The Alpina Gstaad

A Luxury Boutique Hotel in the Alps

Gstaad, Switzerland | A Preferred Hotel

With a panoramic train ride from Montreux easing us into life at the quintessentially Swiss mountain resort of Gstaad, I knew my stay at the Alpina Gstaad was going to be memorable.  Designed in a classic chalet style with a mix of traditional and contemporary Swiss interiors (including a vast collection of notable art), the Alpina Gstaad is the epitome of discreet Alpine luxury.  Each space within the hotel incorporates woodwork expertly crafted by regional artisans to create a chic and inspiring atmosphere.

As I settled into my room with a balcony overlooking Gstaad’s panoramic views, it was quiet evident that the Alpina Gstaad was going to be one of those places where I can completely relax and recharge.  With only 56 rooms and suites, the hotel is an oasis where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and concentrate on yourself with the magnificent Bernese Alps as your backdrop.

Filling my stay with activities all centered around wellbeing, it felt as though my days blended into one restful memory.   The Alpine experience provided by the Alpina Gstaad was simply beyond all my expectations.

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Recharge Your Senses  at The Alpina Gstaad

As a world famous ski resort, ascending upon this exclusive Swiss resort in the summer months might be an unexpected choice for some.  However, with unspoiled Alpine areas and spectacular views of luscious greens, a summer stay at the Alpina Gstaad might just be a life changing experience for some.

Summer at the Alpina Gstaad is all about finding serenity and recharging your senses.  With the Six Senses Spa at the heart of the hotel offering world renowned treatments designed to indulge your senses (including treatments incorporating Tibetan healing methods), summer at the Alpina Gstaad is truly a sanctuary away from home.  For anyone wanting to get away from the stresses of everyday life, be sure to take advantage of the personalised wellness programmes that can be tailored made for your entire stay by considering your lifestyle related concerns and wellbeing goals.

You can also take advantage of the outdoor pool (set at a soothing temperature of somewhere between mid 20 and 30 degrees) and soak up the Alpine sun or indulge yourself at the indoor pool complete with spa facilities which include a jacuzzi, sauna, flotation room,  hammam, salt room and twelve treatment rooms.

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Dining at The Alpina Gstaad

If gastronomy is high on your list of expectations from a great standout hotel, then you are at the right place.  With two Michelin starred restaurants, Sommet and MEGU, the Alpina Gstaad is sure to satisfy your culinary desires.

Orchestrated by Michelin starred chef, Martin Göschel, Sommet boasts an unique menu which pays tribute to exceptional produce of the Swiss Alps.  With wellness at the center of its menu concept, each plate is presented as a base vegetarian dish which can then be enhanced, if desired, with a selection of meat options.  The tasting menu is a must try and with a superb offering of wines (including 400 rare vintage bottles hand picked by the head sommelier), each course can be perfectly matched with complimentary wine.

As the first Japanese restaurant to arrive in Gstaad, MEGU boasts a contemporary, yet authentic menu which is an exciting addition to the Alpina Gstaad.  Headed by Takumi Murase and Tsutomu Kugota, both trained at MEGU in New York, the restaurant presents dynamic Japanese dishes that takes you on a culinary journey and exploration of traditional and unique ingredients from Japan.  If you decide to go for a selection of seasonal sushi and sashimi, be sure to order some sake – including some special rarities imported exclusively by the Alpina Gstaad.

The Alpina Gstaad houses some cosy dining options as well such as the rustic Swiss Stübli where you can enjoy traditional Swiss raclette and fondue.  But for the ultimate indulgence, I highly recommend the Alpina Gstaad’s room service, particularly for breakfast.  With balconies and terraces overlooking the Swiss Alps attached to your room, breakfast ‘in bed’ is not only spectacular but completely relaxing.

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Take a Trip Outdoors

Take advantage of the Alpina Gstaad’s great outdoors as well by participating in yoga and meditation classes set in the hotel’s grounds.  Or, if you fancy venturing off the resort, spend a day at Arnensee Lake which is about a half hour drive from the Alpina Gstaad.  There, try out some water sports like paddle boarding and enjoy the most delicious barbecue prepared by the hotel whilst gazing at the sun setting beyond the mountain terrain.

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A Panoramic Journey to The Alpina Gstaad

To complete your journey to and from Alpina Gstaad, I highly recommend taking the The GoldenPass Line train  route with its base in Montreux.  The tourist oriented route takes passengers aboard a traditional train with panoramic views of the Swiss Alps – a perfect way to start and end your stay at the Alpina Gstaad.

Alpina Gstaad, Preferred Hotels

Thank you to the Alpina Gstaad and Preferred Hotels for a wonderful stay!

For more information, visit Alpina Gstaad’s website here.

My Big News! Announcing My Pregnancy

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There’s been some big news that I’ve been wanting to share.  About 4 and a half months ago, I found out that I was pregnant!  After weeks of what I thought was a mild stomach flew, it suddenly dawned on me one night at dinner that maybe, just maybe, there might be some other reason behind my constant nausea.  We both looked at each other and thought, nah, can’t be.  But as soon as we got home, the first thing I did was to rummage through our bathroom cupboard for that stick.  After what felt like eternity, my heart thumping and a cold sweat forming on my forehead, the result was pretty conclusive. The plus mark was clearly visible!

We had discussed this a few months back and decided that it might be nice to start trying.  I could not think of anything more special than being able to add a mini-us to our little family with him.  I don’t think either of us actually thought that I would however, get pregnant so quickly.  To be honest, as I’ve had some health issues in the past, I thought this might take at least a year and potentially require multiple rounds of IVF.  So as the realisation slowly dawned on us, I have to say, I was slightly unprepared for the news, but definitely elated and relieved at how lucky we were.

I am proud to announce that I am now 20 weeks preggers and starting to feel the baby’s light thumps and wiggles.  I could have announced a lot sooner, but after reading up on ‘how and when to announce’, I felt that I wanted to keep this between me and my partner for a little longer.  Being 5 months, I’ve had the chance to do some initial research and feel like I can confidently share my experience with you and other fellow mothers-to-be.

So from this point onwards, stay tuned for baby updates and my thoughts on being pregnant!

PS: these photographs were taken by my baby daddy in Ibiza as the sun set over the horizon.  I could not be happier to be able to share these moments with him.   The fact that he took them makes these photographs even more special.

Photographed by Baby Daddy in Ibiza, Spain

Adriatic Luxury

Hotel Bellevue

Adriatic Luxury Hotels | http://www.adriaticluxuryhotels.com/

With only the lobby visible from the tinted glass entrance, Hotel Bellevue was unassuming with a quiet confidence of what they have to offer. It was not until we made our way to our suite and out onto our balcony that we realised that the hotel had been carved into Dubrovnik’s rough cliffs overlooking the Miramare Bay. The uninterrupted view of the turquoise blue sea stretching out before our eyes was simply breathtaking.

As we watched a few local boys cliff diving off into the bay, Ron and I looked at each other and smiled. This was going to be a perfect few days away from home.

Mariko Kuo poolside at Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik, Croatia Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia Breakfast at Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia

It took us no time to adjust to the Mediterranean lifestyle at the Hotel Bellevue.  Our mornings were slow as we took our time waking up to the sound of the sea, followed by breakfast at the cliff top restaurant with spectacular Adriatic views.  Afternoons were spent interchanging between the private pebble beach below the hotel and the indoor pool and jacuzzi, as I concentrated all my efforts on getting a bronzed tan.  Once the sun had dropped slightly, we would scooter into Old Town to walk the city walls and visit familiar sites from the Game of Thrones. When we were hungry, we dined alfresco at a seaside restaurant as the sun slowly set beyond the horizon.  We ended our days lounging by a cliff side bar lit only by candlelight as we gazed at the deep blue sea ahead.

Days were carefree at the Hotel Bellevue and our life back in London felt so far away.

View from Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia Spa at Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Decorated in neutral hues with contemporary furnishing, our suite was generously designed with a lounge area and separate bedroom connected by an ocean view balcony stretching the length of the suite.  It was quite evident that Hotel Bellevue had put a lot of thought in making the rooms a private sanctuary for us and there was nothing more romantic than being able to watch the sunset and listen to the sound of the waves as we lay on our bed.

The little finishing touches such as the L’Occitane toiletries in the bathroom, the late afternoon Croatian snacks which were always laid out in our room and the personal welcome note from the hotel’s manager, made our time at the Hotel Bellevue truly magical.

View from Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, CroatiaMariko Kuo poolside at Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik, CroatiaCroatia-Dubrovnik-SilkandSuits
Tips for the Wanderluster

Hotel Bellevue is a 10-15 minutes walk away from the famous city walls of Old Town. The walk there is magnificent, with footpaths lining the cliff side route with panoramic views of the Adriatic sea – a definite photo call spot with not a single tourist in sight. As the route is on a slight uphill angle on the way back, although it is an easy journey, perhaps renting a scooter (our mode of transport for our stay) or taking a taxi back to the hotel is recommended especially on a hot summer’s day. Likewise, it’s a great way to work off some of the yummy seafood and gelato consumed in Old Town, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea or the spa afterwards.

For anyone looking to rest their skin after a day tanning on the beach, I recommend relaxing on one of the sun loungers by the spa’s indoor swimming pool. With floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the sea, there is an abundance of natural light there which provides a perfect sanctuary for an afternoon nap.  And the spa offers a great selection of massages and treatments which are all tailored to your requirements. I also recommend checking out the back end of the spa (which is not so visible from the spa entrance) as it includes a steam room, sauna room and holistic shower facilities.

View from Hotel Bellevue, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia Mariko Kuo poolside at Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Swimwear | Seafolly Australia.

Raindrops refillable journal | Aspinal of London. Raindrops passport cover | Aspinal of London.

Photographed at the Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Photography | Digital Jiujitsu and Mariko Kuo.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Paradise Found

Royal Mansour Spa

Marrakech, Morocco | http://www.royalmansour.com

If it is actually possible to have an outer body experience, this might have just been mine.  The Royal Mansour Spa’s white iron atrium can only be described as heavenly.  The structure, which was designed to evoke a bird cage, is a design masterpiece that entices the senses.  As I gazed up the three story structure to the sky, a cloud of soft light seemed to engulf my spirit taking away the last shred of stress I had in my being.  I was completely under its spell.

Total tranquility followed for the next two and a half hours.  My appointment began with a consultation with a spa specialist who created a personalised programme designed to meet my needs.  After changing into my bathrobe, I was escorted to my treatment room where true bliss followed.  I was quite sceptical about whether the Maroc Maroc treatment would do the trick as I usually prefer strong massages that work the pressure points rather than oil based aroma therapy sessions.  So what I loved the most about my treatment was  how my massage was tailored to my desired strength level, soothing my muscles and clearing my mind.

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Behind the Scenes

With an indoor swimming pool, a relaxation room, two Hammams and Watsu bath areas to enjoy, spending your time at the Spa can easily be an all day affair.  As it was Alice and my last day in Marrakech, we only had 2.5 hours for our treatment and to take some photographs of the premises. It was a shame we did not have more time to spend at the Spa to fully unwind and relax.  Once our treatments were done, we were back to business working against the clock to shoot.  We had less than 30 minutes before our car arrived, but the Maroc Maroc treatment had reinvigorated us for our short shoot and I cannot be happier with the results of the photographs.

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Blouse| Ilse Jacobsen.  Star print maxi skirt | Matthew Williamson. Belt | Vintage. Front and back earrings | Astrid Miyu.  Temporary hand tattoos | Kitsch.

Photography | Form 42 .  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Marrakech Romance

Breathing in the Orients

Marrakech, Morocco | Dar Ayniwen

From the moment we stepped foot at Dar Ayniwen and breathed in the sweet scents of the orange and lemon blossoms, I was in love.  The days that followed were romantic bliss and a short, but sweet love story with this private paradise began.

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Tips for the Wanderlusters

Dar Ayniwen is the perfect luxury hotel for wanderlusters seeking both adventure and relaxation.  Located in the dramatic palm groves of the Palmeraie, Dar Ayniwen is a perfect setting for anyone looking to unwind and escape the stressful reality of work and city life.  As I have mentioned countless times already, the air at Dar Ayniwen has a subtle sweet scent which is hypnotic and soothing.  Days could be easily spent within the grounds at Dar Ayniwen simply relaxing by the heated pool under a parasol or strolling through the gardens.

With free shuttles to and from the airport and into the Medina,  exploring the heart of Marrakech is convenient and very accessible as well.  The balance between our exciting days spent exploring the Medina and our afternoons spent in our private jacuzzi in our suite was pure indulgence.

SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar Ayniwen SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar Ayniwen SilkandSuits-Mariko-Kuo-Marrakech-Morocco-11SilkandSuits-Marrakech-Dar-Ayniwen Behind the Scenes

Trying to choose just a few photographs, all taken at a place I had fallen in love with, was suffice to say, quite a struggle.  It may be hard to believe when scrolling down this mammoth post, but I really did try to narrow down my selection of imagery taken at Dar Ayniwen significantly.

Once Alice got her suitcase back, we were in full shooting mode.  We had spent the day before exploring the vast grounds at Dar Ayniwen, getting excited about each and every potential location to shoot at.  These photographs were shot throughout our time at Dar Ayniwen and every day gave us the opportunity to discover new settings within the premises.  With a myriad of coloured tiles decorating the floors and walls of Dar Ayniwen, it felt as if I was holding a cardboard picture frame wherever I went.  Each corner, nook and cranny was a perfect postcard image waiting to be captured.  Each day was even more inspirational than the day before and a truly creative few days for me to completely fall in love with Dar Ayniwen and Marrakech.

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Look 1

Creator top and trousers| Finders Keepers. Alana nude block heels | Public Desire. Wool hat | H&M.

Look 2

City heat shorts | Keepsake. Shirt | Asos. Breanna court shoes | Dune London. Flap bag | Chanel.

All images photographed at Dar Ayniwen, Marrakech.

Photography | Form 42 and Mariko Kuo.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Moroccan Heaven

Royal Mansour

Marrakech, Morocco | www.royalmansour.com

An invitation from the Royal Mansour on our last day in Marrakech was more than we could ever desire and a perfect way to end our Moroccan adventures.  As one of the most luxurious hotels in Marrakech, we were honoured by the generous invitation and waited for our final day in heightened anticipation.  As we entered through the grand entrance, what awaited us was more than words could describe.   A spectacular vision and a masterful marriage of modern and traditional designs, the Royal Mansour transported us to a Moroccan heaven and a hidden city surrounded by the ancient city walls of Marrakech.  We were truly enchanted.

Spa at the Royal Mansour, Marrakech, MoroccoSilkandSuits at Royal MansourReception at Royal MansourSilkandSuits at Royal Mansour

Meticulously designed and crafted by Moroccan artisans and craftsmen, the Royal Mansour is a testimony to Moroccan architecture and craftsmanship. From the geometrically carved wood ceilings to the ceramic tile work, every last inch within the hotel has been masterfully designed with breathtaking results. We were escorted through the courtyard passing a beautiful fountain surrounded by lush trees and into a labyrinth of marble walls. Visiting during the Easter break meant that we were just in time to see the main reception being decorated with flowers and Faberge eggs. The splash of colour gave the main reception room a new look and added a different dimension to the iridescent white marble and tiled walls. The light trickling sound from the water fountain provided a fitting tune to the serenity which engulfed the enchanting setting. Time seemed to have stopped and we were mesmerised by its beauty and its exquisite peacefulness.

Each and every room was a masterpiece of design and a confident showcase of the Royal Mansour’s ingenuity. My favourite of all was the Blue Room, and as the name suggested, an ode to the deep and vivid wonders of the colour blue. The reception to two of the most gastronomic restaurants in Marrakech, the Blue Room was striking beyond imagination and a tantalising introduction to the feast that awaited within.

Our short but sweet visit to the Royal Mansour gave us an overwhelming feeling of pure indulgence. The Royal Mansour radiated pure quality and was an utterly stunning setting for true relaxation.

A separate post on my experience at Royal Mansour’s spa will follow shortly.

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Tips for the Wanderlusters

For anyone in search of the ultimate luxurious experience, the unsurpassed service of Royal Mansour begins from the moment you touch down in Marrakech. As you disembark the plane, a Royal Mansour representative will escort you to a private VIP passport control lounge complete with butler service, followed by a Range Rover delivering you safe and sound to the hotel. With 53 private riads each set over three floors and arranged around private central courtyards, there is plenty of privacy where you can easily avoid any form of interaction with other guests if desired. In addition, the 53 riads are only accessed by staff through underground tunnels guaranteeing the utmost discretion.

SilkandSuits at Royal Mansour

Lulu maxi dress| Gestuz. High heel slides | Stuart Weitzman.

Photography | Form 42 and Mariko Kuo.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Madrasa Serenity

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Marrakech, Morocco | www.medersabenyoussef.com

“You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded” reads an inscription over the entrance to the Ben Youssef Madrasa.  Once a Quranic college, the largest in North Africa, the blessing immediately works its charm on us as we enter through the cedar gates.  The cool air within the dimmed corridor soothes our senses from the bustling chaos of the Medina.  We take a moment to reset and prepare ourselves for what awaits deeper within.
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Stuart Weitzman in Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, MoroccoBen Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

As we manoeuvrer our way through crowds of tourists, the path widens into the courtyard.  We stumbling through cedar carved doors, adjusting our eyes to the Moroccan sun reflecting on the mosaic tiles. We smile. Our highest hopes have been exceeded.

Founded in the 14th century, the Madrasa was once the home to over 900 students until it was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.  The courtyard is an oasis in the heart of the Medina intricately embellished with five colour zellij mosaic walls, stucco archways and cedar windows.  The ornate and winding carvings of Arabic inscriptions generously designed around the courtyard also fit harmoniously with the surrounding artistry.  Even amongst the crowds of tourists furiously photographing every nook and corner of the building (us included), the courtyard maintains a constant level of serenity.  We spend little over an hour exploring the Madrasa and its 132 dormitories scattered around the courtyard and leave back through the cool corridor taking with us a spiritual connection with a site which once was a centre of learning and curiosity.

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

Tips for Wanderlusters

Ben Youssef Madrasa is in the heart of the Medina and only accessible by foot through winding sun soaked streets.  It is a perfect place to visit for anyone in search of some authentic Moorish architecture.  The Madrasa is conveniently located next to the Souk and 10 minutes away from the Museum of Marrakech so why not combine your trip with these beautiful Marrakech wonders.  There is a 10dh entrance fee to the Madrasa so be sure to come with some small change as the friendly gatekeeper did not seem to have a credit card machine.

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
SilkandSuits at Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

Silver metallic tailored blazer | River Island. Electric lady top coming soon to Harvey Nichols | Finders Keepers. Hazel maxi skirt | Gestuz. High heel slides | Stuart Weitzman. Akalis engraved single disc pendant necklace | iLoveDesigner.com.

Photography | Mariko Kuo and Form 42.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo. Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.