Venice Carnival

It’s carnival time again in Venice, when thousands of tourists from all over the world come to join in the fun and soak up the party atmosphere.  From 1st – 14th February, a two-week series of processions, masquerades, traditional ceremonies, music and all-round festivities fills the canals, squares and palaces of this ancient city, as street entertainers, acrobats and jugglers mingle with the crowds in their elaborate costumes.  Carnival was first held in Venice in the 11th century when it consisted of two months of revelry, rather than two weeks, until it fell into decline during the 18th century. It was revived in 1979 and, although the general style of the masks and costumes remains the same, the Carnival always has a new theme each year. At night masked balls and gala dinners take place in candle lit palaces with guests arriving by gondola along the Grand Canal. As one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in the world, Venice is the perfect backdrop for some amazing photographs!

 The numerous evening events to choose from include the Bauerleque Party at the Hotel Bauer, where Prince Maurice Agosti welcomes guests impersonating Casanova into the Bauer’s ballroom reception, and the Serenissima Grand Ball Opera at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, a 14th century palazzo, lit entirely by candles and where the opera Don Giovanni will follow a gala dinner. The Best of Il Ballo del Doge at Palazzo Pisani Moretta, is a celebration of performances from past carnivals, and a recommended event for first time visitors. The Palazzo Pisani Moretta is also the setting for this year’s Il Ballo del Doge:  It’s All About Amore, Love being the theme of this year’s Carnival.

The Carnival’s excellent website gives both a programme of events, and a background and history of the traditions of the Carnival, as well as ticket sales to all available events taking place.

To enjoy a truly unique Venice experience, these ultra-luxurious apartments in La Residenza are steeped in the atmosphere of a bygone age, and peacefully located on Giudecca Island directly across from Piazza San Marco, 3 minutes away by complimentary boat service.

Five of the Best Wine Bars in New York City

New York City has one of the heaviest concentration of bars, clubs, and restaurants in the world so when it’s comes to fantastic wine bars you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you’re into wine, whether it’s white, red or rosé, here are five of the best New York City wine bars that will have something for everyone:


A more relaxed and low key wine bar which isn’t nearly as itimidating as some of other bars in NYC. It’s said to have a charming mix of excellent wine knowledge, coupled with a tongue-in-cheek humour. Inside, the interior is small and intimate with a cosy twenty-four-seat wine bar and an artsy yet unpretentious decor. They actually also have a few outlets with one being in trendy East Village, one in Murray Hill and another in Tribeca. Attracts a hip but down-to-earth crowd. 413 East 12th Street, Tel. (646) 602-1300

The Bourgeois Pig

The huge wine selection, amazing sweet and savory fondue, and the funky shabby-chic decor make this East Village spot a must visit in our opinion. Expect an excellent roster of vinos and very atmospheric surroundings including velvety red walls, cuddle couches and dimly lit chandeliers. Enjoy half-price bottles of wine Monday – Wednesday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. 111 E 7th Street, Tel. 212-475-2246


City Winery
The food on the menu at this massive, 21,000 square foot SoHo establishment  is created to complement the wine, not the other way around. Wine stewards, not waiters, take your wine order first and then suggest food pairings to go with your vino. There are also daily performances, from bands to stand-up comics. City Winery sells their own wines so you can take a bottle or two home, or better still –learn to make your own in one of their wine-making classes. 115 Varick Street, tel. 212-608-0555

 Lelabar Wine Bar

This small and inviting wine bar in the heart of the West Village appeals to both the wine enthusiast and novice. There are more than 150 wines on the wine list — each available by the glass, if you’re having a hard time choosing (minimum purchase of two glasses and per glass price is roughly 1/4 of bottle price). Daily wine specials, $1 oysters on Wednesdays and live jazz on Sundays add to Lelabar’s appeal. They also offer guided wine tastings twice per month. 422 Hudson at Leroy Street. tel. 212-206-0594

Winebar NYC

The narrow space and shared tables make it easy to meet new people at this romantic East Village space dedicated to all things wine. From the seemingly endless number of bottles lining the wall, to the numerous and sometimes rare offerings on the wine list, if you’re into wine this is the place for you. A heavy focus is on the Mediterranean region (40 wines by the glass). Outdoor seating is very popular during the summer months. 65 2nd Ave (between 3rd & 4th Street), tel. 212-777-1608

By Becky 

Valentine’s Day in Marrakech – Two Riads offering romance, in exotic and luxurious surroundings, at very special prices!

Dar Jaguar, converted from an ancient riad, is a sumptuous blend of European romanticism and Oriental exoticism. Situated at the heart of the old Medina, it is built around a beautiful central courtyard where palm trees, intertwined with bougainvillea, drape around an antique marble fountain.  The interiors are wonderful and atmospheric,  with rich furnishings, silk cushions,  intricate sculpted plasterwork and Syrian hanging lights.  The accommodation is in 4 spacious suites and one magnificent Royal Suite, which can be rented individually or together for a larger group.

The special Valentine’s Package here is an indulgent menu of stunning delights at an irresistible reduced price. The tantalizing extras are all included:

Chilled Champagne and strawberries upon arrival

One hour full body massage for 2 people

An exotic excursion beyond Marrakech to the waterfalls of Ouzoud or another similarly breathtaking trip.

Cooking lesson followed by a three course romantic candlelit dinner on the terrace overlooking the fabulous Medina. Includes a bottle of wine.

Private professional guided tour of the souk and/or religious and historical sites

The fabulous Dar Darma, offers an oasis of peace and calm in the bustling Medina, its deceptively simple entrance door giving no hint of the luxury and opulence behind. The  interiors have been beautifully decorated, retaining both the traditional features and atmosphere of an ancient residence.  The accommodation is in 4 suites and 2 apartments, which can be rented individually, or the whole riad can be rented together.

 The Dar Darma St Valentine Package, valid for the whole month of February 2013, is offering a 20% discount off the normal room rates, plus a special present to be chosen from the following options:

Hamman – peeling treatment

Free entrance to the Yves St Laurent Majorelle Gardens

Traditional Moroccan ‘babouches’ (slippers)

Candlelight dinner for two (excluding beverages)

Please check with us for prices.  Minimum stay for both offers is 3 nights.

Celebrating a New Year … and London in January

Despite the winter weather, there is plenty going on in London to keep visitors to the capital enthused and inspired.  Here are just a few of our personal recommendations…

1. Victoria & Albert Museum, Hollywood Costume

This wonderful exhibition (only on until 27th January, and essential to book to advance!) explains the costume designer’s process in the creation of characters from script to screen.  Including video interviews with directors and costume designers, it also demonstrates the changing social and technological context in which they have worked over the last century.  The costumes displayed cover the whole spectrum from Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz to Daniel Craig in Skyfall.

2.  Somerset House, Tim Walker: Story Teller

If you are a fashion enthusiast and on your way to see the impressive Valentino exhibition anyway (running until 3rd March), please don’t miss this very quirky and totally inspiring exhibition …. you don’t need to book but you do need to go before 27th January.  Tim Walker is one of the most visually exciting and original fashion photographers working today, and this exhibition, displayed in a series of rooms, much like wandering from room to room in a private house, is filled with examples of his recent work (from the world’s leading magazines, including British, French, American and Italian Vogue).  It also includes many of the fantastical stage props used to achieve his magical photographic ‘stories’’.

3. BFI:  Roman Polanski retrospective at the BFI

For film buffs, and in addition to its consistently great selection of old and new films, the British Film Institute on the South Bank is showing a retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski throughout the month of January.  The nicest way to get to the BFI is to walk over the Embankment Bridge, which has arguably one of the best views of London – on a clear night the view down the Thames to St Pauls, all lit up with the moon behind, is sensational!

4.  National Portrait Gallery, Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair

In addition to its permanent collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people, the gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs and magazine covers of Marilyn Monroe.  Covering the years from 1947 – 1962, the works show the transformation of the world’s most popular pin-up to acclaimed actress, highlighting the British photographers and personalities who admired her and worked with her. The exhibition runs until 24th March 2013.

5. The Judas Kiss, Duke of York’s Theatre

Transferring from the Hampstead Theatre to the West End, this compelling drama by David Hare, stars Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde and rising star, Freddie Fox, as Lord Alfred Douglas.

6. The London View – View from The Shard

Opening on February 1, 2013, the View from the Shard is a four-storey observation deck on floors 68 to 72 of the Shard, offering Londoners and visitors with a good head for heights panoramic, 360-degree views across the capital and beyond.