Weekend bags with a very British heritage

22 Jul 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

A special weekend away calls for a special bag. We’ve got just the thing…

Classic Holdall by Chapman Bags (pictured above)
Medium-sized holdall, crafted from dyed and bonded canvas, with leather trim and solid brass fittings. All Chapman’s bags are handmade in their Cumbria workshop. £189.50 from www.chapmanbags.com

Ecounter Holdall by Tusting
Leather holdall in Honeydon Orange with sky blue trim. Tusting was founded in Buckinghamshire in 1875 and is now run by the fifth generation of the same family. £499 from www.tusting.co.uk

Kelim & Leather Weekend Bag by Umpie of Yorkshire
Capacious bag in kelim-style fabric printed in England with leather handles. Handmade in Yorkshire by cousins Ruth, Joanna and Alison Umpleby. £139 from www.umpie.co.uk

Morris Print Explorer by Barbour
William Morris print holdall with leather handles. Barbour, famous for its waxed jackets, is based in South Shields where it was founded in 1894 by John Barbour. £229 from www.barbour.com

Large Clipper by Mulberry
Black scotchgrain holdall with cognac trim. Mulberry was launched in Somerset in 1971 and though it has become a worldwide luxury brand, bags are still made in the company’s West Country factory. £650 from www.mulberry.com

Pentland Holdall by Brady Bags
Harris Tweed holdall with bridle leather trim. Walsall-based Brady Bags was founded in Birmingham in 1887 by John and Albert Brady who made leather goods for use in field sports. £296 from www.bradybags.co.uk

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost: c’est magnifique

19 Jul 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

by Katrin Wellenburg, Travelwrap Germany

I can’t resist mignardises and last month found me tucking into these delicate little beauties. But I wasn’t in Paris or even New York, where miniature pastries have become very hip. No – I was in Munich, at Sofitel Munich Bayerpost., and the excellent pastries are only one of the reasons I love this hotel.

Munich is one of my favourite European cities. With its world-class galleries, designer shopping and wonderful restaurants, coupled with its own brand of Gemütlichkeit (difficult to translate but essentially a kind of cheerful, friendly cosiness), the Bavarian capital certainly gives Berlin a run for its money. The city is home to a couple of high-end hotels, most in the classic Grand Hotel style. But there is only one five-star design hotel, Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost moved into Munich’s former Bavarian Royal Post Office in the early 1990s. While retaining the neoclassical façade, the hotel’s architects set about transforming the interior into a ravishing blend of old and new: contemporary avant-garde design mixed with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi (Sofitel is, after all, one of France’s leading hotel brands). The majority of the hotel’s 339 guest rooms and 57 suites are housed in the building’s north wing, which gives the upper-floor rooms fantastic views of the Alps.

And those mignardises? Every year Sofitel Munich Bayerpost hosts something called Fête de la Musique. Sofitel launched the fête in France in 1982 but all of its properties around the world now join in the fun, organising their own unique celebrations, blending French art-de-vivre with their own cultural traditions. In the evening, every hotel, from New York to Shanghai, throws a party.

And that’s how I (pictured above right with hotel manager Katja Herrmann) came to join locals and guests in the gardens of Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, clutching a lilac-coloured cocktail (gin, Cointreau, lemonade, raspberries and lavender). From the barbecue came the mouth-watering aroma of Australian beef slices, grilled lobster, calamari and all kinds of veggies. And then they brought out platters of magnificent petit fours and, my favourites, jewel-coloured macarons. It seemed a shame to spoil the display by eating them. Oh, go one then… A DJ team rocked the boat and a saxophonist joined in, playing soft tunes that suited the summer’s evening. It was a magical night.

The next Fête de Magique takes place in June 2015, but Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is not just about parties. Later this month it will receive the Maiden Voyage (www.maiden-voyage.com) stamp of approval. Maiden Voyage is a social network for female business travellers and all of its recommended hotels must fit certain female-friendly criteria, such as a 24-hour manned reception, a well-lit entrance and secure rooms with at least two independent locks. It also helps members hook up if they would prefer not to sit in a hotel bar or restaurant on their own.

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is the first hotel in Munich to join up with Maiden Voyage and I know it will be a great success. It’s a great opportunity for other female travellers to come to love this hotel as much as I do.

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, Bayerstrasse 12, 80335 Munich; 0049 89 599 480
 www.sofitel-munich.com; doubles from £171 per night.

Ham Yard Hotel: our favourite Firmdale

17 Jul 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

We’ve got a bit of a girl crush on Kit Kemp. Kit is the supremely talented designer behind the Firmdale group of boutique hotels. She co-owns the hotels (currently eight in London and one in New York) with husband Tim and has won all sorts of awards for her clever townhouse-style designs. In fact, we can never decide which of her interiors we like best: cool Soho Hotel or elegant Dorset Square? Or maybe Haymarket Hotel with its fabulous swimming pool…Then in June, Kit and Tim opened Ham Yard Hotel. Contest over.

Our new favourite Firmdale is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s tucked away in the heart of Soho, arranged around a little courtyard garden, set with tables and shaded by white parasols. Inside, sunlight pools on the pale wood floors, eclectic artworks cover the walls, colourful lighting hangs from the ceilings and objéts from around the globe are scattered throughout. Yet for all its bright and breezy pizzazz, Ham Yard is pervaded by a feeling of tranquility – you’d never know Piccadilly Circus, not to mention all the cafés and restaurants of Soho, are on the doorstep.

Our favourite spot on the ground floor is the library-sitting room, its walls lined with fabrics from Kit’s collection for Christopher Farr, the hand-embroidered Suzani curtains from her own textiles collection. Oh, but we also love the drawing room, with its hand-painted Scandinavian bureaux and its French fireplace…the restaurant, where the menu features the best of fresh British produce…the hip bar, where you can order small dishes, such as chorizo sausage rolls and barbequed octopus, to go with your Ham Yard Tonic (Portobello Road gin, Campari, St Germain, grapefruit bitters and homemade tonic).

With so many great spaces in which to sit, read or simply hang out with friends, deciding where to have our morning coffee took a while – inside, outside, library, lobby-lounge? In the end, we chose the bar where our cappuccinos came with the best bite-size brownies we’ve ever tasted.

There’s more. Downstairs not only is there a spa and gym (with a hypoxic chamber, if you please) but a 176-seat cinema-theatre and a 1950s bowling alley, available for private hire. Kit apparently found the vintage bowling shoes, displayed in Perspex boxes and hung behind the bowling alley’s reception desk, on eBay…

And then there are the rooms: 91 rooms and suites, plus 24 apartments, all individually decorated and furnished in Kit’s inimitable style, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing masses of natural light and an authentic Soho view (don’t worry about authentic Soho noise - the windows are triple-glazed). Lime green fabric walls teamed with vivid green- and grey-striped upholstery? A disastrous combination in our hands, but in Kit’s, pure genius. And to celebrate the opening of Ham Yard, Kit has created her own collection of bath products, which will be used in all the Firmdale hotels.

We’re not done yet. The pièce de résistance at Ham Yard is its Moroccan-style roof garden, high above the chaotic streets of Soho, complete with a herb garden and an ancient olive tree amid a carpet of lavender. There’s a gold baby grand that functions as an enormous ice bucket. Well, you’re going to need a lot of ice in your Ham Yard Tonic…

Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1D 7DT; 020 3642 2000; www.firmdalehotels.com; doubles from £310 per night.

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Welcome to Eat, Sleep & Simply Be…our little blog that does what is says on the tin. Alongside myself, our selected guest bloggers from the Luxury Travel Industry will be posting their thoughts as to some of the loveliest places to eat in, sleep in… & sometimes to simply be. Our thoughts will always be our own but at times with a sense of mischief and slight irreverence. Follow us and just see where in the world it leads.
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