A Year of Hidden Gems & Unique Experiences – 2016 Highlights

A Year of Hidden Gems & Unique Experiences – 2016 Highlights


Looking back at 2016, there were some tough moments but there were also some incredible experiences that I’ll never forget. Paul and I got to tick off quite a few things from our ever expanding bucket list. From a year of hidden gems and unique experiences, here are our 2016 highlights. In a year when a relative passed away and another was struck with a particularly cruel illness, your support and kindness has been so touching. To all our readers, followers and brands that we have been lucky to work with, we wish you a wonderful 2017, filled with adventures and surprises.

Cruising down the Thames in the UK’s only hottug

Regular readers will have noticed my obsession with all things quirky, so this unique way of cruising down the Thames was right up my street. The UK’s only hottug is surprisingly warm thanks to the wood-burning stove and the bubbly probably helped too!

Driving a McLaren at Goodwood

I’ve always been a fan of fast cars so driving a McLaren at Goodwood race track was a definite highlight. Strangely enough, it was more intimidating to be driving one on the open road afterwards but both experiences were very enjoyable!

161027-mclaren-goodwood-777Enjoying an exclusive preview of Chaplin’s World in Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin achieved so much in his lifetime, and now his legacy lives on at Chaplin’s World in his former home on the shores of Lake Geneva. We were fortunate to enjoy an exclusive preview of the new museum in March before its opening to the public a few weeks later.

chaplin-museum-veveyExperiencing the thrill of a RIB boat and sailing a classic yacht in the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is such a charming destination and was the perfect place to experience the thrills and spills of a RIB boat for the first time. We squealed a bit as it dashed through the waves, before alighting on the island to watch the Classic Yachts Challenge. Later, we learned how to sail a classic yacht, before savouring an amazing dinner at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s former home.

panerai-rib-boatExploring the Wild Atlantic Way and staying in an Irish castle

The Wild Atlantic Way is one of West Ireland‘s most beautiful hidden gems. What better way to explore it than from the fairytale Ballynahinch Castle. Our full review will be appearing soon so watch this space.

ballynahinch-castleGetting my culture fix at the opening of the new Tate Modern

Standing proud over London’s skyline, Tate Modern was extended this year with the new Switch House. Although the new building is quite austere, the viewing deck on the 10th floor is not to be missed. There are some interesting artworks on display too, including a room dedicated to sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

new-tate-modern-reviewKayaking through the Everglades

We got an adrenaline high, kayaking through the Everglades in close proximity to alligators. As long as you don’t disturb them, they are perfectly safe and this trip through the mangroves was a real delight.

everglades-alligator-kayak-tour-reviewLearning how to play polo at Guards Club

I’m always happy to be trying something new and learning to play polo at the prestigious Guards Polo Club was an amazing adventure. Most of the other participants were expert horse riders, whilst I hadn’t been on a horse for a good few years. Thankfully I had a fairly docile pony and managed not to fall off 😉

how_to_play_polo_like_a_proMaking (and eating!) chocolate in Brussels

Whether you’re a chocoholic like Paul and I or not, you’re sure to enjoy chocolate making in Brussels. We headed to expert chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud’s workshop to create our own rather unique treats.

gerbaud_chocolate_brusselsMastering Italian home cooking in Venice

Venice is one of those places that I had expected to be overrated but it blew me away with its beauty. After exploring the city’s many hidden gems, we ventured to the Dorsoduro area for a masterclass in Venetian cooking. Our hostess with the mostest, Enrica, knows the city like the back of her hand and she showed us how to rustle up a veritable feast.

enrica_rocca_veniceSkiing in two of the best resorts in the world

Kitzbühel is one of the most photogenic ski resorts out there but this medieval Austrian town has plenty more going for it, including 179 kilometers of slopes. It was voted best ski resort in the world by Skiresort.de. See how we got on during our visit in March.

kitzbuehel-village
Another famous ski resort, Val d’Isere, was voted best in the world at the World Snow Awards. We headed there in December when the snow was already abundant and stayed in a picture perfect chalet.

val-d-isere-france-lakeFor old school glamour, you can’t beat Verbier in Switzerland and we’re looking forward to visiting in the New Year for more skiing adventures, gluhwein and tartiflette!

Snorkelling in the Similan Islands, Thailand

It was the first time in Thailand for both Paul and I – safe to say that we’ll be back! One of our favourite spots was Khao Lak, famous for its White Sand Beach. We ventured to the nearby Similan Islands on board the Lady Sarojin, enjoying a day of snorkelling amid the clear waters and spotting a myriad of fish and sea turtles.

the-sarojin-boat-trip-islandVisiting the Alhambra by day and by night

Never one to shy away from controversy, I asked whether it was best to visit the iconic Alhambra in Granada by day or by night. You’ll have to read the post to find out which we preferred but needless to say, you won’t be disappointed with either a day or night visit.

alhambra_granada_viewWalking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

In May, I was lucky to attend the Cannes Film Festival and best of all, to walk the infamous red carpet! Managing not to trip on my dress, I posed for the paparazzi before going inside to watch The Salesman, which went on to scoop quite a few awards. After the festival, we headed to a lovely hidden gem nearby, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

suze-cannes-red-carpet
Watching geysers explode in Iceland

Our first visit to the Golden Circle in Iceland was a revelation – there are so many natural wonders to see. The geysers dutifully exploded as if to order, every few minutes, giving the spectators a thrill! We enjoyed some delicious gourmet meals too, as Icelanders pride themselves on their home cooking.

Little_Geysir_IcelandWining and dining in style

There are so many wonderful oo many to mention this year, but this month I caught up with a good friend at the Chinese Cricket Club. This stylish restaurant is located within the Crowne Plaza London The City and has been popular since its opening in 2009. It specializes in dim sum and Sichuan cuisine, and we tucked into the Shengdan tasting menu. We enjoyed prawn har gau and salt and Sichuan pepper squid before savouring crispy aromatic duck served with spring onions, pancakes, cucumber and hoi sin sauce. Yet there was more to come, in the shape of delicious beef tenderloin with black pepper, Kung po turkey, three seasonal greens and Sichuan special fried rice. Accompanied by a bottle of Finca Lorosco Chardonnay Reserva, it was a veritable banquet!

chinese-cricket-club-review
Later that week, Paul and I enjoyed an Italian inspired brunch at Veneta in the new St James’s Market quarter. Here’s a video that Paul made of our experience…

We loved the Venetian take on breakfast dishes, with avocado, chilli and stracetelli on sourdough for me and pork and fennel sausages, tomato, Portobello mushrooms, pancetta and fried eggs for Paul. These went perfectly with Prosecco, orange and grapefruit Mimosas and a piping hot chocolate. We couldn’t resist the wonderfully crisp frittelle, Italian mini doughnuts to finish.

veneta-st-james-brunchFinally, I met up with Miriam for a decadent Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Intercontinental Park Lane. Created in collaboration with master chocolatier Paul A. Young, it’s available until 8 January. Our knowledgeable waiter, Stefan, served us a chilled glass of Moët champagne. We then sampled a moreish Stilton, chestnut and walnut vol-au-vent and a venison and winter vegetable puff. The sandwiches were a manageable size and with tasty flavours such as smoked salmon, crayfish and prawns, honey roast ham hock with cranberry and pineapple chutney and turkey with a sage stuffing. Next up were the classic and speculaas scones with strawberry jam, clotted cream and a lovely orange curd. The piece de resistance was the Christmas sphere of chocolate ganache, orange and cranberry compote with salted caramel hazelnuts. I also liked the white chocolate water ganache with mincemeat and single origin Grenadian Kalingo dark chocolate, and a smoked crackling embers tart with gingerbread and single origin 72% Venezuelan ganache. We were served three different teas during the afternoon, with the cocoa nib and peppermint being my favourite.  Finally, we were treated to a fruit cake made to Winston Churchill’s family recipe!

So there you have it, these are just some of the highlights from an exceptional year of bucket-list experiences and hidden gems. Which of these adventures would be your favourite and what are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

intercontinental-park-lane-chocolate-tea

  • what a fabulous year you’ve had, Suze! I’m so excited for some trips to new destinations next year!

    • Yes, can’t wait to hear what you think of Thailand! Wish we had had longer there

  • What an amazing year you’ve had Suze! You’ve already got me Googling the hottug – think it’ll make a lovely way to surprise someone for a special occasion so thanks very much for that tip and happy new year!

    • You can fit up to 6 people in there, Shikha, so it’s great fun for one person or for a small group of friends! Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and hope to see you at Traverse if not before

  • oooh what an amazing year and so many bucket list items ticked!! I really hope to tick off Iceland next year!

    • You will love Iceland, Angie – I’d recommend wrapping up very warm if you go when the Northern Lights are most likely to be seen

  • You had an amazing travel year, Suze. Loaded with glitzy destinations and unique experience. I wish you the best for the new year and many happy travels!

  • It’s an amazing 2016 you had! Happy New Year x

    Jessica — NinetyCo

  • You had such a wonderful 2016, all the best for 2017, lovely xx

  • That was some year Suze with so many wonderful memories made. The Alhambra is still on my wish list – looks stunning. Here’s to many happy travels this year.

    • I’d definitely try to stay overnight in Granada if you do visit, the town is charming too! Have a lovely 2017 filled with travel

  • What a fabulous run down of your 2016 highlights! I must say that Alhambra looks particularly stunning – it’s not somewhere I’d considered until seeing your photo just now! Here’s to another fabulous year ahead for you Suze!

    • You really have to visit the Alhambra, Maggie, it’s magical! Here’s to a brilliant year for you too

  • wow you guys did such amazing stuff in 2016
    Happy New Year
    xo
    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

  • Hayley Rubery

    Suze it looks/sounds like you’ve had the most wonderful year! I hope that 2017 brings you everything you’re hoping for! P.s you look incredible in that dress for Cannes!

    Hayley xo
    http://www.frockmeimfamous.com

  • A beautifully interesting and varied year of experiences – once again, I’m really looking forward to seeing all that you have in store for 2017!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

  • wow que maravilla de experiencias

  • WhatWouldVWear

    2016 was definitely your year! Loved all of your travel destinations!

    Happy New Year, babe!

    xoxo, Vanessa
    http://www.WhatWouldVWear.com

    • That’s very kind, Vanessa – and what an exciting year for you this will be. Can’t wait to see photos of your future new arrival

  • I’m just amazed by how much you do and how much energy you have keeping up with your whirlwind lifestyle! I’d look nowhere as glamorous haha! HAPPY NEW YEAR! xx

    10 Travel Destinations for 2017 – Posh, Broke, & Bored

    • You look very glamorous indeed! I certainly don’t always feel it when I’m travelling ;-). Happy New Year to you too

  • Ellie Adams

    What an amazing year absolutely jam packed full of adventure, wishing you many more in 2017 Suze!

    Elle
    http://www.theellenextdoor.com
    xx

  • Coco Cami

    What an incredible year, I wish you a wonderful 2017 too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Camille xo

    http://www.cococami.blogspot.co.uk

  • Oh, I would to learn how to ski in the resort, it looks gorgeous! It seems like 2016 was an amazing year for you! It’s amazing how many places you were able to travel to! Here’s to an ever better 2017! <3

    xx BASH   ||   HEY BASH

    • I know, many weren’t originally planned but we loved every minute. Hope you have a brilliant 2017 too

  • What an awesome year of travel! I love seeing your amazing adventures. 🙂

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    What a fabulous year of travel and some amazing adventures. I hope you have an equally amazing 2017

  • what a year! happy 2017!

  • Such an amazing year! May 2017 be even more exciting!

  • What an exciting year! It was so much fun reading your posts throughout the year and I am very much looking forward to read about your luxury adventures in 2017. It was lovely to catch up over chocolate afternoon tea at the Intercontinental 🙂

  • Wow what a special year you’ve had, Iceland and Cannes are two of my favourite places so these really stand out to me!

  • Some great unique experiences listed here Suze! My favourite so far? Making chocolate in Brussels and eating it!

    Happy 2017 and hope you’re keeping well.

    Lots of love,

    Laura xx
    http://www.shehearts.net

  • Deepika Gumaste

    Woah! You have had some amazing moments last year Suze. My favourite would be the Cannes Film Festival. I am story writer myself, so that’s something I would like to do one day too 🙂