Monday, 10 June 2019

10 Lightweight Rain Jackets for Summer Day Downpours

Having just spent a few weeks in Texas, where most people mistakenly think that the weather is always hot and sunny, and having got totally soaked in my inexpensive 'showerproof' jacket I decided that never again am I going to be caught out, and invested in a lightweight Columbia jacket which I've already worn several times.  And yes it keeps me totally dry even in a torrential rainstorm.

Whether you're out walking the dog or travelling somewhere, it may well rain without warning, and so an essential piece of clothing for the summer months has to be a lightweight waterproof jacket that can fold up into the bottom of your tote or carry-on and you can pull out at a moments notice.

My favourite waterproof jackets are light enough to go everywhere with me, black....because you can wear them perfectly well in town and country and have some kind of shape - slightly waisted for preference.  Oh yes, then there are the pockets for phone and other bits and pieces (I am never to be found without dog biscuits in my pockets no matter where) and of course a hood.  After all, what good is a rain jacket without a hood???  I also prefer a jacket that has both snap and zip fastening.  What fussy? Me?  You bet.

For best value and a jacket which ticks all the boxes check out Peter Storm's packable waterproof jacket - at a discounted price currently from Blacks.  I have to say that my all time favourite is Barbour's Val Thoren jacket, combining fashion with functionality.  If you'd like something that's a little longer and totally waterproof that I've been trying out recently you might like to look at Columbia's Splash a Little Jacket.  Another one where you can't go wrong.

A really good waterproof jacket, particularly if you're a fan of the great outdoors (or even if you're not, we all have to go out in the rain from time to time) is well worth investing in.  Don't go for cheap, fashionable and 'not quite waterproof', make sure you'rs is.  Having made that mistake and ended up soaking and with a slightly drowned phone it's just not worth the risk.... over to you

With regards to sizing put vanity to one side and if in doubt go a size up.  You want to be able to wear anything underneath your rain jacket from a fleece or sweater to just a t-shirt.  You definitely don't want if to be too small....

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Hostellerie de Levernois - A Beautiful Place to Stay in French Wine Country

Just outside Beaune and in the heart of the Burgundy vineyards sits Relais & Chateaux hotel Hostellerie de Levernois.  This is a wonderful place to stay if you're visiting this part of French wine country.  A stone's throw from the Route des Grands Crus, Hostellerie de Levernois is a lovely haven where you can relax, have a glass of wine - obviously - and a Michelin star dinner.

The rooms are rustic, beautifully appointed and extremely comfortable, as you'd expect from a five star hotel - this is not a huge multi-room hotel, but 'a small country place' as the owner, Jean-Louis Bottigliero,  put it, full of luxurious touches, lovely food and of course, sensational wines.

One thing I would say is to not even think of visiting here unless you have a car.  Beaune itself is of course full of wine history - and great wine stores, but driving through the vineyards on a sunny day (or if necessary a not so sunny day) is fascinating.  There are, of course, plenty of tasting rooms to travel to and plenty of wonderful wines to taste.  My advice, if you want to go the tasting route, is to get a taxi from the hotel into Beaune then you can browse and taste to your hearts content.

Hostellerie de Levernois in an instant has become one of my favourite hotels in Europe, and another trip already planned - which says something.  If you want to go there make sure you book really early for the hotel as otherwise you may well not get in.

Hostellerie Levernois
Rue du Golf, 21200, Levernois, France
Phone +33 3 80 24 73 58

How to Dress for Glyndebourne

With its beautiful English country house, gardens and lake, Glyndebourne is one of the most quintessentially British places to visit, serving up unique productions of operas such as The Barber of Seville, Die Meistersinger, La Traviata and far too many more to list here, in its own gorgeously idiosyncratic way, frequently to a standing ovation.  No summer, for me anyway, is complete without a visit, preferably several.

Glyndebourne 3Glyndebourne 1Glyndebourne 2

Opera at Glyndebourne is one of the last places where you’ll find 99% of the men wearing dinner jackets.  Yes you’ll see the odd suit and tie but you’re far more likely to see men and women wearing black tie and evening gowns picnicking among the roses, on one of the lawns, by the ha-ha or by the lake.  On a sunny afternoon or evening there is nowhere better.  Provided you enjoy opera.

The season is well under way and will end at the end of August.  If you want to catch one of this year’s productions then hop over to and see what tickets are left.  They always have returns as the date nears by the way so it’s worth checking regularly and booking couldn’t be easier.

Glyndebourne 1
For the girls you have the choice of wearing long, midi or short, and it may depend on how many evenings you’re going and what else you’ll be wearing your dress for.  I always prefer to wear something midi or full length, after all there aren’t that many opportunities and who doesn’t love the chance to dress up.  Personally I think wide leg trousers, or trousers to Glyndebourne unless you really have to, are an abomination. 

You can dress up as much as you want although a meringue might make someone think you’re a member of the cast, depending on the opera.  I’d also stay away from satin or anything that drags on the ground or a dress that’s going to crease a lot, or something very tight – you’re going to be sitting down quite a bit but other than that you can be as dressed up as you like.

I’ve been to Glyndebourne when it’s too hot to picnic outside, when the rain has been sheeting sideways towards the terrace, and when I’ve needed a sheepskin jacket.  You simply can’t tell and need to be prepared for anything.  And when it's really bad weather fashion goes out of the window.  It's all about keeping dry/warm

If it’s pouring/windy/chilly you can bag a table on one of the terraces if you get there early enough, or you can rent a table at Leith’s picnic spot.  Alternatively you can order a full picnic or dine in one of the many formal and informal places to eat, just make sure you book early on.  I always take a picnic, and as we’re frequently a crowd I like to get a table on the terrace which makes life much easier.  But on a fine evening you’ll find the majority picnicking in the gardens.

Yes there are other places you can see opera, and many of them are in the countryside, but Glyndebourne is the very best there is so go if you can.  And please dress up.

Shoes:  If you wear stilettos or anything very high you’ll probably need a strong arm or run the risk of sinking into the ground if it’s been wet and quite possibly falling over backwards.  And your best heels may be ruined.  At least take a pair of wedges or low heels,  so that you can walk the grounds whatever the weather has been like.  And don’t forget to walk round the lake.  I’ve been known to do this barefoot so as not to damage my shoes.  Not a great look.

Wraps and Jackets:  Whatever you take make sure that if it’s chilly later on you can wrap up.  I always take a cashmere cardigan and large wrap, and have been known to picnic in a sheepskin jacket.  Well this is England, after all…..

A note of caution on what to wear for Glyndebourne…. A great deal of time at Glyndebourne (or any other country opera house or music festival for that matter) is spent sitting down, bending over to pack and unpack your picnic etc as well as strolling the grounds, glass of champagne in hand.  Whatever you want to wear make sure you’re comfortable.  It’s all too easy to zip yourself into a tight bodycon number and then find you end up feeling squeezed in every direction.  Try on your dress before you go, before anyone can say how great you look in it, and make sure it will work from driving to sitting to unpacking the picnic.  Let alone getting in and out of your car.  And I know these things…….

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

10 of the Best Sun Creams with UVA and UVB Protection

So as it comes round to summer once again how much thought have you given to your sunscreen.  It's too easy to just use your normal body lotion and forget about that most important part of your skincare routine, sunscreen.

Whether it's a boiling hot summer or whether it's a dull and cloudy one doesn't really matter, the sun's harmful rays still get through, so have a thought now about how you're going to protect yourself when the sun glares down, and not just on holiday.  Don’t even think of going out there without looking after your skin, putting on the sunglasses and preferably wearing a hat.

Most people don’t know what they’re really looking for when buying a sun cream.  To get the best possible protection you don’t just want a sun protective cream that protects against UVB rays, but UVA also. 

So it’s not just the SPF that matters as that only tell you how well a lotion or cream will protect you from UVB rays which burn your skin.  UVA protection is essential against damage at a deeper level.  Both UVB and UVA are linked with cancer.  Always look for a sun cream that has UVA and/or Broad Spectrum in the wording to ensure you’re protected properly.

Here are my top 10 sun creams that offer a high level of protection for both UVB and UVA rays.

It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on your sun cream, but avoid cheap and cheerful just because it’s that and make sure that you’re getting coverage for face and body, for both UVA and UVB rays.

I would also discount the ‘once a day’ and ‘totally waterproof’ marketing on sun protection products.  The less you use the less you’ll be protected so play it safe and keep the protection going. 

Depending on how much time you’re going to be outside use a minimum of SPF 30+ on your face – preferably SPF50, and no less than SPF 30 anywhere else and don’t burn.  You think it can’t happen to you, but with such a high percentage of skin cancer directly attributed to ultraviolet rays – it can.

This year my favourites are Darphin’s Soleil Plaisir, which you could easily mistake for your body cream it’s so creamy and smooth (and I've just had to re-order as the daughter has fallen for it as well), and Clarins new and brightly packaged Sun Cream for Body.

I have to confess I'm sorely tempted also by Sun Perfect by Lancaster Infinite Glow Illuminating Cream.  Oh dear......

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

How much difference does the glass you're drinking out of make to your wine?

Wine glasses - fad or fashion?  It used to be that cut wine glasses were 'the thing' and if you didn't have a glittering array of cut glass on your table you hadn't got it right.

But wine glasses have changed hugely over the past few years, to the point when pretty much most popular wine glasses are super thin, super tall and super large, unless they're stemless, of course.

'Scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that the capacity of wine glasses has ballooned nearly seven-fold over the past 300 years, rising most sharply in the last two decades in line with a surge in wine consumption.'  So you really shouldn't be that surprised if you're given a glass that holds most of a bottle.

Putting size aside, and as someone who loves to travel and dine out, there are some truly fabulous taste enhancing wine glasses out there, and I've taken to asking in a restaurant (if I like the glassware) who the designer/glass maker is - so here goes...

Riedel seems to be the No 1 favourite most probably because it's the most widely available.  They have several ranges, some more expensive than others.  The top of the range glasses are beautiful.  Try them out at Wolfgang Puck's Cut at 45 Park Lane....

Zwiesel 1872 - not to be confused with the less expensive (but great value) sister brand Schott Zwiesel.  Handmade lead crystal glasses of the highest quality. Glasses from this glass maker can be found at 3* Epicure at Le Bristol Paris.

Waterford Crystal need no introduction and you may well think of them as very traditional, which for the main part they are, however these Elegance wine glasses are simple, beautiful and modern.

Mark Thomas Double Bend Wine Glasses - to be found at Le George in Paris - beautiful to hold and drink from, uniquely designed and not overpriced.  So if you want to have something different on your table consider these.

Lehmann Jamesse Prestige wine glasses - try these out at 114 Le Faubourg in Paris then buy them here for your table.  These are much less expensive than I expected, I have to say, and I wouldn't hesitate to start a collection.

Bevelled Red Wine Glasses from The Wolseley in London - you'll only find this particular style of glass in the private dining room, those used in the main restaurant are a little more traditional.  Not underpriced - as you'd probably expect from this famous cafe/restaurant/tea room on Piccadilly in the site of the old Wolseley car showroom - but beautiful, pure crystal and hand blown.

There are so many wine glasses to choose from.  I have changed from enjoying using Georgian glasses (large ones, I might add and no, I'm not that old) to traditional cut glass, to simple clear glasses whose main purpose in life is to enhance the wine I'm drinking.  I'm going to stick with those.  No coloured glass, no odd shapes, no cut glass.  Just a great bottle of wine and a beautiful glass.  Thanks....

Monday, 29 April 2019

Auberge de l’Ill–A Little Bit of Heaven in the French Countryside–and the Hotel des Berges

Auberge de L'ill
Auberge de l’ill, which rests just south of Strasbourg in the sleepy town of Illhaeusern is one of those unexpected, beautiful and well worth a detour restaurants (wherever you happen to be) and is the creation of the renowned Haeberlin family. This is a place for a celebration, for a couple of nights away, for a romantic dinner or just a gastronomy lover's feast.  All and any.  If you have a chance, go there...

Restaurant Auberge de l'ill
I happened to be on my way from Paris to Beaune to the Easter Festival at Baden-Baden this year so hooray this was a perfect very slight detour. There are easier ways to get to Baden Baden from Paris, but I promise you that a visit here is totally worth the effort. 

Auberge de l'ill 4This is a superb experience.  You can’t think of it as just a gastronomic meal, everything is perfect, from the ambiance and restaurant itself to the friendly and welcoming service.  Incredibly lucky with the weather this year we drove from Strasbourg to Illhaeusern on a cool but totally clear day.  You couldn’t have a much more idyllic setting, with both the restaurant and the hotel leading straight on to the river.  In the summer you can sit outside and have your drinks on the terrace.

Auberge de L'ill 3 I’m not of course a food critic, so I won’t wax too lyrical about what I had to eat other than to say that every bite was absolutely delicious.  What I can say is that whatever you choose you won’t be disappointed – this is one of the very best restaurants in France which lives up to its reputation in every way.  The meal goes on from one delicious course or treat to another, ending with perfect home-made (of course) chocolates that although you know you should resist you simply can’t.  There’s very little that can be resisted here.  Don’t bother to wear anything too tight girls – a little word of warning.

As you would expect the restaurant was full again, despite the fact that it is really out of the way, so if you decide you want to pay the Auberge de l’Ill a visit make sure you book well in advance.  This time I stayed at the beautiful 5* Hotel des Berges attached to the restaurant by a short path and overlooking the river.  

Hotel des Berges from the restaurantHotel des Berges Hotel des Berges seating area

There are many places you can visit in France and have a good meal and stay somewhere locally – restaurants with room attached, hotels with great restaurants nearby, but very few where a 5* hotel has been built as an adjunct to the restaurant.  This one is worth visiting on its own merits (although you’d be hard put to visit without going to the restaurant) and has been very cleverly designed.  The furniture is very slightly quirky, every detail thought out, the beds seriously comfortable and the bathrooms filled with Hermes toiletries.

Hotel des Berges coffee by the river
Breakfast is another feast, brioche and croissants, fresh fruit salad, charcuterie, cheese, eggs, creme brulee (yes really) and whatever else you request.  And lest you think you’ll have eaten too much the night before to eat breakfast, forget about it…. something about the air, the place and being quite so beautifully indulged makes you want to sample everything.

Now they have added a spa to add to the Hotel des Berges – so you can eat breakfast, go to the spa,  a walk along the river, coffee on the riverside and then start all over again.  All in all this is an incredible treat and one well worth making the journey for.  Find a seriously special occasion and go.

Auberge de L'ill 2
Auberge de l’Ill
2 Rue Collonges au Mont d'or  
68970 Illhaeusern, France
Tel: + 33 (0)3 89 71 89 00
Hotel des Berges
Tel. : +33 (0)3 89 71 87 87
Email :