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    Eating at the luxurious Bovey Castle Hotel – Codename: OperationDon’tTellAftab

    They say an army marches on its stomach, attesting to the importance of forces being well-provisioned, but when this phrase was invented they hadn’t quite encountered the voracious appetites of 4 particularly travel obsessed food bloggers.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Having organised a night at Bovey Castle escaping the confines of London for a few belated birthday celebrations, we made sure to enthusiastically test their onsite restaurant offerings, not least as we were a 40 minute drive from Exeter St Davids.

    We could literally hear crickets chirruping in the surrounding acreage, well, that between chatting to draw breath and sip champagne that is. Isn’t it just so wonderful when strangers on the internet turn out to be such good friends that they are up for a kidnapping session? Sorry, I mean, a UK staycation in a castle?

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Each of our plush suites were pre-stocked with complimentary sloe gin, the usual assortment of tea & coffee facilities, and a couple of healthy snacks – not to mention a couple of bottles of champagne chilling in the birthday boy’s quarters. The only way to spend a night in a castle…

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Feeling rather peckish from our trip, we locked our five-star rooms and trooped into the sunshine for a spot of light repast.

    Smith’s Brasserie where we gathered, was named in honor of William Henry Smith (WH Smith, I’m sure you’ve heard of him) later to become Lord Hambledon. In 1890 he bought 5,000 acres of land, and his son Frederick built Bovey Castle in a neo-Elizabethan style to be one of the family’s many family manor retreats.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The halls still retain some of the gorgeous original features – the original Jacobean stair case installed by Frederick, the oak panelling in the dining room and the stone fireplace. Sadly with the death of Lord Hambledon in 1928 and large death duties to pay, the house was sold at auction to the Great Western Railway and reopened as a hotel and golf course in 1930.

    But, now part of the Eden Hotel Collection, Bovey Castle underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment and was re-opened to the public in 2015, complete with rolling golf course greens.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As with most blogger events, we settled down to our meal after a photograph or two (does the man in the background count as a meta-blogger, or are we just following his lead? #BloggersInTheWild). Each of us chose something slightly different – living by the blogger code – and our table was soon full of sparkling glasses, fresh salads, classic scotch eggs, salmon slivers and a healthy serving of fish and chips.

    We simply took our time to nibble, breathing in the fresh country air and the gently rolling views around us. Once our plates were cleared, With the wifi down for most of our afternoon, we dithered between tea in the parlour or a coffee in the wood panelled bar.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Deciding on the latter, we spent a relaxed hour or so nattering away before breaking open a bottle of champagne and excitedly exploring each others individual suites.

    Fast forward an hour or two of pampering, and a little while posing on the beautiful Jacobean staircase, we gathered around our reserved dinner table in the more formal restaurant named after previous owners – the Great Western Rail – a restaurant awarded three rosettes by the AA.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My (then) camera struggled a little in the low light, but to give a taster of our meal;

    Around the table we clinked glasses of Ruinart champagne, broke freshly baked bread accompanied by salted butter and nibbled canapés; little cones of steak tartare, artichoke arancini and decadent salmon mousse balls served in featherlight choux.

    Bovey Castle’s head chef is Mark Budd, who has worked at some of the best luxury hotels in the UK including The Dorchester and The Ritz. A Devon-local he is super passionate about the produce such as the local game, lamb, Exmoor beef and seafood from Devon Coves. His passion for local ingredients has even led him to create his own restaurant supplying herb garden.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our starters were delightful; my juicy scallops with oyster emulsion, onions, clams and clusters of samphire were perfection, Angie’s cured trout was revealed from under a glass cloche with a wispy cloud of fragrant smoke, plus Binny and Aftab’s off-menu fresh beetroot and goats cheese salads were nibbled away.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Convincing Aftab and Binny to share the signature, hand carved table side beef Wellington (entirely so I could snaffle a slice) I chose the rosette of Devon lamb served with wild garlic and English peas, while Angie enjoyed her fillet of Cornish Turbot with shellfish cannelloni and artichoke nage. 

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Whipping out palette cleansers, we were all talked into enjoying dessert – scoops of local ice cream, a rum baba with pineapple rings which I still dream about and a delicious melting chocolate fondant – before retiring back to Angie’s room for another glass or two of champagne.
    The next morning we met up around the elegant breakfast table for a round of coffees, eggs florentines and our sweet waitresses welcoming smile, setting us up for the day ahead.

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But wait, there is a tiny bit more to tell in this tale, not least involving accidental golfcart hijinks…

    Eating at Luxurious Hotel Bovey Castle Dorset Dartmoor Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Our stay at the luxurious Bovey Castle Hotel – Codename: OperationDon’tTellAftab

    Many moons ago, in the distant realm of Devon, a shire far far away from the steel and glass towers of Londinium (about 2.5 hours by iron horse) a gallant Fresh Prince was fearlessly escorted by 3 Princesses (take THAT mansplaining!) to a beautiful stone castle snug in the wild valleys of Dartmoor.

    We think he may have liked it? But, let’s rewind a month or three.

    *bing*

    “For Aftab’s Birthday shall we kidnap him? I mean, plan a secret trip?”

    “Ooooooooooooooh yes!”

    “Ooooooooooooooh yes!”

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    “When we’re kidnapping him, sorry, planning a mystery trip, if an overnight to Europe doesn’t pan out can we go to a castle?”

    “Ooooooooooooooh yes!”

    “Ooooooooooooooh yes!”

    And thus, the adventure to Middle Earth Dartmoor National Park began.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Scheming – sorry, planning – our trip over a private Whatsapp group literally titled “Don’t Tell Aftab” (just to make sure we didn’t accidentally leak the details in our excitement,) Angie, Binny and I scoured the internet for a location brave enough to survive a visit from 4 excited bloggers.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Not quite being able to work out the schematics of a European break (we didn’t want to spend all of our time queuing in airports) we went back to plan B.

    Figuring that a stone, turreted building that has stood for many years, and perhaps even withstood the furious rampages of battle (though being built in 1907 this one hasn’t, unless you count in the bar) we narrowed our choices down to Bovey Castle, built in the Dartmoor valleys.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best part of the trip? When our cab driver got involved in teasing Aftab about our “camping trip”. With a wicked grin he assured us that “it’s ever such a lovely meadow, and if you cross the stream and stand on the fallen tree stump you even get a couple of bars of internet service…”

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Second best part of the trip? Aftab’s relieved/excited shout of “Ooooooooooooooh it IS a CASTLE!” as we pulled up to the castle walls.

    Third best part of the trip? My junior suite in my very own wing of the castle.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    There were no peas in these princess-like surroundings.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Not shown are the sumptuous bath robes hung on the back of the door, or the full size bath tub. In all honestly, my suite made me late for dinner – that and the wifi coming back online.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    For glimpses into the other suites, you’ll need to espy the posts on Aftab’s blog, Angie’s blog and Binny’s blog. Y’all come back now – I’ll be here, champagne flute in hand… (or perhaps make myself comfy in Angie’s bath…)

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I take it all back, this was the best part of the trip. These three.

    Luxury Bovey Castle Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    By the end of our 30 or so hours, our ribs hurt from laughing, our appetites were more than sated (to be continued) and our cheeks hurt from grinning.

    Where/what is your dream stay?

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    A day at Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire

    Isn’t it funny how sometimes time crawls to a stop, a pace worthy of a teenage snail having to do chores, but at other times it gallops faster than a Grand National winner crossing the finish line?

    Review Luxury Hotel Calot Manot Spa Gumstool Inn Gloucestershire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Case in point: when we found out that Polly was coming home for Christmas from Qatar, it seemed to take forever for those months to crawl past, and yet the half dozen or so hours that we spent chatting with her gathered around a table of the Gumstool Inn at Calcot Manor seemed to hurtle past. It just isn’t fair, is it? Why can’t we choose the pace of our seconds, minutes and hours?

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    Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

    I always spend the last post of the year looking back over the previous 365 days. I think it’s important to remember where we’ve come from, as much as we look forward to where we are going.

    This is the year that I quit my job and launched a business, it’s the year that I did a cross-globe four-country trip on my own (but hung out with and stayed with good friends and wonderful family along the way) and it’s the year that I realised a few different dreams both on- and off-line.

    It was a pretty crazy year.

    It’s also the year that my supportive family and friends proved exactly how amazing they are, it’s the year that I learnt a lot about myself – the good and the bad – and the year that my little hobby corner of the internet reached it’s 5-year birthday. 2017 is also the year that politics seem to have imploded, volcanoes have gone mad and the year that I stopped watching the news because my heart struggled with the onslaught of sadness.

    My #bestnine for 2017 on Instagram nicely encapsulates the highlights of the year – a few London restaurants and landmarks, the patchwork of New Zealand from an internal flight, one of the delicious dishes enjoyed and the iconic Sydney Opera House.

    Traditionally each year I like to finish with a little roundup of the year that was. I think we’ll play with the top 17 this time (I did the best 16 last year, the top 15 in 201514 in 201413 in 2013, and 12 in 2012… see where I’m going with this?) the spirit and phrasing doesn’t change but the chaos definitely does.

    The first five are chosen by you, my lovely readers, and always include a few surprises…

    23 of the best places to go in New Orleans

    Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

    10 of the best unique UK daytrips (when you’ve done all the usual ones)

    An Iconic Luxury Hotel Review: Raffles, Singapore

    How to drive in America (a Kiwi perspective from the wrong side of the road)

    …a bevy of posts that meant a lot to me…

    Why my heart has shattered in 2017

    Our stay at the luxurious Bovey Castle Hotel – Codename: OperationDon’tTellAftab

    Portugal: A Peaceful Long Weekend In Porto

    A Luxurious Staycation At The Elegant Langham Hotel

    … a few extra surprises that the year held…


    The Bulford Kiwi – a 130m tall piece of Graffiti near Salisbury, Wiltshire

    Bottomless brunching at Aqua Kyoto

    The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall: A sumptuous seaside spa stay

    A Birthday Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

    A luxurious stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

    ...and a touch of expat thoughts & inspiration.


    5 of my most hilarious travel bloopers

    A letter to my 18-year-old self.

    5 lessons learnt as a travel addict

    When Friends Become Family: Expat Life


    Thank you. Thank you for sticking around and have a wonderful New Year! May it be full of joy and beautiful coffee.

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    Travel Companions – the #TravelLinkup

    Travelling with people often tests relationships. Exhaustion, delays, mistakes, lost luggage, scary situations and worst of all, very early mornings where you can’t find good coffee.

    How to choose travel companions Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But, when you find friends and loved ones that you can travel with, hold them close. Or just steal their passports so that their diaries are all yours. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to trial a few different levels of closeness; from travelling to America and sharing an apartment with a Kiwi lady we really didn’t know all that well, to turning up on the doorsteps of friends who have moved countries and abandoned me. You know who you are.

    Over the years I’ve travelled solo a few times, but my most frequent travel companion is, of course, one of my favourites: Mr Kiwi. (You saw that coming, right? A lot of friends laugh that I don’t travel that often with my husband, but honestly, I swear I do, well, at least every second trip!) Over the years we have honed a travelling system that works for us – I research and book stuff, and he asks for things in restaurants and generally navigates once we get there. 

    How to choose travel companions Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We have also worked out a Church to Pint ratio of 3:1 which seems to work – he now genuinely admires the architectural features of steeples, and I research local pubs, not to mention book hotels close to at least one branch of Olive Garden when we’re in the States. (Stop grimacing my American friends, we know it’s not haute cuisine, but it makes him happy – and me giggle at his beautific expression when the first spoonful of Pasta e Fagoli hits his palate.) 


    The hardest thing is then when I travel without him, is remembering to step up and help with some of those duties – our well-worn system doesn’t automatically translate to other people. You have to find your own balance.

    How to choose travel companions Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Some of my trips with friends have included MoroccoBovey CastleBudapestCornwall and SydneyQatarSingapore, Paris, Brussels and all kinds of other amazing places.

    (Sidenote: writing this post has really made me appreciate how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing people on- and offline. I know I bang on about it, but it’s so important to appreciate them every so often.)

    How to choose travel companions Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Then there’s also the lovely fellow travellers who I’ve met along the way whilst travelling solo – there’s a particularly nice feeling to meet fellow transient travel addicts – you might meet on a day tour, share a single meal or end up spending 3 days with them. I remember one guy when I first moved to the UK who kept popping up on my travels – what were the odds that 4 times unplanned we would end up on the same street in the same city of the same country? After the 3rd time I said we would have to add each other on Facebook, and years later we catch up when we happen to be in the same city. 

    How to choose travel companions Adventures of a London Kiwi


    And then, then there are blogger friends that we end up meeting for a coffee when we find ourselves in their city; Van in Tromso, Olya in Dallas, Hannah in Vancouver, Catherine and Rachel in Sydney,

    Now, after 550+ words, I’m still not sure what my actual point is about travel companions, but there you go. Oh, actually, I know what it is – treasure them. And be aware that I might just turn up on your doorstep next…


    An InLinkz Link-up

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