En route to Christmas

I am currently sitting on the couch at my sister’s place in Melbourne. It’s been a hot day and the night is balmy and warm meaning that we have every possible window and door open in an effort to catch the breeze. It’s my bi-annual pilgrimage Down Under for a family Christmas, it’s day number two and with Christmas Day looking like a scorcher, I couldn’t be much further away from the chill of a London winter.

It’s a long way so as is my usual habit, I paused for a week on the way through to soak up some sun, read lots of books and enjoy some amazing food. This time the pause was in Hua Hin in Thailand at the gorgeous Anantara Resort.

I had a room overlooking the pool…


After a ‘busy’ day poolside, I would spend a couple of hours curled up on this comfortable couch before heading out for dinner.

…and there was a lovely message from Dow, my room housekeeper, on my pillow every evening.


Speaking of locals, there were elephants everywhere – this cutie was my favourite…


A welcoming hello at the entrance, just one of the Elephant Parade installation scattered throughout the grounds.

…and Alex, the resident blue and green macaw, was a colourful sight around the resort.


Apparently Alex is bi-lingual (English and Thai in case you were wondering)

All up nature was at her best whether big and breathtaking…


View from the beach bar at the Anantara Hua Hin resort…it’s a tough life for some.

…small and delicate…


There are orchids of all sorts everywhere. I passed this one every day on the way to breakfast.

…or there for just a moment.


This water lily had blossomed overnight so I got this shot on the way to breakfast in the morning – the flower had drooped by mid afternoon and was gone by the evening.

The food was delicious..


A traditional Thai appetiser. Take a leaf and add a bit of everything – peanuts, dried shrimp, dried coconut, shallot, garlic, lime, chilli and palm sugar paste. Wrap up the little parcel and pop it in your mouth. Delicious!

…and the cocktails many and varied across the balmy evenings…

…but in the main, I lay by the pool – cooling off with a dip in the water every so often – and read.

I devoured four magazines (two Vanity Fair and one each of Raconteur and The Economist’s 1843) and five books: Emma Donoghue’s absorbing The Wonder, Jeffrey Archer’s sixth in The Clifton Chronicles (Cometh the Hour) and the eighth novel in Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (The Empty Throne), a light and fluffy Lift and Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein and the utterly gripping How I Lost You from Jenny Blackhurst. I was also halfway through Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings when I left.

It was such a blissfully solitary and self-indulgent week. Reading is my favourite thing to do and is exactly what I book the holiday for (as well as a much-needed dose of sun). It also stands me in good stead for the next phase of my trip – a little me-time before the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the inevitable flurry of activity with family and friends.

Which brings me back to where I started – a balmy night in the Melbourne suburbs on the night before Christmas. So before I embark on the various opporunities for festive cheer scheduled in the days ahead, all that remains for me to do is wish you a happy holiday season however and wherever you are spending it.


A productive day

I was woken by a veritable cacophony of birdsong.

I rolled over, still dim with sleep, the fissure of light along the curtain hem announcing that a new day had dawned. I squinted at the dial of my watch. 6.30am. I pulled the covers back up over my shoulders against the chill of the room, the air conditioner humming smugly in the background.

Fifty minutes later, I opened the curtains…


…to greet my first full day in Mauritius.


After some travel disruption and a later than expected arrival on Sunday, I had just enough time for a gentle stroll along the beach and a cheeky cocktail at the beach bar before my first Mauritian sunset – watched with the sand between my toes of course. What a sunset it was…


An early night (there was a very real danger of yours truly falling asleep in her dinner) meant that despite the early hour, on Monday I was up and ready for a productive day.

I met the holiday rep, agreed my pickup time for the return journey to the airport and got some tips on how to get the best value from my all inclusive package.

I booked dinners in three of the resort‘s five restaurants. Last night it was a 5 course traditional Mauritian meal with 8 other hotel guests and I have dinner at the beach restaurant on Wednesday and then the Asian fusion restaurant on Friday to go. The substantial buffet will just have to do on the other nights. *Sigh*

I also booked myself a visit to the hotel spa for a little pre-dinner pampering tonight.

And I lay by the pool and read a book. Yes, a whole book. Bliss.


Then it was time to start the cycle again with cocktail number two.

Now I call that a productive day and with a few notable exceptions – it will be the beach today instead of the pool – this is how it will be for seven whole days.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have another book to choose…