Travel To | Sotogrande

Since I was a little girl, I have been lucky enough to spend time over the summer months at our family villa in Sotogrande. As one of the largest privately owned resorts in Spain, Sotogrande offers something for everyone. From the beautiful golf courses & polo grounds to local food & craft markets, all set amongst the stunning vistas of the Costa Del Sol. Whilst the majority of visitors tend to opt to stay in private villas, there are a few hotels in the area, making it a great option for a long weekend getaway with its situation less than 20 minutes from Gibraltar Airport.

As one of my favourite holiday destinations, it seemed only right to share my insights into the best places to stay, eat and things to do in the area.

STAY


1. Almenara Golf Club
2. NH Hotel Sotogrande
3. San Roque Suites

EAT


1. Lombardos – local family-run Italian
2. KE – situated right on the Port makes a perfect viewing spot with a wide variety of choices
3. Chambao Beach Bar – fresh fish cooked in a boat on the beach during the summer months
4. Veinteocho – a beautiful golf club restaurant with untainted views of the Almenara golf course

DO


1. Visit Trocadero Beach Club
2. Watch a Polo Match (& stay for post-match cocktails)
3. Play Golf
4. Visit the Sunday Market (10am onwards every Sunday at Puerto de Sotogrande)
5. See & Play with the Monkeys on Gibraltar Rock
6. Take a Day Trip to Tarifa

The Habit Hunter x

Insight Into | The Habit Hunter

Welcome to The Habit Hunter

Inspired through planning for a European inter-railing trip back in 2013, my passion for travel, sourcing great places to eat and exploring the less generic side of a city escape became clear. Following this trip, I have been fortunate enough to continue ticking off the travel bucket list, through spending a summer working in Shanghai and Hong Kong, studying abroad for a year in Barcelona and taking girly weekends away amidst it all. It was only recently when I realised the 30-odd thousand photos on my phone from these adventures were being wasted, and my family and friends encouraged me to start documenting it a little bit more publicly. This led me to The Habit Hunter — something I vow for 2017 (and hopefully the future) will remain at the forefront of my travelling, lifestyle and fitness experiences, and (fingers crossed) be of interest to others.

Coupled with entering my first 10km shortly after returning from the European trip my passion for running was spurred on too. Originally undertaken as an extra measure to keep fit for the hockey season, but soon became clear this was a hobby that wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 10km led to a half-marathon, which followed with entering my first marathon in Paris in April 2016. Having recently got back from completing my second marathon in New York, and having spent a weekend running the 100km trail of the West Highland Way in Scotland I realised I had just about accumulated enough experience to be able to document this aspect of my life too.

I’m hoping through The Habit Hunter, there will be something for everyone, whether this be ideas for city breaks abroad, things to do and explore with a London lifestyle-twist, or an insight into my fitness goals, and plan to complete the World Marathon Majors by 2018 — all whilst holding down a full-time job in London. I’m totally new to this, I’m neither an experienced writer nor blogger just a 22 year old with a desire to explore the world and keep fit whilst doing so. Any thoughts on the site are always welcomed and encouraged so please do get in touch, and more importantly enjoy!

Love Always,

The Habit Hunter x

Hotel Review | 11 Howard, New York

Overview:


Having previously stayed at The Refinery Hotel and The Dominick (previously Trump Soho), when looking for somewhere to stay for the New York Marathon I was keen to be in Soho, New York. A few searches later and I came across the newly opened 11 Howard, bagged a bargain rate and booked my flights!

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The Location:


11 Howard is near Chinatown and Little Italy, and within walking distance of art galleries, shopping and popular restaurants. Taxis are readily available, and several subways are within a five-minute walk including the N, R, A, C, E and 6 trains. Summary – you can get anywhere pretty easily!

The Rooms:


There are 10 room categories ranging from a 200-square-foot Howard Queen to the 3,000-square-foot Terrace Suite; all have 11-foot ceilings, light oak floors, large windows, custom-made Scandinavian-inspired minimalist furniture, 48-inch flat screen televisions and tablets from the technology company Keypr, which guests can use to order room service and make requests such as extra towels.

Hotels-11-Howard-NY-Boutique-Hotel-Bathroom-ProductsThe décor in the rooms is the work of design studio Space Copenhagen, the vibe is Scandi-minimalist, with beige walls, wooden furniture with a mid-century accent, and block-colour fabrics in dusky tones.

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While New York isn’t known for its spacious hotel accommodation, my King Room felt particularly compact, with not much floor space to be seen — and it wasn’t even the smallest room category on offer. Those in search of something a little more spacious should opt for a Howard Deluxe or one of the suites, such as the Terrace Suite, which comes complete with a wrap-around deck.

The Food:


There’s a limited room service menu, but who wants to order in when the French restaurant Le Coucou, run by the American chef Daniel Rose —renowned for his cuisine at the restaurant Spring, in Paris—is right downstairs? Snagging a table for dinner is nearly impossible, but guests get priority reservations. The restaurant is also open — and not nearly as coveted — for breakfast. My morning meal of French press coffee, an omelet with fresh mixed herbs and grilled bread was simple and delicious. The Library also serves breakfast starting at 7 a.m. and has a menu of small plates and drinks during the rest of the day.

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The Drinks:


In the evenings, follow the spiral staircase up past Dan Attoe’s neon art piece to the Blond bar and lounge for cocktails. Like a party-mad reverse Cinderella, it transforms, at the stroke of 9pm, into a nightclub. There’s a strict guestlist from Thursday to Saturday, but as a hotel guest you can order drinks from 5pm to 9pm, provided no events are taking place. There’s moody lighting, Donnie-Darko-esque bronze animal-masked busts by British artist Charming Baker, velvet sofas, smoky gold mirrors and, yes, a disco ball.

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The Facilities:


The Library, a stylish but inviting all-day lounge with several comfortable seating areas and an eight-person communal table; a small gym; and a bar and nightclub, the Blond, that opens at 5 p.m. daily (it is closed on Sunday). And, instead of going the way of many hotels today by giving guests complimentary bike loans, those who stay here get to borrow longboards (similar to skateboards) instead.

The Service:


This is perhaps what let down the hotel for me. Granted they’d not been open long when I arrived, however, the staff just seemed a little unsure with protocol, and didn’t think on their feet for solutions. I also had a terrible first night with someone above having a raucous party and the smell of their cigarettes wafting down into my room, response from the management team..? “um… we’re sorry” – not exactly 5*.

However, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll return when they’ve (hopefully) ironed out some of these teething problems.

The Habit Hunter x

Insight Into | The New York Marathon

“There Is Something In The New York Air That Makes Sleep Useless” 
Simone de Beauvoir

Running the New York Marathon has always been an aspiration of mine, but one that I never truly believed would be achieved. Having entered myself into the ballot for the last 4 years (even after having never run further than 10km), and always getting that pitiful ‘Sorry, not this time’ email –  I gave up hope on gaining a place. Sods Law, give up hope and a few days after having run the Paris Marathon I received the ‘Congratulations’ email — and the NYC planning began.

For a first-timer in the NYC marathon, the excitement was inevitable, as was the apprehension. Whilst I have never heard anyone regret entering the ‘largest marathon on earth’, there is a great deal of austerity surrounding the hours before the race begins, and the transport arrangements required the morning of the race. Due to the nature of the race starting on Staten Island, each entrant is required to choose a transportation option to the start, this is either bus or ferry. Having read mixed reviews on both options, I opted for the bus option (and think if I were to do it again I would make the same decision).

So there I was, alarm clock set for 4am, first breakfast consumed and off to the New York Public Library I ventured to catch the bus. Still pitch black a very sleepy NYC surrounded myself and the other 50,000 runners heading to the start line. Through security, and off onto the buses we went, like excited children heading to summer camp. About an hour later we crossed the Verrazano Bridge and arrived at the start ‘camp’. Which is organised into 3 sections based on your start times. In true USA style, they put on a spread — Bagels, coffee, energy bars, all you needed (other than perhaps a few more hours in bed). Arriving at the start line almost 3 hours before I was even due to begin the 42km haul was a little daunting, and I think had we not been so lucky with the weather (beautiful sunshine on what should’ve been a much crisper November morning), I think my mood may have been a little different as there is a lot of waiting around.

However, soon enough the call for the first wave of runners was upon us, and off I went. Running through all 5 NYC boroughs, with overwhelming crowds from start to finish, it really is a marathon to remember. One not to take for granted, and one I hope I will be able to do again! 3hrs30 later, the finish line was crossed. A truly incredible experience, and one I would recommend to anyone with any doubts in entering.

The Habit Hunter x

Hotel Review | Riad Sapphire, Marrakech

Overview:


Having previously visited Marrakech and stayed at Dar One and Dar White, I brought a friend back and booked into Sapphire thanks to a recommendation. Honestly, it blew the others out of the water.

A Zen-like sanctuary in the heart of the medina, Riad Sapphire is owned by an experienced duo who know what it takes to run a top-notch guesthouse. The interiors are sleek monochrome, the suites are extravagant, and breakfast is a showstopper.

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The Location:


Riad Sapphire is located in the northwestern corner of the medina in Sidi ben Slimane. It is one of the few authentic local neighbourhoods left in the medina, but it is a 10-15 minute walk to the Djemaa, the souqs and a 20-25 minutes walk to the palace museums. Taxis are available near the Sidi ben Slimane mosque.

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The Rooms:


Eight large suites are spread around two internal patios and arranged across two floors. Named after precious stones they continue the neutral colour palette with splashes of jewel-bright colours in the cushions, coverlets, day beds and rugs. The comfortable Queen-sized beds have been specially commissioned and bathrooms are supplied with organic Natus toiletries.

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The Food:


Breakfast is a blow-out feast including traditional staples such as Moroccan pancakes, homemade jams, pastries and fresh fruit along with omelettes and eggs. Dinner is also available on request with the focus on healthy, organic home cooking. The chef worked in an Italian restaurant for 17 years so both Moroccan and Italian menus are available.

 

The Facilities:


Beryl and Barbara, with more than 15 years experience in running riads, have created a relaxed, welcoming and professional guesthouse. They are ably assisted by five Moroccan members of staff and an in-house English manager, who can help book activities and excursions as well as organising cookery courses. The in-house hammam is a bonus and can cater to two people at a time, which is perfect for honeymooning couples.Sapphire-3.jpg

The Service:


Second-to-none!

The Habit Hunter x

Hotel Review | Gainsborough Bath Spa

Overview:


Following my first ever marathon in Paris my sister whisked me away to Bath for a couple of days of R&R. Could there be a better place than Gainsborough? Hmm… I’m not sure. I visited shortly after they opened their doors and all I can say is wow – they have done an epic job.

Interested? Top 10 | Tips for running your first marathon

The Location:


It’s right in the centre of bath – prime location. But honestly, you’ll never leave the hotel walls!

The Rooms:


There are 99 rooms and suites across four storeys, some with thermal water taps and private courtyards, others with the panoramic views of the city. Even the standard rooms offer luxury, but it is not this that distinguishes them. It is the smaller, boutique detail: the champagne for those celebrating an anniversary or just running a marathon, the lavender sprigs left on the bed alongside — best of all — a dose of daily sonnets.

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The Food:


The restaurant, which is laid out in two wings, is run by German chef Johann Lafer whose “dining without borders” philosophy sees him combine locally-sourced foods with Asian flavours, hence a delicious roast rack of Wiltshire lamb with Szechuan pepper crust, celeriac and blood orange. Desserts are equally exotic and there’s an eclectic wine list. Breakfast is superb with Bavarian white sausage and pretzels on the menu.

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The Drinks:


The small, contemporary bar is another winner with head barman Joel Saint John specialising in a range of cocktails ranging from Bath gin to smoked Bourbon and pure milk vodka.

The Facilities:


The name gives this one away – but the star of the show here really is the spa.

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Our sensory journey began at the Aroma bar, where given a series of aromatherapy oils by Neal’s Yard Remedies to sniff and choose from, our bespoke aroma pouches were made up. Would we intuitively choose the essential essences our bodies and mood instinctively need? We were then each handed a little sachet of scented Cornish natural salt which we were encouraged to inhale throughout our day. The answer, it seems, was yes. Our noses led us to the essences that lifted our mood and spirits.

This spa truly is a sybarite’s dream. Float your troubles away in one of the small, warm baths filled with Bath’s natural thermal waters or make like a Roman emporer in the large pool under the glass atrium. Sit as long as you can in a steam room, followed by a cold shower – there’s also a less intense infra-red sauna. We had plenty of space and peace and quiet as there are only a handful of people using the spa at any given time. We enjoyed the cool of the ice alcove where a lion’s head in the wall patiently continuously erupts ice cubes from its mouth.

 

While we were wallowing in the large pool a tray was brought to us bearing bottles of chilled water, scented cold hand towels and two shots of Georgian style hot chocolate with just a hint of a kick of chilli – delicious and made to an 18th century recipe. It’s a nice touch, referencing Bath’s 18th century bathing rituals along with those of Roman times and the 21st century.

One of the nice touches of the spa is there are no nagging signs telling you not to do this or that.

The Service:


The front of house team were incredibly pleasant and beyond helpful (mints and bottled water handed to us by the valet for our journey home).

 

The Habit Hunter x