Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

Sometimes all we need is to get away from reality, and to achieve that, what better than an authentic The Thousand and One Nights scenario?

That’s why we chose Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. Hyatt is always a synonym of luxury and of the welcoming art. It’s one of those groups that our followers know never disappoints us, and the idea of spending a few days at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi was the promise of a refuge, exciting and relaxing at the same time!

And so it was! But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Location and first impression
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas is conveniently located at Saadiyat beach and close to every important thing in this region. The airport, the main financial and commercial areas, the golf courses, main attractions and just a few minutes from the cultural district of Saadiyat.

Making it very easy to visit the most famous places, like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi.

As soon as we arrive at the hotel, it’s greatness caused inevitable fascination.

A breathtaking lobby, simple decoration, with neutral colors mixed with warm colors, and ambiance music taking us to a scene of the famous movie.

The lobby, huge, thus less intimate, but with a very calm environment transmitting a sense of privacy.

The team, quite nice and effective during check-in, then accompanied us to the bedroom.

Bedrooms
The hotel has 306 bedrooms, some normal bedrooms, other suites, and some villas.

We stayed in a King Bed with sea views. Contemporary decoration with Arabic details making it as comfortable as luxurious.

Waiting for us were several types of fruit, dry fruits, and pastries. Small details that make all the difference, with the same being restocked every day and showcasing the several products of the region.

The bedroom, with around 50m2, had a marble bathroom, quite spacious, with a king-size bed, extremely comfortable, office space and a sofa giving more comfort to the room.

The ex-libris? A balcony with a breathtaking view over the beach and the Saadiyat beach, where I had one of the best experiences of this stay… on the first day I woke up at 6 am, and without disturbing a sleeping João, I decided to enjoy the perfect silence of the sunrise and the peace sensation the ocean transmits.

Restaurants
The hotel has four options, and one of those divides into two.

The Park Grill

The Park Bar & Grill is the awarded restaurant of Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, going from the excellent charcoal-grilled meats to the tasty seafood, and Asian dishes.

We had an amazing dinner at the terrace, with the warm night of Abu Dhabi as our companion. Good product, worked with simplicity, as intended at a restaurant where the grill has the spotlight.

Tuna tartar

Grilled lobster

From the tuna tartar to the Wagyu beef, the grilled lobster or the black truffle pide, the cooking was on point, by the hands of a Brazilian chef passionate by the grill.

The night views of The Park Grill are halfway to an excellent meal

This restaurant has also an upstairs floor The Park Bar, with a great selection of cocktails and a vibrant ambiance. Here we tasted an Asian inspired menu, where Vietnamese and Thai cuisines stand out. Accompanying, a unique tasting of cocktails to celebrate our first Arabic evening!

The Park Bar

An Asian inspired negroni 

The meal was light, fresh and of great pleasure, as expected in this region. Highscore to the Pho, the Vietnamese tacos and the shrimp curry.

All delicious!

The hotel has also one of the most cosmopolitan terraces in Abu Dhabi – the Beach House.

Beach House

A space that conquered tourists and locals, for its astonishing views over the beach, the music, and of course, the Mediterranean cuisine where the Spanish flavors and the tapas are the main references.

We had the chance to have lunch here after an amazing morning of sun and sea. Starting with cocktails (you know me!) and ending with a great crema Catalana as dessert.

The great shrimp al ajillo at the Beach House

The breakfast spot, and one of the most important spaces for me (those who read my articles know my love for breakfasts), its The Café.

Open all day, serving Middle Eastern specialties and international cuisine.

The Café

As to breakfast itself, I couldn’t ask for more, from natural juices to pastries, from international classic cuisine to middle eastern cuisine, gluten-free, etc, nothing was left to chance.

  Last, but not least, we have The Library.

A contemporary tea room serving different coffees and teas, besides chocolates and homemade sweets.

With its orange leather details, black marble and fireplace, it invites us to unique idleness moments.

Services
The truth is that when you stay at a Hyatt hotel, there is almost nothing the guest can’t get because the most important is that the guest feels such complete happiness he wants to come back.

So, besides all the services that come with any luxury hotel, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi has the privilege of being literally on the Saadiyat beach, allowing its guests to enjoy the thin sand beach and the warm sea.

One of the things that surprised me the most in this trip to UAE was to find a beach like Saadiyat, so serene, crystal clear water and perfect temperature, allowing me to relax and feel inside an authentic oasis, without having to go to the traditional beach paradises to enjoy a beach.

The several pools and jacuzzis along the hotel assure fun and relaxation, to the younger as well as the eldest.

And although liking the beach, I love pools! And there I spent most of my time during this stay, mostly because the pool complex was so big we were able to be alone for a great part of the day, and also because there were specific places and pools for children, the silence was a constant, and lastly, but most importantly, because it was closer to the bar, so the cocktails arrived quicker to me!!

Its gym and spa allow even more relaxation moments and the absence from the real world.

It’s important to mention that these days I already consider myself as a physical activity lover (not really, but I do exercise!) and so right on the first day  I was a client of the gym. The first and the only day!!

The reception of Atarmia Spa The relaxing private pool of the Spa

There’s a lot of activities you can do through the hotel, for that, you just have to contact the concierge and do it all to your own liking. A boat tour, a walk around town, visiting any of the places of interest, or even the opportunity to enjoy other beaches or some of the famous amusement parks of Abu Dhabi. Everything is possible in this Park Hyatt!

During our stay in Abu Dhabi, we opted to visit two major places, the Sheik Zayed Mosque with its unpaired greatness and the Louvre Abu Dhabi with its baffling architecture.

The hotel is not only an amazing beach resort focused on leisure and relaxation, but it’s also the perfect place for conferences and congresses with its six rooms for the effect.

But these rooms are not only for work! Whatever you are celebrating, moment or date, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi will help you prepare the happiest and most important day ever!

This space is truly the perfect place for a fantastic vacation, honeymoon, vacation with friends or with family. It really was everything I needed at the moment we went on this trip!

O Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi is an authentic oasis we don’t ever want to leave, and just want to be lost in a one thousand and one night’s mystical story.

From the dreamlike location to the nice staff and the diverse services, everything in this oasis makes us leave already wanting to come back soon.

And so,

See you soon Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi!

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Bedrooms from 315€
PO Box 2822, Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates 
+971 2 407 1234
abudhabi.park@hyatt.com

Versão Portuguesa

Text: Cíntia Oliveira Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Jòia par Hélène Darroze

Hélène Darroze is a very well known name, and if the majority of the French know her as jury of the famous Top Chef, gastronomers know her every step from birth. Born in a historic family of cooks, she graduated in management, and it was while managing the restaurant Louis XV of Alain Ducasse, that the famous chef incentivated her to turn to the stoves, and gladly he did, she went from Ducasse’s kitchen to win her first Michelin star in the “old” family restaurant, to her arrival in Paris, where she achieved the two Michelin stars, to arriving in London where nowadays has also two stars, and of course, to the award of best female chef in the world in 2015.

Hélène, as a celebrety should, decided to take her cuisine to a larger public, and democratize bistronomie, installing herself in the 8th neighborhood of Paris with the Jòia, a space far from the gastronomic line, where the goal is clearly taking to her guests a type of cuisine you usually cook at home for friends and family.

If the cuisine gets inspiration from Hélène’s origins, of Southwest France and the Basque country, the image of the restaurant gets the influence of the years passed in England. On the ground floor, the spotlight goes to the tall tables and the kitchen, on the upper floor it all changes. An elegant cocktail bar and a room filled with sofas, books and warm colors making us feel at home!

Already installed, there’s no way around the signature cocktails, an extensive menu carefully prepared and where the highlight goes to this Gioia with vodka Grey Goose, Martini Ambrato, bergamot, absinthe Larusée, grapefruit and soda. Very good!

Terrine with Sicilian pistachio 
The beginning couldn’t be more of an indicator of what we came here to taste and share. Nicely prepared terrine, good size, texture and flavor. Very well accompanied with good quality bread and pickles.

Landes Foie Gras, timut pepper 
Another product from her region worked with excellence, here with a great quality mi-cuit, both in texture and in flavor, and very well paired with the delicious chutney.

Egg and truffle 
Light, unctuous, and familiar, are three adjectives that very much describe this dish, with the perfectly cooked egg, the black truffle, the leaves, and the crunchy toast.

Landes chicken, Brioche and foie
The majority of the dishes is prepared for two people, and this one was no exception and couldn’t have been more “homy”! Perfectly cooked meat, benefiting from the brioche and the foie used under the skin to enhance the flavor. To go with we chose a leaf salad and crispy potatoes with brébis cheese, that fulfilled their purposes well!

Matcha mille fuille, yuzu cream
The most famous and “instagrammable” dessert of the restaurant, that lives of its looks, but the the lightness of the layers, with the creamy and rich mascarpone and yuzu cream, are a winning surprise.
Chocolate tart, buckwheat ice cream 
By far one of the best chocolate tarts I ever tasted… Perfect technique, thin dough, creamy filling, sweet enough, good quality chocolate. The unusual choice of buckwheat for pairing the chocolate was also very well-accomplished. A round of applause to the baker, please!

During this lunch, we drank a nice Chardonnay, Burgundy 2016, from Domaine de Béru. The wine list has the singularity of containing wines produced by women only, like the case of our Filipa Pato.

The service went accordingly to the expected, very diligent, quite effective and with the right combination of niceness and accuracy only the French can do.

Final Remarks 
With this Jòia, Hélène Darroze decided to play outside her usual game, bringing to the table her comfort food and memories, executed with rigor and products of great quality and, of course, the right prices for those. Jòia is one of those spaces that’ll live despite the name, and where we can find those enchanted with the tv star, the foodies and people who simply want to eat and enjoy the nice cocktail list. A cozy space where you want to stay and enjoy the small things of life, worked with mastery.

Ps: the lunch menu with options at 24€  and 29€ is usually a success!

Jòia par Hélène Darroze
Prices from 60€ (without wines)
39 rue des Jeuneurs – Paris
+33 (0) 1 40 20 06 06
reservation@joiahelenedarroze.com

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Au Passage

The Au Passage was born with the Boom of neo-bistros and Wine bars that invaded Paris from 2010 onwards. It soon gained the spotlight and in 2012 it was one of the favorites of the new Parisian cuisine, and even awarded as “Fooding d’Amour 2012”!

Destiny dictated that a space that so much reflects a new way of seeing the city ( away from the luxury and palaces, but always focused on the best French produce) should live of foreign chefs in the kitchen. From James Henry to Dave Harrison, or Shaun Kelly, or Edward Delling-Williams (who also worked at Euskalduna during dinner alongside Vasco Coelho Santos), and now, the spotlight is occupied by Luís Andrade, a Portuguese, a designer transformed into a cook by the Parisian life.

The restaurant was in our list of spaces to visit, and this time we had the perfect excuse!

The space reflects the bustle of the new a lively Paris, very different from the Belle Époque, for sure! The decoration, that could’ve come from any flea market, transports us to an environment so relaxed it is hard to distinguish between employees and guests during dinner.

It’s more likely to have dinner to the sound of Tupac or B.I.G. than to any calm ambiance music, dancing a bit while sharing the several dishes that make the menu and take a dip in the great selection of natural wines.

Dry sausage
The usual way of starting dinner around here. Excellent quality products, nicely accompanied by pickles and excellent bread, essential throughout dinner.

Oysters and passion fruit
Oysters of good size, dressed with a passion fruit ponzu. At first, it is weird but in the end surprising and the combo by Luís Andrade is well-accomplished.

Scallop and Kumquat
Despite the relaxed space, decoration, and prices, the cuisine flows in a different direction – with a lot of work, ideas, and rigor in the product selection. Scallops tartar, perfectly seasoned, with crunchy elements giving the right texture and a kumquat emulsion, an indication of the chef’s secret, the sauces.

Abalone, celery, and mushrooms 
The most Japanese touch of the menu, a delicious broth, enrichened by the mushrooms, sided by the freshness of the celery and the unique texture of the abalone. Very good!

Crayfish
Tagliatelle made in the restaurant, with an amazing sauce, full of flavor, with a perfectly cooked crayfish, better than some starred restaurants. One of the best seafood pasta dishes we ever tasted!

The standard was by then very high! In reality, we were like two kids wondering what more could come out of there when:

Sweetbreads, Spinach, and dates
A great, great dish! Very well-worked sweetbread with a delicious meat sauce, with capers butter. Soft spinach with a touch of almond flavor and texture, and an amazing date paste. By this time the bread did not survive all the sauces!

Pidgeon, shiitake, coffee, and Polenta 
Another dish of great technical accuracy, where less is clearly more! All perfectly cooked, with the pidgeon accompanied once again by another great sauce and a nice coffee polenta.

Belém tart and Chocolate
Two very different desserts, one like a memory of home for the chef, who took the recipe of the classic Gâteau Breton and filled it with a similar cream to our famous Portuguese pastry. The chocolate, as the name indicates, was really that, different techniques and textures of chocolate, presented in one dish, where the spotlight clearly belongs to the mousse.

Both desserts gave us a more than happy ending!

About the service, it is important to remember the previously made comment about being difficult to distinguish between staff and guests, in this case proving the diligence and camouflage the staff has.

Final Remarks
To those who live restaurants as I do, there’s hardly anything better than being surprised by one, being “wowed” by each dish, while rolling our eyes and licking our lips! When a space like Au Passage, with menus written in slate, uninteresting glasses and a mix and match decoration, surprises us like this, it’s total happiness! Looking at the menu and its prices we are far from guessing the work behind each dish, it would be easier to unfreeze and use the microwave, but no, it wouldn’t be as fun! (they must think!), and they start prepping the dishes in the morning (the restaurant only opens from 19h to 01h30).

It’s a breath of fresh air to find people willing to work to the rhythm of the seasons, with daily changing menus, not overcharging the clients, because quality, pattern, and accuracy they have!

A restaurant to go to, to return to, and repeat without excuses.

 

Au Passage
Prices from 35€ (without wine)
1 bis, Passage Saint-Sébastien – Paris
+33 (0) 1 43 55 07 52
baraupassage@gmail.com

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Le Roch Hotel & Spa

Luxury is getting much more intimate than palatial! We continuously look for places that make us feel unique and actually important, and less of the bustle of the big hotels. That’s why we chose Le Roch on our last trip to the city of light!

Paris is, and will always be, a synonym of luxury, elegance and love! Le Roch is all that! 

A boutique hotel with a perfect location at Rue Saint Roch between Place de l’Opera and Place Vendôme.

As you get in, you understand right away the lobby is as much intimate as it is cosy, with a contemporary decoration, that privileges comfort above everything, without neglecting elegance and aesthetics.

The medium-light makes us feel safe, almost like we know inside here we are hidden from the world outside. The blue and the light game on the bookshelves create a very idle environment.

Although contemporary, many of the decoration details make us travel back to the ’20s and the Belle Époque, and that’s what you want from Paris!

The Parisian Sarah Poniatowski-Lavoine was in charge of the decoration and put her entire soul and passion into it.

Le Roch has 37 bedrooms, five of which are suites.

We stayed in a Superior bedroom.

The tones and mid-light are also constant. The bathroom, simple and elegant, has Codage products.

The bed, extremely comfortable, was also simple but very pretty.

We were welcomed with champagne in the bedroom – a detail that should be mandatory in every luxury hotel!

The windows from ceiling to the floor, with their burgundy colour mixed with the beautiful rug, that once again reminded me of the art decó style.

Le Roch has that singularity that makes us want to go back to after a frantic day wandering around the city. For enjoying a relaxing moment with a cocktail at the bar, or read a book at the wonderful terrace, a hanging garden that makes us forget the world outside, or to take care of our bodies and minds at the spa.

The terrace and its comfortable “winter house” 

Speaking of the spa, it is for sure the star of the hotel. With a warm pool (this time I won’t complain about the water temperature!), a Turkish bath incorporated in the pool, jacuzzi (with a somewhat exaggerated jet pressure) and a relaxing area.

Spa with one of the rare interior pools of Paris  

Next to the Spa, there’s a small gym equipped with all things necessary to keep fit and fight the excesses of the French cuisine.

Besides the Bar and the Terrace, that I mentioned before, Le Roch has also a restaurant headed by Rémy Bererd.

Roch Restaurant

The skylight in the centre of the restaurant gets a natural light to brilliantly illuminate the entire space. The blue and green of the velvety chairs chosen by Sarah give the room an unpaired sensation of comfort, as well as assuring its presence in many decoration magazines.

Here I tasted some of the best scrambled eggs ever! Contrary to what many think, making scrambled eggs isn’t that simple! But these at Le Roch are perfect, as well as the quality of the products presented at the buffet! 

Le Roch is the place for travellers seeking simplicity rather than ostentation!

It makes us fall in love with its colours, furniture and authentic objects, and its simple but refined lines.

The cosy environment you get right from the moment you enter the hotel really makes us want to stay there. The niceness of the entire staff and their ability to never being invasive make us feel at home.

Le Roch is a part of this new luxury – the art of providing a private, intimate, empathic and unpretentious experience!

See you soon Paris, and see you soon Le Roch!

Le Roch Hotel & Spa
Bedrooms from 370€
28, Rue Saint Roch – Paris
+33 1 70 83 00 00
reservation@leroch-hotel.com

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Assiette Champenoise – Arnaud Lallement

At the gates of Reims, in the heart of Champagne, we found the L’Assiette Champenoise, a classic French hotel-restaurant, open for more than 40 years, nowadays in the hands of the second generation of the Lallement family.

Arnaud Lallement early traced his future, without any family pressures, from an early age he knew he would become a cook, growing up inside all the magic of a kitchen. He studied, graduated and before joining his fathers brigade, he made sure to learn with some of the main names of the French cuisine of that time, Roger Vergé, Michel Guérard and Alain Chapel – no big deal!

The stars kept coming since 2001 when he fully assumed the leadership of the restaurant, up to 2014, the year he got the so desired third star of the red guide. Arnauld, on his hand, doesn’t wear the title of star-chef at all, it’s easier to find him in the kitchen or in the middle of a champagne vineyard, than in books, tv or magazines. He feels the best in his kitchen, with his clients, and that’s what you expect from a starred chef…

But on with our experience, after being surprised by the modern decoration and the quality of the bedrooms (see here), it was the time to be surprised by the restaurant, at the arrival we are surprised by an entire service brigade, accompanying us to our table, like in a state ceremony, but always with sympathy, smiles and kindness, that many times is a miss in the classic French service.

Immaculate tables, noble materials, a room full of details and a classic Baccarat chandelier, contrasting with the more modern details of the decoration.

After installed, the show starts right away, first with the champagne, Caillez-Lemaire Caillez Reflets Brut – elegant and well-balanced to start the tasting. And secondly, for a series of small snacks arriving at the table.

Crunchy leaves, small tartlets, falafels, beetroot mousse, among others. All very well accomplished, showcasing the technical accuracy and quality of the produce, however, not surprising!

But the surprise was soon to arrive, artisanal bread, prepared with beer and semi-salted Finistere butter, from Brittany. So good, I couldn’t stop eating it along with the entire meal.

The tradition – Potée Champenoise
The potée champenoise is for this region, what the “cozido” is for us Portuguese, a nice stew of pork meats, potato and vegetables. Here Arnauld opens the meal with a homage to his homeland, in a super high standard dish. Pork, cabbage and carrot as the rules dictate, a flawless broth and full of flavour, transformed into an immaculate consomé, a crunch detail. All perfect and comforting, with the pickle and mustard notes bringing a vibrant lightness to the dish. A great start!

Scallops and endives 
These days, scallops are almost mandatory in every restaurant, unfortunately with the majority of them lacking quality! Not the case here though, big, fresh and perfectly cooked, accompanied by the earthy notes of the roasted endives with a crust of spices and paprika tiles. The connecting elements of the dish were a nice scallop mousse and an elegant champagne white wine sauce.  A dish of contrasts, flavour and textures, where France seems to have drunk a bit of inspiration from Morocco.

Harmonizing was a Julien Chopin Blanc de Blancs 2012 Premier Cru Les Originelles, with classic aromatic notes of chardonnay champagne, nice acidity, and a great combination with the notes of the dish.

Benoît Deloffre Beetroot, seaweed and vermouth
When the name of the farmer gets the spotlight in the name of the dish, we know we are before a special product, and so it was! Balance, fat (given by an excellent lardo di colonnata and seaweed butter), sea and earth notes in a perfect marriage, where the product shines.

On the glass, an old acquaintance of ours, the Legras Rosé, with a major structure and complexity of flavours and aromas that went very well with this “earth” dish.

Shrimp and Mushrooms
A small dish once again matching sea and earth notes, with perfectly cooked shrimp, crunchy heads and small mushrooms, all paired with a red wine sauce and freshened by the lime zest. Good, but a few points below the previous dishes.

Accompanying was a Devaux 2008, an excellent millésimé of a great year in the region, still very young, but powerful, balanced and elegant. It will have a great future!

Blue Lobster, a tribute to my father
As a good homage, the lobster dish was the highest moment of dinner, perfect meat and unforgettable sauce! There’s not much more to say, superb!

On the glass there was a Janisson Blanc de Noir Grand Cru, a complex 100% pinot noir, full of aroma richness, from red fruits to citrus. A beautiful champagne!

Squab Pithivier, spinach caillette and pidgeon jus

Technique, technique, technique! Everything was perfect on this classic French cuisine dish, a dreamlike puff pastry, expected given the work the chef did alongside the master Michel Guérard, meat on point, high-quality foie gras, delicate sauce and all the elements in harmony. Needless to say that by this time my 10th slice of bread was soaking the sauce out of the dish…

To step aside from the champagnes, but remain in the region, we got a red, the Ormes Bérêche et Fils Coteaux Champenois Les Montées 2015, a pinot from champagne, that could easily be a beautiful wine from Burgundy, still very young, but with huge potential and giving much pleasure at the table already.

Cheese selection by Philippe Olivier
A huge cheese selection carefully picked up by Philippe Olivier, for a moment of pure and simple pleasure. And more bread of course…

The dessert was Passion fruit and pistachio that between the well-rehearsed parade of the team and the desire to eat ended up not being photographed… A combination of passion fruit textures, sablé breton, dark meringue and different textures of pistachio. A proposal a bit below the previous dishes, yet, still with a great combo of texture and flavour, with highlight to the passion fruit ice cream.

petit fours

As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, the petit fours arrive at the table, here at the highest level and in great quantity – yes, what you see in the photo was for two – delicious cannelés, marshmallows, bonbons, lemon tart, pâte de fruit and florentines. I just wanted to eat everything…

Harmonizing, as mandatory, was a Ratafia from Champagne, a liquor produced in the region. A great ending!

The service? There aren’t many words to describe it, a very well-rehearsed theatre, with all details meticulously being taken care of. From the time between dishes, the water and wine refills, without forgetting a very important detail, the bread service… Always attentive to my needs!

Final remarks
The L’Assiette Champenoise is nowadays the only three stars of the Champagne region, and one of the greatest visiting cards of the region. For its fantastic hotel, and obviously for the cuisine. Arnaud Lallement has the same target of the great French cuisine masters, excellent product, lots of technique, and of course, unforgettable sauces. This, allied with one of the best cellars in the world, Champagne wise, and the possibility of harmonizing the tasting menus with different champagnes, thus making the best of a trip around the region.
A chef that actually is in his kitchen, a great restaurant, great wines and beautiful service, that’s how you describe L’Assiette Champenoise.

Ps – To captivate the visit of the younger generation to gastronomic restaurants, the chef proposes his menu with harmonization at a special price for people under 35. A remarkable idea!

Assiete Champenoise
Menus from 105€ (Lunch)
40, Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Tinqueux – Reims
+33 (0) 3 26 84 64 64
infos@assiettechampenoise.com

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Assiette Champenoise

After Épernay it was time to visit Reims, more precisely the L’Assiette Champenoise.

Here, in this place, there’s one of the best restaurants in France, and where I had one of the best gastronomic experiences (as a Birthday gift)!

This place is also a true family history!

Jean-Pierre and Colette Lallement opened a restaurant, in 1975, in a village called Chalon sur Veles, close to Reims.

But, in 1986, they felt the need to grow and evolve and went to Tinqueux, next to Reims. Transforming an imposing bourgeois house into a restaurant-hotel!

In 1996, Arnaut started working with his father, and in 2001 they won their first star of the Michelin guide, the following came in 2005 and 2014, and remain till today (and very well deserved I must say!).

The modern decor in contrast with the history of the building captivates us right away when looking at the entrance

In 2009, the restaurant and the reception were totally renewed and in 2010, a total renovation of the hotel took place and new suites were created.

All this change was the responsibility of the interiors architect Grégory Guillmain. And we now find a hotel with a contemporary decoration, reminding us of the very disruptive style of Philipe Starck in the use of metal and materials combination. Meaning… amazing!

In 2013, the Assiette was consecrated as a five-star hotel.

As soon as we arrive at the hotel we stand before an imposing bourgeois house! But the reception shows us right away the contemporary vibe that distinguishes the hotel. This combo is perfect, I must confess!

I fell in love with the flowers perfectly aligned.

We were welcomed by an effective team that accompanied us to our bedroom. Transmitting all that I love about the service of a luxury hotel: sympathy, care, and not invasive! Perfect combo!

The hotel has 33 bedrooms distributed among four floors.

We stayed in a Balcony suite, or should I say home?

Contemporary decor, but cosy – another perfect combination!

With a service bathroom right at the entrance, followed by a living room, elegantly decorated and a small relaxing room, with access to a small terrace with a view to the gardens of the hotel.

A small incorporated closet in the bedroom served its purpose well, and the huge bathroom demonstrated the grandeur of this true luxury hotel bedroom.

The bed, one of the most comfortable I ever felt, and the linen, surely one of the softest. All details were taken into account in this bedroom!

Waiting for us were some tasty religieuses and a bottle of Deutz!

Super approved bedroom! The time had come to see the rest of the hotel!

The decor of this hotel completely filled my measures, I could easily live there!

I’ve never been to a hotel with so many spaces entirely dedicated to relaxation and idleness.

One of the ex libris is the interior pool, warmed to 28 ºC (and for me, it could be much hotter!). This area, all surrounded with glass, allows us to be in perfect tune with the gardens of the hotel, an authentic park, and when we stayed there, they were covered in snow!

However, this is one of the most beautiful places in the hotel, to rest after a visit to Reims, or to read a book, or a champagne glass in the evening.

The charms of the snowy gardens of the hotel 

Speaking of champagne, one of the most vibrant spaces of the hotel is the Le Bar, where it’s possible to have a champagne tasting!

Le Bar

But the true treasure of the hotel is the restaurant! That as I said, has three Michelin stars since 2014, by the hand of Arnaud Lallement.

Here I had the chance to taste one of the best meals of my life and to see a real theatre play, so much was the perfection and synch of the entire team in the room! But João will talk about it in an exclusive article!

Our dinner table

There was no better way to celebrate my 35 years, for sure, than at this hotel, with this comfort and decoration, a familiar environment and with one of the best restaurants in France!

It was the assurance of one very happy birthday, and so it was!

Even more because after an unforgettable dinner, we were surprised with a matching breakfast, a pristine and calm room, great quality produce and much care and love in everything they offer their clients!

Thank you Assiette Champenoise, I can’t wait to go back!

Assiete Champenoise
Bedrooms from 185€
40, Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Tinqueux – Reims
+33 (0) 3 26 84 64 64
infos@assiettechampenoise.com

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Champagne Pol Roger

Our followers know very well of my fascination about “bubbles” and the charm and versatility that good champagne can bring to a moment!

I could name a series of houses and wines I flirt with once in a while, but Pol Roger is my safe haven, for its richness and complexity brilliantly combined with freshness and elegance.

So, when we decided to visit the region of Champagne, there was always a name wandering in my mind, a visit to Pol Roger! Problem? Pol Roger is still one of the few houses not caring about visits or marketing investments, so a visit could only happen by invitation. For sure an obstacle, but who has friends is never alone, and we got a visit scheduled for a long day in this unforgettable house.

History
Pol Roger started like many other wine companies, a small company trading and producing wines for great houses like Moët & Chandon or Perrier Jouët, until its founder – Pol Roger – decided to establish in Épernay, buy his first vineyards and start bottling his own wine.

Pol Roger was always known as the most British of the Champagne houses, on one hand for being one of the first houses betting on that market and working the Brut profile wines, a favourite in England, and on the other for the longlasting relationship established with Sir Winston Churchill, the famous British prime minister who admitted to prefer Champagne above all other beverages, and Pol Roger above all other brands.

‘I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’
Winston Churchill

The friendship of Churchill and Odette Pol-Roger became effectively the great commercial and institutional mark of the company, from the homage to Churchill after his passing, with all the bottles exported to the UK having a black up until the ’90s, to launching their most exclusive wine in 1984, the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, only produced in years of the highest quality and which blend remains a family secret, always with the idea that each edition of this wine would very much please the British prime minister.

The property
It’s right in the middle of the Avenue de Champagne at Épernay that all the action of Pol Roger takes place, from the beautiful mansion of English influence (of course!), to the warehouses, and the more than 7,5 km of tunnels that extend along the famous avenue and where the millions of bottles rest in their different phases of production.

Guiding us was the always excellent and enlightening Pierre-Samuel Reyne  (in charge of the company’s exports), from the notes of the first orders in the name of Winston Churchill in 1908, to the family photos, to the recovered bottles from the historic collapse of the cellars that almost took the company to bankruptcy, in 1900. Everything breathes history combined with a certain Noblesse oblige!

Getting to know the world of champagne production is not visiting a palace, its elegant offices or its historic documents. Knowing the true essence of the production a visit to its impressive tunnels, where the famous remueurs,  keep doing the manual remuage till today, in every bottle produced by the company – a unique case among the great houses, proving the posture and philosophy of the company.

Pascal, the master Remueur, whose ryhtm no one can keep up with

Philosophy 
Pol Roger is a synonym of elegance and subtlely, in their wines, in their relationship with the world and their clients. There’s no relation between the company and the media, no big investments in marketing, or a strong connection to parties or celebrities – with exception for the British Royal Family, that usually celebrates with Pol Roger.

 A style defined in the beginning of the company and which their descendents respect like no other, even with the arrival of Dominique Petit, the current cellar chef, in 1999; with more than 20 years of experience at Krug, the style and absense of wood kept unchanged, with a stronger bet in improving the production, the jubilation of fruit and of course, the harmonious elegance that charecterizes the wines of Pol Roger.

 

The wines 
Arriving at the historic tasting room, where days before the family had reunited to decide the final touches of another blend, we had a piece of history of the company waiting for us, the wines, and a Portuguese flag, a clear demonstration of respect and of the art of welcoming their guests!

Pol Roger cuvée Brut Réserve
A blend of three equal parts of Pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay of around 30 different crus, combined with 25% of reserve wines. It stages in bottle for four years before going to the market, resulting in one of the most interesting wines of its segment. An attractive nose, with fruit, flowers and a delicate touch of brioche, that indicates immediatly what we are tasting. In the mouth, a combination of jam fruits, honey notes and the long but subtle touch of orange peel to elevate the tasting. A “starter” champagne that never, never, disappoints!

Pol Roger cuvée Pure Extra Brut
A similar blend to the Brut Réserve, but without dosage, an exercise to showcase the style of the house in a wine close to its natural state. To the nose arrives a delicate combination of citrus and yeast, enhanced by a certain complexity of floral aromas. In the mouth the sensation is chilling, with the great acidity being perfectly matched with the structure of the wine. A wine you can’t stop drinking, especially if the company is right – It should be mandatory in every seafood restaurant!

Pol Roger vintage 2012 Blanc de Blancs
The vintage Pol Roger are the wines that gave name to the house, for their personality and longevity. The Blanc de Blancs is, as the name indicates, made exclusively of Chardonnay, in this case just Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs regionA wine with small production, that staged for 7 years before heading to the market. The nose reveals dried fruits combined with peach, and a citrus side, exotic, very interesting. In the mouth, the wine is direct, showing a complex side allied to a vibrant youth, with citrus flavor and unforgetable acidity. Elegance is for sure the middle name of this wine!

Pol Roger vintage 2009
The Vintage 2009 was created with the usual blend of the house vintage’s, with 60% of Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and grapes from Grand Cru and Premiers Cru from Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. This wine staged 8 years in the cellars of the Avenue de Champagne before bringing us a very live and persistent bubble, and to the nose, the richness and elegance of white fruit nicely paired with some bakery notes. A delicate and elegant wine in the mouth – yes, the word elegant again – with the mousse, the acidity and structure filling the mouth like few others. A  great wine, and one of the best quality/price ratios in the world of vintage champagne.

Pol Roger Vintage 2009 Rosé
The Vintage 2009 is created in a fairly different process of a classic rosé. To the classic vintage wine basis, they add 15% of red Pinot Noir, before the second fermentation in the bottle. The salmony pink captivates our interest and its red fruits aroma, brioche, and some spices, tell us that yes! we are looking at a great wine. In the mouth, the freshness, structure and complexity of flavors win the title…

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008
The cúvee prestige of Pol Roger,created in homage to its more famous embassador. A wine prepared with only Grand Cru grapes, from wines that already produced during Churchill’s time. An exact blend, despite dominated by the pinot noir, is one of the greatest secrets of the family, that only produces this specific wine when they can find what Churchill loved so much about these wines, body, volume and harmony. The aromas of the wine change with the temperature, starting for revealing white fruit and bakery, then dried fruits and some orange. In the mouth, the balance of hardiness and elegance conquers the taster quite easily, with citrus and bakery being the most dominant flavors. If 2008 was a great year for champagne, the cúvee Winston Churchill is for sure one of its most surprising examples! A great wine!

A perfect birthday for Cíntia, that started with a visit and tasting session at Pol Roger

After an amazing tasting, it was time to a short trip to the center of Épernay for a lunch where the classic French cuisine was queen, and where we put the tasting aside and really enjoyed the vintages of Pol Roger.

Lastly, and before a trip to another small champagne paradise, we visited some of Pol Roger’s vineyeards right in the hillside of Épernay, and found a unique and unforgettable scenery!

Winter is coming!

Thank you Pol Roger and thank you Pierre for this perfect day!

Pol Roger
Visits are not possible, but the wines are around every great shop in the world! 
polroger@polroger.fr

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Champagne de Venoge – Les Suits du 33

At the beginning of 2019, we went to Paris once again, the city that fulfils our soul (and our stomachs as well!).

But this time we didn’t want to just see Paris and decided to go to a region that captivated our interest a long time ago – Champagne (why would that be???)!

We started by Épernay, at the charming Avenue de Champagne in the beautiful Venoge property!

Back in 1837, Henri-Marc de Venoge left Switzerland to settle in Champagne where he founded the Venoge & Cie with his son Joseph.

A year later, Henri-Marc eternalized a remarkable moment to the Champagne marketing, creating the first illustrated label.

Henri-Marc de Venoge

After that, the house became famous for creating labels to other important references of the region, as well as for adopting the initials “cordon blue” in homage to the Venoge river and the knight’s order of Saint-Esprit, the most famous of the French monarchy.

At the offices of Venoge we can see different labels created by the company throughout the centuries

The L’Hôtel de Venoge, Unesco World Heritage, saw its construction finished in 1900, marking the dynamism the region was going through right from the XIX century, which translated into a property with elegance and luxury perfectly mixed with the imposing street it is inserted in.

Obviously we didn’t stay in the main house, we just had the privilege of a guided tour with the most friendly of the hosts, Noé Boinard. A passionate young man, passionate for champagne, travels and life! An excellent companion to our visit where we were able to see every corner of the Venoge family history, like the first labels and the cellar where the most precious good is kept- the champagne.

We ended in the mythical Louis XV room tasting the champagnes Venoge. And what an elegant scenario to end our visit to L’Hôtel de Venoge!

Near the house there is a more recently transformed space, a building with deluxe bedrooms and an apartment, Les Suites du 33, an allusion to the door number at Avenue Champagne.

We stayed in one of the rooms.

Very similar to a luxury hotel bedroom, ours was constituted of a living room with kitchenette equipped with all you could need, from a fridge to a coffee machine. Besides this area, there was the bedroom itself, with a very comfortable bed and an elegant bathroom. The decoration of the room keeps the same elegance of the main house, but obviously less classic.

The apartment is perfect for a family trip, or a friends trip, being that it has three rooms.

Next to this building, is the  L’ Écurie. A renovated space, on the former stable, is now a bar and a store.

There we had an excellent breakfast and relaxed a bit from the cold and the snow felt outside!

The problem of travelling around Europe in January is that you get a lot of cold weather!

The gardens couldn’t display all their enchantment because of all the white! But obviously snow has its charms!

And that gives us a reason to get back to Épernay and the elegant Venoge – see all its magic in the sun, during spring or autumn!

But on to the wines, the reason we are here! I’ll leave some notes about them by João:

de Venoge Cordon Blue Brut
A surprising “gamma starter”, with an excellent price/quality ratio for the region. A wine in which the Pinot Noir associates with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, to create a slightly golden combo, of good aromatic complexity, floating between the white fruits, apple, and the buttery notes of brioche. In the mouth, the combo reveals a lot of elegance and complexity with a long bubble and creamy. It reveals a great capacity of ageing.

de Venoge Princes Blanc de Blancs
A homage created in 1864 for Princes d’Orange, that lasts until today as one of the key lines of the house Venoge. A 100% chardonnay, made with Grand cru and Premiers cru grapes, characterized by a strong minerality and crunchiness, bringing us dry and scented notes of flowers, apple and citrus. In the mouth, it keeps the freshness and the notes, allied to the usual flavours of peach jam of the chardonnay. Another keeper!

de Venoge Princes Blanc de Noirs
From the same line, the Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir, an excellence wine, full of freshness and great aromatic richness. Very fruity on the nose, focused in fresh red fruits aromas, following the same line in the mouth, complex, with good minerality, very unique. A beautiful wine!

See you soon Champagne and de Venoge!

Thank you Noé for all the care!
Champagne de Venoge – Les Suites du 33
Bedrooms from 215€
33 Avenue de Champagne – Épernay
+33 (0)6 75 81 08 01
adv@champagnedevenoge.com

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Ekhaya bush villa

Located in Hoedspruit, very close to Kruger Park, there’s a place that makes you feel part of a big family.

That place is Ekhaya bush villa, and its team has the main goal of assuring hospitality and transmitting the true traditions of South Africa to its guests.

With just six rooms, it is very cozy! There’s also a living and dining room common to all guests, making of the safari experience an even bigger moment of sharing and knowledge.

As soon as we arrived at Ekhaya we had the chance to meet and talk with a very friendly American couple, in their sixties, who have been there for two days and confessed us their passion for travels! At dinner, we met the other guests of this soulful African house and ended up our stay becoming friends with an Australian couple.

This is the stay at Ekhaya, a family home where everybody lives in harmony!

The meals are prepared by the nice team that welcomes the guests and takes care of the house. Traditional African food, that all guests have together while getting to know each other!

At Ekhaya there’s also a pool and an environment that invites relaxation, in that typical African charm.

During our stay at this South African home, you have lots of activities that quickly become the best experiences of your life. A safari around Kruger Park to see the Big Five, a day tour to Blyde Canyon and its magnificent landscapes, visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center, that as the name indicates takes care of and protects endangered species, or take a boat ride around Blyde Dam and observing the most magnificent Canyon in the world (being that is the third-largest in the world!).

   And when we decided to end our stay, the entire team presented us with a very cheerful goodbye song, warming our hearts, making us want to return!

For us, its strategic location next to Hoedspruit airport was fantastic for a night of rest before a flight marathon for our return.

For those seeking refuge near Kruger Park, Ekhaya is a great option!

Ekhaya Bush Villa
Bedrooms from 120€
374 Kierrieklapper StreetHoedspruit

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&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge

How do you write about the best experience of your life?

It’s been months since I experienced what I consider to be the most authentic and exciting moment of my life… those 31 seconds of the most profound and provocative look I ever felt!

No, I’m not talking about an affair, not everything in life is about sex… sometimes life is about the moment when human nature intersects wild life and the most intense exchange of glances between a human and a leopard happens! But we’ll get to that!

We chose November to discover another continent other than Asia, it was the month we adventured into Africa, discovering Cape Town and got a reminder about the Portuguese influence around the world, and it was the month to see that our species is so much more insignificant than I already thought.

Writing about this moment took a while because it’s hard to put into words what you experience in the jungle! The true jungle, where species live in perfect harmony and where we homo sapiens “almost” don’t interfere.

Seems like the perfect world, doesn’t it? The most harmful animal of all to not interfere in anything?! It’s the moment we are not on top of the food chain again!

Yes, I write about luxury hotels, and obviously this article will always be about that! About a natural reserve called &Beyond Ngala, but this article is much more than that. It’s the experience of a life time! (so far, at least!).

But first, let me talk about the importance of the natural reserves chain &Beyond spread around the world.

&Beyond was created in 1991 in the attempt to accompany the increasing demand for ecoturism and wild life experiences, and in the hope that all this demand could have a response in the business area that would put wild life in first place, with a sustainable economic basis.

And so &Beyond was born and spread around Africa, assuring the preservation and protection of areas and species, but also the work, that translated into benefits to the entire community.

Yes, you can say that a stay at these lodges is super expensive! But you think these things are paid off with what? Making your dream come true and building a better world for all the species costs money. So reevalute what you think you know!

Their motto? “Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife and Care of the People!”

Nowadays you can find this motto spread around Africa, Asia and South America. And is certain that where &Beyond is, that place is sacred, a place where nature and all its species live in perfect harmony!

We arrived at the Hoedspruit airport in a very warm afternoon.

The adventure started right at the airport, the most charismatic and comic airport of all time! The pictures speak for themselves!

This was the waiting room between flights!

Waiting for us was a friendly member of the &Beyond staff.

We made the trip to the hotel with 4 other people who were also staying at the hotel.

The trip was marked by the presence of two of the Big Five (the Big Five are, as the name indicates, the five animals not to miss – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion) – the elephant and the buffalo!

A gathering group of elephants, just after leaving the airport

We weren’t even in the hotel and we’ve already seen two?? The motto was set to perfection!
We arrived at &Beyond Ngala. An authentic oasis in the middle of the jungle, a mix of rudimentary with luxury details, a mix of authenticity with magic!

We were welcomed by a group of people devoid of preciousness, with an authentic speach, giving us fresh water and invinting us to rest a bit while signing a document! Without check-in, all the information was already there, previously taken care of in order not to bother the guest anymore during the stay! And what was that paper we had to sign?!

I didn’t even read it… I already knew what it was… An informed consent, the dinamic of our behaviour in order to respect the wild life, the way we had to accept we are visitors and have to respect our surroundings. And also the fact that if anything goes wrong, it can really go wrong! Yes, you can be attacked and die. And either you understand the risk and sign off or you won’t go on the safaris! Signed the paper and we were assigned an employee to accompany us to our room and whom we needed to call if we needed to leave our room at night! Yes, we’re in a reserve in the middle of the jungle, there’s no fence around the hotel. Scared? Don’t be! The adrenaline of being there and thinking about it is indescribable!

Along the path to the room we saw a bambi (An impala I mean!).

Somewhere in the path to our room 

There are 21 rooms in the lodge, four of them more specific for families, yes, children are welcome.

Our room was constituted by the bedroom itself, a small closet, a service bathroom and the real bathroom, all in glass, with an exterior shower and a garden space, reminding us we were in the middle of the savannah, with some animals keeping us company!

The bedroom also had a balcony with a sofa, allowing us to have some interesting conversations with some squirrels that kept trying to enter our room!

On the first day, we just changed clothes and went to the bar for refreshments and off to the first safari of our lifes!

One of the beautiful bar areas of the lodge

We were included in a group of four more people, two couples, who revealed to be great a company in this journey. We were introduced to Shaun and Tom – the Ranger and the Tracker, who guided us and taught us the works of the wildlife and who were the key to success of all this experience.

The 40 degrees felt got better on the jeep (the jeeps are open and you are so close to the jungle that is at the same scary and fascinating).

Bambis everywhere! The species with the most elements, nature has the gift of perfection, once these are the food for several other species!

Kudu

Wildebeest

At the end of that afternoon we had the chance to see a female leopard trying to hunt an impala, and Shaun told us that if we were lucky we might meet its family, two already big babies and the Male, with whom I was to have the most disturbing glance of my life and the most sexy growl!

Preparing for the hunt

There are safaris at sunrise and at sunset, ensuring a greater probablilty of seeing the animals, because during the day is so hot you can’t spot most of them. Mostly because the main river of the reserve is completly dry.

Timbavati river, completely dry 

To finish that day, the jeep stopped in a safe open park to drink a gin and have a bite to eat. And what an amazing moment – enjoying the sunset in the middle of the savannah, without preciosnesses, fears, completly free…

I always think I love the maximum exponent of luxury, but in these moments I realize nothing is more perfect and gives me more pleasure than the feeling of something pure and genuine… On that day we enjoyed the jungle at night, while deciding to return from our little rest it was already dark and it was exciting  to make the way back just with the lights of the jeep and a big flashlight to show us our path… there’s no other lights around there! Living in a city you can’t really understand what is true darkness. Just the stars and the moon to light up the night. It’s magical!

At the reserve, all days have the same dinamic, getting up at 4h (our assigned member of the staff wakes us up, in case the alarm clock isn’t enought!) and at 4h45 we have to be at the lounge for coffee and go to the frist safari of the day at 5h!

One of the comfortable meeting points 

At my first night I couldn’t even sleep, so much was my excitement! We had arrived from the safari at 20h30, had dinner at the restaurant of the reserve, ready to welcome all the tired guests from the safari, welcoming us with true smiles and traditional, comfort food.

The beautiful scenario waiting for us

Veal tenderloin with peanut and tahini satay 

After dinner we went to our room, it was time to rest and I was really tired but the adrenaline of being there, didn’t let me sleep!!!

On the second day, as soon as our staff knocked on the door I was already ready for the adventure!

Teams ready for another day 

The meeting at the lounge was always a mix of somnolence and happiness! We starded bonding with the people in our jeep. Zandri and Brendon, also rangers from another lodge of the group, the &Beyond Phinda. What a privilege, 3 rangers in our jeep, it could only be an amazing experience!

And Anika and Eshan, a wonderful couple from Sri Lanka, crazy about safaris! The perfect group for a perfect trip!

Shaun, João, Brendan, Eshan, Anika, Zandri, me and Tom – what a team!!

Along the way we befriended people from all around the world, making this trip more memorable.

Amazing how usually my articles are only about the hotel’s features and an objective experience, and now I cannot stop being emotional about all this stay… three days that seemed like a lifetime!

On the second day we went for the morning safari, starting right away with an exciting sighting… wild dogs! A bunch of them, and according to Shaun they haven’t been spotted in six weeks.

We were able to see them preparing for the hunt, they are a very deadly species due to their group organization skills.

Wild Dogs

Another highlight of that morning were the young leopards resting, and extremely bothered by us interrupting their rest!

Leopardo cubs

Time to return for a warrior worthy breakfast!

At &Beyond Ngala the pancakes are to die for!

The rest of the day we enjoyed the pool of the hotel, the 39ºC felt forced us to be in the water all the time, while seeing a family of warthogs, remember Pumbaa from the Lion King?! There was a couple and three babies walking freely around the hotel, having a bath in a small lake alongside the pool!

Amazing scene!

 Pumbaa and its kids resting in one of the walkways of the lodge 

There’s not much more one could ask for! 

After a well deserved rest it was time to get ready for the second safari of the day! After kicking off with a Gin, we barely knew it would be such an agitated and fun evening!

A good selection of South African gins 

Water is essential along the safari 

We started by seeing a mother and rhino calf, that was so amazed to see us that became one of the most comic moments of the afternoon!

If you’re wonderind how all these species don’t attack the jeep as soon as they see us, it’s firstly because these jeeps were never a threat to them, and secondly because we’re not their prey, and lastly because the team of &Beyond trains the way they show off at the babies, so they can get used to our presence since a young age.

The real safari photographers 

Then it was time to see an elephant family, whose baby was still a bit wobbly, as if extremely dizzy! So sweet!

Elephants transmit a super tender image, but are probably the most imposing animal in the jungle! And we were about to experience that!

The baby could barely walk!

On with our safari, it was time to see some hyenas, always with their tricky look! Also very good group hunters!

Hyena

Giraffe

Where’s wally?

Meanwhile, Shaun received a warning from others teams – a group of lions where in the river… Obviously we went right away!

And there was a group of lions, from females, males and babies, lots of babies, and there was a white one! Something very rare, only about 15 in the world! What a privilege to be in the middle of the jungle and experience one of the rarest animals!

Is there anything more beautiful?

I felt so happy at that moment…so complete! Little I knew I had so much more to experience in that wild world!

Minutes later the elephant family we saw earlier started to go down to the river right in front of our jeep, so for our precaution we moved away.

And we had front seats to an impendind titan war! Or so I thought… no lion is titan enough for an elephant! No, the king of the jungle is not the lion, but the elephant! The white cub was the first to runaway “let me run, I’m to rare for this!” must have been its thought! The males and remaining babies went after, only two females stayed behind, amazing how females are braver in any species!!

It was scary when the baby elephant started to get close and one of the females (probably the mother) decided to raise the trunk (sign of attack) and start running after the lionesses! It was a shaking moment! Mostly because it also raised its trunk to our jeep and you start to think if they run to you, there’s no escape!

Probably the most exciting moment of my life! Or so I thought at the time!

After all this crazyness it was time to stop at a safe spot to eat something and toast to another amazing day!

Still time to see another rhino

We found out it was Eshan’s birthday and the hotel once again proved to be amazing, there was a bottle of champagne to celebrate Eshan’s special day and also this amazind day for all of us!

Shaun Zandri and Brendan

We went back to the reserve in time to get ready for a great dinner! A dinner for all the guests, a very fun party! These dinners work like a farewell for the different groups. It’s recommended to stay just for three to four days, due to the tiredness these experiences provoke, and the level of requirement of this kind of tourism.

So, each three days, there’s a dinner for all the guests and safari groups, with the rangers and the trackers, so we can have a goodbye party! An excellent service by &Beyond. What you can call a luxury!

A very well slept night was all I needed, and this time I slept, my tiredness won over my excitement!

Another meeting at 4h45, and the realization this was the last day in total communion with nature!

After the last safari I was sure there wasn’t much more to see or feel! Nothing more exciting than a lion vs elephant face to face! That was until we cross paths with the male leopard!

Busted!

“My” leopard

Before that, we saw giraffes and buffalos, these last ones are so impressive, so beautiful and imposing!

Meanwhile, Zandri (also a ranger) saw a leopard, the male leopard of the family we saw before.

It was trying to sleep below a tree, it was extremely hot that morning, it was very early and already super hot. It was bothered by our presence, stood up and changed places, we followed, but it tried to get away again. And so it decided to start surrounding the jeep, three times, smelling not only the jeep but us as well! Abd suddently it stopped! In front of me, just an arms distance away, and looked me in the eyes, in the most intense way I ever felt and growled at me, looked me right in the eyes again and made me fall in love with that moment! Inexplicable, scary, exciting, disconcerting… the world stopped for about 30 seconds!

Behind me I just heard Shaun “don’t move Cíntia, don’t move, keep steel…”

It’s true you must enjoy life without a phone in the way, but I thank everyday for recordind this moment, so I can eternalize it in a more real way!

Fear? Not even a bit… I just wanted to extend my arm and touch it… but I know I could never do that!

I asked Shaun if that was normal, if the leopard though I was a danger to it, and why it stopped right in front of me? And he just said “It smelled something in you that captivated its interest and wanted to know what it was!”.

Happy to know that my pheromones have impact even in the jungle!!

The last coffee in the jungle

We came back to the reserve fot a last breakfast and my mind was already in another universe! It was by far the most amazing experience I had in my life… all this contact with nature in its wildest state is of a disruptive sensation you can’t really put into words. But being so close to a feline and feeling it look at you made me realize this really was an experience of a lifetime!

Buffalos 

On that day, and before leaving we had time to buy a series of souvenirs for our family and friends, and mostly because a part of the value of what you buy in the store of hotel reverts to a series of projects to protect some of the species, namely the rhinos, that are stealthly hunted for theirs horns, because of the belief they have healing properties.

The store of &Beyond Ngala

You can know more about “Rhino’s whithout Borders”  and help here!

It was time to leave! Time to say goodbye to the group that shared this experience with us, thanking them for the company, care and friendship!

Time to say:

“Thank you Shaun and Tom for making all of this possible!”

Thank you all!

“Thank you &Beyond Ngala for taking care of this bit of paradise, where all species live in perfect harmony, this one and all those spread around the world! Thank you for continuing to believe there are many places in the world where you can take this noble project.” 

All the corners at Ngala are magic!

And…

Thank you my perfect Leopard for giving me the most exciting moment ever!

See you soon &Beyond!

&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge
Bedrooms from 560€/ pax, all included 
&Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve – Kruger Park

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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