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ISSUE 6 Exclusively for












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Welcome from Peter and Deborah

We’re delighted to welcome you to the highly anticipated sixth edition of Unique Magazine. Our stylish publication has been designed and developed to not only give you a taste of what to expect and what’s to come from our four luxury hotels, but to offer a laidback read while you relax with us, and to enjoy at home. In this edition, you can expect a little more of what we love, including an introduction to the newest addition to our family, Barnett Hill Hotel in Guildford, the history of the quintessentially British afternoon tea, and our much-loved flavours of the season – not forgetting our love for good food, cosy nights in and local life in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. Whether you’ve joined us at Alexander House, Rowhill Grange, Langshott Manor or Barnett Hill for an overnight stay, spa experience or dining treat, we wish you a very warm welcome and hope you enjoy your visit. PETER AND DEBORAH HINCHCLIFFE OWNERS


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Welcome to the sixth issue of Unique magazine – here’s what you’ll find inside...













delicious outdoor dining


with a Royal Warranted difference




to the Alexander Hotels family


knot in Rowhill and Langshott style




makes our menus irresistible


better time to get married outdoors




members of the AH group team


top jewellery and watch display















Seasonal summer

ingredients for your kitchen





Shake things up with

our seasonal summer cocktail

The official verdict on

20 29

Rowhill Grange’s afternoon tea offer


TEA TRADITIONS Read up on the history of the

quintessentially British meal experience



Now’s the time to enjoy

Photographer Craig Howarth

Say hello to some essential

Treat yourself to the

most rejuvenating spa therapies

Our guide to the

L’Occitane arrives in our

hotels and Utopia spas

be big for hotels going forward

Taittinger Champagne still

remains true to its heritage

Living a Vietnamese dream

in Phu Quoc’s tropical paradise

Find out how we compile

our hotels’ wonderful wine lists

Two couples tie the

There’s never been a

The return of the world’s

Check out our verdict

on the Smart ForFour Electric Drive

a friend or foe to our industry?

The rise of live chat calls

for technology to be embraced







Richard Moore

Rowena Cremer-Price Nick Moore Hannah Patterson

Predictions of what will

Are online travel agencies

hottest summer trends to snap up

Frederick Latty

and the Beast’s Disney magic

Alternative investments

Introducing the latest addition


Emma Watson on Beauty

Leanne Cleaver



Catherine de Crèvecoeur Hannah Stephenson Rebecca Chaplin Gemma Dunn 16 Lonsdale Gardens Tunbridge Wells Kent TN1 1NU 01892 779 650

Unique Magazine is published by One Media and Creative UK Ltd and distributed under agreement by Alexander Hotels. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. All prices are correct at the time of going to print. The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions relating to advertising or editorial. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent from the publisher. No responsibility is taken for unsolicited material or the return of these materials whilst in transit.


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Feast your eyes on some of our top picks for seasonal produce to enjoy over the coming months



Fresh asparagus is quick and easy to cook, making any meal feel just a little more special.


You want to remove and discard the tough, woody ends of the stalks before cooking. You can just cut them off with a knife, but what’s more fun is to use your hands to snap the stalks in two. They naturally snap at about the point where the woody part begins. Once you’ve snapped your asparagus, you can line them up and give the ends one last neat trim if you’d like.


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This fish has a distinctive iridescent skin with silver streaks, and is well-known for falling into the ‘oily’ category, making it an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. TOP TIP

As with all fish, a bright eye and shiny skin is an indication of its freshness. A mackerel should be firm to the touch, and a really fresh one won’t droop if held horizontally by the head.



Beetroots, or ‘beets’ as they’re better known, are one of those vegetables that inspire passion one way or the other; you either love them or loathe them.


Cooking or roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness, but they’re also splendid in their raw state, peeled, grated and added to salads. There are three main ways to prepare beets (other than not cooking them at all), namely microwaving, cooking and roasting. If your beets come with the greens, save them and use as you would chard, which they greatly resemble.


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Venison is a red meat, similar to beef, but leaner and with a slightly richer taste. It’s increasingly popular in the UK for its distinctive flavour and high protein content. TOP TIP

Oil the meat, not the pan! When grilling, barbecuing or pan-frying steaks, first brush each side of the meat with a little oil, before searing for one minute each side.



Although not juicy, the fig is an incredibly luscious fruit, with a delicate aroma and sweet flavour. Originally from Asia, figs are now grown across the Mediterranean, and there are hundreds of different varieties, grouped into four main colours – white, green, red and purple/black. TOP TIP

Go for plump figs that feel soft (but not too liquid), with no bruising or splits. At the peak of their ripeness, they’ll have a faint bloom. If they smell sour, they’re past their best.


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Shake things up and add a dash of flavour to your summer with this delightful seasonal cocktail


llow us to introduce you to the ‘Rose Garden’ cocktail, masterminded by our very own Mulberry restaurant manager, Joszef Csato, who wanted to showcase sherry as the main element, since he personally finds it to be a very versatile ingredient to use. Sherry first became a popular choice in Great Britain during the 1587 takeover of Spanish seaport Cadiz, from which Sir Francis Drake brought back 2,700 barrels that were due to be exported from Spain;

this action helped to popularise the drink in the British Isles. Most commonly known as a fortified wine and drank traditionally from a ‘copita’ glass, sherry is fast becoming an ingredient of choice for summer-themed cocktails. Joszef recommends this infusion for anyone who enjoys taking the ‘dare’ card rather than the ‘truth’ card; not appropriate for novice cocktail drinkers, but guests who like to experiment with strong flavours!

2 tablespoons of berry compote 30ml cream 25ml amontillado sherry 10ml crème de menthe 20ml Cointreau


Add all of the ingredients to a Boston cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain and sieve after shaking into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and dried rose petals and enjoy!


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Afternoon Delights Frederick Latty samples the cream tea tradition against the backdrop of Rowhill Grange Hotel and Utopia Spa


s a journalist, every once in a while I’m fortunate enough to write reviews of hotels, spas and restaurants that I could scarcely otherwise afford. Luxurious, indulgent and truly unforgettable, these pampered excursions really are something to write home about. Luckily for me, it’s all in a day’s work as part of my oh-so-strenuous day job. So, when I’m called upon for a write-up of the afternoon tea offering at Rowhill Grange, I naturally stop what I’m doing, don my finest threads and head on over to the 19th-century manor house in Wilmington, stopping only to pick up my heavily pregnant friend and dining companion on the way, who’s already ‘shotgunned’ the experience, much to our friendship group’s collective dismay. Rowhill is one of those places that immediately make you feel at peace. Nestled in the Kent countryside, the boutique hotel boasts extensive grounds, stylish interiors, delectable dining and an award-winning spa. We’re here solely to sample the sandwiches and scones, but can’t help feeling a tinge of envy as we spot guests wandering past in their post-steam robes, positively glowing in their Zen-like states of bliss. Still, onwards and upwards, as we take our seats in the beautifully furnished afternoon tea lounge. The seats are so comfy that my

mother-to-be friend jokingly voices her concerns – how, in her condition, can she possibly be expected to vacate her chair later on, when she’s carrying a food baby on top of everything else? She’s not the only one to worry, as I assure her that I’ll no doubt have just as much trouble. Taking in our surroundings, I can hear the hustle and bustle of fellow diners at varying stages of their meals, all equally content. Light music plays overhead, while a stream of sunlight from outside lights up the room, making the whole occasion all the more enchanting. Waiting staff meander hither and thither, filling up cups, refilling glasses and replenishing condiments whenever needed. The tea itself is magnificent. My guest opts for a pot of Earl Grey, me for black coffee (sacrilege, I know), accompanied by a mountain of sandwiches, scones and cakes that we can only hope taste as good as they look. Fortunately, they far exceed expectations – egg mayonnaise, classic cucumber, ham and mustard and salmon, horseradish and lemon are the orders of the day, kicking things off perfectly. Moving up a level on the tiered tower, we’re treated to two sizeable scones apiece, coupled with generous helpings of clotted cream and jam. Now for the age-old question – cream or jam first? Personally, I take the Devonshire

approach, lathering my portion of cream over the warm cake, before adding a dollop of jam on top. Honestly, I’ll never fathom people who insist on the opposite approach. I’m always surprised at how filling afternoon tea can be. All of those nibbles and bites soon add up to a sizeable meal, so before we embark on the third and final leg of our culinary journey, we take a tactical break to sit back, relax and digest. More tea and coffee is poured as we chat and catch up, the gorgeous array of cakes at the top only tempting us further all the while. Soon enough, we’re ready to jump back in and devour all that remains of our meal. Each morsel is as delicious as the last (the carrot cake is a strong favourite), and we’re both utterly stuffed by the time we’re finished. As expected, it turns out my friend wasn’t kidding about the chair – comparatively un-pregnant, I still find it tricky to muster the energy or inclination to move, let alone get up and leave. But depart we must, and as we say our farewells to Rowhill and head back to the car, we’re once again surrounded by the robe-adorned, dreamy-eyed spa users, both of us making mental notes to come back soon and test out the facilities for ourselves. For now, though, we’re more than happy to have received such a warm welcome for this most quintessentially English of pastimes.

Priced from £21.95 per person, afternoon tea at Rowhill Grange is served daily from 12.30pm to 5.30pm. To book a table, reserved for up to two hours, call 01322 615 136.


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Taste of Tradition Join us as we delve into the culinary archives to find out more about the history of afternoon tea


fternoon tea is one of the most quintessentially English customs. This summer, we’re celebrating with a tour into the history of the delightful tradition, and how it’s becoming ever more popular. Tea itself has been a widespread afternoon drink since the 1600s, but afternoon tea is a surprisingly new pastime, having been introduced to England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. More houses became able to remain cost-effectively lit until the late evening, meaning the nightly meal was taken fashionably later and later. The Duchess found herself complaining of ‘having that sinking feeling’ in the gap between lunch and dinner, and requested that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. Later, friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, to delight in afternoon tea, which proved so popular that the Duchess continued the tradition when she returned to London. Word spread during the

1880s, and afternoon tea soon became a fashionable event, where upper-class and society women would change into glamorous gowns, gloves and hats for the occasion. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria engaged in the ritual that it became a formal custom on a larger scale, known as ‘tea receptions’, where as many as 200 guests with an open ‘at home’ invitation could visit between 4pm and 7pm – the genesis of afternoon tea as we now know it. ‘Tea rooms’ were all the rage in the late 19th century, quickly becoming the place for meeting friends and sharing gossip. They were also considered one of the few respectable places for women to meet without a chaperone, so the out-of-home afternoon tea took off like a social network. Music was eventually added, and fashionable young people attended afternoon tea dances in the most stylish of hotels, a practice that continued until the Second World War. Afternoon tea is also known as ‘low’ tea, and was traditionally served to the upper classes at

around four o’clock, just before the fashionable promenade in Hyde Park. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial ‘high’ tea later in the day, at five or six o’clock, in place of a late dinner. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, high tea being presented at the dinner table. Nearly 200 years on from the Duchess of Bedford’s innovation, afternoon tea is as popular as ever, with venues across the country offering the chance to delight in the tradition. Here at Alexander Hotels, we’ve chosen to embrace the famous meal, while also adopting modern European influences within our cakes and pastries, often changing them to encourage the use of seasonally grown products. All four of our award-winning hotels offer traditional and Champagne afternoon teas, served within one of our beautifully appointed lounges, restaurants, or, in the warmer months, al fresco on the terrace within the gorgeous gardens.

To view our menus or book afternoon tea online, please visit 17

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Teatime on the terrace For the ultimate summertime treat, why not spoil your loved ones with a decadent culinary experience outdoors?



The newest addition to the Alexander Hotels family, Barnett Hill, holds a prime location in the stunning Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Splendour resonates from this former home of Frank Cook, grandson of renowned travel agent Thomas Cook. Barnett Hill is now the perfect location to treat your loved ones to a delicious dining experience, including our much-loved traditional afternoon tea offering.


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Overlooking 120 acres of grounds, this luxury manor house is complemented by scented blooms and fresh greenery, presenting a superb dining experience with stunning views of the Sussex countryside. Our newly awarded, two-AA Rosette Reflections restaurant sits within the heart of the lovingly maintained building, boasting a seasonal menu that uses locally sourced and sustainable produce, delivering outstanding flavour and experience. Within the restaurant is a heavenly outdoor courtyard, which can only be described as a dreamy ‘suntrap’, with rays of sunshine adorning the already intimate and relaxing courtyard.


Nestled within a beautifully maintained 15 acres of grounds and gardens, our 19th-century manor house is the perfect countryside retreat. Boasting the stunning two-Rosette RG’s restaurant, which has direct access to a lovingly cared-for front terrace with views to the grounds, it really is the perfect spot to enjoy your seasonal dinner, lunch or afternoon tea with friends and family.


Welcome to Langshott Manor, an exquisite four-red star hotel in Surrey. This remarkable venue blends classic character with contemporary and well-thought design. Luxury is fragrant throughout the 16th-century hotel, with dining options designed to spoil you. Lovingly thought of by locals and foodie lovers alike is Mulberry restaurant, which sits in the heart of the hotel, with direct access to a stunning three acres of gardens and moat with resident ducks. If you dream about whiling away those dull afternoons, there’s no better option than relaxing in manicured gardens, watching the wildlife.


Can there be a more wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon than by relaxing on the terrace or grounds of an Alexander Hotel, with a cup of tea or a glass of bubbly and a traditional afternoon tea? Along with great tradition, Alexander Hotels have strived to bring you something truly indulgent, which is why, if you choose to visit us, you’ll be spoiled for choice by our afternoon tea selections, including traditional, Champagne and cream tea. We can’t think of a reason not to... For our current prices and to book a delicious dining experience, please visit or give the gift of afternoon tea with one of our gift vouchers.


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HEIGHT of LUXURY Introducing Barnett Hill Hotel, the newest addition to the Alexander Hotels family


e’re delighted to introduce to you the newest addition in our portfolio, Barnett Hill Country House Hotel, located near Guildford, Surrey. Originally owned and managed as a conference facility, Barnett Hill is a beautifully inspired, Queen Anne-style property, located within the remarkable Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Barnett Hill was purchased in September 2016, with a focus on developing the venue into a luxury leisure destination. We’re now delighted to announce that developments on the main hotel building are complete, and thrilled to share our progress with you. Our newly refurbished rooms and suites have been designed with our guests’ comfort as a priority. For us, providing a truly luxurious

experience is bringing the comforts of home to a cool atmosphere, where inspiring design, cutting-edge fabrics and modern lighting marry together in a haven of pure relaxation. Each bedroom and public space you enter will fill you with excitement and, dare we say it, a little ‘sexiness’. Oozing personal touches, each design element and piece of furniture is hand-picked by us to deliver the ‘ultimate guest experience’. The hotel will now offer 54 bedrooms, all of which have a distinctive characteristic, reflecting the bond between historic charm and modernday comfort. Guests can expect an excellent night’s sleep on our handmade beds, with the finest Egyptian cotton and tailor-made pillows. Overnight residents will be able to access a variety of in-room and hotel amenities, including


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24-hour room service, cosy bathrobes and slippers and complimentary Wi-Fi, as well as a selection of lifestyle magazines and books, L’Occitane toiletries, Nespresso coffee machines, and acres of beautifully manicured grounds and gardens to explore. Taking a stroll through the property, guests will be able to enjoy pre-dinner drinks in our newly refurbished lounge, before moving into the recently developed hotel restaurant, serving seasonally inspired dishes with a strong philosophy on locally sourced ingredients. Throughout your visit, whether it’s an overnight escape or dining experience, you’ll be served by our passionate and inspiring team, who strive to deliver a memorable experience for all the right reasons! Great service beats through the hearts of our team, for whom polite conversation, asking guests to sample new cocktail ideas and developing relationships defines a unique approach to the guest experience, where nothing is ever too much trouble.


The quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea is a dining experience much loved by all of our visitors, and Barnett Hill is fast becoming a destination for delicious experiences within Guildford and the surrounding Surrey county. Please visit us online to view our afternoon tea menu and to book. We recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment. For more information on overnight leisure escapes, dining experiences or afternoon tea bookings, please visit


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HERO of the DISH Food photographer Craig Howarth explains why capturing the perfect shot requires more than just a flash in the pan So, Craig, how did you get started as a food photographer? I wanted to be a chef before getting my first camera and going to art school to study photography. My grandfather and great grandfather were both bakers, so food has always been very close. Talk us through your creative process when capturing your food shots I want the final dish to look as appetising as possible in the photograph, and achieve this with

subtle light changes, plus the editing/processing of the file afterwards. For me, the most important part of each shot/dish is working out what’s the hero of the dish, then finding that perfect angle to set that off the best. This is then tweaked and boosted by the lighting. What appealed to you about working with Alexander Hotels from a foodie perspective? I love working with venues and chefs that are as passionate about the food as me, and AH certainly are that, with each menu I’ve

photographed being more adventurous and keeping ahead of food trends. This is what sets them apart. The food design and venue as the backdrop complement each other beautifully. Do you have any favourite foods to photograph? Over the last 22 years, we’ve shot pretty much everything, however my favourite is always something different in the dish. On my most recent shoot with AH, we had smoking hay on the plate to add a scent experience to the dining adventure, and molecular cooking is always great to photograph. Craig Howarth is the owner of SeaAitch Food Photography, providing creative solutions for food service, packaging and manufacturing clients. To find out more, visit


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Meet the Team Here’s where we introduce some of the key members of the Alexander Hotels family

ELLIE ROXBURGH Marketing executive at Alexander Hotels Length of service: 16 months What do you love most about your job? Being in marketing means that every day is different, which keeps my role exciting. I love being able to get involved with all aspects, from posting on social media, to creating hotel collateral and directing photo shoots. My favourite part of the job would definitely be the design side; I love being able to let my creativity run free. Tell us about your proudest moment to date As cheesy as it may sound, receiving the phone call saying that I’d secured the job with Alexander Hotels was probably my proudest moment. This is my first job since graduating from university, so it’s pretty much a dream to be working here. Seeing my first brochure design in house and hearing positive feedback from both the guests and other staff were also moments that I’m very proud of. Any big plans for 2017? My sister and her boyfriend took a big leap last summer and moved out to Vietnam. I’m booked to fly out and visit them with my boyfriend, and I’m already counting down the days. My mum and other sister are also going out at the same time, so it will be a lovely reunion in the sun. I’ve also never been to Vietnam before, so can’t wait to explore the beautiful country and taste the local cuisine! Do you have a top treat from the menu? The slow-cooked sirloin of Sussex red beef! The Sunday lunch in AG’s at Alexander House is something that you simply must indulge in – truly the most delicious I’ve ever had (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!). Recommended treatment at Utopia Spa? The Kundalini Back Treatment is perfect for re-energising your body after feeling stressed and exhausted! If you could change your role for one day,

who would you swap with? I love cooking and baking at home, so I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a chef in the heat of a professional kitchen. And what’s at the top of your bucket list? Elephants are my favourite animal, and I’ve always wanted to travel to an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka, to meet and help look after the elephants. Croquet or horse riding? Croquet – it’s the perfect summer garden party game, with Pimm’s being the perfect mid-game refreshment. Sauna or steam? Sauna – if you shut your eyes, you can imagine you’re lying in the heat of the sun on a beach somewhere exotic! Monsoon shower or two-person bathtub? Monsoon shower – nothing else can be so refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Scrabble or Monopoly? Scrabble – Monopoly can get a bit too dangerously competitive! Mojito or Cosmopolitan? Mojito – nothing more refreshing in the summer. Cheese or chocolate? Both! They’re essential components of a balanced diet if you ask me! Facial or massage? Massage – the ultimate in top-to-toe pampering. Afternoon tea or Sunday lunch? In the summer months, I’d have to go for an indulgent al fresco afternoon tea in the sunshine.


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JESS FARLEY Senior spa therapist at Utopia Spa, Alexander House, and recent winner of ‘ila Therapist of the Year’ Length of service: Three years What’s the best part of your job? I love providing great treatments to our guests and talking to them about products. With over eight years’ experience in the beauty industry, I’m extremely passionate about delivering our treatments to a very high standard. Combining my passion for delivering top treatments with the excellent products we offer helps to make guests feel very happy and relaxed.

Who would you trade jobs with for a day? I wouldn’t want to swap with anybody! I love my job and being part of Utopia Spa, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

How about your proudest moment so far? It has to be the day I was told I’d been named ila Therapist of the Year for 2016. After working extremely hard on both my ila treatments and product knowledge, and having performed ila treatments on both journalists and ila reps, I’ve developed a great passion for the brand, so was overwhelmed by this exciting news. I love all ila treatments and skincare products, and the thought of being an ambassador for them just feels incredible.

Croquet or horse riding? Horse riding, as I used to be a jumper.

Do you have much planned for 2017? I’m excited to keep learning new treatments and improving my skills and knowledge. I’m also in the process of planning my wedding, as I’m getting married next year – I’m so excited! And your biggest temptation from the menu? Afternoon tea! You can choose from the generous selection of teas from a brilliant Brighton-based company called Metro Deco, which is well-known for its fine teas from around the world. It’s also filled with delicious finger sandwiches on homemade bread, warm fruit scones and dainty homemade desserts – what’s not to love? Can you suggest a Utopia Spa treatment? The Gold Cellular Age Restore ila Facial and the ila Chakra Wellbeing Treatment, as they’re both truly wonderful.

Tell us what’s at the top of your bucket list My dream is to travel to New Zealand and Australia, to see what life is really like on the other side of the world.

Sauna or steam room? Steam room – it’s amazing for deep-cleansing the pores of my skin. Monsoon shower or two-person bathtub? Monsoon showers are bliss! Scrabble or Monopoly? Monopoly – I have to say, I’m very competitive when it comes to these kinds of games! Mojito or Cosmopolitan? Mojito. Cheese or chocolate? Tough decision, but it would have to be chocolate – or maybe both! Is that allowed? Facial or massage? Massage, as I probably need one of these more often than a facial. Afternoon tea or Sunday lunch? Afternoon tea, as you just can’t beat those dainty desserts!


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WORKOUT in the WATER Aquafitness has become a popular exercise choice for those who want to get into a fitness regime from the comfort of the pool


It’s a great cardiovascular workout, gently increasing your pulse and breathing rate, plus it’s ideal for toning. As well as being a terrific stress buster (the cool, massaging water giving you a feeling of weightlessness and wellbeing), flexibility, aerobic endurance and resistance training are likewise improved. There are different types of classes available too. From aqua Zumba and water yoga, to aqua aerobics and aqua jog, you’ll be sure to find an option that works best for you. Whatever you choose, you can expect an all-over workout from any aquafitness session, where you’ll be introduced to such specialist equipment as aqua dumbbells, kickboards and hydro discs. So, whether you’re after a gentle but worthwhile new fitness regime, want to get yourself back on your feet after sustaining a sports injury, or simply fancy meeting new people and having fun in the water, aquafitness could be the perfect way to work out!

ne of the latest trends to take health enthusiasts by storm is aquafitness. Otherwise known as ‘water aerobics’, this invigorating exercise is a great way to combine a traditional gym workout with the many benefits of training in a swimming pool. Ideal if you’re pregnant or recovering from an injury, water is 800 times denser than air, working your body much harder, yet remaining gentler on the joints. The harder you work, the more calories you’ll ultimately burn, but an average class can shed up to 350, all while splashing around and having fun! Key advantages include the support of the water, which means less stress being put on your body. In addition, water pressure helps to put a lower amount of strain on the heart by moving blood around the body, while working out in water builds strength and activates the muscles.


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After investment into a range of spa treatments, Rowhill Grange is now delighted to offer guests the amazing anti-ageing ‘Dermalux Light Therapy Treatment’. Voted ‘Treatment of the Year’ by the aesthetics industry, Dermalux has quickly become a must-have treatment for anti-ageing, due to its proven results and versatility. This LED light therapy is a clinically proven treatment that has long been known for its regenerating and anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-ageing treatment starts with a full cleanse and exfoliation, followed by a light therapy sequence and product finishing, recommended as a course for long-lasting results. To find out more or to book, please visit

An exclusive new ila treatment has been created for Alexander House by founder Denise Leicester. We’re very excited to welcome our new 85-minute ‘Temazcal Body Experience’ to Utopia Spa. This luxurious treatment takes you on a journey into your relationship with Mother Earth. Through the use of warm and healing herbs, the ceremony purifies the body and spirit. The ritual invites us to reflect on the past, purify our bodies and minds, and free ourselves from that which we no longer need in our lives. You’ll be treated in our bespoke treatment room, with an initial sauna with scrub and mud application, followed by body milk pouring, body massage and shower, and finished with a lotion application. Our ‘Temazcal Body Experience’ is available to book as an individual treatment, or as part of a spa day experience. Please visit for further details and to book. *Please note that this treatment is only available for female guests.


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D&G £172

Jigsaw £69

Monsoon £69

TK Maxx £49.99

Marks and Spencer £27.50

Miss Selfridge £49 New Look £22.99

Faith £35


Personal stylist Catherine de Crèvecoeur selects some of her favourite trends and must-have pieces for the coming months


definition, which makes them very versatile against any other. Florals are the most common print in summer, but avoid doing your usual pairing with white trousers, black top or denim. Instead, have fun with it – they look great with other floral prints; just make sure to tie them together with a unifying colour. We saw designers showcase some stunning collections for this season, and the high street wasted no time in following suit with some affordable pieces that will immediately update and refresh any tired wardrobe. Knowing more about the current trends is useful, as it allows you to have an idea of what you can expect to see in the shops (no bad surprises), and using this knowledge as inspiration to then update your own current style. Never feel pressure to follow these trends from head to toe. Instead, be fun and creative, integrating them in any way that feels right for you and your style. The great thing about the current mood with fashion this year is that designers are encouraging us to be that little bit bolder, helping us to feel empowered by our fashion choices, have fun and celebrate life. Here are some of the top trends that stood out the most from the catwalk, with some high street gems to get you started:

f you’re at that stage of your wardrobe life when you want to step things up with your look, improve your own personal style and create more interesting outfit options, then this Spring/Summer is the perfect time to make that transition. My first piece of advice is to change the way you shop, stay away from items of clothing you’re usually drawn to and step out of your comfort zone. Look at new brands and venture into shops you never thought of before. Trying new things on can actually really make a difference. Of course, you need to think a little more carefully about choosing a fabric, cut and colour that’s right for you, but changing your usual shopping habits will give you more choices when it comes to defining your own personal style. One way to inject Spring/Summer trends into your wardrobe is to create some stylish outfits by mixing prints. Mixed-print looks translate into fabulous styles, which you can wear for any occasion. Mix and match prints according to colours and textures, not the prints themselves. Think about your outfit as a dazzling puzzle that needs to be put together. Stripes are the easiest way to mix prints, as they’re the basic


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Emilia Wickstead

Julien MacDonald


Already a strong trend this winter, it will continue to shine through into spring, with statement dresses taking centre stage.


Eudon Choi


Already a favourite last season, this trend continues into the summer, giving us more shoulder action options than ever.

House of Holland

This classic print saw many hand-drawn floral designs appear on stunning floor-length dresses, another big hit this season.


Temperley London

From cuffs to skirts and exquisite dresses, this romantic ruffles trend is becoming one of fashion’s timeless classics.


Many designers are inspiring us to wear our brightest prints and stripes altogether. The result is pretty perfect, as proven on the catwalk.


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Peter Jensen


Whether deconstructed, clashing with other prints or dressed in head to toe, gingham is given a fresh and quirky edge.

STA N D O UT STYLES Catherine selects some of the best buys available from the high street this season, perfect for updating your summer wardrobe


It’s all about small, practical and stylish messenger handbags. An easy way to make a statement, there’s such an abundance of beautiful embroidery, embellishments and bold-coloured arm candy that it’s hard to choose!


From comfy flats to towering heels, anything goes when it comes to completing your look with a pair of shoes this season


Because the days we can leave the house without a jacket are rare, it’s always good to have a few you can use as a go-to cover-up. From denim to faux leather, these trans-seasonal pieces are perfect for a casual summer look


An easy way to add the cool factor to your style, a pair of good sunnies is an essential item to complete any outfit under the sun

Catherine de Crèvecoeur is an experienced personal stylist and founder of STYLE Pour Moi personal styling and image consultancy services ( She helps men and women across London and the South East gain the confidence they need to create their own signature style, whatever their lifestyle and budget.


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A TRUE TASTE of FRANCE One of beauty’s best known brands, L’Occitane, is forty years old and what started as a small, market based business has since grown into a global success. But it has never forgotten its Provencal roots or its commitment to the community, charity or the climate. Lorna Johnson discovers more about this iconic range which is now available in the Alexander House hotel Utopia Spa


t has been 40 years since a young man from the south of France, Olivier Baussan, began distilling rosemary essential oil to sell in local markets. How things have changed since 1976, when Olivier had nothing more than a solid knowledge of plants and an alembic in a truck to create a little alchemy magic. Over the past four decades there have been numerous harvests, new plant extracts discovered and plenty of innovative ranges developed, not to mention some 3,000 L’Occitane stores opening worldwide but Olivier has never forgotten L’Occitane’s humble

beginnings or his vision to create the best skincare products using nature’s finest ingredients without harm to the planet. In fact, Olivier’s passion for nature continues to grow, and the brand has still found time to fight for important causes – building their company philosophies upon three essential pillars:


Still anchored in its original territory of Les Alpes of Haute-

Provence, L’Occitane is a brand very much involved in its community. With the land serving as its inspiration, products are born from the study of the organic world and the properties they possess. “Our beauty secrets grow in fields”, reveals the brand’s founder Olivier. “Nature provides us with a bounty of active ingredients, more powerful than anything we could invent.” Keenly aware of this reliance on precious resources, the skincare range is committed


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to limiting the impact of its actions and products on the environment – an objective that encompasses every aspect of L’Occitane’s work, from the creation of formulas to the development of its packaging. Throughout each and every process, L’Occitane follows precise guidelines, with the goal of constantly and gradually reducing the environmental footprint. Choosing an eco-design approach, selecting materials that are the least polluting, using resources that are renewable and designing easily recyclable packaging are just some of the ways they aim to achieve this – everything has been carefully considered.

As Olivier explains, “The company is only part of a whole, and one of the fundamental pillars of sustainable development is the responsible relationship that a company has with its community.” More than just a mantra, L’Occitane absorbs this belief into its core foundations and has been involved in the community and the ongoing commitment to Fair Trade since its creation. The L’Occitane Foundation has supported about 15 different Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and charities related to its two main missions: The economic emancipation of women and the support of the visually impaired. Every year, one million euros are distributed to a variety of charitable projects. For more than 25 years, L’Occitane has used shea butter from Burkina Faso in its products and to reinforce this partnership, the L’Occitane Foundation supports the economic emancipation of local women with literacy courses and the promotion of entrepreneurial projects. More than 7,000 Burkinabe women have gained autonomy thanks to these programmes. As a sensorial brand, L’Occitane chooses to support the visually impaired by offering braille on most of its packaging. The Foundation goes further by facilitating the professional integration of the visually impaired and fighting preventable blindness in developing countries. More than 500,000 people have received ophthalmologic care thanks to this programme.


L’Occitane use over 200 carefully selected botanicals and precious essential oils, which encourage maximum effectiveness from their products and enhances their ability to give skin the elements it needs to be truly radiant. The observation of nature guides their research and, after observing the behaviour of plants, the desired qualities are identified and the extraction processes are developed. The Immortelle, for example, is the flower that never fades – after numerous tests to prove its efficiency, in partnership with universities and hospitals, L’Occitane was able to recognise the exceptional anti-aging properties of this little wonder plant and realise its full potential – working its magic to allow the extracts concentrated in active ingredients to be obtained. Dedicated to their pursuit of an ethical and natural beauty, L’Occitane was a perfect fit to become one of the

luxury partners of the Alexander House Utopia Spa. With a focus on the pleasure of their products – a cream that glides on like silk, or a scent that calms the mind and offers a pure moment of wellbeing – each L’Occitane product available in the spa enhances the sensory experience curated by the experts at Alexander House. Here members of the Utopia Spa reveal some of their ultimate L’Occitane favourites which are also complimentary to guests…


A fresh citrus body milk that melts into the skin and helps to freshly moisturise it, giving a fresh sensation and leaving the skin pleasantly scented with the sparkling and fruity notes of citrus fruits and verbena. Contains an extract of organic verbena from Provence, lemon and essential oils, and a grapefruit extract from Italy.


Enriched with a foaming base containing lavender, bergamot, mandarin, sweet orange and geranium essential oils, its aromatic fragrance and luxurious lather will help ease away stress and leave the skin silky clean and gently scented.


Containing an ‘anti-breakage’ complex, made with five essential oils (ylang-ylang, sweet orange, lavender, geranium, angelica) and plant-derived amino acids, this magic duo helps to repair the hair fibre and is enriched with sweet almond oil and vitamin B5, to smooth and soften.


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BE OUR GUEST... Gemma Dunn discovers how the cast and creative team of Beauty and the Beast brought the live-action remake of Disney’s timeless classic to life


t may be a tale as old as time, but Beauty and the Beast is one classic that’s worth retelling. Released in 1991 during Disney’s second Golden Age of animation – along with the likes of The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Aladdin – the treasured film, based on the first published version of the fairy tale, La Belle et la Bête, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, has enchanted generations. And, paying homage to the original, its latest revival – a live-action, big-screen musical – has continued the magic, featuring all of the iconic songs (plus a few new belters to boot!) and characters. With Bill Condon at the helm, and an ensemble cast including Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, it’s been one of the year’s most eagerly-awaited releases. We find out how they pulled it off...



When searching for talent to bring beloved protagonist Belle to life, the filmmakers couldn’t have anticipated a better candidate than British actress Emma Watson. Likewise, of all the Disney heroines, the former Harry Potter star had always been drawn to – and most identified with – Belle. “I’ve loved Beauty and the Beast since I was four years old,” says Watson, 26. “I remember Belle as this feisty young woman who spoke her mind, had these ambitions, and was incredibly independent and wanted to see the world.


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“JACQUELINE DURRAN – DESIGNED EVERYTHING, FROM THE VILLAGERS’ PEASANT COSTUMES, TO THE BALL GOWNS WORN BY 35 DEBUTANTES AT THE PRINCE’S BALL. HER BIGGEST HURDLE CAME IN THE FORM OF BELLE’S ICONIC YELLOW DRESS” “She had this relationship with the Beast where they were toe to toe. And that, to me, seemed like such a terrific dynamic and interesting kind of relationship that I’d never seen before in a fairy tale.” For the Beast, a spoiled and arrogant prince transformed by the curse of an enchantress, they opted for Dan Stevens, and a fully-digital Beast was created through performance and facial capture technology. “Bill and I spent a lot of time talking about how we could add some nuances to my character to make him more dimensional than the Beast from the animated film,” says Stevens, 34, best known for his time as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. “It was quite interesting, trying to find those

little human beats that would make him less animalistic, and more a human trapped inside this creature,” notes the Croydon-born star.


Luke Evans and Josh Gad play egotistical village heart-throb Gaston and his bumbling sidekick LeFou. “[Gaston] gives me the opportunity to play both sinister and ridiculous, and it’s wonderful,” says former West End star Evans, who marked his screen singing debut with the villainous part. “Gaston doesn’t see the world the way everyone else sees it. He’s at the top of the pyramid and everyone else is below him,” adds the Welshman, 37, whose previous credits include The Hobbit and Dracula Untold.

“He thinks he can do no wrong and doesn’t understand why Belle doesn’t want to be his wife. I mean, God, is she mad? Is she blind? Is she stupid? He doesn’t get it, which is funny in itself, so I really tried to play up the comedic aspects.” He bounced off accomplished funny man Josh Gad – best known as the voice of Olaf in box office smash Frozen. “Gaston is this very central figure in their village,” says Gad, 36. “And LeFou is like a historian celebrating Gaston’s legacy, who’s always there to remind the public how important his contributions were. If Napoleon Bonaparte had a sidekick, it would be LeFou.”


When the studio first pitched the idea to Condon, it’s fair to say that he was a little intimidated. “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie,” explains Condon, 61, whose previous movies include Dreamgirls and the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2.


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“When the film was released, it was groundbreaking in the way the story was told, and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially didn’t want to go near it.” But with the promise of it being a ‘full-on’ tribute to the musicals of Golden-Age Hollywood, and the cinematic potential stemmed from modern-day technology, Condon hopped on board. “It’s 25 years later, and technology has caught up to the ideas introduced in the animated movie,” reasons the New Yorker. “Now, it’s possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set, in a completely realistic, live-action format.”


The new numbers include For Evermore, a soaring ballad performed by the Beast; Days in the Sun, a heart-warming song performed by the characters in the castle, and Our Song Lives On.


Designing costumes befitting a fairy-tale world is a prodigious undertaking, but industry great Jacqueline Durran took it in her stride. With a department of embroiderers, milliners, jewellers, painters and textile workers, the British artist – who won an Oscar for her work on 2012 historical romance Anna Karenina – designed everything, from the villagers’ peasant costumes, to the ball gowns worn by 35 debutantes at the Prince’s ball. Her biggest hurdle came in the

form of Belle’s iconic yellow dress. “The dress was always going to be yellow, as an homage to the animation,” explains Durran, whose team set themselves the challenge of using Fairtrade fabrics. “What we tried to do was reinterpret it and flesh it out by adding more texture, and making it feel like a real, living costume.” Taking over 12,000 hours to make, the gown was created from multiple layers of feather-light satin organza, dyed yellow (180ft in total). The top two layers were printed with gold-leaf filigree in a pattern matching the ballroom’s Rococo floor, accentuated with 2,160 Swarovski crystals. Beauty and the Beast is due out on DVD and Blu-ray later this year, certificate PG.

Fans will be pleased to know that the reboot features the much-loved anthemic songs from eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, and his late collaborator Howard Ashman’s original score. From Something There to Be Our Guest, and of course, the enchanting Beauty and the Beast song, composer Menken, who joined forces with lyricist Tim Rice, felt an agenda to ‘keep the essence of the animated’, while also obliging Condon’s request to add new tracks to the mix. “There’s a wonderful ballad that the Beast has, If I Can’t Love Her, which has become iconic in its own right, but it’s a first-act curtain number,” says Menken, 67, referring to the Broadway adaptation. “In looking at that, and the ways we expanded the back stories of the Prince/Beast and Belle, it became clear that there were three important spots where we needed new songs.” 37

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Following Brexit and the subsequent blow to the pound, a great deal of importance is being put on staycations as a more affordable British holidaying option. Guests can expect increased investment into facilities and experiences at homebound hotels, where family-friendly services and top-end amenities will be readily available.

Again, recent world events such as Brexit may well incentivise the service industry to make overseas customers a priority, as a means of bolstering the UK economy. Be it creature comforts from home or a quintessentially British experience, occupants from abroad will feel at ease in no time.




The concept of ‘wellness’ is fast becoming a crucial part of any hotel visitor’s stay. Whether it’s balanced menu options or invigorating spa treatments, an even stronger focus is due to be placed on ensuring that customers leave feeling revitalised, refreshed and ready for anything.



The value of returning guests can’t be underestimated in the hotel trade, which is why repeat business will be a big priority going forward. Frequent stays will benefit from a more tailored approach, where customised, bespoke offers highlight all of your favourite amenities again and again.



These days, holidaymakers are after ‘the best of both worlds’. So, rather than agonising over whether a city break or rural retreat is right for you, why not make the most of hospitality brands that will be fusing both in a unique mix of urban and pastoral?


Of course, in this day and age, booking with ease is an imperative factor when deciding where to stay. As such, hoteliers will need to meet the demands of the modern traveller, maybe working more closely with online travel agencies to provide the smoothest getaway possible for all.


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For corporate clients with frequent flyer miles to burn, hotels can become a second home. Accordingly, customer loyalty is set to be rewarded in the form of more executive perks, financial incentives and company benefits, making that top accommodation pick the number-one choice for your entire firm.


With the rise of brands like Airbnb, perhaps one of the biggest challenges hoteliers are likely to face going forward is competing with a more DIY approach to accommodation. Flexibility and customisation will therefore be key concerns going forward, to maximise the potential of each and every stay.

THE SHAPE of things to come Here are our top 10 predictions of what hoteliers and guests can expect throughout 2017 and beyond





Another potential knock-on effect of Brexit could be seen in hotel restaurants, where an emphasis on British food and drink is set to skyrocket. So, get used to seeing more home-grown fare on the menu in future, using local, seasonal ingredients and produce for all to enjoy.

Boutique hotels are nothing new, but the coming months will potentially see a boom in more provincial stays, counteracting the household names of major cities. For a more intimate and personal experience, a smaller operation fits the bill, meaning regional corners of the country are sure to benefit.


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has to remain true to its values As the heiress to the world-famous Champagne, Vitalie Taittinger is part of the latest generation of this fizzy dynasty. In an exclusive interview, she reveals what it’s like to be the custodian of such a treasured and leading wine producer, and why she’s excited about what lies ahead for her industry 40

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t’s never easy to let go of something you love – especially when that something is a legacy of one of the world’s most iconic Champagne houses. But that’s exactly what the Taittinger family did in 2005, when it sold its famous brand of sparkling wine to US private investment firm, Starwood Capital Group, along with its hotel subsidiary, Société du Louvre. It was a move that sent shockwaves through the sector, raising concerns that short-term profit would undermine the overall quality of the Taittinger name, which had previously been family-owned and run since 1932. In 2006, however, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger’s succession of his uncle Claude as president paved the way for a new chapter, beginning with the label’s repurchase. Since then, Pierre-Emmanuel has surrounded himself with his own new branch of the family, who have helped revive the business and bring it further into the 21st century. Along with his son and head of exports Clovis, this includes his daughter and artistic director Vitalie, who is tasked with developing and reinforcing Taittinger’s image in the fields of visual identity and design globally. “It’s an honour and something the whole family – my father and brother too – all hold precious,” she says of inheriting the prestigious birth right. “Our name and signature is on every bottle; it’s a great responsibility to uphold the family legacy of a dedication to quality, and respect all the values they’ve built over time, while taking it to the next stage in its history. “The role is so varied. I meet so many interesting and wonderful people through

my position at Taittinger, and I feel very privileged. I learn about many different countries and cultures, and how we can work with each of them. Every day is unique and special.” Indeed, as well as spreading the word on a world stage, Vitalie is also its face in France and abroad, appearing in ads and marketing campaigns aplenty. With a degree from the Emile Cohl School of Design in Lyon, where she perfected her technique in illustration, painting and drawing, she has witnessed her father’s enterprise go from strength to strength in the past decade. “Over the last 10 years since my father headed Taittinger, I’ve seen us grow in many ways,” she explains. “We’re now sold in over 150 countries – maybe a third more than before – and I’ve seen us increase our many animations, not only in the way we present our wines through packaging and gifting, but also through many prestigious associations throughout the world.” Examples of these exclusive partnerships include BAFTA in the UK and the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards in the US, to say nothing of the Nobel Peace Prize, Montreux Jazz Festival and Opéra National de Paris. It’s no wonder such equally well-known institutions are still keen to associate themselves, as the current range is stronger than ever – particularly when paired with battered cod, apparently. “The Brut Reserve, our signature cuvée, goes from strength to strength,” continues Vitalie. “It’s the benchmark for Taittinger and is perfect as an aperitif on its own, or with delicate canapés. My


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Château de la Marquetterie


favourite match for this wine is with your traditional fish and chips – a great combination. In France, we tend to match it to small, salty biscuits, or light-as-air cheese gougères, but I love the British match very much.” Today, Taittinger’s 288-hectare vineyard in Reims spans 34 different crus, among the best in the Champagne region. Divided into 37% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, and 15% Pinot Meunier, it marvellously reflects the wines’ unique styles, in which Chardonnay plays a paramount role by contributing elegance and freshness. Which doesn’t make it any easier to decide on a favourite, however. “Ah, they’re like my children; there is no favourite – I love them all!” Vitalie insists. “But maybe I like different wines at different times: In the summer with my girlfriends, maybe the Prestige Rosé, and then maybe Prélude before dinner, the Brut Reserve at any time, and our rare and unique Comtes de Champagne for special celebrations. I’m spoiled for choice.” Not a bad position to be in, but of course, one would expect nothing less from the variety produced in Champagne. Made up of five parcels of land, the vineyard unites the company’s history and heritage, while Saint Nicaise Abbey remains its seat in Reims. In addition, the Residence of the Counts of Champagne has been restored to host receptions, exhibits and concerts, and Château de la Marquetterie has played host to some of the most illustrious figures in Champagne’s history.

“Champagne is controlled by many strict laws, and the name is protected,” reveals Vitalie. “We have the ideal soils and climate for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, which are the only grapes used to make Champagne. And we have centuries of winemaking tradition, which gives us an unprecedented wealth of experience and knowledge. All of this combines to help us make world-class bubbles. We’re very lucky.” But luck is only part of the Taittinger story. As the wine trade becomes increasingly competitive, Vitalie has had to stay ahead of the game, innovating and diversifying how she promotes and showcases her family’s output, while respecting and upholding what’s come before. But as far as she’s concerned, more major players can only be a good thing, both for her family and her chosen profession. “It’s simple – that we remain true to our family values,” she concludes. “The world of both still and sparkling wine is an exciting one. There are so many countries making excellent wines now, and this is constantly growing – I love the diversity. “There’s room for everyone in the sparkling wine market, and it’s positive for sparkling wine as a whole that so many countries are making and drinking this wonderful stuff. Each has a different style and image, and it provides everyone with an amazing, diverse choice. Champagne has to remain true to its values, but it’s an exciting time.”



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FINDING A QUOC OF GOLD Hannah Stephenson heads to Vietnam to discover the wonders that await in the tropical paradise of Phu Quoc


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“THERE’S A RELAXED FEEL TO THE PRISTINE SWEEP OF SAND, WHERE QUIET COUPLES ENJOY A DRINK WATCHING THE BURNT ORANGE AND DEEP PINK HUES OF THE SUNSET, OR HEAD FOR A SMATTERING OF BEACH BARBECUES, WHERE LOCALS COOK FRESHLYCAUGHT FISH” he beach vendor sets down a thick bamboo cane, laden at either end with heavy hanging baskets of mangoes and coconuts, which she’s been balancing on her shoulder. With deft precision, she peels and cuts the ripe mango, handing it to the tourist, before lifting the cane back onto her shoulder and walking on down the beach, a tiny figure wearing a conical hat and carrying what looks like an outsized weighing scale. This is just one of the regular sights on Long Beach, a sandy stretch skirting tropical island Phu Quoc, 45km off the coast of South Vietnam. It’s a sun-splashed haven, roughly the size of Singapore and billed as the next Phuket, but so far less tainted by tourism than the popular Thai destination. Visitors will need to get there soon to enjoy the simple pleasures that this relatively peaceful island has to offer. When direct flights launch from the UK this year, the world and his wife are likely to descend. Hotels have sprung up quickly on Phu Quoc in the last decade – and its first golf course opened last year – but more are being built along the coastline in preparation for the arrival of the masses. Phu Quoc, also called Pearl Island, was once a backpackers’ haunt, yet a number of five-star hotels now provide an oasis of luxury and calm to those who’ve experienced the bustling madness of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) on the mainland, with its cacophony of motorbikes, war museums and chaotic, sweaty markets. Regular direct flights operate from the UK to Ho Chi Minh City, and from there, it’s a

50-minute flight to Phu Quoc. The itinerary allows for a multi-centre break, combining a taste of Vietnam’s frenetic pace of life with paradisiacal island relaxation. I’m staying at La Veranda Resort, a charming, luxurious boutique hotel on 12-mile Long Beach, the island’s longest stretch of sand in the west. The hotel’s French colonial-style buildings feature large louvred windows and rooms devoid of bling, walkways fringed with lush tropical planting, eye-catching bright orange bird of paradise flowers and soft pink hibiscus. It’s a jewel in the crown of the island. Stepping onto its private beach, I’m surprised by the many beachfront bars that have already sprung up alongside it, one of the most popular, Rory’s Bar, being right next door. Refreshingly, there’s no in-your-face, pushy tourism, with waiters badgering you to go into their restaurants, or hawkers hounding you to buy their wares. There’s a relaxed feel to the pristine sweep of sand, where quiet couples enjoy a drink watching the burnt orange and deep pink hues of the sunset, or head for a smattering of beach barbecues, where locals cook freshly-caught fish. While many prefer to stay put, swimming in the tepid waters of the Gulf of Thailand, I want to find out what sets Phu Quoc – an island that stretches 30 miles north to south – apart from the conventional fly-and-flop destinations. Surprisingly, some 50% of it is national park, made up of jungle, mangrove forests and woodland. Some of it is inaccessible, home to macaque and silver langur monkeys, fruit bats and reptiles, including pythons. You can rent a motorbike and attempt to see some of it by dirt track, but the road is rocky, bumpy and – after the frequent short, sharp tropical downpours –


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“I’M STAYING AT LA VERANDA RESORT, A CHARMING, LUXURIOUS BOUTIQUE HOTEL ON 12-MILE LONG BEACH, THE ISLAND’S LONGEST STRETCH OF SAND IN THE WEST” often muddy, so it’s not the most comfortable ride. I’m also told that the jungle is so dense in the northeast that you can easily become disorientated. That, coupled with the fact that Vietnamese soldiers guard restricted areas and may appear unexpectedly, should you veer into no-go zones, convinces me to pursue a different course. Phu Quoc is actually closer to Cambodia – just nine miles away – than to mainland Vietnam. Cambodia lays a competing claim to the island, which is why the Vietnamese keep a substantial military presence there, and much

strike lucky today, as a torrent of water provides some cooling relief. As well as its beaches and waterfalls, Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce (nuoc mam), considered the finest in Vietnam. Much of it is sent to the mainland, but it’s widely exported, and you can buy it in specialist shops and online in the UK. There are family-run fish sauce factories all over the island – just follow your nose for directions, because the stench of anchovies as they go through the fermentation process is truly unforgettable. Ironically, you can’t take it home in case the bottle breaks on the plane,

of the north is off-limits to the public. You can go on jungle hikes and treks, but it’s humid and hot, so I venture to the cooler mountain waterfalls of Suoi Tranh further south, a regular picnic spot for locals. Trying to ignore the unnecessary additions of tacky concrete animals on a winding path in the shade of the forest, the click-clack of cicadas ringing in my ears, I arrive at one of the Tranh stream waterfalls, where bathers are swimming in the refreshing, crystal-clear water below. These can dry up between November and March, but we

releasing that pungent whiff of the festering essence. Phu Quoc also produces high-quality pepper, 55% of which is exported to India, China and Thailand. And this, you can bring home. Of course, many tourists will end their trip in Phu Quoc after visiting Ho Chi Minh City and cruising through the Mekong Delta, a watery maze of rivers, paddy fields and floating markets, which extends from the city limits, southwest to the Gulf of Thailand. A three-and-a-half-hour drive southwest from Ho Chi Minh City is Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong, and a great base from which to explore the nearby floating markets. Muddy, quaggy, brilliant green rice fields line the main highway to the river, while along the route,


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TRAVEL FACTS Vietnam Airlines ( offers the UK’s only non-stop flights to Vietnam, with daily Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Hanoi or Saigon.


Experience Travel Group

families sit at makeshift stalls selling a hotchpotch of goods, from home-grown vegetables to children’s clothing, gas canisters and motorbike helmets. On land, fruit is in abundance, and in one orchard, we see rugby ball-sized jackfruit, vibrant pink dragon fruit, bananas, ‘milky’ star apples and mangoes growing within spitting distance of each other. On the water, pumpkins and pineapples, coconuts and papayas are piled high on traditional sampans (small rowing boats) and larger vessels at the floating market at Cai Rang, the largest in the Mekong Delta, where traders go about their business, oblivious to the boat-loads of inquisitive tourists. Eager to escape the crowds, I’m persuaded by a local woman with a huge smile and a convincing nature

(; 020 3468 6268) can tailor-make seven-night holidays to Southern Vietnam from £2,101 per adult, including two nights at the Park Hyatt Saigon (; two nights at the Victoria Can Tho (; three nights at La Veranda, Phu Quoc

to let her take me on a different type of boat trip on her little sampan. We cannot communicate – very little English is spoken in this neck of the woods – but she leads me across to a quieter stretch, turning into narrow inlets and switching off the motor, gently rowing as I take in the floating boatyards in the hidden veins of the river, vessels cushioned by the dense foliage of water hyacinths. Here, families live in corrugated shacks balanced precariously on stilts above the water, grey washing hanging forlornly over rusty balconies, while small children smile and wave from their rickety jetties, seemingly content with the world. This is rural, idyllic Vietnam at its best, despite tourism. Let’s hope that Phu Quoc can weather a similar storm.

(; daily breakfast; Experience Travel Group signature Saigon tour; private guides and transfers throughout; and return flights with Vietnam Airlines.


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PARTNERSHIP of PASSIONS Searching for the perfect food and wine pairing? Look no further than Rowhill Grange’s handpicked list of vintages


t Rowhill Grange, we carefully choose the bottles that are included on our wine lists. We have an extensive range, from fine to casual drinking wines, available in our on-site, award-winning restaurant and lounge. To help in our selection, we work closely with our wine consultants and suppliers, Enotria & Coe, who have over 125 years of industry knowledge. Many of the wines derive from boutique productions made by true artisans, whose intentions are to make balanced, food-worthy wines that speak of their origins, all representing great value that’s relative to their price. The team have undertaken intensive training courses to develop their knowledge, and we hope to convey and share this love of food and wine. Correctly matching the two can help to bring out the distinct flavours within both, and a good match will enhance the textures and complement the taste sensations of each dish. Tradition dictates that white wines should be enjoyed with poultry and fish, while red wines should be savoured with red meat. However, as tastes and methods change, many people are starting to experiment with their own matches, and are finding exciting new flavours in the process. The list demonstrates a true feeling of ‘terroir’ – a sense of place and craft, whether it’s from the Old or New World. This encompasses the Loire, the Rhône, Bordeaux, Burgundy and

Alsace, but equally Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, and North and South America.


Individual preferences and suggestions matter in designing our wine list. We welcome the chance to regularly sample new wines from different wineries, and have tasting sessions with our team at Rowhill Grange, alongside our supplier, with whom we choose the wines. Our cellar also represents a partnership of passions. The private collection that lends the backbone and depth to our list is influenced by the interests and personalities of our team. We can’t help but be swayed by the dedication and talent of the many winemakers that we meet.


Enotria was founded in 1972 by wine importer Remo Nardone, and Coe Vintners in 1930 by wine merchant Eric Coe. They both share humble beginnings and owe much of their respective successes to their entrepreneurial spirit, through choosing the right products, for the right markets, at the right time. Some of our favourite wines and our guests’ top picks are listed here...


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WHITE WINE BY THE BOTTLE Chablis, Domaine de Vaurous 2012 – an aromatic flavour with clean mineral notes and hints of citrus. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp, apple acidity and tight, pure fruit flavours of white peach and pears, finished with a classic, steely, dry finish. Sancerre, Le Petit Broux, Les Celliers de Ceres 2014 – overt gooseberry-style Sauvignon flavour mingled with some exotic scents. Immediately appealing, crisp and clean with a good concentration of fruit. Meursault, Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux 2011 – well-developed with ripe, tropical fruit on the nose and an enticing note of honey, leading to an intense, concentrated palate with well-balanced acidity and a crisp, clean, lengthy finish.

RED WINE BY THE BOTTLE Rioja Reserva, Marques de Riscal 2010 – vibrant and perfumed with smoky forest fruits, lightly structured yet rich, spicy and complex. This is versatile enough to go with gamey meats, lamb or duck, but also fabulous with a mature vintage cheddar. Malbec, Bodegas Santa Ana 2014 – brooding, deep red in colour with black fruit aromas. The palate is medium-bodied and dry with soft, ripe blackcurrant flavours and balancing structure, finishing rounded and juicy. A soft, well-balanced wine with intense aromas of red fruits, such as plums and cherries, and a long finish.

ROSÉ WINE BY THE BOTTLE Chapel Down English Rosé 2014 – a fruity combination of red grapes from Kent, this has summer written all over it. With its raspberry and cranberry flavours, it’s versatile enough for a picnic or barbecue, or just as nice as a perky aperitif.


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“EVERY COIN has a STORY...” In addition to holding the Royal Warrant for services to philately, Stanley Gibbons deals in rare coins of the finest quality. Managing director Keith Heddle explains why collecting or investing in currency can be just as rewarding – and potentially lucrative – for clients who want to own a tangible slice of history Tell us about the rare coins side of Stanley Gibbons As a business, although primarily of stamps, we’re also involved in buying and selling top-quality rare coins. There’s no direct correlation between coin and stamp collectors necessarily, but some of the accessories are

common, and Stanley Gibbons has been catering to high-quality and high-net-worth, sophisticated collectors for a long time. Coins sit as a comfortable bedfellow alongside stamps. How do the two assets compare? We’ve seen the value of investment-grade coins increase along a similar line to investment-grade stamps, showing extremely low volatility. We’ve also seen an appetite from investors to add a coin or two alongside their rare stamp portfolios, so we acquired Baldwin’s, probably one of the best-known and biggest coin merchants in the UK, if not the world, to complement the Stanley Gibbons staple. In what ways have they enhanced the overall offering? Like Stanley Gibbons, Baldwin’s is steeped in heritage. The staff live and breathe coinage, and are renowned, not just in the UK but worldwide, as having the same degree of expertise, experience, heritage and quality, which is absolutely paramount for both collectors and investors. Our experts have a

passion for and understanding of history, and a sense of dealing in quality first and foremost. Why invest in coins over stamps? To some extent, the advantage of coins from an investment perspective is that, simplistically, unschooled investors make an easier jump to coinage, simply because it’s money. They also – wrongly – make the jump because investment-grade rare coins tend to be gold or silver, which is actually an erroneous jump to make, as the precious metal value of a rare coin tends to be negligible; it’s the collectible value, condition, rarity and marketability that drives the price, not the fact that it’s made of gold or silver, but investors tend to make that link. Is there the same sense of heritage? We get excited about 177 years of stamp history, but with coins, we’re dealing with two and a half millennia and something that’s truly global. We tend to get a much more universal approach to coins, which resonate through time and history, and which people can relate to quite broadly, so that adds an extra investment cache to it. In the same way that every stamp has a story, every coin has a story.


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Which countries are currently leading the market? Interestingly, the most expensive coins in the world are American. The American coin market is the biggest in the world. The silver Flowing Hair dollar is priced at around $5million, whereas the equivalent in the UK is a mere £500,000, which was actually auctioned by Baldwin’s a couple of years ago. We also have a gold dinar from the Middle East, called the Umayyad, which is currently valued at around £2.5million. There are only a tiny handful of these available, and the last one was sold at auction in the UK for just over £3million about four years ago, so we’re seeing significant interest from the Middle East and China for this coin. Its history and the fact that it’s one of only a few available has pushed its price up for private collectors, as there’s a trophy and heritage value, and the potential for a store of wealth. Have economic factors like the recession and inflation affected value? When you look at the rarest pieces, they’ve tended to buck the trend. Similar to stamps, particularly since 2008/2009, we’ve seen more

sophisticated investors looking to tangible assets that have very little volatility as an anchor for their portfolios. If you buy wisely and well, and hold items in the best condition and of the highest rarity, you’re likely to have a store of wealth for the longer term. Because of their stability, they’ve shown consistency of growth over time. It sounds like investors have to play the long game… They need to come into it very much with a long-term perspective and the knowledge that it’s a part of their portfolio that they’re not going to need to liquidate and get cash out of quickly. For the more sophisticated investor, this can act as something that they get a great deal of pleasure out of, but also as a means of potential capital appreciation and wealth preservation, not just within their own lifetime, but potentially for future generations. We’re seeing people use this as a legacy investment. Isn’t online banking and digital currency making coins redundant? The digital world has a dual effect on things like rare coins. On the one hand, at some point in

the future, coins may become irrelevant, but that makes the rarer coins more valuable. It takes them out of everyday use, but also makes the ones that went before more precious. The other side is that it allows clients to buy more broadly and secure the valuable heritage coins they want. So, in another way, it’s opened up the world and created another layer of commerce. What are the most important aspects to consider when collecting or investing? It’s a bit of a cliché, but condition, condition, condition. Rarity is also a factor, as well as marketability, but making sure you get something that’s in fine condition will make all the difference to whether it holds value in the first place, and retains value over time. If, like many other luxury assets and collectibles, you want something to fill the gap in your collection, quality’s less of an issue, but if you’re looking for an item that’s really going to give you pride of ownership, and is also likely to increase in value over time, then condition is paramount, alongside those other factors. WWW.STANLEYGIBBONS.COM


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A couple of couples tell their enchanting stories of how they tied the knot at Alexander Hotels

Which song did you go with for your first dance? MATTHEW: We chose All My Life by K-Ci & JoJo, as we love the words and it reminded us of when we first met. And your top three tips for planning a wedding? ELIZABETH: First, make a list of everything you’d like to have at your wedding. Imagine how it will look and the atmosphere you’d like to create. How guests feel at your wedding matters more than how much you spend on the fairy lights. Secondly, shop around, as you may find inspiration and ideas that you’ve overlooked. Thirdly, have a budget in mind and try not to be derailed, as weddings can easily spiral! MATTHEW: Not three tips, just one – a happy wife is a happy life. Where did you go on your honeymoon? ELIZABETH: We’re going to Dubai, staying at the one and only Royal Mirage. We can’t wait!

MATTHEW DAVIES AND ELIZABETH BALDOCK Mr and Mrs Davies, married at Rowhill Grange on December 22 2016 Tell us about the proposal ELIZABETH: We went for a family trip to the Lake District with our son Charlie. While there, Matt took us on a lovely boat trip, and we found a very nice place to picnic. He then surprised me by proposing by the beautiful lake. Unfortunately, the ring was a few sizes too big and I lost it five days later, but it was beautiful while I had it! Fortunately, we found it in a pillowcase after a week of searching – phew! What made you choose Rowhill Grange as your wedding venue? ELIZABETH: We wanted our wedding to be held in

beautiful surroundings. I’d always dreamed of a winter wedding, and Rowhill not only looks stunning in summer, but in winter too. Did you have a particular style in mind? MATTHEW: Our style was based on a classic winter wedding, with snow to match. Any favourite memories from the big day? ELIZABETH: From start to finish, our day was more than we could have ever dreamed! Standing with my dad, waiting to walk down the aisle was a moment I’ll never forget, then seeing Matthew waiting for me – it was perfect.



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NIGEL MARTINS AND AMANDA MCKINLEY Mr and Mrs Martins, married at Langshott Manor on October 23 2016 Talk us through the proposal AMANDA: We actually booked Langshott Manor before we got engaged, as we didn’t want a long engagement and loved the venue. So, being a typical female, after we booked the venue, I probably asked daily when we were going to get engaged. At Easter last year, we decided to stay in London for the weekend. I woke up to breakfast in bed and an absolutely gorgeous ring in an Easter basket, with roses and chocolate eggs! Somehow, Nigel still managed to keep the proposal and ring a surprise – brings back perfect memories! What appealed to you about Langshott Manor as a venue? AMANDA: We’d previously stayed at Langshott Manor and loved the style of the hotel, having both a modern but classic feel. We knew that we wanted to have a small wedding, and loved that we could have exclusive hire, as we didn’t want to share our day with other brides and grooms. We didn’t even look at any other venues, since we knew that Langshott was perfect! Having all of our family and friends stay the night just made it even more special, and continued the wedding feeling to breakfast the next day. We’re both quite fussy, so wanted everything to be perfect, and Langshott didn’t disappoint; everything we requested was delivered and made our day so special. Did you have a certain style for your day? NIGEL: We didn’t want a traditional wedding theme – instead, we wanted our day to feel like a lovely day/night out, with great food, wine, location and company. Our style was black tie, so we definitely wanted a glamorous feel. We’re both foodies, so focused on creating an amazing menu with the head chef, and sourcing great wine. Langshott exceeded our expectations in terms of flexibility and execution; our guests still talk about it!

Can you pick out any favourite moments? AMANDA: There are so many to choose from! We did our own personal vows, which made our ceremony very personal to us – most of our guests shed a tear or two. Having all of our friends and family dance the night away will always make us smile and laugh! Which song was your first dance to? NIGEL: We didn’t actually have a first dance – we ditched all traditions for our wedding, the awkward first dance being one of them! Do you have any tips for planning a wedding? AMANDA: 1. Find a groom who loves spreadsheets – he’ll do most of the planning! 2. Don’t worry about anybody else and have the wedding you want. 3. Don’t

have any regrets – budgets are there to be broken! No, I don’t regret spending a small fortune on flowers! NIGEL: 1. Don’t have flowers, as they cost a fortune and get thrown out the next day! 2. Don’t believe the hype about everything needing to be booked one to two years in advance – there are many great suppliers out there. 3. Get involved! Don’t let your wife-to-be dictate everything, because it’s your wedding too. She’ll appreciate it in the end! Where did your honeymoon take you? AMANDA: Our first stop was Hong Kong, where we spent three days exploring the city, and of course eating! We then flew to Bali and spent our initial few days in Seminyak – the best memory was the amazing sunset! Then, we travelled to Jimbaran Bay to the Four Seasons, spending our time being honeymooners in our own private villa, which was incredible. We wanted a holiday of a lifetime, and we certainly had that!


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at ALEXANDER HOTELS With so many reasons to get married in the great outdoors, you’ll be spoiled for choice when tying the knot with us


ummer is coming, which means the wedding season can now officially begin. To make the most of it, why not get married outdoors? In countries such as Spain, France and Italy, an outdoor wedding is hardly a surprising choice, but even in Belgium and the Netherlands, couples are increasingly choosing to get married under the cosy warmth of the summer sun, at a chosen location. Just think of a romantic ceremony under a gazebo in the grounds of a beautiful country house hotel – atmospheric music, flowers and the scent of nature complete this romantic picture. Even the wedding photographer benefits from an outdoor wedding, with better lighting, more space and loads of gorgeous backdrops to choose from. The big advantage of an outdoor wedding ceremony is that you can decorate the location from scratch, without having to take the interior design of a wedding ceremony suite into account. You can

completely overhaul the wedding venue to match your own personality; colours, flowers, themes or other decorations – it’s completely up to you! Unless you choose an exotic location abroad, the unpredictable British weather could potentially throw a spanner in the works. There’s not a lot you can do about that, but if you decide to have your wedding party in spring or summertime, you only need a touch of luck! It’s advisable to prepare a plan B, however, just in case the weather gods don’t feel so favourable on that particular day. Three of our hotels currently offer outdoor ceremonies, all showcasing a beautiful freestanding wooden gazebo, neutrally decorated with seasonal blooms cocooning our civil ceremony garden. To find out more about our seasonal gazebo weddings, please contact a member of our events team at



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The world watch and jewellery show There is no marketplace more significant in trendsetting than Baselworld. The show itself is considered worldwide as the most important in the world’s watch and jewellery industry. It distinguishes itself amongst other events of the same nature by regrouping key players from across the world from watchmakers to jewellers, from diamond, pearl and gemstone

dealers through to the machine and supply industry. This year, Baselworld exceeds itself once again by hosting the unveiling of the most magnificent watches from the top brands, and we are bringing the event to you by presenting just some of the new designs that you can purchase here in town.

CHOPARD Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph


This beautiful ladies’ white gold ‘Complications’ timepiece boasts a mechanical self-winding movement as well as an annual calendar. The date is in an aperture and it is water resistant up to 30 metres. With its case set with 141 diamonds, a sapphire-crystal back and alligator strap it is the last word in luxury. Its silvery dial with satin finished, gold applied numerals results in a most elegant timepiece.

Price: £36,220 (Available from G Collins & Sons)

The new Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph is a sporty, yet sophisticated, model with a vintage touch available for both him and her. For men, it boasts a black or silver dial with large luminescent numerals, whilst the more feminine version is in a silver colour or crafted from white mother-of-pearl and studded with diamonds. With a retro feel, these models hum to the beat of a COSC-certified high-precision ‘engine’. Available in both 42 mm and 39 mm versions, these striking new models boldly demonstrate the classic racing spirit cherished by Chopard.

G Collins & Sons, Tunbridge Wells, say:

“As official timekeeper of the world’s most famous regularity race for classic cars, Chopard has created the Mille Miglia Chronograph self-winding watch in stainless steel for her. Inspired by the beauty of classic cars, its elegant curves with an open back case, silver dial inspired by vintage car bodies and chronometer-certified engine express a perfect pairing of automobile design and mechanical watchmaking. With an emblematic rubber strap evoking 1960s Dunlop tyre treads, this bold timepiece adapts flawlessly to the wrist.”

Price: £3,850 (Available from G Collins & Sons)


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CHOPARD L.U.C XPS Twist QF Fairmined G Collins & Sons, Tunbridge Wells, say:

The L.U.C XPS Twist QF Fairmined exudes an aura of rare elegance and cultivates signature tokens of authentic

“One of the stand out pieces at Baselworld for us was the


Chopard LUC xps Twist, with its fairmined gold. A

It stems from an ambitious aesthetic, ethical and technical

pioneer in the development of sustainable luxury,

approach and is intended for connoisseurs who wish their

Chopard launches a new L.U.C watch made of ethical

watch to be unlike any other in terms of material, its

pink gold. The ultra-thin case radiates a subtly off-centred

appearance and its slimness. It is distinguished by a dial

expression of elegance, with the 4 o’clock crown echoing

with a stamped sunburst texture featuring a slate grey

the asymmetry of the small seconds appearing at 7 o’clock

colour that stands out against the rose gold case. The 7.20

on the dial. The latter is swept over by raised sunbeam

mm case makes this a delightfully slim watch featuring

motifs evoking the texture of a soft silk. The movement

satin-brushed finishes on the sides, complemented by a

has a Fleurier Quality Foundation label, the most

polished case-back and bezel. Its slender, elongated profile

demanding certification testifying to the precision, and

ensures a remarkably comfortable fit on the wrist. The

reliability, of which each component must be

alligator leather strap is hand-sewn and dyed with

manufactured in Switzerland. One of only 250

plant-based pigments in matt black for the main part and

limited pieces.”

Price: £14,500 (Available from G Collins & Sons)

cognac-coloured for the lining.


The new Ref. 5168G is the first men’s Aquanaut wristwatch in 18ct white gold. With its somewhat

G Collins & Sons, Tunbridge Wells, say:

“This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary

warmer hue, it clearly sets itself apart from stainless

of the Aquanaut collection with the very special

steel but as with the other Aquanaut models (and

Ref. 5168G in 18ct white gold. With a diameter of

the Nautilus watches), the design of the gently

42 mm, it introduces a new “Jumbo” size in Patek

rounded octagonal bezel with vertically satin-

Philippe’s sports chic segment in a stunning blue

finished flats and chamfered polished flanks remains

dial. An elegant and versatile watch suitable to

unchanged. Moreover, with a diameter of 42mm, it

take you straight from business to holiday. In our

is the largest model in this line. The format pays

opinion this is definitely a model to be added to

tribute to the original 1976 Nautilus of the same size

any watch collection.”

that was nicknamed “Jumbo” and today is still referred to by that name among collectors.

Price: £27,990

(Available from G Collins & Sons)

PATEK PHILLIPE Ref. 5320G Patek Philippe’s Ref. 5320G is a new perpetual calendar for the wrist that has

G Collins & Sons, Tunbridge Wells, say:

“The Ref. 5320G is this year’s new Patek Philippe Perpetual

been crafted for eternity. It automatically

Calendar model. Patek Philippe had a challenge with this

indicates months with 28, 30 and 31 days

new model to create a watch that was appealing to both

and every four years also recognises

younger and older generations. The style of this dial has

February 29 as a leap day. It stands out with

been Patek Philippe’s archetype for perpetual calendars

a timelessly sleek design, affording a glimpse

since 1941. The 18ct white-gold mono-block case (stamped

into the past, present, and future at the

entirely from one piece of gold) echoes design elements

same time. Rarely has a perpetual calendar

from legendary 1950s watches bringing a wonderfully retro

demonstrated its function so aptly. In fact, it

feel to the collection. This new model is the favourite in this

is easy to forget that in 2100, a secular year

year’s collection of Patek Philippe President, Mr Thierry

according to the Gregorian calendar, the

Stern, and we quite agree it’s a beautiful looking watch.”

date display must be corrected by hand.

Price: £60,090 (Available from G Collins & Sons)


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Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary Limited Edition This outstanding design is recognised and coveted

Speedmaster, Omega is offering a perfect

around the world, which explains why the very

re-edition of the original, and there is no doubt that

rare remaining Omega Speedmaster reference

collectors will fall head-over-heels in love. The

2915 currently trade hands for considerable

proportions and design match those of the first

amounts. The case is the same hefty 38mm one

model launched in 1957, the ‘Broad Arrow’. One of

with straight lugs, but the movement is not the

the talks of the town in Basel, this commemorative

original caliber 321 but the modern evolution of

piece is also part of a special limited edition trilogy

the chronograph caliber 1861.

set, featuring remakes of the original 1957

Burrells Jewellers, Tunbridge Wells, say: “To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic

Speedmaster, Seamaster and Railmaster.”

Price: approx. £5,370

(Available from Burrells Jewellers)

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01

This year, the famous proprietary chronograph is

sapphire case-back reveal the beauty of

being unveiled with a slightly smaller diameter of

the mechanism.

43mm, in a choice of three versions: intense black,

All of the movement’s Chrono functions are

deep navy blue and an elegant cognac brown.

identified by the colour red, in a nod to the world

The brilliance of the polished ceramic tachymeter

of motor racing: the central seconds, the

bezel echoes the polished, satin-finished steel of

30-minute counter, the 12-hour counter and

the iconic 12-part modular case. The skeleton dial – the trademark of the Heuer-01 – and the

the Start/Stop push-button.

Price: £4,100 (Available from Burrells Jewellers)

Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono Since the presentation in 1970 of the Prince Oysterdate Chronograph, its first

Burrells Jewellers, Tunbridge Wells, say: “A huge talking point at Baselworld was the

chronograph, Tudor has always produced

collaboration between Tudor and Breitling,

watches that are closely tied to the world of

culminating in the Black Bay Chronograph, the

motorsports. The new hybrid Heritage Black

first watch in the Black Bay line to exhibit a

Bay Chrono chronograph dares to combine

chronograph movement. Featuring the new

the aquatic heritage represented by the Black

column-wheel chronograph caliber MT5813, the

Bay family with the queen of the racetrack,

watch was born out of Tudor’s desire to create a

the chronograph. It features a column wheel

modern, robust, and reliable chronograph caliber

mechanism and vertical clutch. In keeping

that it could offer at an approachable price. We

with the Tudor philosophy of quality, it

think it was one of the most intriguing stories at

presents extraordinary robustness and

Baselworld this year. The Tudor Black Bay

reliability, guaranteed by an array of extreme

Chronograph will be available this summer.”

tests applied to all Tudor products.

Price: £3,430 (Available from Burrells Jewellers)



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The Smart ForFour was the first time the brand had enabled owners to take more than two people in one of their cars. Now, you’ll be able to drive one of these four-seaters with an all-electric powertrain, although the two-seater version did get this treatment in previous generations. It gets the same engine as was unveiled on its little sister, the ForTwo, at the end of last year. With a range of up to 96 miles, it’s good, but not quite up there with some of its rivals, so does it make up for this deficiency in other areas?


Rebecca Chaplin delivers her verdict on a test ride of the Smart ForFour Electric Drive



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When Smart cars got an updated look, built on the same platform as the quirky, small and versatile Renault Twingo, it was a welcome change from the old design. The brand has taken this opportunity to take some of the features and really exaggerate the unfamiliar elements of this compact car. However, in this latest facelifted version, some of the quirky interior has been toned down. The curvy and bulbous look of this car remains, though, with two-tone choices on the exterior.


Inside is still decidedly practical – as you would want in a city car. Instead of opting for a premium feel with concealed storage options, materials are designed to face a lot of short journeys, and the associated stresses of people hopping in and out frequently. Space in the front is generous, and thanks to those standard-sized doors, getting in is easy. In the back, the space isn’t quite as readily available, but if the driver and front seat passenger can afford to sacrifice some legroom, you may get two adults in. That said, with my seat in position, there wasn’t a lot of space for rear-seat passengers. In the front, there’s a small glovebox and a secondary storage box within the centre console, while door pockets are generous. There’s further space in the arm rests. Boot space is really limited – this isn’t the sort of car designed to take four people away for the weekend. With the engine in the rear, the boot floor is high and flat, but realistically you’ll only get one suitcase in, or a couple of bags.


If you’ve started out in the ForTwo, as I did, you’re going to notice a difference in handling when you take a drive in the ForFour. While the ForTwo feels planted and like it was designed to be what it is, the four-seater feels slightly like the addition of those two extra seats have messed with its equilibrium, and made it far less stable on the road. The electric drive means power is available almost instantly, although you’re going to want to try and resist the temptation to plant your foot to the ground. With only 96 miles of range – at

the absolute best – this isn’t a car for pushing to the limits. The steering can be light and a bit vague too, but again, this is only really something that should affect you if you’re driving it beyond what it’s designed for.


When it comes to price, well, this is where the Smart ForFour and ForTwo Electric Drives come into their own. Electric mobility can be extremely pricey, but if you can afford the initial outlay, you can hope to make your money back in reduced ownership costs later. However, compared to rivals, Smart is relatively cheap. At around £19,000 for the

ForFour, and only a few hundred pounds less for the ForTwo, these are very affordable compared to rivals. At the moment, you can charge at home, but it’s not particularly quick, taking around six hours to charge to 80%. Later in the year, a fast charger will be available, but cars released before that date won’t be compatible.


Those who rarely drive more than 30 miles from their house and stay at city speeds for the majority of the time will be fine. If you need to drive further on weekends, you’re probably going to need a second car – although Smart suggests that this will be the case with most owners.


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Charge your car while you soak up the luxury of our Sussex site

Electric cars are becoming ever more sought after in the UK, and their popularity sees the need for more charging points to reboot drivers on their way to their destinations. Alexander House now offers guests the opportunity to charge their cars while they enjoy a luxurious experience at the hotel and spa. The hotel now offers three charging points in its main car park – two Tesla points and one type 2 communicative charging point, for other electric car models. Charging stations can be used free of charge for all hotel and spa guests.


If you would like more information, please contact the hotel directly on 01342 714 914.



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THE GREAT OTA TRAVEL DEBATE Are online travel agents, or OTAs, friend or foe? We speak to four members of the Alexander Hotels family, to discover their personal and professional thoughts on the ever-changing hotel booking landscape

THE KEY FACTS ON OTAS BOOKING.COM Over 1.2million room nights reserved every day BOOKING.COM Present in 227 countries and territories EXPEDIA.CO.UK Directory featuring over 80,000 properties AIRBNB Over 100million users, with a company value of $30billion

IAN HEATH GENERAL MANAGER, ALEXANDER HOUSE HOTEL & UTOPIA SPA EAST GRINSTEAD, WEST SUSSEX OTAs are fantastic tools to help small and medium-sized independent hotels and groups to reach all travellers, in all corners of the world. With large-sized databases that smaller properties could only dream of, used the right way, they can help to fill quieter periods. As a hotelier, I personally would always book direct. Hotels won’t always show all available rooms via OTAs when they know they’ll fill without their help, so if I’m specific on where I want to stay, it’s best to check the true availability with the hotel directly. OTAs are insistent on what we call ‘rate parity’, so you can generally be confident that you’ll be paying the same rate, but look out for a best-rate guarantee, like we as a brand offer. What’s more, I know that I’m more likely to be upgraded when a hotel needs to move reservations around, and less likely to be out-booked when those nasty unforeseen circumstances occur!

JAMES PERRY GENERAL MANAGER, ROWHILL GRANGE HOTEL & UTOPIA SPA WILMINGTON, KENT From a personal perspective, I’m more than happy to admit that OTAs are great sources of information, especially when planning those trips abroad, which we all very much look forward to taking. It brings together all of the relevant information you need into one platform, which makes your booking plans so much easier and more convenient. Moving over and putting my ‘GM’ hat on, the one word that I would use is ‘necessary’; we need a good balance of OTA bookings coming through, as they play a crucial role in our strategy and ongoing marketing plans, plus the online reach that they occupy is phenomenal, and nobody can deny their relevance in today’s digital world. There can sometimes be a perception that OTA bookings aren’t as important as direct bookings; however, as a hotelier, I can assure you that this simply isn’t the case. The importance of guest satisfaction is at the forefront of hospitality, and the main reason that most of us have chosen a career in hotels. Therefore, whichever channel our guests choose to book through, they can be guaranteed a stay with 100% commitment from our team.


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“AS A HOTELIER, I PERSONALLY WOULD ALWAYS BOOK DIRECT. HOTELS WON’T ALWAYS SHOW ALL AVAILABLE ROOMS VIA OTAS WHEN THEY KNOW THEY’LL FILL WITHOUT THEIR HELP, SO IF I’M SPECIFIC ON WHERE I WANT TO STAY, IT’S BEST TO CHECK THE TRUE AVAILABILITY WITH THE HOTEL DIRECTLY” KATIE SAVAGE GENERAL MANAGER, LANGSHOTT MANOR HOTEL HORLEY, SURREY Personally, when booking city breaks abroard, I do tend to use the OTAs as a search tool. They’re highly knowledgeable platforms for researching locations, especially for European city breaks. However, when it comes to making the hotel booking, I’m always more inclined to book direct with the property. Working within this industry, I understand the ‘perks’, as it were, of booking direct, i.e. the showing of brand loyalty, and being the first to potentially be made aware of their future promotions and offers – always very helpful for any possible return visits! From my perspective as a general manager, OTAs have very much become a part of our everyday business structure, and we’ve definitely

seen guests who initially book online via OTAs, but later return as direct booking guests. Overall, I guess you have to think of them as part of your marketing strategy; with careful management and working closely with them, as opposed to relying on them, you create a happy medium for your business. MATT LINKIN REVENUE MANAGER, ALEXANDER HOTELS & UTOPIA SPAS Having worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen OTAs go from strength to strength. Online travel agents give guests search flexibility, which I feel is their strongest asset. For a guest looking to stay in and around Gatwick Airport, for instance, OTAs offer a very easy search platform, allowing them to search by their specific criteria. Professionally speaking, I would of course

prefer to see reservations made directly; this is how we drive brand awareness and guest loyalty. However, I don’t think that we as hoteliers can put a cost on how many guests see us via these channels, and then make a conscious choice to book directly with the hotel. As a species, we’re extremely fast learners, and guests are starting to see that there can be perks to booking direct, rather than through a third-party site such as At the end of the day, online travel agencies are neither friend nor foe, but rather a necessary evil, perhaps. With the growth of ‘flash sales’ from the likes of Secret Escapes and Groupon, and the ever-expanding Airbnb phenomenon, the party is far from over. We as hoteliers must keep our focus on a quality experience while maintaining a strong leadership in the online world, by offering the best deals directly from our own websites.


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VI RTUAL H O S PITALITY With the rise of live chat in hospitality, Alexander Hotels have chosen to embrace the technology ‘Live chat’ – or ‘online chat’, as it’s vastly known – is online customer service software with live support. This usually involves a member of a company’s online team being live to handle all guest enquiries through a pop-up messaging service; those of you raised in the ‘90s might relate this to the classic MSN Messenger of your time. The real-time platform provides guests with the immediate answers and advice they’re looking for, while also adding significant benefits to the staff and business at the other end.


Just as a shop assistant gives face-to-face advice when customers are browsing high street stores, live chat allows guests immediate access to assistance. Rather than having to wait for hours on the phone to get through to someone in a call centre (flashbacks to a few household suppliers come to mind), customers can continue browsing online, while chatting to a friendly representative on the screen. Research has found that 90% of customers consider live chat helpful, and a survey by

found that 63% were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat – a fantastic outcome for all involved. Booking an overnight stay or any other hotel experience is an intimate purchase; it’s not necessarily something that people do every day, and it can be quite daunting. Our online chat service is aimed at helping guests navigate through the booking process, but also to offer friendly and honest advice to our future guests.


With things becoming ever more digitally focused in the hotel industry, live chat is the perfect tool to give us an edge over our competitors. Our live chat function enables us to focus on the needs of our customers throughout their buying journey, and deliver as much value to their experience as possible, before they even arrive at one of our properties. A report by eMarketer found that 25% of ‘chatters’ made up to 75% of their purchases online, compared to just 10% of those who didn’t use the chat function.


The immediate interaction on live chat allows us to create an impression on our customers from the get-go. Rather than receiving an automated email reply, or getting through to an answer phone message, we’re able to provide warm and friendly human help. We’re also able to identify customer ‘pain points’ – the frustrations of our customers, or needs that are yet to be filled. Rather than waiting to hear back from a manager when emailing with a question, we can immediately identify the problem, solving it there and then through the chat, or links to pages and products they’re searching for can simply be pushed through the chat, leading them directly to what they’re looking for. In a survey completed by the eDigital Customer Service Benchmark, out of 2,000 consumers, 73% found that live chat had the highest customer satisfaction levels, compared to 61% for email support, and only 44% for phone support. Live chat is fast becoming a highly successful channel of communication for us at Alexander Hotels, and continues to grow on a monthly basis. We look forward to ‘live chatting’ with you in the future.


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Royal Tunbridge Wells Tel. 01892 534018 |

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UNIQUE Issue 6  
UNIQUE Issue 6