Destination Reviews

Johana BaldellaMay 4, 2017
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4min220

Here in Bordeaux, the return of Spring heralds the re-opening of the Night Beach. For the sixth season, the rooftop terrace of the InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel, proves it ever-growing popularity as the trendiest address in the city. The casual elegance of the sophisticated setting allied to the superb 360° panoramic view of the city and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere all combine to make this open-air-lounge “the place to be” this summer in Bordeaux.

From the end of April until September, every day without fail, the Night Beach offers trendy evenings beneath the starry skies. Enjoy innovative tapas and signature cocktails reputed to be among the best in all of Bordeaux, specially concocted by the award-winning barmen of this 5* establishment, which has quickly become the absolute reference in luxury hotels in this city. Greatly in demand are the specially-themed evenings that take place several times per month, with pride of place given to the iconic Fête de la musique (music festival) and Bastille Day (French National Holiday, July 14th). A special “Ladies Night” every Tuesday offers a complimentary nail bar, while a DJ provides entertainment on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

 

 

 

 

To mark its sixth season, the Night Beach is proud to announce something new: the rooftop terrace, normally accessible evenings only, is now open for lunch. From noon onwards, a selection of seasonal dishes is served (salads, organic salmon, Charolais beef tartare and a wonderful assortment of crunchy vegetables), prepared by Alex Thiebaut, who is the chef at the Bordeaux Gordon Ramsay Brasserie. Food here is all about lightness and balance, with a menu of detox, healthy-choice options ranging from organic teas to freshly-pressed fruit juice.

 

 

 

An added opportunity to enjoy this exceptional haven of peace and serenity, with its stunning view of the rooftops of a city that is a World Heritage Site!

 

Night Beach is open daily noon until 14h30 and again from 19h00 until 01h00

  • Lunch: from noon until 14h30 – salads and dishes from 21 euros 
  • Evenings: from 19h00 until 01h00 – cocktails and finger food 
  • Themed evenings: every Thursday evening in June and July, and every second Thursday in August, not forgetting the “Fête de la musique” (June 21) and Bastille Day (July 14th)
  • Ladies Night every Tuesday and a DJ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights

Johana BaldellaApril 13, 2017
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9min190

SOMERSET LAUNCHES ANOTHER WALKERS’ CHALLENGE TO REVEAL MORE SECRETS OF ITS BEAUTIFUL UNDISCOVERED COAST PATH

 

 

#secretseawalks

In the second of Somerset’s Secret Sea Walks we will be revealing the hidden gems to be found on a walk from Doniford to East Quantoxhead.

Called #secretseawalks, the ten-week campaign will publish a different secret sea walk every week on the Visit Somerset website http://www.visitsomerset.co.uk/things-to- do/england-coast-path- challenging and inspiring walkers to enjoy a walk at the weekend.

The campaign – which launched last week with a look at the full 58-mile stretch from Minehead to Brean – will also ask walkers to contribute their favourite ‘secret’ from their walks via social media using the hashtag #seawalks.

 

Secret Sea Walk Two – what to expect:

This stretch of the coast path from Doniford to East Quantoxhead has everything from quintessential English villages to historic churches, wonderful wild flowers to geological marvels and is a great walk for families, keen walkers and nature lovers.

Things to look out for include stunning geological wonders like the limestone pavements, red rock formations and amazing coastal views.

The walk takes in the foothills of the Quantocks – the first place in England to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and walkers are in with the chance of spotting rare flowers like Pyramid and Bee Orchids and birds including Oyster Catchers, Dunlin and Peregrine Falcons.

The ten walks range from the longer, more difficult stretches to easy and flat for the little ones. The newly opened up Somerset section of the England Coast Path includes a new footbridge over the River Swill and several new sections of path between Watchet and East Quantoxhead, with spectacular new views over the Bristol Channel. 

* The series will continue with eight other walks, each offering another unique experience, aimed at families, rest and relaxation seekers and keen walkers. Some walks will be circular, others linear and each will offer directions, amenities and what to look out for.

This project is funded by Natural England and the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership made up of EDF Energy, Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council, West Somerset Council, Visit Somerset, Exmoor National Park Authority and Visit Exmoor.

 


Jeff ArmstrongApril 12, 2017
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4min50

The Malta Tourism Authority was delighted to be a part of the National Film Awards 2017 held last month at Porchester Hall in London.  Attended by a thousand actors, industry professionals and movie fans, Malta was the official travel destination sponsor and Peter Vella, MTA UK Director, was on hand to present the Lifetime Achievement Award category to British sitcom legends Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Set to be broadcast across Sky television at a later date, other A-list attendees included Simon Pegg who beat off stiff competition to win the award for Global Contribution to a Motion Picture. Pegg commented “The National Film Awards is quickly becoming the credible alternative and a very important awards ceremony in motion picture.  It is one of the only awards ceremonies to give the power back to the public to nominate and vote for the films they love”. A total of 3.1 million fans are involved in the voting process to nominate their favourite film and television stars.

 

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With its own Hollywood credentials, Malta is famous for its beautiful coastlines, picturesque beaches, and charming villages, which have always been a hit with top film producers. 2017 is set to be another big year for Malta as the island welcomes stars including Johnny Depp, Dame Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer for the filming of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

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Peter Vella, MTA’s UK Director, says “Malta’s stunning climate, architecture, historical sites and natural beauty has made it a favourite location for the film industry. It has played host to the full spectrum of films and TV shows, including such greats as Gladiator, Troy, the Da Vinci Code and Game of Thrones, and more recently The Lake, Assassin’s Creed and The Promise. Malta’s contribution to the industry has been enormous.”

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Malta is keen to welcome travellers interested in walking in the footsteps of their Hollywood heroes, which include the likes of Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, Brad Pitt, and A-list super-couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. With the trendy nightlife, turquoise lagoons, and growing gastronomy scene, it’s no wonder that Malta is one of Europe’s hottest destinations beloved by the world’s most celebrated film stars.

Malta is a short three and a quarter hour flight from the UK, with daily departures from all major airports across the country.  For nore information. Visit:  www.maltauk.com


Jordan KensingtonFebruary 13, 2017
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10min60

Anyone thinking of a short or long break in Greece normally settles for cities such as Athens, Thessalonki, Patras, Heraklion, and may be Larissa . But, we at Chelsea Monthly like to go beneath the surface and explore what lies underneath which is exactly why last year we decided to cover Skiathos. A small Greek island in the northwest Aegean Sea.

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The island has a north to southwestern direction and is about 12 kilometres (7 miles) long and 6 kilometres (4 miles) wide on average. The coastline is indented with inlets, capes and peninsulas. The southeast and southwest parts have gentler slopes and that is where most settlements and facilities are located.

Despite its small size, Skiathos is becoming a firm favourite with those in the know and judging by the amount of Brits we saw when we descended into the airport. We know this place with  its many beaches and wooded landscape is fast becoming a  popular tourist destination. From  sandy, beaches scattered around to the beautiful hospitality that awaits you from the locals, you will find yourself surrounded by an air of tranquillity and excitement (my kind of balance). For those historians amongst you. It would be fascinating to discover that in ancient times, the island played a minor role during the Persian Wars. In 480 BC, the fleet of the Persian King Xerxes was hit by a storm and was badly damaged on the rocks of the Skiathos coast. Following this the Greek fleet blockaded the adjacent seas to prevent the Persians from invading the mainland and supplying provisions to the army facing the 300 Spartans defending the pass at Thermopylae. The Persian fleet was defeated there at Artemisium and finally destroyed at the Battle of Salamis a year later. Skiathos remained in the Delian League until it lost its independence. The city was destroyed by Philip V of Macedon in 200 BC.

In 1207 the Ghisi brothers captured the island and built the Bourtzi, a small Venetian-styled fortress similar to the Bourtzi in Nafplio, on an islet just out of Skiathos Town, to protect the capital from the pirates. But the Bourtzi was ineffective in protecting the population and in the mid-14th century the inhabitants moved the capital from the ancient site that lay where modern Skiathos Town is to Kastro (the Greek word for castle), located on a high rock, overlooking a steep cliff above the sea at the northernmost part of the island. The island returned to Byzantine control in the 1270s, and remained in Byzantine hands until after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when it passed to the Republic of Venice. Like the rest of the Northern Sporades, Skiathos was conquered by the Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1538.

In 1704 monks from Athos built the Evangelistria Monastery, which played a part on the Greek War of Independence as a hide-out for Greek rebels. The first flag of Greece was created and hoisted in the Evangelistria Monastery in Skiathos in 1807, where several prominent military leaders (including Theodoros Kolokotronis and Andreas Miaoulis) had gathered for consultation concerning an uprising, and they were sworn to this flag by the local bishop.

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Back to Present. After a 40 minute flight we touched down at Athens International Airport and in our mission to find the very best place to eat, sleep and off course rest in Luxury; Kassandra Bay Resort & Spa came top in our list of recommended resorts.  So, as we were shown round the resort, comprising of both hotel and suites we discovered that it wasn’t just your standard typical resort in Greece but one that has been curated to offer the best in luxury experience providing you with the additional option  to explore the beautiful island of Skiathos.

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KB Hotel is ideal for friends and families seeking a relaxing, laid back break. The penthouse suites offer a unique freedom to guests who want to have that home away from home experience. The current options range from Classic Double Rooms with scenic views, spacious Maisonettes to lavish Two Bedroom Family Rooms. After a decent night’s sleep, the next day we decided to unwind and we opted for the heavenly spa which left everyone feeling rejuvenated.

There is an extensive range of treatments available or you can choose to bask in relaxation at the in-house sauna, Jacuzzi or massage rooms. A modern, fully equipped gym is also available for those looking to re-energise, with outdoor Yoga and Pilates sessions on offer too.

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Since Valentines Day, is literally around the corner and with many men getting down on both knees for the ‘ultimate proposal’. The resort will provide an ideal location for a wedding or your ultimate destination for  honeymooners to commence their journery into marital bliss with an  intimate experience at the Kassandra Bay Suites, the sister-property that is a stone’s throw away from the hotel. Ideally located within lush gardens and olive groves, overlooking the sandy shores, it oozes romance and charm. The 28 suites range from the Deluxe Double to the Deluxe Suite with Private Pool, which offers luxury at its very finest. With crisp white décor, splashes of colour and minimalistic furnishings, each suite provides a sanctuary of refined comfort and luxe.It was the last night of our stay and we decided to hop into town to discover the nightlife scene. There is a regular boat service to the island and the rest of the Sporades islands with departures from Volos and Agios Konstantinos. The boats are operated mainly by Hellenic Seaways using its high-speed Flying Cat vessels as well as conventional ferries. We ended up at a Bar  called Marilyn with a few Brits who were themselves staying at the resort. There was a uniformed agreement that you get the very best of Greece right here in Skiathos. Hidden bays, perfect sunsets, charming trails for adventurers and amazing food . This place ranks top in my list of places to revisit and the resort plays the integral part in solidifying your overall experience.

 

For more information, please visit:

www.kassandrabay.com

www.kbsuites.com

 

Fact Box:

Flights run regularly from all UK London Airports to Athens International Airport, here is it is a 40minute connecting flight from Athens to Skiathos, which is also easily accessible.

Kassandra Bay Resort & Spa is located 4km from Skiathos Airport and 3km from Skiathos town.

Rooms at Kassandra Bay Hotel start from 130 euros per night, based on 2 guests sharing a Classic Double room, including breakfast.

Rooms at Kassandra Bay Suites start from 185 euros per night, based on 2 guests sharing a Deluxe Double room with sea view, including breakfast.

 

 

 


Deborah CicurelDecember 5, 2016
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21min3

When daydreamers think of paradise, they think of the Maldives. It’s even better than what your imagination could concoct in an overoptimistic reverie: the planes soar over picturesque atolls and land smoothly on the clear sea, the pilots are beaming and shoeless, the beaches are blissful and private. Dolphins fly into the air as you eat your breakfast, sharks swim beside your balcony and a rich, unfamiliar, dazzling marine world is just a snorkel away.

It’s one of the most luxurious places on earth to escape to, and it would be hard to be disappointed with the warm Indian ocean, unrivalled service and elegant hotels that epitomise the Maldives experience. But with the variety of incredible resorts on offer, each offering the same pristine photos of white sands, clear skies and glistening seas, how do you know which one to choose? Chelsea Monthly picks four of the best…

 

Maafushivaru

For romantic, laid-back luxury, Maafushivaru, in the South Ari Atoll, is an idyllic and relaxed delight. You’ll kick off your shoes immediately and forget all about them for the duration of your stay: holidays here are all about strolling barefoot in the sand, gazing at baby sharks, turtles and brightly-coloured fish from the comfort of your room, and snoozing, indolent on your secluded terrace. While there are several excursions – including snorkelling trips to spot whale sharks and manta rays – to be enjoyed, if you’re feeling lazy, you’ll be perfectly contented staying on the tiny island, soaking in the sun and enjoying the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Although the island is so small you can walk around it in minutes, it never feels overcrowded, with private beach or water villas ensuring you get your own space.

Most meals are eaten in the open-air dining room, with the plentiful all-inclusive buffet-style meals encompassing dishes from around the globe, but for a more private experience, you can head to the tiny, picturesque 135° East for sophisticated Japanese dining and teppanyaki-fuelled entertainment in an intimate setting. For a truly private experience, a night on Maafushivaru’s neighbouring baby island, Lonubo Island, is a feature not many Maldives resorts can offer. You’ll be dropped off on a dhoni to explore your very own deserted island for the evening, giving you and your partner a sense of solitude you’d never be able to feel in a normal hotel. If there ever was a time to pretend you were Robinson Crusoe, Tom Hanks in Castaway or one of the cast of Lost, this is it – but without any of the trials, tribulations and fearsome island creatures to endure, only time to bask in your beachside jacuzzi, sunbathe in true silence and watch the sun come down over the magnificent ocean.

Best of all, unlike those heroic figures stranded on a beautiful island for so many years, you don’t need to hunt for your own dinner – staff from the hotel come across to your island to cook you up a veritable feast under the stars. With bougainvillea draped artfully across the table, shimmering lanterns dotted around the sand and the giant moon hanging above the sea, it doesn’t get much more romantic than this.

 

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort is a slice of paradise that’s changing the Maldives status quo. In the peaceful Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, the recently-opened Outrigger is one of only seven resorts, meaning there’s a tranquility you won’t find in beautiful but busier parts of the Maldives. Because the area is so unspoilt, with far less tourists, there’s a sense of peace and quiet without the hiss of speedboats or roaring of sea planes above. It’s also the richest atoll in terms of fish, with snorkelling and scuba diving trips providing the sorts of jaw-dropping scenes better than brochures could promise.

 

While there are regular trips to nearby islands to spot marine life, there’s really no need to leave the resort, with diving jaunts around Outrigger’s own reef resplendent with overwhelming, colourful schools of fish, adorable baby sharks and large, friendly turtles.
Beyond the sea, there’s plenty to enjoy on land too: the relaxed, easygoing vibe of the island is combined with gorgeous aesthetic qualities. Villas are huge and stylishly designed with dark wood interiors, spacious bathrooms and private pools, while the vegetation is lush, the beaches pristine and the views unrivalled.

Perhaps the resort’s greatest asset – other than the blissful views, long stretches of beach and Instagram-perfect decor, of course – is the friendliness of the staff. The moment you step off the luxury yacht that whisks you to the island, beaming hosts present you with a freshly-picked coconut to drink – and they don’t stop smiling for the duration of your stay.

From remembering our dietary requirements and whipping up a vegetarian feast off-menu one evening to patiently waiting for us to keep up at a 7am sunrise yoga class, the staff couldn’t do enough to make our stay special, with mealtimes in particular memorable for all the right reasons.

When it comes to the food at the resort, try to bring clothes with elasticated waistbands: you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time eating. At Blue Salt, the island’s main restaurant, you can enjoy regional dishes at breakfast as well as European favourites such as waffles and French toast, while two different menus for lunch and dinner offer everything from pizza and fresh salads to tuna curries and dumplings.

For two special dining experiences, the Nala Rah Teppan and sushi bar promises an entertaining evening feast. On the teppanyaki side of the restaurant, knives are thrown around, fires blaze and eggs are cast into the air as guests clap and cheer, while at the other side, sushi chef Rudita prepares platters of exquisite sushi, so lovingly and artfully laid out the meal almost seems too pretty to eat.

There’s a misconception about the Maldives, with people fearing there’ll be nothing to do. But there’s plenty: kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on the azure lagoon, Maldivian cooking classes to pep up your culinary routine when you get home, and long, luxurious afternoons at the spa, where you can bathe in the hydrotherapy pool and enjoy a pampering, romantic couple’s massage before basking in the sunset on its private balcony.

However, of course, if you just want to flop in the sand and ignore the world with your nose in a book, that’s encouraged too. This is the Maldives, after all…

 

Amilla Fushi

For luxury experiences that are unique in the Maldives, head to Amilla Fushi and Finolhu, in the Baa Atoll. Dreamed up by The Small Maldives Island Co, both resorts have thrown out the Maldives rule book and dared to be different.

Amilla Fushi is as exclusive and luxurious as it gets. The name means “My Island Home” and every effort has been made to create a luxe home away from home vibe: there are no traditional thatched roof Maldivian bungalows or villas here, but flat-roofed, sophisticated and spacious houses and residences that will leave you wishing you could trade in your actual home for a life in this elegant, quiet land.

With even the entry level houses having enormous, open plan bathrooms, private pools, a stairway to the sea and gargantuan outdoor showers, this resort is all about space: it’s the perfect spot for families and couples looking for the ultimate in privacy. It’s the small details – like free daily laundry, movies on demand, iPads in your room and your own personal butler, or khateeb, on call – that puts Amilla Fushi head and shoulders ahead of many other Maldivian resorts, with guests feeling truly pampered from the moment they arrive till the sad moment they have to leave.

The resort has broken away from the traditional Maldives stereotype of honeymooning couples, and instead lures groups of friends and families who long for privacy, tranquility and high levels of service.

For larger groups of guests, the Amilla Beach Villa Residences are super-luxe, comfortable and stylish – and favoured by the likes of Kate Winslet and Kate Moss. With the largest residence boasting eight bedrooms, and even the smallest, with four bedrooms, offering enormous living spaces, a gigantic pool right by the beach and your very own staff, the homes are palatial and spacious, but somehow manage to be cosy too, so that whether you’re with your kids or a group of colleagues, you’ll settle right in.

The enormous, Miami-style six-bedroom Amilla Villa Estate is perhaps the most beautiful property on the island of Amilla, with an enormous pool, sleek, trendy interior design, tasteful bedrooms each with their own individual quirks, and its very own rooftop terrace for sunset cocktails. When you dream of the perfect place to whisk all your friends and family away to for a week of celebrating a special occasion, this is it.

Best of all, if you can’t bear the thought of ever leaving the residences and returning to reality, they are now being offered for sale as property investments, so “Your Island Home” really can become your home in every sense of the phrase.

 

Finolhu

For a stark contrast to Amilla that’s just as memorable, take a trip to Finolhu, which is just as groundbreaking in the Maldives for very different reasons.

With direct access either to the beach, ocean or lagoon – and your own private balcony with magical views – there would be no need to ever leave the chic villas, designed with Australian, Moorish and Asian influence in mind, but there’s plenty to do outside the confines of your own little Finolhu haven.

The buzzing, quirky, newly-opened resort attracts those who want something more than the honeymoon-perfect image of the Maldives so often painted by cheesy travel brochures: lively couples, groups of friends, active families. This resort is pumping, fun and unique, with live music, DJs, stilt walkers, flame throwers, acrobats and mermaids adding something new to the beautiful landscape. The Baa Baa Beach Club, at the heart of the resort, is alive day and night with the sound of James Brown and the Beach Boys, the clink of glasses as cocktails are prepared at the Beach Club Bar, and the splash of giant inflatable swans in the enormous pool.

The resort boasts the longest sand bank in the Maldives – a whopping 1.8 kilometres – which is also the dreamy route to the Fish & Crab Shack, where after a leisurely stroll along the white sands, you can pick up tasty seafood for lunch and enjoy it in the most picturesque of settings. The resort’s retro theme is certainly different, and a breath of fresh air: many villas have vintage phones which only call for champagne, record players so you can blast classic Aretha Franklin tunes while lounging on oversized chairs above the lagoon, and a short stroll around the resort reveals a quaint Milk Bar where you can pick up everything from brightly-coloured liquorice to garish water guns.

The theme is continued into the spa, where each massage room, or “Diva”, is named after an icon of the 60s, 70s or 80s, such as Janis Joplin, Barbra Streisand or Dolly Parton; music fans will adore dozing to the sound of their favourite female legends during an indulgent massage.The best part of being in the Maldives is being forced to relax. There’s no feelings of guilt that you should be waking up early and sightseeing, and there’s plenty of relaxing to do here: collapse on a hammock by the shimmering lagoon, stroll to any of the island’s many restaurants for a bite to eat, or spy on a turtle just a splash away from your villa. But the great thing about Finolhu is that when you’re done relaxing, there’s always a party to be found.

Thinking of visiting the Maldives? Here is what we recommend;

Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights on full board basis at Maafushivaru, Maldives in a beach villa, including flights with SriLankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers in resort. Lead-in prices for May 2017 are from £2,323 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: IO0625

Angelfish Travel (www.angelfish.travel or 01580 712690) offer 7 nights at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort, staying at a Beach Pool Villa on a B&B basis from £2,649 per person, including return economy flights with Emirates from Gatwick, domestic flight and speedboat transfers and all service charges and taxes.

Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 708 or abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers 7 nights at Amilla Fushi from £3,395pp based on two adults sharing an Ocean Reef House on a Half Board basis. Including international flights, seaplane transfers and a 50 minute spa experience per person.

Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk or 0344 557 3859) offers seven nights in a Lagoon Villa at Finolhu, Maldives from £2,997 per person, including scheduled Qatar Airways flights from London Heathrow, ‘Full Board Plus’ accommodation and seaplane transfers, as well as US€1000 resort credit per room per stay.


Laura FrenchDecember 5, 2016
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14min2

“So when are you off to Bali?” was the response I usually got when I said I was going to Indonesia. Out of more than 17,000 volcanic islands – over 900 of which are inhabited – it’s only one that’s really made it into the mainstream.

But believe it or not there’s life beyond the honeymoon haven, and it was with more than a hint of smugness that I set off to escape the crowds and explore this other side – in the form of Java, Flores and Komodo Island, three incredibly distinct isles which float like humpback whales in the heart of the archipelago.

I was on an expedition with Panorama Tours, and after an easy 12-hour flight over to Jakarta from London, we hopped across to Yogyakarta, Jakarta’s smaller, less industrial sibling. Thanks to new non-stop flights to Jakarta with Garuda Indonesia it was a lot quicker and easier than anticipated, and I felt like we’d only just jetted off when we started touching down.

 

Getting cultured in Yogyakarta

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The cultural capital of Java, this is a city where age-old traditions are guarded with unwavering reverence, where the soothing, percussive sounds of the gamelan greet you almost everywhere you go, and where Batik t-shirts and table cloths – created using wax and dye in a way they were centuries ago – fill the streets with vibrant colour and energy.

Among its biggest attractions is the Sultanate’s palace, built in the 18th century. Our visit to the grounds began with a traditional Javanese dance made up of slow, elegant movements to an accompaniment of dream-like music, and although the grounds were surprisingly modest, the royal gardens nearby were spectacular, centred around a bright blue pool and cream, colonial-style architecture.

It’s not just the artistic heritage and architecture which give the area its appeal, of course. Java is known throughout the world for its coffee, and among its most treasured is Pawon Luwak, whose headquarters lie in the form of a tiny, hole-in-the-wall style coffee shop 40kms outside the city (and close to the famed Borobudur temple). This is no ordinary coffee; it’s formed from wild coffee berries excreted by the wild luwak creature -which means it’s basically roasted excrement. As one of the most expensive and rarest coffees in the world it’s known for its quality and taste – think bitter, marmite-y flavours and a distinctive, arabica aroma – and the cafe is well worth a visit, even if drinking the stuff doesn’t sound too appetising.

 

The Borobudur Temple

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It was the Borobudur temple which really shone here, however; located in the Magelang region, it’s the largest Buddhist monument in the world, a towering collection of bell-like structures – ‘or stupas’ – dating back to the eighth century. At that time Buddhism was still the main religion, and Islam and Christianity, which now make up the island’s faith, hadn’t yet been brought over.

The best time to see this extravaganza is at sunrise. A 4am wake-up call led to us doing exactly that, and I’m glad we did; think rows upon rows of stones shaped like iced gems, silhouetted against a red sky of fire made all the more dramatic by bright, fluffy yellow clouds. Draped in a thick sheet of mist, the whole scene was filled with mystique, intercepted only by a volcano (Mount Merapi) in the distance and its still plume of smoke. And, unlike at Angkor Wat, there were only a few others around; it was silent bar the distant coo of cockerels. I didn’t think we could beat that sight, but I was quickly proven wrong. Later that day we took a horse and cart tour round the nearby village of Candirejo, galloping past bright green papaya trees and giant banana leaves and exploring several community projects, from cassava chip-making to gamelan-playing (at which I was predictably terrible).

The five-star Plataran Resort and Spa made an excellent base for exploring both of these, and I can’t recommend it highly enough; the villas themselves were as stunning as the green, mountainous surrounds, and we had our own private pool overlooking the sweeping jungle views. You can hire bikes to explore the area; we did, and were greeted with warm, welcome smiles from local villagers alongside ‘bah’s from the roadside goats and squawks from the waddling chickens.

Of course it would have been sacrilege to leave Java without getting a massage – it’s normal for locals to have one every week, according to our guide Eko – so we ended our explorations here with one. It’s safe to say this was a memorable experience, consisting of some shock-inducing foot slaps and slightly painful toe clicking, but when it finished I left feeling completely relaxed – and ready for our onward flight to Bali (a transfer point for Flores).

Flores and Komodo Island

Komodo di Pulau Rinca Taman Nasional Komodo
Komodo di Pulau Rinca Taman Nasional Komodo

Flores, specifically the town of Labuan Bajo, is known largely as the gateway to Komodo Island, but this former fishing village is worthy of some time in itself. We ventured over to the beach there the following evening and discovered one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen – swathes of bright pink, red and orange, all perfectly reflected in the sea, took over the whole beach, and I felt like I’d stepped inside an impressionist painting. That’s until the plates of food came out – king prawns, grilled fish and flavourful meat dishes, and I was swiftly plopped back down onto earth (we ate at Atlantis On the Rock, part of the Plataran resort, and it was one of the best meals of the trip).

 

 

But Komodo Island was hands down the highlight; after a two-hour speed boat ride filled with awakening gusts of wind and fistfuls of salty ocean spray, we arrived, and within two minutes we’d already spotted our first beast.

komodo-dragon-2Admiring its black claws scraping around like unwashed fingernails, scaly skin wrinkling in folds and small, black beady eyes staring out from the side, I felt a little unnerved, but it was hard to believe this creature – sitting rigidly without the slightest sign of movement – was the world’s most ferocious lizard.

But ferocious it is; unique to Indonesia, Komodo dragons, which reach up to 3 metres in size, eat their own eggs and have little problem with eating each other in a fight, our guide told us. Camouflaged against the dusty, barren surroundings, they wait for their prey to approach them unknowingly and snack on the likes of deer and buffalo. They devour up to 60kg and live off of it for the next few weeks, and their saliva is so poisonous it can kill a human in the space of a few hours.

All of this wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear as I sat crouching a metre away posing for a selfie, a string of saliva protruding from its large mouth, but I live to tell the tale. And after a two-hour trek spotting a further seven of the dragons, accompanied by the constant, dry hiss of crickets, we departed for pink beach. Here the sand is vaguely rose-tinted at the edges, but it’s the water – deliciously drinkable, the colour of blue curaçao – that holds the most appeal. Snorkelling off the boat, I spotted bright blue starfish, multi-coloured schools and huge clumps of pale pink coral, and it was with more than a hint of sadness that we headed back to base.

 

Beach time in Bali

But I didn’t have to worry about getting bored; our final stop was Bali, where we pitched up to Katamama – a new, edgy, boutique hotel plonked in the heart of fashionable Seminyak, where paperback books are scattered across high tables, chill-out music plays from the speakers and cool, wooden decor fills the interiors. My room had a mini-bar complete with cocktail-mixing recipes and equipment – enough said.

Seminyak itself had plenty to offer, including high-end beachfront restaurants like Alila, where the soft shell crab, served against a backdrop of exotic, crashing waves, was exceptional. The nearby Potato Beach Club is worthy of a visit too – drawing in a young, cool crowd from across the region with tropical cocktails and pumping music day and night, it’s the type of place where you’ll end up staying a lot longer than you planned (you’ll also need to book a ‘bed’ – AKA table – in advance). But I couldn’t help feeling a little nostalgic for the authenticity of Java, the peace of Flores and the wildlife of Komodo. There’s no denying that Bali is beautiful, but for a taste of real Indonesia it’s worth venturing further afield too – even if that does mean drinking coffee made with regurgitated beans and coming face to face with the world’s most dangerous lizards. But let’s face it, where else  in the world can you do that?

 

Garuda Indonesia:

www.garuda-indonesia.com

Long haul and island hopping fares start from £750 Economy and £2,990 Business Class, including flights (from LHR – CGK, DPS – SIN, SIN – LHR) and the domestic island hopping pass (CGK- JOG, JOG-DPS, DPS- LBJ, LBJ-DPS). Booking is valid in November 2016 and travel is valid until March 2017.

Wonderful Indonesia Travel Passdomestic island hopping fares start from £30.

Panorama Destination:

www.panorama-destination.com

Panorama can accommodate tailor-made programmes to suit various budgets, including stays in the hotels mentioned.

 


Jordan KensingtonNovember 3, 2016
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18min21

Mauritius or as the French will call it Maurice is an island steeped in tradition. Located in the Indian Ocean about 2000 kilometres off the south-East coast of the African continent. Translated, it is basically Africa at it’s finest…The island of Mauritius was visited during the middle ages by the Arabs, then by the Portuguese who named it Dina Arobi and Cirne, respectively. The island was uninhabited until the Dutch Republic established a colony in 1638, with the Dutch naming the island after Prince Maurice van Nassau. Those clever Dutch are not only known for their wacky cakes in Amsterdam… pause…. Because I think there was some wacky cake interference as the Dutch colony was abandoned in 1710, and five years later, the island became a French colony and was named Isle de France.

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The French got very excited due to its strategic position and referred to Mauritius as the “star and key” of the Indian Ocean.Well, as you might or might not know, we covered Mauritius for the Luxury Show a few years ago and you can join millions of viewers to relive the experience on our VooVix channel here. So, we decided to go back for the second time to make sure Mauritius could live up to our first journey to the Island several years ago. Our team on this trip included the perfect cast, Joanna Blyth, Laura French,Deborah Cicurel and obviously I was on hand to teach the girls swimming lessons.

A few minutes drive from the airport, we found ourselves opening the gates to paradise as we swooned into the Heritage Le Telfair. This luxurious, ocean front golf resort is a 4-minute walk from the Heritage Golf Club, 9 km from La Vallée Des Couleurs Nature Park and 16 km from the vibrant sand dunes at Seven Coloured Earth. Airy, refined rooms have balconies or terraces with garden, river or sea views, along with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and room service. Suites add butler service, sitting and dining areas, claw-foot tubs and 4-poster beds; some have outdoor showers. Breakfast and golf are free. There’s an outdoor pool, a gym and a spa, as well as 12 restaurants and bars. Diving and horse riding are offered; a kids’ club and babysitting services are available.

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As we settled down for lunch at Le Palmier hosted by Guillaume Lefebure we were joined by Catriona Stewart who completed the team. With jokes flying from one side of the table to the other and the perfect sea breeze emanating from the nearby beach. We kept pinching ourselves wondering what we deserved to have such difficult jobs. Sipping cocktails by the beach to the sound of waves can only be described as a terribly challenging task for a Friday afternoon. I feel your empathy!

 

 

 

 

Later that evening, after some well needed rest, we all assembled together as the ‘Made in Mauritius’ cast and made our way to Le Château de Bel Ombre . We were welcomed by Jacques Charles – Chief Operations Officer of Heritage Resorts. Now, the ‘Château’ in ‘Le Château de Bel Ombre is not simply used as a ploy to create a nostalgic ambiance. The restaurant itself is a historic mansion with a dated past as a thriving sugar plantation. Apart from the interior décor, the traditional charm, and elegance of the building. The main ‘’pierce de resistance’ is off course, the delicious menu and in the words of Jacques Charles “Le Château de Bel Ombre relies on fresh, local ingredients and puts new spins on traditional Mauritian dishes”.

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We retired back to the resort and despite myself and Laura French teaming up to encourage the Made in Mauritius cast to go out for a brief exploration of the Mauritius nightlife scene. Leader of the pack, Joanna Blyth took the sensible decision by offering us two options which made us choose the option she wanted in the first place. Reverse psychology at it’s best. Myself and French were left dumb founded wondering how she got us to agree and proceed to our villas like well behaved kids at a nursery. Blyth, you should be a politician – (move over Theresa May)… !

The next morning, we enjoyed wonderful breakfast at Annabella’s followed by a golf buggy drive to lunch at the Heritage Golf Club. The Heritage Golf Club is quite impressive to say the least and as a secret golf connoisseur like ‘moi’. I was excited to play the field a few years back and i was hoping for a repeat performance. The Heritage Golf Club, was designed by Peter Matkovich and opened for business in 2004.The golf complex which was designed by Peter Matkovich and opened in 2004, comprises an 18 hole championship golf course, a 9 hole Par 3 course, exceptional practice facilities, golf academy, clubhouse, restaurant and golf shop. With 5 teeing options on each hole, golfers of all levels are catered for. Now, I am no Tiger woods but with statistics like that, pulling off your ‘first tee’ is guaranteed to be a walk in the park. Unfortunately, due to the heavens shedding tears of joy to celebrate our happiness we had to abandon the pull cart for dry shelter at the Club house.

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Wondering what our next plan of action was? Well, there was only one feasible option after spending the whole day playing hard to get with the rain. We were escorted to the Seven Colours Spa for a 90 mins Coco Spa Ritual. To put it quite simply, words can’t describe how relaxed we all felt after what seemed like an intense spiritual massage which was obviously geared towards cleansing your mind, body and soul.We concluded our evening with dinner at Anabellas.

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The next morning, I chose to explore the surroundings and take a tour to meet the locals who make Mauritius one of the most sought after destinations in the world. The Island is a blend of cultures, with a mix of Indian, African, French and Chinese heritage. Later that evening we had an Aperitif and dinner at Gin’ja, hosted by Khurshid Vayid – Communication Executive. Khurshid Vayid is what I call the ‘game changer’.  She studied in London and is well versed on the London scene and she definitely knew where the party in Mauritius was taking place. She promised to introduce us to the real Made in Maurice cast (their version of Made in Chelsea….coming to a TV screen near you in the future). The first venue we  went to was ‘Big Willies’ which both Joanna and Laura found hilarious… I wonder why! I mean this is not a strange occurrence. Is it?? Perfectly normal. #OnlyinMauritius.

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After a few drinks and watching an unknown British singer rock her adoring audience. We had paid our dues and moved on to the real after party at the Lakaz Cascavelle . All I can say is that the Mauritians certainly know how to party and the Brits were definitely giving them a run for their money. By, the time I was ready to bring out the killer moves from my memory collection of classic moves… I heard the famous last words…. Taxi…!!!

The most sensible word you can hear on a night out… The driver said, “you will thank me later” and the next morning I understood why.I got up to find myself in a very deep state of meditation… it was so deep that I missed the next activity of the day.image-1 The girls however, took one for the team and enjoyed the Sea Kart Experience organised by MTPA (Mauritius Tourism Authority). In hindsight, when I saw pictures of how much fun was had by my fellow cast members. I put this on my to do list for next time.

 

Later that evening we were joined again by Guillaume Lefebure for dinner at Zafarani . As we enjoyed, the good food, great conversation and candid moments. Guillaume found himself agreeing to join the cast of Made in Mauritius. His job, was to weekly relay to us how the week was going via Skype to our live studio in London. Call it fantasy, we call it reality and we are sticking to it! By the time we reached our last day, everyone was well and truly addicted to this Paradise Island and the thought of boarding a plane back to Blighty was not at the top of our agendas.

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We strolled to the C Beach Club to join the Kite Surf training. Expert kite surfers the world over are well aware that the big surf and steady winds off the reef here make it one of the best spots on the planet to enjoy their sport. Alas, we were neither experts nor semi-professionals at the craft but we gave it a good go! As you do… We were later invited to play tennis with protective helmets… Tennis legends, Serena and Venus Williams apparently invented this style of playing tennis although I should say allegedly because for some reason I think this was a joke taken way out of proportion (Pause)…. We decided to press play and return back to the C Beach Club and we were right bang in the middle of a wedding taking place at the beach front. You could have felt the romance in the air from the bride, groom and attendees. It was like watching your own fly on the wall documentary of the best beach wedding with you literally being the fly on the beach.

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As the pastor asked if anyone on this beach had any reason why this couple should not be engaged in holy matrimony. I felt like shouting…. “Me… yes… me, because this is a perfect location and we are jealous in a good way…obviously. Now, you can continue” but I let it play out in my mind because Love conquers all and there was no need to make the front pages of the local Mauritius Gazette especially on our last few hours on the island… On that note, we departed Heritage Le Telfair for a short drive to the airport feeling like, we had just left our loved one sipping cocktails in the middle of the Indian ocean. Yes, because when you come to Mauritius you wouldn’t want to leave this paradise island. As we got to the airport, a gentleman who worked for the airlines literally helped upgrade us to more leg room (not quite… first class but its the gesture that counts) as if we weren’t impressed with the people of Mauritius. This was the icing on the cake to what had been a mission in relaxation and self discovery! On a serious note, with a plethora of stunning beaches, diverse culture, exciting activities and rich cuisine. If you are reading this and you are thinking of your next adventure. I am sure at this stage one sentence should spring to your mind.. “Say no more” and my response is check our fact box below for the much needed recommendations.

Thinking of travelling to Mauritius? Here is what Chelsea Monthly recommends:

Hotel

A deluxe room at Heritage Le Telfair starts from £260 per night (2 sharing) on a B&B basis

For further information call +230-266-9777 or visit www.heritageresorts.mu

Flights

British airways has flights from London Gatwick to Mauritius from £855 return, including taxes. www.britishairways.com

Tourist Information

For further information and to discover attractions on the island visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu

Sea Karting

The one hour Sea-karting experience costs MUR 5500 (approx. £100) This is per sea kart, which can fit two adults and one child between 6 and 12

For more information and to book visit: www.fun-adventure.mu/home 

Electro-Biking

Electro-bike excursion from £38.09pp for a 3 hour tour; £53.97pp for the 7 hour tour of the south.

For more information and to book visit www.electrobikemauritius.com

 


Jordan KensingtonNovember 1, 2016
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8min8

Ibiza is one of the Balearic islands, an archipelago of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s well known for the lively nightlife in Ibiza Town and San Antonio, where major European nightclubs have summer outposts. It’s also home to quiet villages, yoga retreats and beaches, from Platja d’en Bossa, lined with hotels, bars and shops, to quieter sandy coves backed by pine-clad hills found all around the coast. So, when we decided to take the challenge to spend 48 hours in Ibiza, it was mainly because this mission actually reminded us of our  version of Hangover in Vegas but this time we were headed to the beautiful white isle right here in Europe..Just when the season was winding down. We landed in Ibiza ready to kick off the action… yes, because when everyone goes left. It’s always great timing to take the right turn, especially when it comes to celebrating the launch of the Island’s newest openings.We ended up checking into the five-star, 117-room hotel  OD Talamanca  which was fully refurbished for 2016, in a unique and modern style. This hotel offers luxurious accommodation in a fantastic location. The hotel is overlooking the picturesque bay of Talamanca and Ibiza Town giving spectacular views of the sunsets and sunrises on the horizon. The beach with its fine golden sands and clear blue waters is only a few metres away. Before we could settle to take in the Ibiza atmosphere we had drivers outside ready to whisk us off to lunch at Ocean Beach Club.

Opened in June 2012, Ocean Beach Ibiza was instantly popular, successfully filling a gap in the market for San Antonio outdoor party venues. From day to night-time fiestas, fine dining, fashion shows, acrobatics, live performances, massages and private events. This was our first break into what was to come in the evening. Great lunch, fantastic cocktails and even better company with the sunshine shining down on us whilst the DJ’s played an eclectic mix of house music. Now that’s what I called ‘Balearic vibes’.  After we had exhausted our fist pumps and hands in the airs, there was no need for putting any airs and graces to the occasion as we were led barely sober back to the OD Talamanca to prepare for part 2 of our mission ’48 hours in Ibiza’ .

As the clock hit 7.00pm, we were chauffeured to what was our next location, STK Ibiza which was a short ride away from Talamanca in the exclusive Marina Botafoch complex  opened its doors in July. The restaurant/nightclub brings you an up to date  modern take on the American steakhouse in the heart of Ibiza town. STK is known worldwide for its excellent food and a guaranteed feel good experience .

STK Ibiza bills itself as “not your usual steakhouse” and so there’s a ‘raw bar’ with a great selection of the finest seafood, serving up ceviches, oysters and a raw tuna tartare.

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There is an excellent selection of delicious starters and salads such as the soft shell crab slider, lobster fish fingers, stuffed courgette flowers or heirloom tomato salad with creamy burrata cheese. Desserts are a mix of classics and local dishes such as churro milkshake with dulce de leche ice cream, passion fruit crème brulèe and fairground candy floss. You can choose from an excellent selection of drinks with cocktails made by award-winning mixologists. Do try their signature drinks, such as the Lemon Stiletto, and a Martini flavoured with rose petals.

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STK Ibiza offers a stylish and contemporary venue that blends a modern steakhouse backed with sparkling entertainment, including live acts and guest DJs. As well as the main restaurant lounge, there is a pretty outside terrace with ocean views and two private dining rooms for special occasions. On the night, we attended we were serenaded by performers, circus acts, dancers and much more.. This was way before the party had started and come dessert, It is  fair to say that the whole club erupted into the biggest party.. call it ‘natural progression’.

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From excellent waiters, to delicious food. STK Ibiza may have nailed it in terms of creating a playground to do Ibiza like a grown up!!  Not, that partying it up with your hands in the air is out of style but there is huge demand for the more mature options and STK actually caters for both but with an addition of slick style to add into the mix. In their own words “If there’s one thing we know how to do at STK, it’s throw a party. We’re about reinventing the traditional and putting our playful twist on everything” and if that’s not enough for you to explore for yourself then don’t blame us for missing out on all the fun!

STK Ibiza is located at:
C. Illa Plana S/N Ibiza
Marina Botafoch
Spain

For more info on STK Ibiza see:  stkibiza.com

For more info on OD Talamanca  see www.od-hotels.com

For more info on Ocean  Beach Ibiza see www.oceanbeachibiza.com


Jeff ArmstrongAugust 18, 2016
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7min7

When we think about Mexico, we usually imagine white sand beaches, margaritas and a fun-filled vacation in the sun. But what if you are done with imagining yourself in Mexico on vacation that always ends too soon, and decide to make it your permanent reality – your home?

 

 

It is estimated that around 1 million American citizens live in Mexico, and the number keeps increasing every year. The Riviera Maya, a region on the Mexican Caribbean coast, has been especially popular among retirees and families. Each family has different reasons to move to Mexico, but those who move to the Riviera Maya, and especially Tulum, often do so to run away from their daily stress and to immerse themselves in the relaxing, easy-going atmosphere of the Caribbean. Many also choose Tulum because it offers the fastest-growing real estate market in the world.

Here is some basic advice to everyone who is planning to relocate to Mexico.

  1. Buying property in Mexico as a foreigner

There are simple procedures that all foreigners have to follow when they buy property in Mexico, especially in the coastal regions. A foreigner buying land in Mexico within 32 miles (50 km) from the coastline has to use a bank trust (fideicomiso) or establish a Mexican corporation to complete the purchase.  You can choose your bank – HSBC, Scotia bank, Banamex (Citigroup), etc – that will act as your trustee, with you maintaining full control over the trust: you will be able to lease, sell or pass the property on to your heirs. Make sure you choose a trustworthy local real estate agency that will take care of all the steps of buying your property.

  1. Becoming a resident in Mexico

If you are coming to Mexico as a tourist, you don¹t need any visa – you will simply get entry permit as a visitor at the border, usually for 180 days, with no permission to work. In order to apply for Mexican residency, you must do so before going to Mexico at the Mexican embassy or consulate.

Temporary resident visa is issued for up to 4 years, and is meant for those who wish to spend more than 180 days in Mexico per year – it¹s perfect if you own a second home in Mexico. You would need to show monthly income of at least $1,553 per person and at least $520 per month per dependent. You can also get temporary resident¹s visa by showing a bank statement with a balance of about $25,880. There is also a way to get your temporary status by proving you own property in Mexico that has the value of $207,046 or more. When temporary residence card expires, you have to either leave the country or apply for permanent residency.

If you decide you are moving to Mexico permanently, you can apply for permanent residency immediately. The process will be similar as applying for temporary status, but you will have to show higher levels of income: investments with approximate monthly balance of around $103,523 over 12 months or monthly income of $2,588 per person over 6 months.

 

  1. Cost of living

 

The cost of living in Tulum and the Riviera Maya depends strictly on your lifestyle. For example, the cost of renting a property on the beach can be a few times higher than a few blocks inland, while still being a few minutes away from the beach. Also, Tulum is full of expensive gourmet restaurants – but also has plentiful local markets that are very affordable. So it¹s completely a choice of each family how to spend their budget. Similarly, you can spend $2,000 for a fancy penthouse condo in Playa del Carmen or $500 for a lovely one-bedroom in Tulum. Utilities – not cheap in Mexico – would come down to about $300 per month, groceries would cost around $400, and a maid would come down to about $60 (once per week). Thus it¹s safe to say that $2,000 budget per couple per month would be sufficient to lead a comfortable life in Tulum

 

  1. Safety

Is Mexico safe? That¹s a thought that often crosses the mind of many would-be retirees in Mexico. Mexico, in fact, is considered to be one of the best countries for expats in the world. InterNations, which is a popular expat website, named Mexico as a top place to move to because of quality of life, ease of settling in, work opportunities, family life, personal finance and general satisfaction with life. Certainly, every foreigner in Mexico should exercise common sense and caution, as anywhere in the world. Touristy regions as the Riviera Maya are completely safe, but such violent states as Guerrero, that includes Acapulco, the once-glamorous beach town, are not recommended at all.

  1. Healthcare

Mexico offers great and affordable universal healthcare, and its private healthcare is amongst the most affordable in the Western hemisphere. Locally, there are a few smaller hospitals in Tulum and modern healthcare centers in Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

 



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