Saturday, June 6, 2015

How They Do Rest Stops in France

On the highway between Bordeaux and Biarritz, we found ourselves starving, and in need of a bathroom break, so we pulled off at a slick looking rest stop. It had so much going for it, we could have spent hours there...what with the ping-pong, playground...the amazing food options. We did not partake in the help-yourself wine option, but we appreciated that the French are not afraid to have that as an option at a rest stop.












Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Plan B I Want to Copy

We found this shop, Mam Jeanne, in Biarritz, and absolutely love it. It's owned by a former journalist who decided to get out of that world, and wanted to open his own store/restaurant. Every day he is open for lunch and dinner--a prix fixe. It's tiny, and filled with so many things you want to take home...and the most delicious home cooked meals. If you find yourself in that area, you have to stop in.












Antigua Roundup!

Last winter we went to Antigua...stayed at three properties over a week...and wrote and photographed a story for Conde Nast Traveler.  It was heaven, and I thought I should share some of our finds here.
First stop was Hermitage Bay. The fruit plate you see above comes mostly from their organic garden. One of the most exciting things there is how amazing the food is--it's such an emphasis for them--the kitchen doesn't plan the dinner menu until the afternoon, after they've had a chance to meet with the local farmers and fishermen and see what is fresh that day.


The accommodations at Hermitage Bay are all bungalows. (It isn't a property that is going to work for most families--they actually don't take kids under 12 I think--so consider this a place to come as a couple, unless you have older children. There are better places in Antigua to bring the family...more on that below.) It's an all-inclusive--but don't take that to mean that you get a bad buffet and some undrinkable wine. It's some of the best food I've ever had, and they poured rose champagne (I'm not exaggerating--it wasn't prosecco or cava!) endlessly.


Above, the entrance into the "lobby". 





Besides using local ingredients whenever possible, Hermitage Bay also cooks up Antiguan food--such a treat. We went home with a delicious goat curry recipe. Our other favorite things there were the spa--they have a really interesting color therapy treatment, and the management. It may sound like a strange thing to focus on, but the woman who is the GM is super progressive in her thinking, and she puts so much energy into making her staff happy...knowing that a happy staff makes a happy guest.

Next stop: Curtain Bluff, and that above is the lovely view we had from our room. I had heard about the property from several people, all of whom go back every single year, the same exact week, and meet up with their friends there. It's that kind of place...people who love tradition and an old school vibe will love it. Every Wednesday night there is a cocktail party at the owner's residence, where you meet all the other guests, and the owner, and they celebrate Curtain Bluff anniversaries that night. As in, "so and so is here for their 30th year in a row" kind of anniversary. The night we were there, a man got up to receive his anniversary present, and he said he'd tried so many fancy resorts in the Caribbean, many of them that had elements that may have been stronger individually than what you find at Curtain Bluff...but what Curtain Bluff is to him as a whole is the best place in the world.

It's an all-inclusive, which is such a nice thing for families--you know exactly what you're going to be spending once you book it. The only things that fall outside of that are extras like tennis lessons (they have amazing courts and instructors), massages, etc. 

One of the best restaurants in the Caribbean is Catherine's Cafe (above and below). It's French-owned, and it's a destination for many people who are sailing their way around the islands. You can eat really well there, and it's on a beach, so while you wait (which you will--service is slow), your kids can play in the sand, or jump in.



Above is the very well curated gift shop at Catherine's. 

We didn't eat here on this trip, but my husband has been, and says it's fantastic. It's in the English Harbour area.

The Dockyard Museum in English Harbour is fantastic, and a great option if you happen to get a rainy day.

English Harbour might be the most interesting day trip to take--there are lots of amazing boats to look at, the museum, restaurants...and you can always watch the taxi drivers playing a very animated mancala game.


The road between English Harbour and Curtain Bluff.


Last stop was Carlisle Bay, which I've written about here five years ago (I can't believe I've been doing this for over five years now!) It is definitely a place that is great for families, but I have to say it has been taken over a bit by the "yummy mummy" crowd. That could very well have been just the week I was there, or the people I ran into, but I did meet some other families who felt the same way. It's lovely, the rooms are fantastic, the food is really nice (three restaurants to choose from), also great tennis--it is just a different vibe than it used to be. If you want me to elaborate further, send me an email on info@momfilter.com and I can explain.