those who find hills or steps a struggle, and probably for children either (sheer drops a go-go). One thing I love about Greece is the rustic charm; our villa had this in spades and was very comfortable, just don’t expect five star luxury.

IMG_7861

IMG_7841

 Erimitis

The beaches in Paxos are mostly rocky but the calm sea means they’re perfect for swimming – just watch out for Sea Urchins! We visited a few of them – one of my favourites actually being just off the busy port of Gaios with plenty of people watching to be done. One of the absolute best things about the holiday was that I was able to swim in the sea every day, something I think is so good for the soul. Hashtag Hippy.

IMG_7865

You better believe that I had a pretty big interest in the food on the island. I’m a huge fan of Greek food and happily munched on Melitzanosalata (aubergine dip) and Greek salads each and every lunch time. My favourite restaurant was Vassilis Taverna in Loggos; I loved their Chargrilled Octopus with split pea puree and their Lamb and Orzo dish was to die for. The best views (and fanciest meal) was had at Erimitis which is a must-do for a bit of romance and if you’re looking for an excellent pizza with a beer and table service while you relax on the beach then head to Ben’s Bar. Roxi bar in Loggos is also a prime relaxation spot with a terrace that is perfect for sea and yacht-gazing. Beautiful. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there and everyone spoke wonderful English and was thoroughly charming.

IMG_7799

IMG_7814

I reckon a car is a must-have for getting around Paxos and we had the most brilliant open-top Jeep but a boat is even better: nothing beats flying through the waves like James Bond (ahem) to discover and swim in your own private cove. You can rent boats locally at one of the main villages.

Despite missing the children more than I ever expected Paxos was an absolutely spectacular place to visit and I’d return in a heartbeat. I returned home relaxed, rejuvenated and more than ever determined to have a future adventure living by the sea.

Where have you been this summer?