Vakkaru Maldives unveils new fitness package

World-renowned fitness expert Yasmin Karachiwala is bringing her ‘Hack Your 21st Century Digitised Body’ retreat to Vakkaru Maldives from 9th – 13th August 2019. Awarded the ‘Best Fitness Instructor’ by VOGUE, Yasmin Karachiwala and her team have created a bespoke programme to help guests rev up their daily routine.

With over 26 years in the industry and known as the pioneer of Pilates in India, Yasmin is India’s first ‘Balanced Body Master Pilates’ instructor and ‘Fletcher Pilates’ instructor. With numerous awards and accolades to her name, her elite client list reads like the cover of a fashion magazine. From India’s A-lister’s Katrina Kaif to Deepika Padukone, celebrities train with Yasmin to sculpt, tone and help look their ultimate best self.

Yasmin Karachiwala

Harnessing all her knowledge and experience, Yasmin invites guests to unplug and reset at Vakkaru Maldives. “I am absolutely thrilled to be bringing my brand of fitness to the Maldives for the first time. I am looking forward to “Hack Your 21st Century Digitised Body” as I have created a holistic experience where guests will be able to take away a little bit of everything. My personal goal is to increase your knowledge on Pilates and to beat the common misconception that you need equipment to work out. I will also be joining forces with the culinary team at Vakkaru Maldives to curate my ultimate breakfast table every morning, spend an afternoon sharing my hacks on the best travel-friendly snacks and smoothie concoctions as meal replacements and share some of my well-kept secret recipes for desserts. At my masterclass, I want you to understand that the food you eat must not be a tedious diet that you have picked out of a magazine, but a variable routine that you look forward to each morning,”says Yasmin Karachiwala.

Nestled within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll in the Maldives, Vakkaru Maldives is the perfect setting to bask in the ultimate luxury of time and space where guests are invited to relax, reflect and refocus. General Manager Nicholas Mason says “We recognise that our guests are on a lifelong, personal and emotional quest towards a fulfilling health and wellness goal and we are dedicated to ensuring they have access to the best”.

Guests can book an all-inclusive retreat or a class-by-class session. The programme includes:

9 August 2019 – Day 1
8.30am – Morning Pilates at Main Pool Side Deck
6.30pm – Sunset Tabata at Vakku Beach

10 August 2019 – Day 2
8.30am – Beach Pilates Circuit Training at Isoletta Beach
6.30pm – Pilates with Props at Gym

11 August 2019 – Day 3
8.30am – 20-20-20 Pilates at Lagoon Bar
6.30pm – Vakku Beach Cardio with Tone-y Bands

12 August 2019 – Day 4

8.30am – HIIT at Isoletta Beach
6.30pm – Sunset Yoga at Merana Spa’s Wellness Area

13 August 2019 – Day 5
8.30am – Free-hand Pilates at Gym

Yasmin Karachiwala’s 5-Day “Hack Your 21st Century Digitised Body” is priced at:

  • Beach Pool Villa US$7954
  • Over-Water Villa US$6024

Inclusive of:

  • 5 nights’ in above mentioned villa category
  • Half Board Meal Plan ie; daily breakfast and dinner
  • Return transfers either via seaplane or domestic flight (subject to international arrival time, weather and availability)
  • 1x 60-minute body massage at Merana Spa
  • Access to Yasmin Karachiwala’s “Hack Your 21st Century Digitised Body”
  • Green taxes and other applicable taxes

Alternatively, guests may book individual classes at US$70+ per sessio

This 2019, complementing Vakkaru’s island offerings will be a collection of curated, ultra-immersive and cherishable guest experiences in collaboration with luxury guest experiences specialist, The Magnolia Creative Collaborations. From culinary greats to wellness mentors, from scent experts to fitness guru’s, from luxurious fashion collaborations to exquisite artisanal pop-ups, Vakkaru Maldives will be inspiring guests to create timeless memories, effortlessly.

For reservations and general information, please visit or contact

About Vakkaru Maldives

Vakkaru Maldives is a secluded tropical island resort located within the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in the heart of the Indian Ocean. Only 30 minutes north of Male International Airport by seaplane, Vakkaru – meaning coconut timber in Dhivehi – is an unforgettable paradise blessed with powder soft, brilliant white sand, crystal clear turquoise water, 360-degree uninterrupted views and sprawling coral reefs with unique marine biodiversity. Keeping the natural beauty of the island as unspoilt as possible – including retaining over 2,300 fully grown coconut trees – and drawing on the rich traditions of the locale, design elements are focused on Maldivian style fused with the finest natural resources and contemporary interior. Guests can revel in the choice of 125 beach and over water villas and suites, as well as four sensational restaurants, two bars, a wine cellar and an outstanding array of treatments in the over-the-water Merana Spa. Facilities also include Splash Dive and Water Sports, two tennis courts, a badminton court, the Parrotfish Club for children below 12 years, Coconut Club for teens and an overwater gymnasium with personal trainer.

20% off spa breaks


Get 20% off a range of spa breaks here

Win an overnight stay for 2 at Champney’s


April is the time for fresh starts and new beginnings! Spring has sprung and we’re getting all kinds of broody as we start to notice the blossoming nature around us. If you’re expecting, then this is the prize for you – and even if you’re not, but just need a bit of a life spring clean then entering this competition is a step in the right direction, after all what says cleansing the year away more than a foot rub?

The Champneys venues are famed for their pioneering edge and state of the art facilities. The health spas know a thing or two about the world of pampering, so you’re in safe hands (and stunning grounds) at all of their venues. What could be better than winning an overnight break there? Your one night’s stay would include a specialist treatment, use of facilities, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As this is our month of new beginnings, there is also an option to choose a fantastic pre-natal treatment involving a foot soak, back massage, and collagen boosting body mask, all of which culminates in a relieving foot, leg, and scalp massage. Sounds pretty blissful. If you are pregnancy free, don’t get discouraged, there are treatments available for you too, as well as a thoroughly enjoyable visit. So… What’s stopping you? Click here to enter

Baie des Anges Antibes – affordable luxury on the Côte d’Azur

by Avril O’Connor

Few of us would ever consider holidaying for a fortnight in a 5* hotel on the swanky Côte d’Azur. That’s because we’ve been given the impression that it can only be afforded by the mega wealthy, owners of superyachts and Ferraris, film stars and ageing tax exiles. But that picture is far from the truth.

Of course you will see yachts – of all kinds – Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse was anchored off Antibes while we were there. And we were able to get a good view of the world’s second largest yacht which boasts 2 swimming pools, 2 helicopters, a submarine etc etc. And we did that from a little glass bottom tour boat which also gets so close to the exclusive luxury hotels on the nearby Roc that we can see the indignant looks on the faces of the bathers on their loungers.

Abramovich yacht

Roman Abramovich’s yacht Eclipse – the world’s second largest moored off Antibes –  worth US$475 million


Glass bottom tour boat on the pier at Juan les Pins

But there is another side lovely side to this area – places that the ordinary working folk who live there know about and would rather we didn’t.  And I don’t blame them. Like the folks of London’s Notting Hill who decant elsewhere during the carnival to escape people doing all kinds of despicable things in their front gardens, the people of Cannes flee the town during the Film Festival. So its not all red carpet glamour, especially if you live and work there!

Cannes Market – far more exciting than the designer shops – we spot five different types of asparagus! And everything looks so wonderfully fresh and vibrant.

Monastry Abbey

Abbaye de Lerins – on an island accessible by boat from Cannes – with a shop and restaurant – worth a visit

Cannes has shops with reasonable prices and one of the best food markets I have ever seen (near the station) and an array of great  budget hotels and bed and breakfast’s (there is a list in the tourist office in the Palais des Festival). The local tourism body is very keen for us to see the everyday value-for-money side of the this town.

I was recently pleasantly surprised to find that even the exclusive headland area, between Nice and Cannes, called Cap d’Antibes – home to even more expensive hotels, such as the Hotel du Cap – Eden Roc where Sharon Stone was celebrating when we popped in – also has undiscovered gems.


Hotel Baie des Anges – a relaxing place to spend time by the pool

The 4* Baie des Anges Hotel is one.  Set within a pine forest on a hill, it has a spectacular view of the bay all the way to Nice.  It is slightly secluded but the hotel runs a regular mini-bus service to the town of Antibes with its bougainvilla clad houses, tiny alleyways, restaurants, market, bustling port and the Picasso Museum.

Baie des Anges underwent a complete renovation over nine months in 2013 which moved it up from a 3 to 4 star hotel.  It also boasts a gastronomique restaurant – l’Angelus,with panoramic views of the coast. It’s lunchtime when we arrive and relaxed enough to allow guests who have been lounging around the pools or enjoying the spa to eat in their towelling robes.

The menu uses seasonal local produce with some cocktails reflecting the wellness theme with essential oils! But old habits die hard since for me since a Kir Royale epitomises the Côte.

The hotel has 164 rooms (suits and some apartments) – all with a balcony and air conditioning; three salt water swimming pools and one of the best thalassotherapy centres and spas in the region – it was also the first sea water spa on the Mediterranean coast for more than 20 years.

Thalasur twin-bedded room

A typical double room

The thalasso spa is enormous with two inside heated salt water pools with bubbling seats and underwater jets, a Jacuzzi, a Turkish bath and an extensive menu of treatments for health and relaxation. There is also a fully equipped gym.

Thalazur indoor pool

Hotel Baie des Anges – one of the two inside pools

During our visit the nearby town of Juan les Pins was buzzing with the annual Jazz Festival where Stevie Wonder and George Benson were billing, so we went in quest of peaceful santuary to recouperate  in the spa for the day.

Our recommended programme included:

  • Gommage Sous Affusion – body exfoliation,using marine plants which improves the circulation and cleans the skin to prepare for the treatments
  • Enveloppement D’Algues Remineralisante – the body is enveloped in hot seaweed and mud.  Next you are wrapped in a hot blanket while the body detoxes and hydrates. Total bliss as you fall asleep enveloped in the warm water blanket.
  • Bain hydromassant – a warm, very active bubbling bath of seawater with massage jets
  • Modelage “Aroma” – a lovely massage with Mediterranean essential oils from Provence.

We also tried the hydro-bike exercise class – which was a bit like a spin class underwater. The day was well spent and we felt cleansed and relaxed by the time we left.

This spa has treatments for everyone including new mothers (and fathers) and babies; slimming and nutrition, detox and anti-stress.  It also has various packages and special offers. It also welcomes guests who simply want a spa day at the hotel.

For those who don’t just want to lie around there is plenty to do and not too far to go to do it. There is Marineland – the only one in Europe; the village of Grasse, famous for its perfume shops and a trip to old Nice is a must.

I really liked this hotel – everything was clean, the rooms were spacious, the staff were chatty, and nothing was too much for the spa therapists, the food was great – and the fellow guests were normal people, a few with children, who came to relax rather than make a splash with their cash.

Fact Box

Hôtel Baie des Anges Thalassotherapy Hotel & Spa
770 chemin des Moyennes Bréguières
06600 Antibes
T: +33 492918200
F: +33 493659414

Price: Depends on season but can be as low as 200 euros per night.

Getting there:

Road: A8, Antibes exit, Sophia-Antipolis, Vallauris/follow A8 access road for 1km/take the D35 from the A8 motorway exit.
Train: Antibes is 3km away
Bus: from the airport to Antibes (2 euros)
Airport: Nice

Super Last Minute Barbados Special – 40% off

40% Off Leamington Pavilion, Barbados


Leamington Pavillion Barbados

For all of those travellers who wait until the last minute to book their summer vacation, Leamington Pavilion in Barbados is offering a 40% discount for travel between August 15th to September 20th, 2014! Travel must be completed within these dates.

Also, special “Early Bird Booking” discount of 15% for bookings before the 31st October 2014 for travel between January 8th to April 15th 2015.

Contact Sublime Travel: T: +44 (0)1753 653646

UK’s Ragdale Hall excels with 5* pampering & service

Ragdale Hall health hydro and thermal spa
by Emma Ashley
It is not surprising that Ragdale Hall has won an array of awards.  Their ethos for delivering outstanding service cannot be surpassed.  From first arrival, a team of professionals meet your every need from valet parking to individual tours of the facilities.


You are provided with a full schedule of your treatments and meals.  All you need to do is change out of your clothes into the robe provided, decide how you are going to begin to unwind and just relax.
Although Ragdale Hall was opened as a health farm in 1973, it is the multi-million pound renovation, which was opened in 2007, that has put it on the map.  From the exterior, it is Victorian architecture.  The interior is contemporary luxury.
 It has been re-named as a Health Hydro and Thermal Spa with good reason.  There are five pools with the option to exercise or simply relax with massage jets, foot spas and waterfalls to relieve your aches and ease your mind.
You can swim inside or outside, or try the Candle Pool (with a strictly no talking policy) and float away in quiet contemplation.  11 heat facilities, from the volcanic salt bath to the scented heat room, provide you with a variety of sensory experiences, surrounding you in warmth and calm.  The experience shower lets you stand in a cold mist of rain or stand in a warm thunder storm.
There is an endless supply of fluffy towels.  Shelves have been placed outside each of the heat rooms for you to place your glasses.  It is simple touches like these that make all the difference.   There are water fountains to quench your thirst throughout the facility.  There are water features and fountains.  And if at any time you need to rest your senses, there are plenty of nooks with big comfy chairs for you to escape to, to read a book, chat or just take in the Leicestershire landscape.
There is a fantastic selection of treatments, all performed by an experienced set of professionals.  Together, the team work like clockwork, ushering guests in and out of treatment rooms from the fabulous treatment reception area.  The range of treatments includes hair & fitness; the male zone; mums to be; hands & feet; body massage; face & eyes; all in one; holistic & health; and scrubs, tanning, floats, detox & wraps.  The hardest question you need to ask yourself is which treatment to take.
If you require a more energetic experience, there is a fully equipped gym and an excellent selection of classes to get your blood circulating such as Zumba or the Sunset Stretch, or perhaps tennis or croquet.
There is also the plenty of opportunity for your to shop if you so desire, with a the Boutique, Beauty Shop Gift Shop and Hair Studio.
The only issue that you may have is how to fit everything in.  From the time that you receive your revitalising breakfast in bed until your relaxing cup of tea after dinner, it could be easy to fall into the trap of having multiple treatments and trying to use every facility available to you, and end up not spending enough time just relaxing.
As you look about Ragdale, you will see every member of staff is polite and helpful and has a smile on their face.  They look like they enjoy their work.  If you then look at all the guests, everyone looks relaxed and happy.  That says it all really.  What more could you want.
•Two night midweek breaks from £288 per person including all meals, inclusive treatments and use of facilities.
•Two night weekend breaks from £355.
•Day packages from £69 – £165.
Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa
Ragdale Village, Nr Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire  LE14 3B
Tel:  01664 434831
Reservations Direct Line: 01664 433000

Bath House at the Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath

Bath House at the Royal Crescent Hotel


Bath House.jpgSet in a world-famous spa town, the Bath House has steam and sauna, cool and tepid plunge pools, warm pool, complementary therapies, beauty tratments and a gym. Treatments include wraps, facials, exfoliation, acupressure and reflexology. The hotel restaurant is modern British with Mediterranean.

Bath House at The Royal Crescent Hotel
16 Royal Crescent
Bath BA1 2LS
T: +44 (0)1225 823 333

Champneys Health Resort Tring Hertfordshire

Champneys Health Resort Tring

champneys-spaTring.jpgA private mansion set in Parkland, Champneys, has a vast array of treatments, as well as dietary advice and fitness programmes. Treatments range from Clarins facials, to alternative therapies such as reiki and watsu and osteopathy. There is also a range of Ayurvedic treatments. The restaurant serves gourmet healthy food.

Champneys Health Resort
Hertfordshire HP23 6HY
T: +44 (0)1442 291 000

Cowley Manor – Cheltenham

Cowley Manor

Cowley.jpgCowley Manor is a 30-bedroom Italinate mansion .

Cowley Manor Cowley, Near Cheltenham Gloucestershire, GL53 9NL T: +44 (0) 1242 870 900. Fax: +44 (0) 1242 870 901 Email: 

Spa at the Mandarin Oriental London

Spa at the Mandarin Oriental


MandarinOriental.jpgThis spa uses E’Spa treatments in a peaceful oriental atmosphere. Treatments are a mix of East and West and include massage and water therapies. There is a mineral water plunge pool.

Spa at the Mandarin Oriental
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
T: +44 (0)20 7235 2000

Dorchester Spa – London

The Dorchester Spa


DorchesterSpa.jpgThe opulent spa is in the basement of this traditional London hotel. There are saunas and steam rooms and treatments include the best of E’Spa, Eve Lom, Jurlique and Thalgo. The menus of the hotel are available but they are not necessarily low-calorie.

Dorchester Spa
Dorchester Hotel
Park Lane
London W1A 2HJ
T: +44(0)20 7629 8888

Berkeley Health Club & Spa

Berkeley Health Club & Spa


Berkeley Health Club.jpgThe Christian Dior Spa is on the top floor of the hotel with spectacular views of London. It has one of London’s only roof-top pools.Treatments use Dior products as well as other special treatments such as stone therapy. It also has a state of the art gym

Berkeley Health Club & Spa
The Berkeley Hotel
Wilton Place
T: +44 (0)20 7235 6000

Ragdale Hall Health Hydro & Thermal Spa

Ragdale Hall



Ragdale.jpgRagdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa
Melton Mowbray
Leicestershire LE14 3PB
T: +44 (0)1664 434831

Utopia Health & Leisure Spa, Kent

Utopia Health & Leisure Spa


Utopia Health and Leisure Spa
Rowhill Grange Hotel & Spa
Wilmington, Kent DA2 7QH
T: +44 (0)1322 615 136

Champneys Forestmere – Hampshire

Champneys Forestmere

champneys-forest-mere.jpg A health farm in woodland next to a lake, Forestmere, has a gym with trainers and indoor and outdoor pools. Treatments – a vast range from wraps, to mud, thalassotherapy, facials, massage and alternative therapies.

Forestmere Liphook, Hampshire GU30 7JQ T: +44 (0)1428 726 000

Chewton Glen – Hampshire

Chewton Glen


ChewtonGlenspa-pool.jpgA privately-owned five star hotel on the edge of the New Forest, the spa has a range of the latest treatments, as well as tennis, a gym and an indoor pool. Treatments use Clarins, Guinot and E’Spa and there is also yoga and massage.


Chewton Glen
New Milton, Hampshire BH25 6QS
T:+44 (0)1425 275 341

Calcot Manor – Gloucestershire

Calcot Manor & Spa





Calcot_Exterior.jpgNear Tetbury
T: + 44 (0)1666 890391 
F: + (0)1666 890394

Seaham Hall – Durham

The Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall HotelSeahamSpa.jpg

Seaham Hall Lord Byron’s Walk Seaham, County Durham SR7 7AG T: + 44 (0)1915 161 4000

West Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona

West Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona

6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

T: + 1 408 624 1000


63 - Westin Kierland Resort & Spa [640x480].jpg

Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

Enchantment Resort. Sedona, Arizona ENCHANTMENT RESORT 525 Boynton Canyon Road Sedona, AZ 86336 T: + 1 928-282-2900 F: + 1 928-282-9249 Reservations: 800-826-4180 Sales: 800-522-2282 Surrounded by the majestic red rock formations of Boynton Canyon in Sedona, Enchantment Resort combines luxury with rugged grandeur inspired by Native American culture, which is honored every day through the resort and spa Native American Programs. 12 - Enchantment Resort_Sedona [640x480].jpg

Spa Mosaïc Decléor & Carita – Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris

Spa Mosaïc Decléor & Carita at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe

Set in the heart of Paris, the spa uses skincare treatments by luxury beauty lines Decleor and Carita. One of the  most popular  is the Decleor Perfect Buste which improves skin tone and elasticity.



Hammam [640x480] [640x480].jpg


























                     Mosaic Spa Hammam



Arc de Triomphe Hilton

51-57 Rue de Courcelles, 75008 Paris
T: +33 1 58 36 67 00

Marbert Beauty Farm – Weilburgstrasse

Set in a beautiful park in heart of the Austrian city of Baden, this spa has its own spring which is used in the various sulphur bath-based treatments. There is a large indoor swimming pool, sauna, solarium, fitness room and tennis courts, bicycles, and several nearby golf courses. The city has Roman-style public thermal baths.

The treatments include facials, oil and salt wraps, massage, anti-cellulite, hand and feet treatments and waxing. There is healthy food menu in the spa, while the hotel has a gourmet restaurant.

There are fitness trainers who while create personalised programmes in the gym, while the Beauty Farm aims at weight loss, skin rejuvenation and other aesthetics. Outdoor activities nearby include hiking, horseback riding, casino gambling, tennis, and golf.


Marbert Beauty Farm at the
Grand Hotel Sauerhof, A-2500 Baden, Weilburgstrasse, Austria
Tel: +43 2252 412 510

Vinotherapy in the green heart of Italy

At Elixir we promote the anti-ageing properties of red wine – it is full of antioxidants, including resveratrol.  And we thought the only way to sample the anti-ageing effects was to drink it!  So you might perhaps understand my shock when I sampled vinotherapy for the first time.


After one of the best massages I can ever remember I was relaxing in the vinotherapy bath tub, containing what I assumed to be grape extracts when my spa therapist uncorked a perfectly good bottle of red wine and poured its contents into my bath. Seeing the look of pure horror on my face she relented and saved a glass, saying it wasn’t good to drink too much in the spa.

23 vino terapia [320x200].jpg

So with glass in hand I not only tasted but relaxed and bathed in  the revitalizing and antioxidant vapours of one of the fine wines of Torgiano – a hilltop village in the heart of the famous DOC and DOCG wine region of Umbria.

The Bellauve Winetherapy Spa is indeed a gem. It is peaceful and beautiful, with indoor and outdoor pools, Turkish baths, gym and outdoor relaxation areas surrounded by olive groves and views of the Umbrian Hills.

25 massaggio 1 [320x200].jpg

The spa  is set in one of the region’s most exclusive five-star hotels, the Relais Hotel Le Tre Vasalle. The hotel, in a 17th century house and whose name refers to the ancient ceramic winejugs, is in a narrow street in what was once a fortified village in the Middle Ages, near  ancient towns of  Perugia (5 miles) and Assisi (10 miles).

Surrounded by antique furniture and paintings, each of the 60 bedrooms is furnished differently, giving it has the atmosphere of a grand country home – perfect for a romantic getaway. The restaurant, Le Melograine, reworks traditional Umbrian specialities such as pasta with black truffles, as well as diet menus served with famous local wines.

Le Tre Vassale brings together wine, art and hospitality. This is because the hotel is the passion of one family – the Lungarottis, first and second generation winemakers who have made Torgiano their own.

Le Tre Vaselle, outdoor pool [320x200].jpg

The family has filled the town. As well as the hotel, there is a wine museum and olive oil, museum and the nearby Cantine Lunggarotti which produces the finest red wines  grown on surrounding slopes (Sangiovese, Anaiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), including Rubesco. The whites (Trebiano, Grechetto, Chardonnay, Pinot are grown on cooler hillsides. And there is also an excellent sparkling Lungarotti Brut made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Giogrgio Lungarotti and his wife and Maria Grazia, an art historian run the winery business with daughters Chiara and Teresa and produce around three million bottles of wine annually.

Cantine Lungarotti, Torgiano Rubesco RIserva [320x200].jpg

A visit to the Wine Museum and the Cantine are a must. Housed in the 17th century Palazzo Graziani-Baglioni, it has one of the most comprehensive collections of viticulture artifacts anywhere in the world – from its earliest stages in the Mediteranean to the Middle Ages and beyond – covering five thousand years of winemaking history. The theme of Bacchus runs through the collections which are housed in 20 rooms, featuring working tools, the ….of pleasure, fine prints, drawings, antiquarian books and graphics by Picasso and a glass by Jean Cocteau.

Wine Museum, Fondazione Lungarotti, Cocteau glass [320x200].jpg

The hotel offers a range of activities including truffle hunting, cookery classes, as well as scooter hire.

I have always wanted to go truffle hunting.  And it was not a disappointment.  No need to get up at the crack of dawn.  After a lazy breakfast we are driven to a nearby forest to meet our guide Matteo and his English setter Asia.

AliceandTruffles [320x200].JPG

The black traffles, known locally as “black gold” can fetch up to 150 Euros a kilo and the rarer white 3,000 Euros so the cost of buying your truffle dog – 4,000 euros in the case of Asia can pay dividends.


Asia was no disappointment.  She was driven by a reward of a cheese slice each time she found a truffle. Sniffing the ground and as if by magic she would start digging with her paws, finding truffle after truffle.  Standing on her back legs she put her front paws on Mateo’s hips to claim her reward.


As we walked in the woods we passed groups riding horses – this is also riding country. And back at the minibus we were greeted by table laden with a feast of antipasti and red wine – and it was only 10.30am! A bit early even for me but sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do! It would be rude not to.


Hotel Le Tre Vaselle, via Garibaldi, 48. Torgiana – Perugia. T: + 39 075 9880447 Double rooms from  £194 ($297, €220), also look out for special packages and promotions on the website.

Cantine Giogio Lungarotti T: + 39 075 988661 information on wine tastings

Wine and Olive and Oil MuseumsT: +39 075 9880200


Getting to Torgiano

Alitalia to Rome

Ryanair to Perugia


Turkish delight in Istanbul – the Ritz-Carlton Spa


by Avril O’Connor

There really is no other city like Istanbul. Uniquely straddling both Asia and Europe, it is frenetic melting pot of cultures and peoples. It is architecturally breathtaking with the greatest examples of Byzantine and Ottoman art and architecture anywhere in the world today.

At the same time it is a city undergoing an economic revival with entrepreneurs opening up trendy shops, bars and restaurants. It has one of the youngest populations of any city. In the numerous cafes you are more likely to find yourself sitting next to Prada-clad locals than anyone wearing a Fez.

So whether you want to marvel at some of the world’s greatest buildings or shop till you drop, Istanbul will have something wonderful and enchanting for you. Another reason to visit now is that Istanbul has been named European City of Culture next year – so get there before the crowds!

One of the most luxurious and romantic places to stay is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel right in the centre of the city. There are not many hotels where you can watch a giant supertanker pass by your bedroom window! And don’t be fooled by the skyscraper exterior, inside this hotel is seriously sumptuous. It is decorated in Ottoman-style splendor with service to match. All rooms have flat screen TV, broadband Wi-Fi internet access, Bulgari toiletries, huge marble bathrooms and terry bathrobes.

The Laveda Spa, offering both Western and Eastern therapies using Carita of Paris products is the best in the city. There is a spacious pool surrounded by Byzantine columns and a painted ceiling to recreate the Istanbul sky. You can try a Turkish Haman – a traditional ritual of exfoliation and cleansing with a total body wash, followed by a massage.

In summer the open air spa allows you to feel the gentle breezes while indulging in a massage or other therapy as you gaze across the Bosphorus. One particular sumptuous and relaxing treatment is the Sultans Royal Six Hands Massage which is carried out by three therapists. Beware this spa is so relaxing that you may not want to leave –  but it does have a poolside bar!

Fact Box Ritz-Carlton Istanbul FROM $452, 290 £229, per room per night (+ 8%VAT) Breakfast: $43, €28, £22 (+VAT)

Traditional Hamam Treatment 30 mnts: $83, €53, £42
Laveda Signature Body Massage 60 mnts: $142, €91, £72
Sultan’s Royal Six-Hand Massage 50 mnts: $375, €240,£190 T: +90 (0) 212 334 44 44.

Turkish Airlines: Reservations: 0844 800 6666 (from the UK)
Economy return to Istanbul from the UK (inc tax and charges prices may vary ): From Stansted $276, €177, £140; from Heathrow $393, €252,£199: Business return to Istanbul from (inc tax and charges) – from Stansted $889, €570, £450; from Heathrow $966, €619,£489

Don’t Miss

Visit the Blue Mosque is famous for its slender minarets and blue tiles made by craftsmen from the town of Iznik. Afterwards walk through the gardens to Haghia Sophia another of the city’s splendid mosques. Inside is a marvelous array of mosaics, friezes and more Isnik blue tile decorations. Spend the afternoon at Topkapi Palace which was home to Selim the Sot, who drowned in the bath after drinking too much champagne; Ibrahim the Mad, who lost his reason after being locked up for four years and Roxelana, consort of Süleyman the Magnificent. Must sees are the harem and the jewels.

The Spice Bazaar where you can buy all kinds of exotic foodstuffs including handmade Turkish Delight and the finest Persian saffron. Follow with lunch at Pandeli which is above the main waterside entrance to the market – fantastic mezze including caviar, followed by aubergine pastry and steamed sea bass. There are three salons covered in stunning turquoise glazed tiles and on the walls are the photos of celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, who have dined there over the years. Misir Çarşi 1, Eminönü, 36420. T: +90 (0)212 527 3909

The Grand Bazaar is a huge Ottoman shopping complex where you can buy everything from carpets, leather goods, to ceramics, jewellery and the finest pashminas.

There are bargains to be had but you must haggle. Buy beautiful diamonds and brown topaz earrings at Jewels Edel– Kapaliçarşi Kalpakçilar Cad no 73. T+ 90 212 527 9797. Email

Topaz Restaurant & Bar This is a new restaurant, with walls of glass, perched on a hill in the Gurnussuyu district with spectacular views, particularly at night, of the city and the Bosphorus. Sophistictated Mediterranean and Turkish menu. T + 90 (0)212 249 1001.

Kanyon Shopping Mall

The place to buy designer labels. A modern shopping emporium with a Harvey Nichols store, and boutiques such as Dolce & Gabanna, Gucci and Banana Republic, Mango, Next and Max Mara

Ismail Acar’s Gallery

One of Istanbul’s most famous artists has a rather unusual gallery spread across several floors of a wooden house. Ismail works across several different mediums, incorporating traditional historical themes into contemporary works of art including portraits and even kaftans. He has exhibited in galleries in New York, London and Strasbourg. Karaköy, Lüleci Hendek Cad. No: 116/1 Beyoğlu. +90 (0) 212 252 03 88 Email:

Bosphorus cruise
– hire a motor yacht with butler to see the waterside summer residences of the Ottoman aristocracy and foreign ambassadors built in the 17th,18th and 19th century. The rates for private boat tour (min. 2 hrs) on an 18-metre motor yacht accommodating 12 passengers starts from $780, €500, £395 (+18% VAT). $390, €250, £197 (+18% VAT) for each additional hour. Arrange through your hotel concierge.

Win a spa-pampering day at Champneys


London: The UK’s leading healthcare mutual Benenden has joined with ELIXIR to offer one reader a day of ultimate pampering at Champneys – worth more than £130.

In a recent survey by the Benenden Healthcare Society, it was found that nearly 14 million UK adults have either changed or considered changing their bank, healthcare or utility provider in the last year because the ‘relationship’ hasn’t been working for them. We now expect much more from our working relationships such as having trust and respect to make sure it’s long lasting and healthy.

Benenden Healthcare Society is one of the UK’s oldest and most respected healthcare mutual organisations, priding itself on the relationship it has with its members and the first-class exceptional and affordable healthcare it provides for families, individuals and employers.

To help take the stress out of whatever relationship is currently giving you a headache, Benenden is offering one lucky winner the chance to unwind with a Champney’s Spa Day. It can be taken at either of the Champney’s UK spas.

The Spa day is worth £130 and it includes this programme:

Arrival 9am

Welcome, introduction & fresh juice

Champneys Massage

Relaxing Facial

Thalassotherapy Pool Session

Hot/cold lunch

Unlimited use of facilities: Swimming Pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Laconium & Gym

A choice of the 20 relaxation and fitness classes daily

Departure 6pm

Q1. Which American actor played the ‘Fonz’ in the TV program Happy Days?

Please send your answer by email to, with Champneys in the header, and your name and address, by 30 September 2009 and your name will be put into a drawer for the prize. Please note that no financial equivalent is offered and the Editor’s decision is final.

For more information on Benenden visit