This Year’s Travel Awards

These are my recommendations for 2012, things that impressed me throughout my travels this year. Congratulations to all of you who get a mention in your categories – you will all be seeing me again soon! Perhaps you would like to each send me a bottle of champagne? No non-vintage rubbish, please.

So here are some of my favourites from the UK, Croatia, Malaysia, Monaco, Japan, UAE and Singapore. Please visit them if you are in the area and give me an update.

Best Greasy Spoon : This award goes to Piccolo Bar in London, UK (15 Shepherd Street, Mayfair) the best greasy spoons will always have a line of black cabs out the front, so this is how I found Piccolo Bar. It’s a tiny spot with seating downstairs – eat in or take away. A full English Breakfast with tea is £4. This is quite a posh cafe for a greasy spoon in that the ground floor is like a deli with samosas, pasta and all sorts of fresh, ready-made meals to take with you, so it’s good for breakfast and lunch. Everything is fresh and edible here, so don’t miss it.

A 7am pork festival at Piccolo Bar

Best Hiking Trail : It may be only 20 minutes from Kuala Lumpur, but I found a great place for a hike. Bukit Tabur is not accessible by public transport but it’s easy and cheap enough to get a taxi there. It’s very green and clean, the climb could take 3 – 6 hours up and down, depending on your trekking skills. It’s was a very foggy day that I chose, which means my pictures were dreadful, what a shame that was, as Bukit Tabur is known for it’s quartz ridges and lakes. Take your own supplies of water and snacks because it’s not a developed area. Some people I met there, who knew what they were doing, had gloves for climbing . Be aware that some trails are trickier than others and people have died here so it’s worth reading the trail signs before you start.

Best Shopping : Split Pazar, Croatia. If you are looking for the mall with the biggest Zara or H&M then Split is not for you, but I love it. This is one of the few shopping districts in Europe that still has character – I hope it never changes. The Pazar (open markets) are a daily affair outside Diocletian’s Palace. Many handmade and artisan’s goodies are for sale, as well as fruit and vegetables – actually, they have everything you may need, the pazar is quite large. I managed to pick up a handmade tablecloth, bright green patent leather wrist cuffs, a book, fridge magnets and some Croatian pastries for under 200 Kuna, or about €25. Check out the cafes in the square after your shopping spree. This is definitely the best fun I’ve had shopping in years.

Best Restroom:  Hotel Hermitage, Monte Carlo. If you must share your lavatory with the public then this one is the best …….It is:

 a)spotless and smelling like amber

 b)complete with original fittings

 c)lovely and elegant with good lighting

 d)Used by the titled folk.If aristocracy put their bottoms on these  seats then I suppose it is  good enough for me – they are my litmus test.

Public Facilities of the Year, 2011

Original Fittings

I suppose the restrooms are enough reason for me to go to the Crystal Bar. I remember going to such bathrooms when I was a child but they are becoming rarer and rarer by the year.

Best Cafe : As my dear friends EZ and MF tells me, there is nothing like a good sandwich: you can put anything on there, the options are endless. EZ loves to design exciting sandwiches; MF has lived by her beliefs since we were in school, she’d turn up with Spagetti Bolognese on Whole Wheat. Well, they are right. I am always up for a good sandwich.

I try to make my sandwiches as healthy as possible these days – so where does one go for the best sandwiches/pancakes/pasta/salad? Well, it should be organic as well as blindingly good – this is why we go to Real Food when we are in Singapore. I expect to be visiting the lovely people at Real Food regularly.

It isn’t fast, so don’t go to Real Food if you only have 20 minutes. Everything at this place is made from FRUIT and VEGETABLES as you order them. It’s never going to be quick but I am happy to wait for amazing a healthy meals. They do have some dishes with cheese and eggs but everything else comes from the earth. I always leave Real Food feeling happy and healthy. I love everything I’ve ever eaten there, but I especially recommend the banana and strawberry pancakes (which V stumbled across in a post-gym feeding frenzy and we have become addicted to ever since) The salads, pasta, dumplings and rice dishes are all creative and very healthy. I don’t feel bad about having a grilled vegetable and cheese sandwich, a shake and dessert at Real Food.

Best New Bar:  Mogambo, both the Tokyo and Singapore bars. It’s not exactly new but the owner of our favourite bar in Tokyo has just opened another bar in Singapore. Mogambo at Boat Quay (Cnr Circular Road & Canton St) has everything  that the Tokyo bar has: it’s a fun unaffected gaff with gorgeous staff who are great fun. It’s good for partying hard or for a quiet drink – but always cool. Life is too short to hang out in naff places. I like their snacks too…

Best Hotel:  This one has to go to the renovated and reopened Savoy, London. I haven’t actually STAYED in the spanking new suites yet but I did pay a visit to the American Bar: simple and unexceptional decor but great music, cocktails. You are guaranteed a fun night out at the American Bar, just bring your friends and a party is there ready for you.

Fun with friends at the American Bar

The Savoy Grill is still the best restaurant I’ve ever been to in London and the restored art deco interior makes one feel as if stepping into 1920’s (although Savoy Grill is over 120 years old) the souffles and seafood never disappoint. I forgot how beautiful the Savoy lobby is, it’s like being in a Wedgewood box.

The luxurious new lobby @ Savoy

Best Airline – I am going to shock you all now. I know you expect me to say one of the fabulous and luxurious airlines like Etihad (cheap but always comfortable) with it’s superior service, comfortable seats and the  opulent lounges at Abu Dhabi airport; or Singapore Airlines -the Silverkris Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport being one of the few business class lounges that feed you these days. Well, it would be boring to talk about how great they are because we all know, so let’s make this the “most improved airline” award.

In this case,I will be giving the award to… BRITISH AIRWAYS. Yes, I hear your gasps: The most overbooked airline with the grumpiest and most put-upon staff in the skies? The airline that never cleans the washrooms? The airline that doesn’t really care if you get to your destination or not?No longer! Things have really picked up in 2011 , I am not sure if this is due to competition or perhaps internal restructuring but I am impressed. The staff were excellent, the cheese was too. Apart from the fact that Kosher meals are not available on half the flights, but most of them are halal (whether you agree with the halal method of slaughter or not) things aren’t so bad. I may even consider flying BA again; a sentiment I certainly did not feel after my first flight with this airline. Well done British Airways, keep it up.

Happy Holidays Everyone:  明けましておめでとうございます, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah. Whatever you celebrate, enjoy yourself this season and let’s meet again next year.


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