Bvilla + spa, Seminyak – June 2015

The experience starts way before our arrival. Cute little sign offs from the welcome emails to prepare us for our stay ‘b ready’. One might say they are a bit cheesy, but every email reminds me that i am one step closer to villa heaven so i really don’t mind.

The experience gets better when the included transfer van picks up our group and weaves through the back streets of Seminyak – close enough to get to all the essential services, but far enough not to hear all the hustle and bustle of the main drag. The hotel is secluded and private – exactly what you want from your villa. We were led down a frangipani lined footpath, simple concrete walls with villas hidden on each side.  The giant wooden door at the entrance to our villa swing open to display the most beautifully simple villa, with the lap pool taking centre position and begging you to pop in for a dip.  The beautiful frangipani trees sheds its flowers and leaves around and into the pool which must be a bitch for the cleaners, but as a guest it is quite a lovely sight.

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The three bedrooms  are massive with high ceilings, complete with a small dressing room and large open bathroom. The dark marble concrete bath is so long that even the tall man can sit comfortably (a world first). Fresh flowers give it a homely touch, in actual fact the home i would love to live in rather than my own pokey one back home. Elegant leather boxes with all the amenities you need, and large refillable bottles of products which makes perfect sense. I love me a tiny bottle of shampoo, but how much better is it to have a quality product in the quantity that you desire? And much less wasteful and better for the environment. Yes hotels of the world, this is a “do the right thing for the environment” action i can get behind rather than the reuse the towels to save a polar bear. HINT: i will ALWAYS take a fresh towel because i don’t have to do laundry.

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The shared living space is open and airy, the only downfall being the beautifully designed furniture is not that comfortable to laze around on. But when you are so busy swimming, eating and lying on the sun beds, it is not that much of a drama to go to bed at 8pm and watch tv there. Each room has its on TV, and is air conditioned and mosquito free, an added bonus in the Bali climate. After staying in hotel rooms i wasn’t aware of how bad the mosquitos were at night, so out came the industrial strength mosquito repellant and less time in the open communal areas of the villa.

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The service is of course amazing when you have your own personal butler to assist us on every whim. From welcome drinks to breakfast cooked for us in the villa? Check. Too lazy to go out for dinner, but a craving for vietnamese rice paper rolls? check. In room massages…..daily….check. One could get used to this. This one could get very used to this, so much so that it is a great disappointment to leave and get back to our normal non villa, non bali lifestyle. Until i can book my next holiday that is…..

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Stay here if you love
– your own butler.
– An oasis away from the action to just relaaaaaax
– value for money
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Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana – June 2015

Arriving late in the night, bleary eyed and confused after a short (but long flight due to first overseas flight for our toddler). Said overtired toddler is camped on my hip and i get an overwhelming feeling of being ripped off by cab drivers and ATMs from the moment we touched down. The taxi ride is thankfully short and as we weave through the darkness of the Rimba/Ayana grounds we can smell the luxury. The staff open our taxi door and present us (including bub) with frangipani lei’s and a fruit cocktail, resetting our impression of Bali in an instant. Arriving at night robs us of the opportunity of viewing our surroundings, but as it was a significant drive from the property entry to the hotel we know that this is one amazing resort.

Sister of the famous Ayana, Rimba is much more modern and fresh compared to the more traditional and old school luxury of Ayana. Staying at either hotel means you can take the shuttle every 10 mins and cover the whole property including six pools, waterfront spa, cocktails bars and a range of restaurants covering every cuisine. The property is massive and worth exploring – 90 hectares in total, running all the way down to Jimbaran Bay. The lush gardens and manicured lawns are a testament to the large contingent of gardening staff busy at work every day behind the scenes. High up in the mountains, Rimba is split over many levels, providing ample vantage points to take in the scenery or the people watching. And boy is that amusing – the amount of selfie sticks reached critical level on this holiday.

Taking the shuttle down to Ayana, it is all about old school luxury. Beautiful sandstone stairs lead down to a huge outdoor dining space and outdoor pool. Overlooking the Indian ocean, it is incredibly peaceful to stare out and get lost in your thoughts – kind of wishing you were swimming in it, but then happy to have a full service bar at your fingertips. Staff bring around your drink orders and constantly offer free snacks which i cannot refuse.

The time to be at Ayana however is at sunset. Drives of tourists flock to the clifftop bar and the more impressive Rock bar. With a toddler it was never going to happen for us, but a quick peek past the big line of eager drinkers displays an amazing bar with arguably one of the best drinking views you could ask for. A pretty special treat, and one i would be keen to return and try…..rather than just wistfully stare at.

pools pools pools

pools pools pools

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But let’s get to my main priority on a summer holiday – the pool. Oh the pools. Six in total, we managed to try at least four and no matter where you were they were so oversized that it never felt crowded. Beautiful daybeds and mini rooms in the shade means that you can be secluded from all the “stresses” of holiday life. Pool chairs IN THE POOL were blowing my mind, meaning i never had to chose between tanning and swimming as i was basically doing both at the same time. My only gripe was that the waterslide was only for kids. And that our kid was not big enough to enjoy it solo. As i am a giant child i was gutted i couldn’t have a go, but live and learn.

And my other main holiday squeeze – overeating. The breakfast buffet was not cheap, but beyond amazing. Understandlng their guests meant that what was on offer could satisfy even the most fussiest traveller, with traditional Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and American style breakfast dishes all displayed for the eyes bigger than your stomach breakfast diner. There was even a PASTRY ROOM. that was the end of me, a room with a never-ending supply of tasty treats, cakes, muffins, Indonesian sweets that all needed to be sampled and led to what i feel could be self-inflicted diabetes.

GIMG_3600etting to the rooms – the rooms are a little disco, and a lot of luxury. The decor is modern and a bit blingy which while it doesn’t really suit the beach atmosphere, i actually loved it. The standard rooms have a giant circular spa tub and a complicated shower with a rain shower head, normal shower head and not a very straight forward way of turning it all on.

IMG_3605IMG_3602The bed is comically oversized – the biggest king size bed since we first stayed in Claska Tokyo (the famed two large double beds pushed together in perfect harmony). It may require a loud-speaker to talk to my partner, but the space is heavenly.

Our room had a great daybed and balcony – not much of a view as we were in one of the cheaper rooms, but i was happy with the greenery and the local friendly cows outside. IMG_3611

lobby

The lobby is a must see, sunset is best where they roll out a violinist to play out on the edge of the pool. No joke.

sunset in the lobby

sunset in the lobby

And lastly, a big shout out to the staff. So kind and considerate to us with a toddler in tow, but nowi really get why so many Aussies bring their families here. The kids are treated like royalty, everyone stops to say hello and ask their name. And getting a signed farewell card on our last day at breakfast was just too much.

Stay here if you like

– insane luxury
– express entry to the rock bar
– incredibly friendly and organised staff

Walamba House, Pearl beach – July 2014

The fireplace. It was all about the fireplace. Five adults, one baby, cold weather. It was always going to be about the fireplace.

For a quick weekend away, you can’ beat the central coast. We found our way back there again, this time in winter, to have a different beachside break. I love the idea of a winter escape in the countryside, but somehow i always manage to find myself back near the water. My fear of floral bed speeds sent me running from the hills (or more precisely the blue mountains) and not wanting to travel more than an hour out of Sydney we settled on Pearl Beach.

Photo from Stayz.com

Photo from Stayz.com

We stumbled upon Walamba House after a quick stayz search, and as we were travelling with a few mates it was a perfect size and price. The house is warm and inviting with a large open dining, kitchen and lounge area perfect for entertaining. The layout and decor was simple, modern and stylish – a holiday house i would happily call my own. The owners popped the heaters on before our arrival which i thought was the most kindest gesture ever. Once we got sorted, it was straight to the fireplace where city hipsters become experts in wood preparation, fire starting and maintenance. The log fire was burning all weekend long, anchoring the house and providing something more interesting to watch than the tv.

The three bedrooms were decent sized, with one specifically set up for kids which i filed away for future reference. Super dense, thick mattresses that envelope you like a giant hug as you settle in for the evening..:: that is once you have already fallen asleep on the comfy couch in front of the fire. Yes I could get used to this. The linen and decor were sweet and homely – not outdated and “leftover” like many holiday houses on the coast can be. However, we found out Pearl Beach is considered the Double Bay of the Central Coast so it was not surprising.

Given the cold weather we spent most of our time in front of the fire, however when we did venture outdoors we found a backyard which backs straight onto bushland with some furry friends. Apparently the local bush turkeys were very keen on the delicious BBQ we had the night before and were hoping for some leftovers. Leaving the house, the beach is only a short walk away, with a local grocer, coffee shop and restaurant along the water which would have been great if we had not brought half of the Meat Emporium’s contents with us from Sydney. Meat sweats is an understatement.

All in all, a perfect weekend away, making a mental note to return in the warmer months…

Walamba House
http://www.pearlbeachhouse.com/

Crowne Plaza Terrigal – April 2014

First trip away with the small person. It was always going to be a big deal, but what i was not ready for was her first 8 hour straight sleep the night before resulting in feeling like i had more energy than a million cans of red bull. I could have probably run all the way to Terrigal. So in other words, things were off to a good start.

The Central Coast is always a convenient Sydney weekend break, and the Anzac day long weekend was the perfect trial of first family getaway. The drive was easy, the hotel large and family friendly. Those last words still make me shudder, the boutique hotel lady inside me cringing at the thought that i will need to change my travel patterns and preferences. But fear not, it will only be for a short time and i will sure as hell find the most beautiful and luxurious family places if that’s what i have to do.

The Crowne Plaza is on the main street along the waterfront and is realistically the only big hotel in town. It was busy with families seeking the last of the summer sun, so the pool area was packed but manageable. The rooms come with king size beds and are spacious enough for the additional furniture now required in our room in the form of a travel cot. There were some issues setting it up, with a few different hotel staff needed to be called to figure it out (first time parents / first holiday = don’t look at us, we have no idea), but with perseverance we got there in the end. The hotel has had a refresh fairly recently so the rooms felt fresh and clean, even if the hotel corridors exposed what was previously hiding beneath.

In terms of dining, there are plenty of great options nearby, relieving us of having to ear at the hotel. In saying that, the beer garden was pumping being the Anzac Day long weekend, with cover bands ( cringe) and a fairly standard pub menu which would have suited us fine (except for the said covers bands that was just too much to bear). Local picks are Bellyfish cafe for breakfast, N Thai Sing (best name ever) for a quick thai lunch or dinner, and Rojo Rocket for the best mexican a short drive away.

Stay here if you like

– a quick drive from Sydney

– big hotel experience – i.e you have a family

http://www.crowneplazaterrigal.com.au/

The Byron at Byron – September 2013

A bit of luxury. Relaxation. Sleep ins.

That was my only plan for my babymoon to Byron Bay. Its all i wanted. What i did not anticipate because i was not inducted into the parental world was that there is this thing called school holidays, and a non parent should NEVER travel at this time. I was blindsided by my birthday and the countdown to baby so i booked my holiday without carefully consdering this fact. The Atlantic where we had been staying for a few days is kid free osi t never occured to me what a hotel would look like with children.

Now don’t get me wrong, its not like the children were particuarly bad its just that they were EVERYWHERE. Lobby check in with the most friendly and beautiful staff? Kids.Pool time with (non) alcoholic cocktails? kids. A rainforest walk on reccomendation by the hotel staff to a secluded, peaceful meditation spot? kids. I can laugh about it now as it was clearly the universe signalling that my dreamy days of boutique hotels and solo traveling was coming to an end. I just thought i would get one more opportunity to enjoy my own space.

If the hotel itself was spectacular it would have made up for this fact, but unfortunately for me it just fell a little flat. It is a giant resort, something that i am not usually a fan of, but you can guarantee to get great service from the mountain of staff running around. That part was fantastic. However, the rooms were a bit dark and outdated. The decor was a strange mix of colours and the beautiful rainforest outlook was stunning but not quite as wonderful as the bright sunshine streaming into our room at the Atlantic. The big tick went to the free standing bath which got quite a workout from this pregnant lady. It was really a mini pool and a welcome accessory to my tired body. The on site spa is apparently amazing, but i was not game enough to get a massage while pregnant and away from home (read: paranoid first mum).

All in all, the Byron at Byron was lovely – it just wasn’t us. Correction, it is probably us now that we have a bub but it was not the holiday i was bargaining for. Maybe i will need to give it another go.

The Byron at Byron

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Jet lag free holidays

This is potentially a dangerous type of article to pop up in my inbox on a Monday morning.
A further deep dive (pardon the pun, and horrible management speak) into the Ayana Resort and Spa feels like a very important priority right now.