The Hotel TerraVina Blog

“Top 5 New Forest Real Ales and Where to Try Them”

Guest blog from Roy Duffield

This post is brought to you by Roy Duffield, AKA the Drinking Traveller. Roy has travelled to over 60 countries, drunk more than his fair share of real ale, and also writes for Brighton-based travel company, Holiday & Adventure. He hopes you enjoyed reading this post, and that you enjoy visiting the New Forest and tasting its beer even more.

Ringwood Brewery

When one thinks of real ales in the New Forest, the Ringwood Brewery springs immediately to mind. For those who know their Hampshire beers, Ringwood is the undisputed king. All of the beers here at the Hotel TerraVina are Ringwood born and brewed.

We also recommend that visitors to the New Forest visit the Royal Oak in Fritham, because there is nothing quite like sampling a pint of Ringwood real ale, fresh out of the barrel. The Royal Oak, nestled at a crossroads in the heart of the New Forest and less than an hour’s cycle from TerraVina, is one of the oldest pubs in Hampshire, dating back to the 1600s and complete with thatched roof and red brick stylings. Lovely hosts, Neil and Pauline, will make you feel more than welcome and can advise you on the best of their ale selection.

Ringwood’s classic is their “Best Bitter”, but they have also made their name with Old Thumper – 1988’s “Champion Beer of Britain”, Boondoggle – a blonde – and this writer’s personal favourite: Fortyniner. If you’re visiting the New Forest this summer, be sure to also look out for Lovey Warne (June), Shipyard IPA (July) and Bold Forester (August).

The Ringwood Brewery is located in the historic town of…you guessed it, Ringwood. The store is open from 9:30am until 5pm and you can visit the Ringwood website for more information on day tours and group tours of the brewery.

Downton Brewery

Now Ringwood might be king, but that doesn’t mean it is the only great brewery in Hampshire, or even in the New Forest. Oh no, there are many, and they are all competing for the crown.

Second on our list is the Downton Brewery, located in Downton, Wiltshire, just outside the New Forest – though the beers it produces are readily available throughout the Forest itself. A relative “newbie” on the Hampshire brewing scene, Downton was only established in 2003. However, in that short space of time it has amassed a selection of six core, award-winning beers that include the famous Chimera IPA, Honey Blonde, and the aptly named “New Forest Ale”. They are also celebrating their 10 year anniversary with the release of Downton X, a spicy amber ale that is only one of almost 20 additional, speciality beers. Yes, this is no small operation!

Red Shoot Brewery

The Red Shoot is another great pub in the New Forest area. But what makes it special is that it also has its own brewery – not to be confused with the Ringwood brewery, with which it shares the town of Ringwood.

The pub serves Wadworth ales, as well as its own selection, which includes New Forest Gold, Tom Tipple – probably their most popular beer – and “Red White & Brew” – a hoppy, zesty golden ale brewed specially for the Royal Wedding and kept on by popular demand. This one is perfect for those long, hot, summer afternoons in a New Forest beer garden.

The Red Shoot can be found on Toms Lane, Linwod, Ringwood, BH24 3QT and even has its own campsite. Don’t miss the annual beer festivals in July and October, as well as a weekly pub quiz every Thursday, and frequent live music.

Vibrant Forest Brewery

The little known Vibrant Forest Brewery is actually located in the town of Totton, directly on the borders of the New Forest, so we’ll let that one slide. Despite being relatively small, Vibrant Forest are fast making a name for themselves on the beer festival circuit, with their flagship ale, Ginger Ninja, and others, doing the rounds of the UK. Expect to hear more from these guys!

For their full selection, visit: http://www.vibrantforest.co.uk/Beers/beers.htm

New Forest Cider

“What’s that?” I hear you ask. “Cider? On a list of New Forest real ales?”

Well, while there are few beers in the Hampshire region that could compete with the four listed above, I felt it would be unfair not to mention the New Forest Cider brewery in Burley. I am working on the premise that a lover of real ale will also be able to appreciate a good cider. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, their delicious ciders are second to none for miles around and are brewed using traditional West Country processes. They also make a Perry, which this writer is, again, very fond of. Plus their ciders can be purchased in a traditional two-and-a-half litre “flagon”. The farm shop and stable gallery can be found on Pound Lane in Burley – only 20 minutes drive from the Hotel.

More real ales and pubs in the New Forest

Though brewed outside the New Forest in nearby Winchester, Batch Brew is a new range of exceptional craft beers which are distributed throughout the pubs in the area. If you get a chance to try one, do it!

In addition to those mentioned above, see this full list of real ale pubs in the New Forest:

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Hotel TerraVina has been smudging!

A dear friend who is keen on Feng Shui, mentioned smudging to me recently… does anyone now what it is? I didn’t have a clue what smudging was and was intrigued to find out more. Put simply, when a place is filled with people, be it a workplace or home, over time negative energy accumulates and eventually the building becomes heavy with negativity which can have an adverse effect on those that are “living” within it. This fascinated me and bearing in mind that Hotel TerraVina’s signature colour of orange was specifically chosen for its happy thought provoking and feeling of well being properties, I was keen to smudge!

I ordered smudge bundles- white sage, although a variety of dried herbs can be used, from California, but they are available in the UK from Herbalists and other such places I’m sure. I just fancied feeling even more like a hippy having herbs from California. My bundles arrived last week and I have been itching to smudge…. I got my chance on Tuesday, when the hotel was quiet and peaceful. I lit the bundles, took a deep breath and smudged through the hotel, smudging any staff who I encountered en route…. People can be smudged just as effectively and in fact an hour later, when I had finished, I had such a sense of calm and peace- my aura was feeling very positive! I’m going to look out my psychedelic trousers (Suzi and Laura hate them!) with the big flowers all over them and the bell bottoms and go back to my 60’s roots. I know I don’t look old enough to be a 60’s child, but happily I am.

Suzi was bemused, as were the rest of the team and of course they all think I have finally gone mad (they have suspected it for a while I’m sure!). Suzi warned me not to set the fire alarms off and I am relieved to report that I didn’t.  The smell is a little pungent… actually not unlike mood enhancing drugs – albeit, I hasten to add that I don’t have first hand experience of taking such drugs, but as a Hotel Inspector I did visit a restaurant in a trendy part of London, where all the other diners were smoking something which smelt very pungent and made me feel like I was floating away with the fairies… but that’s another story!

Thus as well as the hotel, I have since smudged the house, my parents house, our cars, the puppy, my parents, myself and Gerard and Romané are on the list when I can catch them! I am confident that all negative auras have been banished and the hotel and everywhere else are once more in a balanced, calm and happy state- if I have gone mad, a least I feel peaceful, calm and at one with the fairies!

On a different note, but still with a Japanese theme (I think Feng Shui is a Japanese tradition?),  Gerard helped to host a fascinating dinner last week. It was part of the Discover the Origin programme where different foods are married with each other and wines paired to the foods… his topic was Japanese food, paired with Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Burgundian and Douro wines. The Japanese restaurant, Tsukiji Sushi, at The Westbury was the venue for the dinner, where a number of journalists were invited, including food and wine and also travel writers, all of whom enjoyed the experience. Gerard thought it was most interesting and greatly enjoyed discovering that actually the foods and wines married well with each other in many instances and some of the dishes were delicious

Here’s the menu and the wines to give you a flavour of how different it was:

Apéritif

-          Perle de Vigne Crémant de Bourgogne NV Louis Bouillot

Dinner

-          Tuna Tartar with Parma Ham (22months), red onion, myoga (ginger bud) and shiso leaf with truffle oil, tomato, yuzu miso and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (30months) curl.

-          Santenay, « les Charmes », Domaine Roger Belland, 2010

-          Grilled Oyster with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (22months), Sweet miso, Moromi miso and sesame seed.

-          Bourgogne Aligoté, Domaine Jean-Phillipe Fichet, 2010

-          Salmon Tataki (seared) with Yuzu Ponzu Jelly and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (22months) crisp

-          Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas, 2010

-          Filo King Prawn with a wasabi Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (22months) yoghurt, Parma Ham (22months), roasted pine nuts

-          Quinta de la Rosa, 2010

-          Black Cod with sake rice bran, Parma Ham (22months), Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (22months) and sweet miso ume (plum) vinaigrette

-          Rully, “Les Cloux”, Domaine H&P Jacquesson, 2011

Dessert

Fig and Parma Ham (22months) Tempura

with ume (plum) syrup and sesame seed

-          20 Year old Tawny, Graham’s

All in all, a bit of a different or even bizarre week (if you count the smudging), but fun all the same!

Till next week… Peace Man!

Nx

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UK Sommelier of the Year Competition

Knowing what a competition “junkie” Gerard is, even though he himself has retired from competing, he remains very involved in competitions, be it through mentoring his protégées, organizing and planning the competitions, writing the questions and devising the scenarios and judging and performing as Master of Ceremonies…. in short he loves the buzz that a competition gives him. I try to understand the pull and the excitement but as I don’t have a competitive bone to my name, I have to admit I don’t really share his enthusiasm, although I enjoy watching the competitions, especially he is now no longer a competitor… far too stressful when he was!

Thus on Tuesday, Gerard was on stage as Head Judge at the UK Sommelier of the Year and Romané and I were in the audience with friends, enjoying the “show”. Our newly promoted Head Sommelier, Tanguy Martin did very well. He got through to the quarter final, in a starting race with over 100 other candidates and came 7th overall, which was a great achievement when you consider it that he is a competition novice and was up against some much more experienced candidates.

Clement Robert was the well deserved winner and a great event was had by all. Gerard was very happy to be involved and the audience all pronounced the day to have been most informative, enjoyable and fun.

The rest of half term has been a whirl of camping (only for Romané, with friends)… can you imagine Gerard in a tent!! A Race Centre birthday party which was brilliant fun and trying to chase the sunshine when it peeked (rarely) out from behind the clouds. Now it’s almost the weekend again and then we will have arrived in June… where is the year going to? Time seems to pass by so quickly, but at least the Summer should be arriving soon and with it happy guests, Pimms by the poolside and al fresco dinners.

Till next week

Nx

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A star is born… London last week for Decanter Man of the Year and Cannes this week (sort of!) for the Film Festival.

For the many who know Gerard well, you will be aware that he spends much of his time travelling to far flung places to taste wine, visit vineyards and generally have a lovely time surrounded by anything wine related… oops! Read that as him working very hard in a wine related industry. Actually I jest, as he does work extremely hard and his trips are not “jollys” as he is often travelling on his own, living out of a suitcase and working hard giving lectures, presentations, conducting wine tastings and judging… have I sounded sympathetic enough do you think?

However, he did stop in England long enough to be presented with his Decanter Man of the Year title recently and a great time was had by all. On the evening of the presentation Gerard’s acceptance speech was even longer than Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous Oscar acceptance and he managed to thank everyone in the room, all 70 odd people! However, I would also like to add most heartfelt and grateful thanks to not only those who were with us to share such a fabulous and memorable evening, but also to our hosts, Sara Kemp and her brilliant Decanter Magazine team, who hosted the 1st part of the evening and Arnaud Christiaens  and Frederic Zantman and their team, who so kindly surprised us with limousines and a superb dinner at Blakes, with fabulous wines, to ensure the evening was rounded off so brilliantly and spectacularly.  Thank you doesn’t seem to cover it, but Gerard, Romané and I were so genuinely bowled over by the warmth of friendship, the high regard and respect that Gerard was given and the generosity of those who know and love GB- huge thanks to you all.

There are photos galore and videos of the whole event and each one captures perfectly the spirit, the fun and the warmth of the evening- it was a most memorable time and we are so fortunate to have been blessed with so many lovely people to call our friends and colleagues. Here are some links for those who want to see more and read all about it

Gerard Basset Honoured at Decanter Man of the Year Dinner

Gerard Basset Decanter Man of the Year, 2013

Following on from that success, Gerard then became a temporary film buff extraordinaire and in his role as Ambassador for French Wines, was asked to comment on the Cannes Film festival and marry some of the films to be screened and judged in Cannes with wines…sadly he wasn’t actually in Cannes, or I would have had to have travelled with him for once just to organise his suitcase! Romané and I were amazed at his knowledge of the films and film stars and were very impressed by his choices and comments; see what you think………http://vimeo.com/66397670

Thus all in all a busy couple of weeks and I have run out of time to continue planting lavender bushes, (a propos my gardening leave) which is just as well as even the bumble bees are dizzily overwhelmed with the scent of the lavender in our garden!

Till next week

Nx

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A big thank you to TerraVina!

This week we have a lovely guest blog that someone wrote after a stay at the hotel.  They have asked for anonymity but many thanks for letting us post this on the blog! HT

It’s not very often one can say a stay at any hotel has gone without hiccups.  In fact, of all the places I’ve travelled to, even the nicest hotels have had a; “could do better”. That’s not because I am overly fussy of course but because I personally believe that we can all improve upon what we do, whatever that may be.

However, I was fortunate enough to stay at Hotel TerraVina a little while ago – which was a kind of ‘congratulations’ on passing my Masters Degree.  I wanted to have a night away from the previous months of stress studying and inevitably needed some ‘me’ time and it was the best night I’d had in a long, long time.

Now I have travelled to many places over the years and if I’m honest have probably never really slummed it anywhere, but I’ve always tried to find hotels that offer good service – something that I think is the most important aspect of any break away.  You can put up with a lot if you get a smile and responsive staff who actually care about what they are doing for you.

So when I went to TerraVina I was pleasantly surprised not only by the level of service but just how friendly a place it is.  Nina arranged for me to have a beautiful room with a bed that was gloriously sized and the veranda with views of the forest was a welcome sight after a long week.  However, that was only the tip of the iceberg on a night that will be remembered for a very long time.

I went down to dinner at around 7.30pm and was promptly offered an aperitif before sitting down to a wonderful meal.  One thing I love about TerraVina is that you are not forced to listen to music while you eat. The restaurant therefore is definitely a place you go to with friends to talk and enjoy conversation with, something that anyone who wants to celebrate an evening appreciates!

I was offered different wines with each course of my meal (The very talented Laura providing her expert guidance) and as you would expect each wine complimented my food perfectly, which is a testament to how skilled the team are at TerraVina.

During dinner I felt Susie went above and beyond to make my meal a memorable one and along with the other team members in the restaurant that night, was attentive, smiled and most of all, made me feel extremely welcome. And it wasn’t a forced attentiveness either. One gets the sense that every member of the TerraVina team enjoys what they do immensely.

The trouble now of course is that every new hotel I venture to will always have to compare to TerraVina and I suspect that is going to be impossible to live up to. There are five star hotels that provide a certain type of service but it is a shallow one.  Yes the silver cutlery looks nice and the staff, perfectly turned out, but the pretentiousness is all but evident and to me that is not a place I enjoy staying in.

TerraVina offers a top class service but from a team who are genuinely passionate about what they do and it really shows in everything that they do.

So I would like to thank Nina, Gerard and of course the many people that make up the TerraVina experience for a wonderful stay, a beautiful meal and an atmosphere that is most welcoming for anyone celebrating (or not).  I will be back!

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Gardening Leave- Hotel TerraVina is basking in the sunshine and enjoying the warmer weather

I am on “gardening leave”. For all sorts of reasons, both professional and private, for the past few weeks, I have been taking some time out and have been enjoying a little “gardening leave”.  I have still been at the hotel, just not as many hours per day as sometimes is the case and it has been a welcome break and a change of scene has helped to see all that is TerraVina with a fresh pair of eyes and new perspective.

Guests have been writing rave reviews, noting lovely comments in the guest comment book and e mailing me with so many kind and appreciative thank you notes following their stay, all of which are a credit to Suzi, Chris, Lydia, Laura, George and the rest of the “A” team in my partial absence. They are all brilliant and it is so fantastic when the guests all agree with Gerard and I that we are so fortunate to have them all on our side.

But I digress… back to the gardening leave. I love gardening. However, I must confess that Matthew, my fantastic gardener at home and my mum actually do the lions share of the hard graft- ok all of the hard work and I merely plan, supervise the heavy bits and then get to do all the nicer bits such as grouping the plants, pots and ornaments and furniture together. It’s the same at the hotel, Paul, the hotel gardener and sometimes Matthew too do all the bits I don’t like- I hate grass, (we have astro turf at home), so I won’t cut the lawns, but I’m a great supervisor and teller of plans and jobs I have in mind for them! As for Gerard, I don’t think he’s noticed we even have a garden, so no hope of him helping with the plants.

My favourite plants are lavenders, hence the reason the toiletries at TerraVina are lavender based, the oils we use to fragrance the hotel are lavender (and mint- another favourite) and there is lavender in every part of the hotel’s gardens. It is a personal mission to try to have as many types of lavender in my garden at home as possible and so I source lavenders from all sorts of climes and places and then wallow in the beauty of their scents. This week, I have been gardening at home… over the next few weeks I will be tackling the hotels verandahs, terraces and grounds, planting, you’ve guessed it lavenders, all of which have just started to arrive in their seemingly 100’s but despite it looking like I am opening a garden centre to home only lavenders (now there’s a thought), in reality they won’t actually go very far at all, as what looks like plants a plenty when all grouped together, once they start to be planted actually seem to get “swallowed up” and go nowhere at all!

I am currently juggling gardening gloves and soil for glamour and working dinner shifts at the hotel- I have been begrudgingly laying down my garden fork and hose and like Superman (in the telephone box, when he loosens his tie and does a quick change), I emerge 2 minutes later looking rather more presentable in heels and suitable attire to meet, greet and look after hotel guests.

New beds of Rhododendrons are planned too (they love the ericaceous soil of the New Forest)- excuse my spelling (!) and all the pots are being spruced up and livened up ready for the sunshine and the summer which leads me onto an important newsflash… the pool is open, and whilst outdoor, it is heated to a lovely warm and balmy 34 degrees… susshhhhh, don’t tell Gerard- at least it was heated until the boiler stopped over the Bank Holiday weekend so we are urging the plumber to hurry to see us very soon and get us up and running again.  I’m not thinking of the bill for heating it, (or the cost of a new boiler if it cannot be repaired and hopefully GB won’t either!) We have new, smart sun beds to lounge on this year so do come and visit soon and give them a try out and let me now if they are comfy… we have our usual great value mid week break offers running through May and into June so an ideal time to dip a toe in the water, come smell the roses and the lavender and have a chilled out day or two a TerraVina.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina celebrates the sunshine’s arrival (at last!)

I am conscious that sometimes my weekly blogs are “fluffy”, on occasion I have a bit of a rant and sometimes they discuss a serious topic……this week I am going to start off fluffy and then move onto a more worrying query. So here goes….

At last the sun has started to shine, everywhere is waking up to late Spring and early Summer with flowers blooming.  If you live close enough, visit Exbury Gardens to see the glorious blaze of colour and if you don’t live close enough, take advantage of our fantastic mid week offers and come and stay with us and visit Exbury to marvel at the riot of blooms on display.

I love the sunshine and I so enjoy what it does to people’s moods- it lifts us all, makes us smile more, we are all more cheery, the hotel phone rings more often  with people planning nights away and booking lunches al fresco on our sunny terrace- when the sunshines we all become a little bit more envigorated and just friendlier towards one another… which leads me onto my musings for this week.

Recently we had a guest arrive who was not especially friendly or unfriendly- what we call a little it prickly, and one to be worked on to try to ensure they relax and eventually enjoy their stay- as hoteliers, we really do want people to have a great stay with us- we don’t enjoy upsetting guests or knowing that they are unhappy, uneasy or uncomfortable whilst with us.

However, sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do, how hard we try, we just can’t win everyone over; unfortunately, sometimes, it is these guests that then have a “hiccup” during their stay.  Hotels are run by people not robots. We are reliant on all sorts of details going well and being right in order for us to deliver a great product- sometimes the meat lets us down, sometimes the fish or the vegetables, sometimes one of the team isn’t on best form; sometimes (rarely of course!) I simply don’t like people, no one in particular just people in general- it’s rare but it happens, just as it does in every other profession and industry. However, it seems as though hoteliers and restaurateurs are not allowed any margin of error by some… a recent guest was disappointed with his main course. I offered to change it, I offered him a choice of another dish, I apologised, I listened whilst he ranted at me, threatened me with all sorts of actions and then I had to bear him sulking whilst I tried my utmost to make it right- eventually I asked him what did he want me to do to rectify the situation for him as nothing I had offered would seemingly suffice- his response was nothing- his meal, his whole stay were ruined (REALLY!!!)… his reaction shook me- we never enjoy people complaining, not because we can’t take criticism, but because we are not in this business to make people unhappy, in fact we and the team work hard to ensure the contrary… I was appalled at his reaction- I simply couldn’t make it right for him because he wouldn’t let me and worse he seemed to be relishing in spoiling his own evening and that of his companion- how sad that the stress of day to day life has made us so inward looking, so selfish not to consider others, not to have good manners when there is a problem, not to discuss it sensibly, but instead make a drama and a crisis out of what should have been something so easily put right- we are all guilty of such tirades and temper tantrums at times I’m sure- a road rage moment when we won’t let someone out in front of us at a turning… an impatient moment when someone in front of us in a shop is taking too long, a loud tut when someone gets in our way with their trolley at the supermarket… maybe the sunshine will make us all a little bit less stressed and a little bit more aware of our surroundings and the people around us.

It’s not because people work in a service industry that they have to be servile and we certainly shouldn’t have to put up with people being so rude, unpleasant and down right petulant – maybe our unhappy guest had had a bad week but that’s no excuse frankly- we all have bad days, weeks and months- long may the sun shine bright so as to brighten everyones’ moods a little.

Till next week

Nx

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Friends are very precious commodities- Hotel TerraVina counts their blessings

It is always very upsetting when you think you know someone only to be disappointed by their behaviour, empty promises or their selfish actions- thankfully most of us are good judges of character, most of the time, but now and then a rogue “friend” may slip through the net and cause us to re-think who our true and precious friends really are.

True friends are hard to come by and when you find them such relationships should be worked hard at, not taken for granted; instead they need to be nurtured and cherished.

Hotel guests are similar. Those guests that love a hotel, who come back regularly and are loyal, enthusiastic and supportive should be made to feel special and appreciated. I have written often of how fortunate we are at TerraVina to have so many lovely guests who are so enthusiastic and loyal to us- we try to ensure we appreciate them as much in return and it is always so nice to welcome them back to us… they tell us they feel relaxed and already chilled out as soon as they walk back through the door and for us we already know them well enough to make the job of looking after them and ensure they have a great stay so much easier.

Which brings me back to friends- a good friend is the one that you can spend time with without having to try, who will drop everything to help you at a moments notice, who simply “gets” you. Happily most of us have lots of friends, many of us have best friends who are our most cherished friends, who even if we don’t see them as often as we might like, know we are thinking of them.

Thus in the absence of any such date as a “Friends Day”, (why isn’t there such a day- we have every other type of celebration day?), I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of our loyal Hotel TerraVina guests for their friendship, enthusiasm and custom and remind my own special friends that I am thinking of them all and sending them love, good wishes and cherished memories.

Till next week

Nx

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Long legs, deep voices and healthy appetites- Hotel TerraVina enjoys the Easter school holidays…

It is often with some trepidation that I look forward to the school holidays. Not because I don’t love having Romané (our son) at home more than usual, or that the hotel is filled with more children than is the norm, but rather that I have to multi task more than when school is functioning- I have to juggle my time between the needs of a teenage son at home , a team of staff at the hotel, which is generally busier in school holiday times and all the other tasks that I fill my week with. Plus I have to shop so much more often because teenagers (well boys anyway) eat so much… it must be their long legs and developing muscles, but certainly the fridge never seems full when Romy is at home.

He is now towering above me and has as deep a voice as his papa. Today we have had a friend of Romy’s over for the day and as I was driving them from one place to another I couldn’t help but tune into their conversation… no longer is it innocent fun discussing Thomas the Tank engine, the Tweenies and batman or Spiderman; instead it’s now all about the latest Xbox game- a new favourite is called Defiance. They now chat about vampires, warriors and chapters in the latest Game of Thrones book- it only seems a moment since Romané was the age of the excited, teeny tots that visit the hotel to go to spend the day at Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, but now instead, in the blink of an eye he is almost shaving!

Soon Gerard and I will be empty nesters as it is not many more years away that Romy will leave home to go off to uni and gap years and the like; oh my, the thought of it fills me with dread and excitement for him all at once.  Then of course there will soon also be girlfriends to welcome home, get to now and like them and then share in the sense of loss when it all goes wrong and we never meet them again…. I never imagined having a teenager at home would encourage such a torrent of emotions; thankfully he is not a stroppy teenager as I’m not sure that either I o GB would cope with that too.

As an aside from teenagers, but connected just the same, I have a dear friend who I have known since our late teenage years; we were at hotel management school together a very long time ago, I am god mum to one of her beautiful daughters and she is a treasured friend- despite bravely fighting off illness from a brain tumour almost 2 years ago she is preparing next week to have to be operated on again, as the tumour has grown back voraciously- mine and Gerard’s thoughts are with her and her lovely family… she is being so strong and brave and we are all cheering her on for another positive outcome- it makes you wonder why life is seemingly so cruel an especially to those that deserve nothing but good health and happiness.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina has a taste of Japan at Cherry Blossom time…

I have skipped a week of blogging, not because I forgot it was a Wednesday, but rather because I was half way across the other side of the world in Japan and time ran away. Gerard and I (and Romané) travelled to Tokyo for Gerard to assist in the organizing and hosting of the 2013 World Sommelier Championship, where he also passed on his current championship crown to another worthy winner, his good friend, Paolo Basso, who was representing Switzerland. Well done Paolo, we are thrilled that you won and many, many congratulations.

The competition was exciting, fast paced and fun and Gerard did a brilliant job ensuring all of the candidates felt at ease, in his role on the day of the final as host and Master of Ceremonies- the preceeding days he had been busily helping to plan the tasks, the examinations and the finalizing of hundreds of details to ensure all went smoothly.

Whilst Gerard was so busy working, Romané and I took full advantage to explore the city. We travelled all over town on the Japanese railway and metro lines- we now know the Yamnote line like real Tokyoites and managed to visit all sorts of interesting museums, including the Edo Musuem and the National Musuem of Tokyo, authentic restaurants, historic parks and general places of interest. Sadly we ran out of time to take the bullet train to Kyoto, so we will have to return to do that on another occasion.

There were lots of highlights to the trip besides from the competition itself- we were privileged to see the magnificent cherry blossom in full, spectacular bloom. We were taken to amazing restaurants by our Japanese hosts where the sushi and sashimi were like no other we have eaten- so fresh and tasty; we stayed in a hotel, The Imperial, that was more like a palace than a hotel and we enjoyed fabulous hospitality by every person we met.

One of the most fun moments was meeting up with the NHK TV crew who we had spent so much time with when Gerard won the competition three years ago in Chile and who had subsequently travelled to England to film us- they filmed Gerard again during the final in Tokyo and as time was short we had to be hurried out of the venue via a side entrance to avoid all the melee of photographers and fans, (Gerard is very well respected in Japan and had many people who wanted to have their photo taken with him and his autograph, which Romané and I have teased him about mercilessly since) and were bundled into a TV crew van and whisked back to the hotel where the filming then took place- all very exciting and we felt like celebrities for a moment or two… Romané loved it!

All in all, a great time was had by all and our hosts were superb, the food terrific, the hospitality fantastic and Japan was a great place to spend a week away; the culture, people and buzz of the place made the jet lag all worthwhile.

Till next week

Nx

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From: Nina's Blog
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