MTT Travel: The Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, NYC

Wythe Hotel Brooklyn - review

When I booked to go to New York for my 30th birthday I knew the saying ‘Go Big Or Go Home’ would apply. Because you only get one 30th birthday and the last time I’d been in The Big Apple was mid-divorce so I thought, you know what, LET’S DO THIS.

And knowing I was visiting Williamsburg for the week there really is only one place you can Go Big Or Go Home at:

Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn – a review
Wythe Hotel Brooklyn - review

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Three Do South Bank

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Is there anything more beautiful than London in the sunshine?

Yes there is – London in the sunshine when your children are behaving like little angels!

I used to be a bit scared of bringing my beasties into town. I never quite got the hang of using the pram on the tube’s network of escalators and relying on black cabs got to be quite expensive. So I saved the journeys into London for the times when I was working or flying solo, thinking it’d be altogether a more enjoyable experience.

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But now Hux is 3 and doesn’t really need a buggy we’re about to become way more adventurous, London-wise. Starting with last Friday when we caught the train into town for a day in the sunshine.  By the time we got there I was mum number one because not only had we been on AN OMG TRAIN but then we also got to go on an OMG UNDERGROUND TRAIN. All I can say is kids, wait til you’re commuting on the 6.48 from Milton Keynes to Old St every day and we’ll see who excited about all these trains.

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Once we arrive in town we shot down on the Northern line to Waterloo to South Bank: one of my favourite areas of London that had previously been unexplored en famille. We’d been invited to the new Shrek’s Adventure experience next to the London Eye (more of which tomorrow) and were all really excited for a bit of magic. But first… lunch!

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One of my favourite things to do with my two is eat out. Scrap that – one of my favourite things to do in life is eat out, and I naturally do this a lot with children as they are so often with me. Today was no exception and I was desperate to take a trip to Wahaca – the kids had never been and I wasn’t sure what their offering for smalls would be like but I’m a big believer in introducing the children to adult dishes if there’s no menu geared towards them.

Wahaca Southbank kids menu

I didn’t need to worry, the children’s menu was spectacular with a build-your-own taco option and drink available for £5 – great value. Elfie had a great time painstakingly building her steak taco whereas Hux took more of a deconstructed attitude to his fish version and ate it piece by piece.

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Meanwhile I feasted on chicken taquitos, steak tacos and grilled corn. HAPPY MUMMY. I love Wahaca.

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We topped off our dinner with frozen yoghurts in the sunshine on the top deck of the Snog bus overlooking the Thames. It was kind of heavenly.

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As we strolled towards Shrek for our 2.30pm booking there were all sorts of exciting things to see – starting with Jeppe Hein’s appearing rooms fountain. We had no towels or spare clothes with us but it was so tempting there was nothing for it but to strip down to our pants (them not me, I’d just washed my hair) and get stuck in. It was a bit chilly for Hux who bit a swift retreat but Elfie dove in and out of the jets for absolutely ages. After we dried off in the sunshine (London, you beauty) we wandered through the street entertainers laughing and marvelling at the fun and the downright weirdness of some of them.

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The strolling the sunshine, the relaxation and laughter… it really made me reflect on where we are right now as a band of three. I didn’t feel stressed out that I had to deal with two children alone, I didn’t feel conspicuous as a single parent in a sea of families with 2.4 children, I just thought we’ve got this. We, not I, because it’s a group effort, all of this. Though these two have never known any difference they must still get The Feels over having parents living split lives in households so far away from one another.  But they don’t act out or get upset, they just understand this is our way and they potter along being amazing.

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I am so proud of them. And I can’t wait to spend many more days with these special souls in the sunshine, in the cold, in the rain (because that’s more probable, let’s be honest). South Bank in the summer is grand and with my two it is even grander.

Single Parent Summers: #SummerGoodTimes

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Being a parent when your children aren’t there is an odd thing. It happens for me every other weekend and the odd week during the summer; the kids go off to spend time down south with their dad and I’m left to my own devices.

I alternate between a couple of feelings at this time. Always very sad at the prospect of being without my two sidekicks for a few nights, almost a bit giddy at the thought of the freedom of being able to leave the house at will unencumbered by baby wipes and helicopters. And also obviously excited at getting up at a time that doesn’t constitute the middle of the night for people in their early twenties.

At the start of my single parenthood I didn’t do too much with my time off. I’d clean the house, go to the gym, do the weekly shop. But as time has gone on I’ve realised how important this me time is to my happiness. For one, being in the house alone without the kids feels downright weird and a little bit lonely and for another it’s GOOD to get out and have the experiences I may have missed out on by having kids so young.

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Which is why I’ve started travelling a bit more. In the last year I’ve seen Paris, Amsterdam and Paxos (heart eye emoji) and then I spent time in New York last month seeing friends for my birthday. I’ve been working with Boots on their #SummerGoodTime campaign which is all about making the most out of my favourite season. So when a work opportunity arose in NYC and I realise I had a childless week to fill I thought why the hell not? and grabbed myself a last minute flight back out to the big apple.

Being out here again has been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve spent a lot of time with my best friend Kirsty (a buddy who lets you share her bed is a buddy for life), hung out with people I met the last time I was here and made new friends. We’ve spent most of our time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and I truly love this place. Between the relaxed vibe, restaurants, creative people and BEAUTIFUL SUNSHINE I could definitely see myself being here. Until October and for the whole period of Winter (minus 18? I don’t think so) but, whatever.

I love the distance from home I get by being away. And spending time with someone who knows me as well as Kirsty does is worth its weight in gold; we talk about life, love, the universe (and a lot of sex apparently?). Life clarity at its finest – I always come away feeling more confident about my next steps in life and inspired for my work and goals.

Being a single parent is not anyone’s ideal situation. But I feel beyond blessed (#BLESSED – vom – but you know what I mean) that I can take these times to myself to work at being the best version of myself, to sleep and to enjoy my time without the kids. I miss them like an arm of course but I know that will make me a better parent when I’m back in the country (and, erm, over the jet lag).

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This blog has brought me some wonderful things over the years but this summer I’m thankful for the encouragement Boots have given me to make the most out of my favourite season. And it’s not over, either; I’ll be returning home to a packed full schedule of things to do with the kids… London visits, beach fun and time with our friends. Three cheers for summer!

Affordable Family Holidays in Europe

I’m starting to get to that time with my family when they’re old enough to appreciate a holiday abroad. At 3 and 5 they’ve been to a couple of different countries already – Madrid for a family wedding and our epic cruise a year or two ago – but now I’d like to show them now what foreign travel is really all about. For me it’s all experiencing different cultures, learning new languages, tasting new food. The world is our oyster (and if I get to eat oysters, well that’s just a bonus)!

So as a result of this I’ve recently spent more than my allocated time researching great value flights to a number of European destinations. Here are my top picks: let me know where you want to go!

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam may be a better choice of family holiday than you’d think. It’s a gorgeous city just made for strolling along peaceful canals, enjoying the beautiful architecture and chomping on stroopwafel with your children. The parks are plentiful and the family friendly atmosphere here is overwhelming; it’s first on my list! Don’t believe me? Have a look at the amazing experiences my friend Fritha had there recently.

Guernsey

I last visited Guernsey when I was fifteen and have been looking forward to returning since. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Britain I’ve ever been and one of the smallest – totally unique to our country. Highly recommended! Stay in St Peter Port and explore by car; it’s ok, you can thank me later ;)

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Paris

I love Paris and Elfie is slightly obsessed after receiving a LEGO model of the Eiffel tower. To be fair I think my two are a bit overwhelmingly intrigued at the prospect of a train that goes UNDER THE SEA so for ease we will definitely be flying. I can’t wait to take a trip here with them for croissant, jambon and fromage! If you fancy a Parisian jaunt I’d highly recommend the R. Kipling hotel which is in my favourite district of Pigalle; quiet, foodie and very very Parisian. Ooh la la.

Biarritz

French is the only language I speak apart from English which may well explain my preoccupation with France. Biarritz has everything to offer: the best of France pus a huge 6km of sandy beaches. Why not experience some culture plus sandcastles at the same time?

Where are you planning on flying off to this summer?

Thank-you Flybe for sponsoring MTT

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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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