The Top Black Friday Deals for all your Travel Dreams

Overwhelmed by the Black Friday offerings? No time to spend your precious hours crawling the internet for the best deals? Don’t worry because that’s what this Concierge is here for. Check out the best deals on the web this week and get planning your next trip!

Overwhelmed by the Black Friday offerings? No time to spend your precious hours crawling the internet for the best deals? Don’t worry because that’s what this Concierge is here for. Check out the best deals on the web this week and get planning your next trip!

Global Givings

Not yet sure where you want to go? There are literally thousands of global deals around this weekend to inspire you. For example, get 40% off a host of hotel rooms at LateRooms.com.

laterooms.com/en/deals

Black Friday deal

 

For flight tickets, Ryanair has had a week of deals and now there’s 10% off 1 million seats from travel between April and June 2018. Here’s the best bit… there’s also 20% off checked bags!!!

ryanair.com

Black Friday deal

 

If you fancy something a little more tailored to your every need, holiday companies are also on the Black Friday bandwagon. Travelbag have a whole host of deals, from opulent resorts in Mauritius, Bali and Thailand with large savings and up to 3 free nights.

travelbag.co.uk

Black Friday deal

 

Meanwhile, Topdeck Travel elongated sale has discounts of up to a whopping 70%, including their Road to Marrakech (£382.50), Sydney Discovery (£123) and Tropical Discovery: Queensland (£123) tours.

Topdeck.travel

Runs right through until Tuesday

 

Finally, Loveholidays has 50% off all holidays. There’s even an extra £50 off for holidays over £1000.

loveholidays.com

Black Friday deal

 

London Loving

Need somewhere to stay on your next trip? There’s no better London location than Covent Garden and the Strand Palace Hotel has a 40% off deal for stays from December through April 2018.

strandpalacehotel.co.uk

Offer open Black Friday to Cyber Monday

 

Whilst you’re in town, enjoy the best view of London from The View from the Shard… for today, get your tickets for a bargainous £10! There are more options in their online store as well. The building is beautiful and everything about it is luxe.

theviewfromtheshard.com

Black Friday deal

 

After a few days in the capital, why not kick back on the Devon coast in a cozy cottage to enjoy the run up to Christmas. Cofton Holidays are offering 50% off holidays up to 22nd December 2017. For example, Linney Cottage sleeps four people, has a hot tub and an enviable location by a nature reserve and beach and costs from £365 for a week. It’s a steal! There’s even an onsite pool, sauna, steam room, gym, restaurant, pub, and fitness studio, as well as plenty of play areas for children. If you’re feeling adventurous, guests get free access to the Woodland Adventure Area.

coftonholidays.co.uk

Offer open Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Quote discount code BF50.

 

European Extras

If your New Year’s Resolution is to finally experience those geysers, Iceland airline WOWair has deals of up to 40% off. Flights from London Gatwick and Edinburgh to Iceland from 10th January and 15 May 2018. This is valid for bookings made on Monday 27 November 2017 (midnight-midnight).

wowair.co.uk

Cyber Monday deal with the promo code is WOWCYBERMONDAY.

 

If you’ve been inspired by my post on German Christmas Markets, Superbreak is offering 20% off its very own German Christmas Market River Rhine Cruise, bringing it down to £399 per person. You’ll depart on 17th December and sail for 5 nights with all your meals provided.

superbreak.com

Black Friday deal

 

Last but not least, we have all lusted after those Santorini instagram pics but the associated price tag has often got in the way. Which makes it a perfect Black Friday deal! All your wildest dreams could be realised next May, thanks to Olympic Holidays. They’re offering 7 nights at the 5* 9-Muses from £439 per person, including flights from London.

olympicholidays.com

Book by 26th November

Christmas Markets within easy reach of Frankfurt

Christmas time in Germany can only be described as magical; twinkling lights abound, full size nativity scenes can be found from town to town and everyone flocks to the market squares to gather in the festive spirit and warm up with a hot snack and mulled wine. It’s hard not to be won over with a buzz as infectious as this. What’s more, there is something for everyone. Children will be tugging at parents’ arms for one more go on the carousels and one more sweet thing from the candy stalls, foodies will love the quality of German food available and the wafting aromas throughout the markets, shoppers will love the craftmanship and variety of goodies on offer. Here are some of the highlights within an hour and a half of Frankfurt.

Christmas time in Germany can only be described as magical; twinkling lights abound, full size nativity scenes can be found from town to town and everyone flocks to the market squares to gather in the festive spirit and warm up with a hot snack and mulled wine. It’s hard not to be won over with a buzz as infectious as this. What’s more, there is something for everyone. Children will be tugging at parents’ arms for one more go on the carousels and one more sweet thing from the candy stalls, foodies will love the quality of German food available and the wafting aromas throughout the markets, shoppers will love the craftmanship and variety of goodies on offer. Here are some of the highlights within an hour and a half of Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Christmas Market

27th November – 22nd December

Throughout the city, with Römerberg as the centre

Incredibly, Frankfurt’s Weihnachtsmarkt dates back to 1393 when stalls and mystery plays helped Frankfurters celebrate the Christmas period. Frankfurt’s sprawling market spans large swathes of the city with a huge Christmas tree in the central square. Römerberg is a good starting point to explore and if you need some help to find the top spots, there are guided tours for the first 3 weekends of December at 11:30am and 1:30pm.

All sorts of treats are available, but something unique to Frankfurt are the “Bethmännchen”, marzipan decorated with almond slices. The four almond slices adorning the Bethmann may represent each of the sons of a well-known banker family of old Frankfurt. Or alternatively the name derives from the word for “praying men” and the almond halves are meant to symbolise praying hands.

From Frankfurt airport: the trains into town are very frequent, then follow the instructions below.

From Frankfurt city: Subway lines (U-Bahn) U4 and U5, exit at Dom/Römer. Tram lines (Straßenbahn) 11 and 12, exit at Römer/Paulskirche.

Mainz Christmas Market

30th November – 23rd December

Höfchen & Domplatz, Schillerplatz, Citadel

Mainz’s market is just half an hour from Frankfurt and a smaller version, well-loved in the region for its atmospheric setting in the market square and draws in many visitors across three main sites. The elevated nativity scene in the shadow of the cathedral is poignant and the impressive 9-metre tall Christmas pyramid in Höfchen Square features famous citizens, including Gutenberg and the cutesy mascots of the local television station.

Mulled wine is from local vineyards in the Rheinhessen region – just look for the longest queues and enjoy it in one of the wine cask huts if you can find some space. All the Christmas market goodies are available here. Gingerbread biscuits from Lebkuchenschmidt are found in a pop-up shop in Gutenberg Square opposite the theatre and the intricate tins and top-notch cookies make them an ideal Christmas present.

From Frankfurt airport: Tramline S8 to Mainz Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) and then a bus into the centre of town, alighting at Höfchen.

From Frankfurt city: The same tram but from the main station (Hauptbahnhof)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN2Iarehq9u/?tagged=mainzweihnachtsmarkt

Wiesbaden Christmas Market

28th November – 23rd December

Schlossplatz

Wiesbaden’s Sternschnuppenmarkt, or twinkling star market, is named for its countless fairy lights creating a tent of stars over the town. The effect is best viewed from above and there’s a platform at the Marktkirche (Market Church) to do just that. The market centres around Schlossplatz with almost 130 stalls. There are a variety of activities, such as a ferris wheel, winter tavern and even an ice rink for skating. There’s a sizeable stage where local school children perform festive songs. Excellent local mulled wine can be enjoyed at Weingut Kessler.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the S1, S8 or S9 trams and arrive within 40 minutes

From Frankfurt city: Take the S1 or S9 trams

https://www.instagram.com/p/_pP1LXkiSB/?taken-at=1020930476

https://www.instagram.com/p/_jM_Krpnnb/?taken-at=1020930476

Rüdesheim Christmas Market

23rd November – 23rd December, 11am to 8pm, 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on 26th November

Throughout the Old Town

Rüdesheim is an enchanting cobbled town built into the hilly banks of the River Rhine with tiny alleys and overhanging wooden inns and shops and can be reached within an hour and a half from Frankfurt. The most famous of those alleys is the atmospheric Drosselgasse. At Christmas time, Rüdesheim is also home to the Market of the Nations and that makes for a Christmas market with a real international flavour. With goods and foods from over 20 countries, you can even shop for knitted goods in a Mongolian yurt. However, that doesn’t mean that Rüdesheim isn’t also bringing plenty to the table. A local favourite is Asbach Uralt, a brandy served with coffee and whipped cream. Don’t miss the musical clock once an hour. After all your snacking and slurping, there’s a chance for some fresh air as you take the cable car up to the Niederwald to walk off that whipped cream.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the regional train to Bingen, once every 2 hours and then the ferry across to Rüdesheim. Alternatively, take the S9 to Wiesbaden (once an hour) and change to the VIA train to Rüdesheim.

From Frankfurt city: Take the VIA train direct to Rüdesheim, once an hour.

https://www.instagram.com/p/wrhNYfpCMH/?tagged=r%C3%BCdesheimweihnachtsmarkt

Bad Münster am Stein Eberburg Christmas Market

Saturdays from 2pm – 9pm and on Sundays from 12 noon – 8pm

This weekend-only Christmas market oozes romance. Set in the spa gardens of Bad Münster, the delicate lights illuminate gnarly trees and longstanding buildings alike. Even the fairytale castle is lit up, giving the market an atmospheric backdrop. This is a smaller, intimate market, with around 90 stalls but the ambience is unbeatable.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the direct regional train once every two hours and exit at Bad Münster, which takes about an hour.

From Frankfurt city: The same journey

My NYC Foodie Bucket List

Living in Ethiopia is just accentuating my foodie tendencies and it seems like I have a tick list in the notes on my phone for every trip we go on. I took it to a whole new level for my Big Birthday in New York and had all the recommendations as pins in Google Map. The number of pins got overwhelming so I sifted it down to these 10 essentials… all of which we achieved!

Living in Ethiopia is just accentuating my foodie tendencies and it seems like I have a tick list in the notes on my phone for every trip we go on. I took it to a whole new level for my Big Birthday in New York and had all the recommendations as pins in Google Map. The number of pins got overwhelming so I sifted it down to these 10 essentials… all of which we achieved!

The Combo Sandwich at Halal Guys

This is consistently rated one of the best food trucks in New York and it’s not hard to see why. It was the best kebab I’ve ever eaten! And I’ve had a lot of late night kebabs in my day. The meat melts in your mouth, the pita is high-quality and the sauces are out of this world. I’m still dreaming about their Combo Sandwich. We popped here after late-night opening at MoMA and hoisted ourselves up onto a nearby wall to munch away and people-watch. The best tastes aren’t always in the high-class restaurants, Nomads!

P1010049

Ramen and buns at Momofuku

There has been a plethora of Momofuku’s popping up in NYC in various forms and there’s a reason they’re so popular. That broth-based goodness, Nomads! I could have inhaled my bowl of ramen, just brimming with umami! And the BUNS. Filled with chicken meatballs and a sweet sriracha mayo, these were a more-ish take on the latest trend.

Chicken Meatball Bun at Momofuku

Tonnes of soft serve – Milk & Cream Cereal Bar and Taiyaki NYC

Soft serve abounds in New York right now covered in all sorts of rainbow unicorn toppings and all with a great neon sign in the shop to pose with. The two we tried absolutely hit the spot. I’ve already raved about Taiyaki over here. Milk & Cream Cereal Bar provided us with cookie dough ice cream with mushed in French Toast Crunch and gummy bears, covered in caramel. YUM.

Posing with the neon sign at Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

Poke at Blue Ribbon Sushi

As a sushi fiend, I was glad to hear that every new opening in New York right now seems to involve poke. But since Concierge Husband does not share this obsession, I took the opportunity whilst we were in the food court opposite the World Trade Center, Hudson Eats, where there was plenty more on offer for him. Poke is great, y’all.

Hudson Eats Food Court

A Sabrett Hot Dog

It’s just so New York, Nomads. From the moment of arrival, my foodie-sense was on high alert, sending out signals for one of those blue and yellow umbrellas. And I found one about 10 minutes in. All the salty goodness was mine! (Disclaimer: the photo is not an actual Sabrett hot dog, it’s at the NFL game that made all Concierge Hubby’s dreams come true. And technically we are in Jersey. But check out that t-shirt, though).

Hot dog at an NFL game

The Chocolate Babka at Breads Bakery

Having heard this was the best babka in New York, we purposefully made a detour. I was thrilled when the older Jewish New Yorker in the queue behind me gleefully confirmed this to be the case. Have no fear if there’s none on display – there a constant stream of it coming out the oven, Nomads. Just ask. We were already stuffed so we took it to go and were surprised that it lasted multiple breakfasts; it was still incredibly moist. I got lost in the swirls of nutty chocolate and doughy goodness. This probably ranks as the best baked good I’ve ever had. Gosh, New York gave me a lot of foodie “Best of”s!

Sign for best chocolate babka in New York at Breads Bakery

Colourful croissants at Union Fare Gastrohall

Not only are these colourful croissants extremely instagrammable, they are really frickin’ good. I opted for the red velvet version, which is full to bursting with a cream cheese frosting. I ended up with croissant crumbs and frosting ALL OVER myself, Nomads, and my grin was like a child with tomato spaghetti around their chops.

Colorful croissants at Union Fare Gastrohall

A Chinatown Food Tour – DIY style

It’s just got to be done, Nomads. I feel so passionately about it that I devoted an entire post to it. Check it out and plan your own.

Vanessa's Dumplings in Manhattan Chinatown

Tacos from Los Tacos No.1 in Chelsea Market

And we’re up to a 3rd “Best Of” in one list! Fair enough, you wouldn’t expect the world’s best tacos to be found in my homeland of the UK (though many food trucks and boutique chains are doing stirling work), but I’ve been to Texas, Nomads! So I really was surprised when I bit into my Los Tacos taco and swiftly ascended to culinary heaven. I don’t know how they do it and any description would be a gross under-exaggeration, so go and find out for yourselves, Nomads. Order a couple. Thank you’s are welcome in the comments section.

Los Tacos No.1 at Chelsea market

A Splurge at Trader Joe’s

Ok ok, perhaps this isn’t New York specific but Trader Joe’s is a necessary pre-departure pit stop. With 30 minutes before our airport pick up and a packed store, I left Concierge Hubby in the queue and entered into my own version of supermarket sweep, dashing about and swiping products off the shelves. As it is autumn / fall and I adore pumpkin, the Joe-Joe’s, pancake and waffle mix and pumpkin butter all made it into my trolley. I had the pumpkin butter as a topping on my chia pudding this morning and it was yum. For snacks, I grabbed the chocolate covered super berries, maple leaf cookies, toffee chips, peanut butter cups and S’MORES BITES. The Green Dragon Hot Sauce jumped into my cart all by itself. It’s sassy like that. And of course, I circled back around for the cult classics; Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning and Speculoos Cookie Butter. I’ve been putting the seasoning on everything – most recently the curried pumpkin soup I made last night (I did mention I love pumpkin.)

Now excuse me whilst I go to the gym… It’s been a high-calorie month.

5 New York Gems Not to Miss

You’ve a little more time in New York than a long weekend. Or this isn’t your first rodeo in the Big Apple. Or maybe you just don’t love major tourist attractions. No matter your reasoning, I’ve got the perfect spots to add a little something something to your NYC itinerary…

You’ve a little more time in New York than a long weekend. Or this isn’t your first rodeo in the Big Apple. Or maybe you just don’t love major tourist attractions. No matter your reasoning, I’ve got the perfect spots to add a little something something to your NYC itinerary…

The Standard

This is a top spot to watch an NYC sunset. The elegant cocktail bar of The Standard is the perfect stop after an afternoon stroll along the Highline and a foodie stop into Chelsea Market. We enjoyed American G&Ts (Dorothy Parker and Brooklyn) with our sunset, looking out over New York’s beautiful skyline. There’s often a huge queue outside the hotel for the rooftop bar’s separate entrance (even on a cool October evening like when we visited) but this Concierge’s top tip is to pop inside and take the elevator to its inside sister bar, which radiates Madmen-glamour.

G&T at The Standard, New York    Sunset at The Standard, New York

Museum of Chinese in America

After filling your boots with all the yummies that Chinatown has to offer, why not stop in at the incredible MoCA. There so much that commends this museum – the artistic and effective way the exhibits impart information, the fascinating and evocative content and the telling of stories largely untold. I’d make this a New York essential, Nomads.

Paper sculpture at MoCA

Ellis Island

Many daytrippers forego Ellis Island and its amazing immigration museum in their visits to the Statue of Liberty. But they are missing out, Nomads! The renovation of the Ellis Island facility to what it would have looked like, the collection of so many first-hand accounts and the fantastic audio walking tour make this a unique insight into what it was like to arrive in the USA for many thousands of migrants who make up modern-day America. It seems particularly important to visit now with the current rhetoric on immigration in US politics and makes for an emotional but meaningful day.

Reception hall at Ellis Island

MoMA at Night

Visiting MoMA on a day of the week that they’re open late increases your chance of seeing a serendipitous pop-up event (like a saxophonist serenading one of Louise Bourgeois’ gigantic spiders) and finding yourself completely alone with a Monet or Van Gough. The night time makes any museum magical in this Concierge’s book, but add art and it’s something very special indeed.

Louise Bourgeois Spider at MoMA

A Last Supper at The NoMad Restaurant

How cliché that I’d recommend a restaurant with half of my name in it. But honestly, Nomads, I’ve dined across the world and this is the best food I’ve ever eaten. We devoured three courses that had such complexity of flavours and yet were so delightfully simple to eat and enjoy. The dining room was cosy and intimate and I wanted the wardrobe of all of my fellow diners. This was five-star dining and SUCH a treat for our last night of celebrating my 30th in the Big Apple. Once again, props to Concierge Husband for finding this stand-out.

New York Chinatown – How to DIY a Tour

A fun alternative activity to the normal tourist circuit in New York is getting lost and stuffed in Chinatown and there have been a billowing of food tours to help you test out the best of the best. However, this Concierge loves taking her time and getting distracted and popping into whichever shopfront entices her, especially when it comes to food. So after a little research, I decided to self-tour Manhattan’s Chinatown. Here’s how you can do the same…

A fun alternative activity to the normal tourist circuit in New York is getting lost and stuffed in Chinatown and there have been a billowing of food tours to help you test out the best of the best. However, this Concierge loves taking her time and getting distracted and popping into whichever shopfront entices her, especially when it comes to food. So after a little research, I decided to self-tour Manhattan’s Chinatown.

First of all, to show my props, not only am I a foodie travel blogger, I also lived in China for 4 years and I could live on a purely Asian diet. So I have a high bar. Living in Ethiopia, we actually do quite well for Chinese (and Korean) food but LORDY do I miss dimsum. So we 100% had to spend some solid hours in Chinatown, stuffing our faces.

 New York street with cop car and fire escape

Here’s how you can do the same…

First of all, Mott Street is a great street to situate yourself in Chinatown. There are all sorts of interesting wares being sold and smells invading your nostrils. After a little time perusing, it’s DINNER TIME.

Believe it or not, the main event at Fried Dumpling is… fried dumpling. My research led us here for some good… well, fried dumplings and they were the good stuff. Grab a stool, make sure you get some fresh ones and pour on your soy and sriracha (or some vinegar if you can get it). The wrappers all over Chinatown are not going to be China standard, but the fillings were yum and this place has such low prices, it’s wild.

 Best fried dumplings in New York

Mei Li Wah Bakery is a necessary stop for the best pork buns in Chinatown. The BBQ pork is fantastic; melt in the mouth with a delicious sauce. In the steamed version, the dough was a little dense and whilst we were sat, a line of people appeared for the baked version, so I’d recommend the latter. Apparently, this is where Chinatown locals come for their pork buns and that’s recommendation enough for me. (I also loved the Nom Wah version – the pork wasn’t quite as good but the caramelised onion is a nice touch and it was doughy doughy goodness.)

 Mei Li Wah Bakery BBQ Pork Buns

Vanessa’s Dumplings is another Chinatown institution and beloved of all. Whilst it’s a little out of the way, it’s well worth the meander; their dumplings are impressive and there’s a fabulous choice. Try the chicken and basil boiled dumplings, the monthly special and the sesame pancake with Peking Duck.

 The outside of Vanessa's Dumplings in New York Chinatown

No Chinatown trip is complete without some soupy dumplings (xiaolong bao), Concierge Husband’s favourite type. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe is a solid pair of hands for some high-level soupy dumplings. There’s a minimum spend, so we took our’s to go and sat in the park, but the menu looked delightful, so consider adding an extra couple of items and parking yourself in one of their booths. Worried about 3rd degree burns from soup spillage? Here’s a failsafe guide to eating your soupy dumplings with at least some dignity.

 Xialongbao

By this point, you’re probably craving something sweet, Nomads. Golden Fung Wong Bakery has freshly baked fortune cookies and authentic almond cookies. Actually everything looked good, but those are what we tasted. On our visit, we were delighted to spy mooncakes in an abundance of flavours and picked out a pineapple-flavoured beauty.

The neon sign of Chinatown's best bakery, Golden Fung Wong

If you’ve still got space, at Taiyaki my favourite Chinatown snack has got a trendy (and tasty) upgrade. Here the fish-shaped waffle is still partially filled by custard or red bean paste but topped up with a yummy soft serve. Drizzled over my matcha and sesame ice cream, I opted for condensed milk, pop rocks with a stick of mochi in the side. NOM.

 Taiyaki

However, if you’re looking for whimsy, Chinatown ice cream factory serves up scoops of ice cream in taro, egg custard, red bean, pandan, green tea, black sesame, lychee and many more!

If you’re less concerned with touring and just want great dimsum, Nom Wah Tea Parlor did not disappoint. I’d almost forego the others next time and head straight there. It’s so evocative of the old teahouses in Hong Kong with the big ceiling fans and the fabulous vintage posters and the formica tables. The food made for two elated travellers; yummy soupy dumpling, cheoung fun with a sweet oozing sauce, stuffed tofu skins to die for, moreish shu mai and shrimp dumplings, I mentioned the excellent buns. And the selection of teas, Nomads! It’s the oldest spot in Chinatown and so reknowned that we were worried it would be a tourist trap, but we left floating along the street in a dimsum daydream!

 Dimsum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

 

Need more dimsum?

Dimsum Go Go

Jing Fong is a huge dimsum parlour just waiting for you

 

Need more dumplings?

Golden Steamer; ignore the name and try the pumpkin or BBQ pork buns

 

Looking for Chinese dishes?

Tasty Hand pulled noodles

Xian Famous Foods

Little Alley for great Shanghai food and a HUGE soupy dumpling

 Two old ladies eating dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor in New York

48 hours in The Hamptons without breaking the bank

Mentioning The Hamptons conjures up a strong association for most people… New York’s summer playground, the watermelon incident in SATC, a couple of Kardashians… All of which are tied together with a big bow of glamour. Of which I am a fan. The Hamptons is notoriously pricey but going just off season, right before many establishments close and the weather is still luscious, can make all the difference…

Mentioning The Hamptons conjures up a strong association for most people… New York’s summer playground, the watermelon incident in SATC, a couple of Kardashians… All of which are tied together with a big bow of glamour. Of which I am a fan. Plus – this Concierge, living in landlocked Ethiopia, was craving the beach and some excellent seafood. So when Concierge Hubby began planning a special 30th birthday trip for me Stateside, a few days in The Hamptons just had to be on the agenda.

The Hamptons is notoriously pricey but going just off season, right before many establishments close and the weather is still luscious, can make all the difference. We hired a car from JFK (Nomads, watch out for deals with air miles as many car hires are associated with airline alliances) and set off in the opposite direction to NYC, right to the end of Long Island. We chose Montauk as our destination – the grounded sibling of the Hamptons family. On our way, we drove through village after village with pretty ship-lap homes and the manicured high streets. There were even windmills, Nomads! From the get-go, this was entirely what this Concierge had hoped for.

Our dinner stop was Springs Tavern, which combined the feel of a down to earth diner with stylish Hamptons furnishings (I see you, ceiling fan, wooden floor and warm grey hues). Locals lined the bar, whilst relaxed groups of sun-seekers occupied the restaurant and we filled our boots with an excellent burger, mac ‘n cheese and a craft beer that slid down very easily. Hello ‘Merica!

Our hotel was an inspired choice by Concierge Hubby, the Hero Beach Club. This was Boutique with a Capital B; art scattered throughout the hotel and grounds, branding to die for, an iPad in the room to connect you with reception, local rose on tap in the bar, swing chairs on the porch, pool furniture from Bali… Our veranda looked out directly over the sea with an enticing beach just feet away. No white noise machine needed for a deep sleep when the waves are that close!

Room in the Hero Beach Club Montauk

After a restful night, our morning began with a swim in the beautiful pool, a stroll down said beach, and a veer off course in the direction of coffee and pastries. Left Hand Coffee provides excellent caffeination – drip coffee, a multitude of single blends… These people know coffee. The pastry was a secondary event but hit the spot. It’s definitely a solid Montauk option for a grab-n-go breakfast.

Beach and sea outside the Hero Beach Club Montauk

After a wander through Montauk, we headed on to our lunch spot (a day revolving around food = a good day), the incredible Clam Bar. It feels exactly like being on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, as you pull up to the high-class shack on the side of the highway and park up on chucky stones. This is where one of the Hamptons’ most loved Lobster Rolls can be found and, therefore by default, me. This roll was so stuffed full of lobster, it overflowed and was totally fresh. Concierge Hubby had heard that sometimes the lobster has literally been on the seafloor hours before. The bun was light, sweet and fluffy. I was in Seafood Heaven, Nomads! Add to that a glass of local white and this was one happy Concierge.

Lobster roll from the Clam Bar on the Montauk Highway

Post-lunch, there was a definite need to walk off the lobster and so we headed into East Hampton and then Sag Harbor to peruse the shops and dream of living the other side of one of those white picket fences. J-Crew, Brandi Melville and a Maple Pecan Frappuccino (FINALLY) were excellent features of the wandering. Not to mention getting up close and personal with one of the aforementioned windmills! We soon scooted off for the next item on our Hamptons agenda – wine tasting! At the Wolffer Estate, there’s no long tour with a blow-by-blow account of how every grape was smushed – it’s all about the tasting. We ordered a flight of wine and set about testing Wolffer’s best offerings. As you try, you sit on a sunny patio with the vineyards and blue skies right in front of you. It’s a perfect afternoon. The sharing platters looked very tempting were it not for the amount of lobster already consumed and the prospect of a fancy dinner in a few short hours. There’s a shop inside to purchase anything you’ve particularly enjoyed (alongside a range of ciders and a gin!) but refreshingly, we happened upon it by chance! There was not a single sales pitch, nevermind the reminders ad nauseam that can be part and parcel of a wine tasting. We returned to the hotel thoroughly relaxed.

A flight of wine to taste at the Wollfer Estate in the Hamptons

We headed up to the North Shore to find a perfect spot for sunset. A few of our potentials were closed for the season but we found the wonderful Montauket, a pub full of character (and people) with a great buzz and good beer & wine for sunset-watching. The North shore of the island is where to catch the sunset from and it was breath-taking. Just see for yourself…

Sunset from the Montauket in Montauk

We moved on for dinner at Scarpetta Beach, set inside the luxurious Gurney’s Resort that oozed elegance and Hamptons charm. This is perhaps the part of the post that (despite the title) could break the bank, Nomads, but it was the day of my 30th Birthday and Concierge Husband is very good to me. The lighting was low and romantic, the tables were spaced and intimate, the food was beautiful and refined. As we waited for a taxi to collect us, we sat under blankets at the most well-appointed fire pit I’ve ever seen and floated away home happy, happy, happy.

Hero Beach Club Montauk's smiley face

Waking up to the lapping of the sea, we set off for a healthy breakfast at Naturally Good Foods, with all the superfoods and wondergrains your heart could desire. From there, it was finally time to explore Montauk’s lighthouse *over excited squeal due to girlish love of lighthouses*. The light house is right at the end of Long Island (an area innovatively named called The End) and set in an area filled with nature and protected reserves. We strolled on the beach before clambering up the rocks and lapping the light house.

Montauk Lighthouse

It was time for us to start making our way back to JFK to get a shuttle into the city but we took our sweet time about it. We stopped off at Vicki’s Veggies, a picture perfect stall in Amagansett for some farm-fresh fruit for the road and then perused the town and did a little more shopping. We headed to The Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe and sat people watching in Southampton with incredible soups, salads and cheese. And we once again lusted after all the beautiful homes and houses of the Hamptons’ villages.

Pretty street with movie theater in East Hampton

We reached New York easily after dropping off the hire car and completely relaxed after a perfect Birthday retreat in The Hamptons. Try it out, Nomads!

DAY 1

10am – Stroll on the beach and coffee & pastries at Left Hand Coffee

11am – Walk through Montauk

12pm – The Hamptons’ best lobster rolls at the Clam Bar

1.30pm – A wander through East Hampton and Sag Harbor, checking out the marina & the windmill

3.30pm – Wine tasting at the Wolffer Estate

5.45pm – Sunset at a North Coast pub like the Montauket

7.30pm – Dinner at Scarpetta Beach, Gurney’s Resort

DAY 2

10am – Healthy breakfast at Naturally Good Foods

11am – Discovering the Montauk Lighthouse and some of the surrounding trails

12pm – Explore Amagansett and stock up on fruit snacks at Vicki’s Veggies

1pm – Lunch at the Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe

2pm – Explore Southampton and then on to JFK

Windmill in Sag Harbor, The Hamptons

What to wear on a flight

All this flying has got me thinking about my perfect travel outfit and I’ve a few essentials to share with you.

What to wear on a flight

What to wear on a flight by thenomadsconcierge featuring gray shoes

Well, Nomads, I’ve been a little quiet recently as I’ve been flying about all over the place with unreliable internet. More to come on that in the coming week once I’m caught up but meanwhile, all this flying has got me thinking about my perfect travel outfit and I’ve a few essentials to share with you.

I’d describe my in-flight style as practical chic. I gave up on dressing up for flights when I gave up on getting upgraded… even on honeymoon & my 30th. Thanks a lot for introducing the extra hurdle of Premium Economy, airlines. So I hit unsubscribe on all those flight hacker emails and donned leggings and an outfit that actually works for me.

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Old me at Check In.

These are my top items:

A breathable jumper / sweater – temperature regulation on board is my nemesis; I flit between shivering and sweating like some feverish shilly-shally. I like to wear breathable fabrics when on an airplane, like bamboo, merino and other wools, avoiding any blend that is too synthetic. Try this one with its nice neck line.

Cozy socks – bamboo or wool socks for the win, Nomads. No icicle toes here. These are fab, I can imagine being in front of the fire in a farmhouse in them.

Leggings with plenty of support – if I’ve only got a short haul flight, I’m often found in my signature look of black jeans. However, for long haul a whole other level of support is needed. I like compression leggings for keeping it all in with a decent waistband and avoiding achy legs / lessening DVT risk. I’m desperate to try these – aside from great reviews, they’re made from recycled water bottles! A fact I would definitely tell every surrounding passenger and perhaps ask the pilot to announce it over the tanoy.

Footwear for easy security checks – don’t be that person, Nomads. You know the one I mean. The one who is NEVER READY for security checks. Have your electronics in an easy place to pull out and for goodness sake, pick shoes that are easy to remove if you’re in a country that requires it. I love these, a very on-trend way to avoid eye rolls from the ballooning queue behind you.

Sunglasses – we all need a little glamour in our lives, Nomads, and as long as I’ve remembered to pack my contact lens pot in a suitable spot, I’m all about sunglasses as I waltz through the airport, avoiding the imaginary paparazzi. What a duty-free treat if you’ve some shopping time before boarding. If not, I am in love with these ones. Though I do need them a little less now I’ve discovered moisturising eye patches to pop on mid-flight.

A blanket scarf – in the lifelong battle to overcome chilly flights, the blanket scarf is King. Consequently, I am aaall about the layering and optional extras. I love this scarf because it is made in my temporary home of Ethiopia and from a designer I’m borderline obsessed with (see bag selection too!).

A great bag – Ethiopian leather is amazing and I love how Zaaf incorporate little cultural nods into their chic designs. I’m dropping massive hints to Concierge Husband about this one.

Taking the sleeper train to Scotland

The sleeper train from London to Scotland is one of those gloriously romantic British travel moments from start to finish, whisking you away to your highland (or lowland) adventures in an endearingly (yet accidental?) vintage fashion. It’s the Real McCoy and a wonderful way to travel.

The sleeper train from London to Scotland is one of those gloriously romantic British travel moments from start to finish, whisking you away to your highland (or lowland) adventures in an endearingly (yet accidental?) vintage fashion. It’s the Real McCoy and a wonderful way to travel.

WHERE TO EAT AROUND KING’S CROSS & EUSTON

Depending on your destination, you’ll set off from either King’s Cross or Euston. Luckily, they are close to one another and have great accommodation and eating options before you board. If you’re feeling fancy, the night before book yourself into this AirBnB which is literally in the gothic tower of the St Pancras building or stay at the Renaissance, which if it seems familiar is because it was the set for the Spice Girls’ Wannabe music vid.

For food, you’ve even time for a leisurely three course meal before your departure time, since departures time vary from 9pm to just shy of midnight. Dishoom serves elevated Indian food, fit for the British obsession. The enchanting interiors are covered in nods to Iranian cafes in old Bombay, and you’ll be whipping your phone out moments after arrival to snap them all.  There’s always a wait at this popular spot but the cocktails, the lassis and all the food (I see you, ruby chicken) are worth it.

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The Gilbert Scott is delightfully British in décor and is an educational experience in the food of our land. It’s housed in the grand Victorian dining room of the old station and led by renowned British chef, Marcus Wareing. You’ll pour over the menu but choose anything and you’ll be satisfied.

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If you’re just around for a drink, try out Drink, Shop, Do and maybe make a robot or ice a cookie to look like Lionel Richie (no joke) whilst you’re about it. It’s quirky, fun and a great space. Alternatively, sample the local craft beer at Euston Tap.

Heck, you could even check if there’s an interesting evening event on at the British Library or the Wellcome Collection, with its eclectic mix of science paraphernalia. Also, a massive plus of having time on your hands in King’s Cross at this time of night is that you can indulge your guilty pleasure of a selfie at Platform 9 and 3/4s without having to queue your way into old age.

Still a little time? Wander up to Granary Square, stopping for a swing (and your new profile pic) in the huge birdcage outside King’s Cross and to run through the fountains avoiding the water in the Square itself.

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ALL ABOARD

It’s probably time to board. You’ll be met at your carriage by a welcoming steward, who will revisit you shortly after pulling out the station to make sure you’re comfortable, introduce you to all the train has to offer and ask if you want a tea or coffee brought to you in the morning. If you’re in first class, your breakfast is complimentary as is a sleep kit including a PILLOW SPRAY. Why did we choose standard?!

Now I must set your expectations, Nomads, this is not yet the Orient Express. However, this Concierge hears plans that from the first half of next year, new look trains will bring more of the “hotel” experience to the line, with double beds, ensuites, keycards and sleek new interiors. Oh and did I mention WiFi? All that to say, the present romance is due to the experience and the mode of travel and that people have been making this journey for 140 years. Though I myself adore the current tartan and plaid accents and the fact that the tickets are actually within grasp (I’m looking at you, Orient Express). Here’s hoping that at least stays the same.

Once you’re fully settled and you’ve decadently unpacked and spread out (who can do that on a flight?), head down to the restaurant car without further ado, as you want to ensure you get a seat. This Concierge cannot resist a Scottish cheese plate and Gin & Tonic (Caorunn to be precise) but midnight haggis and a solid whiskey selection are also on offer. The prices are a welcome surprise after London and we retired for the night contented and slept soundly.

SCOTTISH ADVENTURES

Our destination was Glasgow for a glorious family weekend, including a wedding and two Christenings. But it’s a fabulous city even if you’re not there to see my family, worth a weekend to explore all things Rennie Mackintosh and Art Nouveau. Wander down the famous Buchanan Street and be sure to head to the Willow Tea Rooms, decked out with the Japanese obsessions of Art Nouveau. A personal favourite spot, the Burrell Collection, is undergoing renovations until 2020 but part of the collection is on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and stop by the Mackintosh Building and his other creations.

If you’re tempted by Edinburgh, start with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that looks out over the city and be sure to fit in the castle. Or time your trip for the Fringe festival and experience all the sarcasm and wit that Britain has to offer.

If you’re alighting at Fort William, perhaps it’s to climb Britain’s highest peak of Ben Nevis, to hop straight back on the Hogwarts Express (aka The Jacobite) or to visit the mesmerising Glen Coe. Perhaps it’s your launch pad to island hop from Oban or Mallaig. Whatever your Scottish adventures, Nomads, you’ve begun them with the right way to travel.

Now you’ve got the train bug, how about exploring America by rail? Check out my fellow blogger’s post.

10 Terrible Hotel Room Features

Hotel rooms can feel like bliss… beds so big you can get lost in them, fancy bathrooms, the leather bound guide to the hotel (first stop for this Concierge) and a mini bar filled with chocolate & fizzy stuff. But it’s not all a bed of roses. This Concierge asked her fellow travel bloggers what their pet peeves about hotel rooms are…

Hotel rooms can feel like bliss… beds so big you can get lost in them, fancy bathrooms, the leather bound guide to the hotel (first stop for this Concierge) and a mini bar filled with chocolate & fizzy stuff. But it’s not all a bed of roses. This Concierge asked her fellow travel bloggers what their pet peeves about hotel rooms are. And it was a little troublesome…

1. The weird glass wall between bedroom & bathroom you get in some places. AWKWARD.

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2. Overly tucked in bed sheets

“The funny runners on the bed and decorative pillows (yuck!!) and tucked in sheets so you feel like a mummy.” – Annika

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3. Cheap Soap in the Shower

“Really really rough towels, brick pillows, no outlets next to the bed, mold in the shower floor, cheap soap!” – Chala

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4. Bad WiFi

“Any form of bad Wifi:

– Wifi that you have to pay for. Come on, it’s 2017!
– Wifi that only works in common areas.
– Wifi that you have to log into with a silly little password on a silly little piece of paper that expires every 30 minutes.
– Wifi that is slower than molasses in January. ”

– Kelly from GLOBAL-GOOSE.COM

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5. No safety precautions

“No peep holes on the door. That’s just not safe! Or no deadbolt / lock that can’t be accessed from outside” – Stephanie from joyandjourney.com

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6. Plastic shower curtains

“I have a thing about shower curtains, I freak out if they touch me! I was once in a hotel room in Paris with a tiny shower, the curtain was definitely going to touch me, I made my husband sit outside the shower and hold the curtain out so it couldn’t get me?” -Naomi from naomi-parry.com

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7. Blinking Lights

“The fact that there are a MILLION blinking lights from the TV, phone, and other such sources. I like it dark so I have to drape towels, sweatshirts, and whatever else I have over them all. So annoying!” – Heather from arttraveleatrepeat.com

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8. Flooding Bathrooms

“Showers that flood the entire bathroom without any way to clean it up and leave the entire room smelling musty.” – Lauren

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9. Badly positioned sockets

“I hate it when the plug is nowhere near the bed or a mirror. I have had to sit on the floor whilst charging my phone before and under the bed is NOT what you want to be seeing in a hotel room. It also means drying/straightening/curling you hair using a tiny hand mirror or phone camera….not ideal.” – Rosie from Flying Fluskey

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10. Bad ventilation

“When the bathroom doesn’t have a fan in it. Or a loud enough fan!” – Jacqueline

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What are your pet peeves, Nomads?

Fangirling at Africa Fashion Week 2017

This Concierge has been having a ball this week as two major fashion events rolled into her town; Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week and Hub Africa. Events, pop-ups, exhibits and runway shows, there’s been plenty to keep an Addis-based Nomad busy. The fashion scene in East Africa is incredibly exciting; there are tonnes of passionate, creative and sickeningly talented people with a great vision for serving the men and women of the region. I did not keep my chill. Read about some of the exciting designers I discovered this week…

This Concierge has been having a ball this week as two major fashion events rolled into her town; Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week and Hub Africa. Events, pop-ups, exhibits and runway shows, there’s been plenty to keep an Addis-based Nomad busy. The fashion scene in East Africa is incredibly exciting; there are tonnes of passionate, creative and sickeningly talented people with a great vision for serving the men and women of the region. I did not keep my chill. Here are some of the exciting designers I discovered this week:

With Ethiopian designer Fikirte Addis at the helm, Yefikir takes elements of traditional textiles and design to create international fashion and professional wear. Fikirte is passionate about the incredible quality and beauty of fabrics available in Ethiopia and works together with other designers on building the social consciousness of the industry in Ethiopia; initiatives like a child labour free commitment and certification.Vivo Activewear, a rising Kenyan brand for the modern professional African woman, was co-founded by Wandia Gichuru. She believes that women in East Africa are under-served by the fashion industry and is on a mission to change the way that Africa sees herself through fashion. With 11 shops and counting, Vivo provides ready to wear and accessible fashion options, even available online.

Naked Ape Style, the vividly name brand from South Africa’s Shaldon Kopman, began as a bespoke brand, and is working towards sustainability as a business and promoting craftspeople from the continent, utilising only African makers. Having dressed the likes of Samuel L Jackson an Barack Obama, this menswear label is high fashion and eminently dapper.Ye Tseday Design is an Ethiopian brand that uses bespoke handwoven materials, hand-crafted in Ethiopia. The collection on display as part of ASFW combined high-quality and glamorous material with flowing and flattering silhouettes, with subtle nods to Ethiopian culture, such as a halterneck using a mix of material and traditional jewellry.

Of course, some of these designers are high fashion and shopping with them is more studio-based than online shopping cart, but here are some ready-to-wear items from Vivo Activewear and my stalwart favourites, Zaaf and Sole Rebels.
Africa Fashion Week 2017