Travel blogger Anna Parker of Penelope, Parker and Baby talks with us about travel, her love of hotels and her view on Amberlair, of course. In case you don’t know already, a #BohoLover is a Boutique Hotel lover – just like us!
How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
I have actually relaxed my approach to choosing a hotel. I used to over analyse and plan, but we’ve learnt what we love over the years. I look for a small hotel, somewhere off the beaten track and with something unique to it – be it history, the view, or something else special. I’m a big fan of choosing general location first and then using the trip advisor map to narrow down what is available. Then I scour photographs from all sources to see what a place really looks like. My husband always has the deciding vote. We’ve not really had any trouble with our choices so I think it’s working out ok!
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
Three really is impossible… I’m accountant and I can’t do the maths!
The Inn at Cuckolds Light, Maine is a boutique inn located on a 5-acre private island a mile off the Maine coast. The Inn can sleep 6 people, including the hosts. It was quite incredible, somewhere to recharge and reconnect. It was possibly the most relaxing and beautiful place I’ve visited. Totally unique and will always hold a special place for us.
Qasr al Sarab, Abu Dhabi is 3 hours into the desert and needs to be seen to be believed. There are plenty of desert hotels in Arabia, but they aren’t deep in the desert. This ‘palace of the mirage’ is remote and, as such, the space, silence and views are unbeatable. Sunset on the dunes is incredible.
The Chewton Glen Treehouses let you live out a childhood dream but in the height of laid back luxury all within walking distance of one of the grand dames of the British hotel industry. A hot tub on the balcony, spacious lounge, treetop views and breakfast delivered in a hamper through a trap door. All the details are thought of!
Special mentions must go to Quinta da Casa Branca in Madeira, Cliveden House near London, The Kinsterna in the Peloponnese, The Oberoi Rajvillas in Jaipur and Vilacampina on the Algarve.
The Kinsterna, Greece is hidden away in the Peloponnese far from the tourist trail. This family-owned hotel defines what boutique and personal service should be. The pool area and views are wonderful. They have an attentive staff that go the extra mile with pleasure and the most gorgeous Byzantine-style rooms. Charm personified.
What made them so special?
Each of these was truly one of a kind which made them so incredibly special. Wherever we travel to, for me, it is so important to have personal service and to stay somewhere unique where memories are made. These offer the full package of luxury and comfort, as well as feeling completely at home and relaxed as valued guests.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
Private space. I love a beautiful pool and grounds, but what’s even better is a room and terrace area that is large enough not to need the public space at all times. We go away on holiday to get away from things and it is nice to have that space and privacy in the hotel too.
A snug or lounge. True boutique hotels are very homey and I particularly like it when a little space is set aside for a snug or lounge, perhaps with a fireplace, board games and a trust bar. With only a small number of rooms, a big terrace or bar would often be empty, but a small, homey space is always good.
A top notch restaurant. There is no need for it to be big or have a long menu or a famous chef. A restaurant and chef that know the provenance of raw materials and can make local dishes is the perfect addition to boutique accommodation. If the hotel makes its own wine, even better!
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
It’s actually the simple things that make the biggest difference!
- Welcome champagne is often included by some hotels and so it isn’t necessarily seen as a ‘treat’ by the hotel team. For me, though, as an arriving guest, nothing says “Welcome” quite as well as being shown to our room and finding a bottle on ice awaiting us. A sure fire way to ensure immediate relaxation.
- Day to day life has few formalities to it these days, so being called “Mrs. Parker” by the hotel team from arrival to departure is something that always stands out as attentive and personal. It shows the hotel knows their guests and is interested in making sure they have the best stay possible.
- I’m always impressed when a hotel knows the details, especially as an allergy sufferer. The Chewton Glen know that I can’t eat dairy on each visit and actually remind me at meals what I can eat. When we stayed at Quinta Jardins do Lago in Madeira, by the time we arrived at sister hotel Quinta da Casa Branca they knew about my allergy and the chef had been busy making me my own Madeira cake!
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
- Lacklustre. When somewhere has so much potential but just ends up being a bit flat, grey and boring. I hate being disappointed by somewhere that could have done so much better. Or somewhere that misrepresents on its website or is an influence hotspot!
- Bumping into a venomous snake on the porch of a thatched hut. We had this excitement in South Africa on my first (and last) safari holiday. Granted, there is always a risk of this happening in the bush, but it was just a little too close for comfort.
- Being told, “Mrs Parker, you’ll be pleased to know we have upgraded you”, only to double-check the room type against my booking confirmation, as I was suspicious we’d been lied to. I never expect an upgrade and certainly don’t like being taken for a ride. This 5-star property also gave us welcome prosecco that was undrinkable. Definitely not 5-star.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
It is a really interesting and inspired concept. I can’t believe it hasn’t been thought of before. By identifying the right people, the people that would want to stay at the Amberlair, we’ll find something perfect from all the highlights we’ve seen occasionally elsewhere. Clearly tastes and trends will change so it will be important that it stays up-to-date.
Where are you off to next?
Life changed a bit this summer with the arrival of a baby adventurer in the family! We’ve got a few trips planned – Vienna to see friends, an AirBnB in the Peak District and then first class out to Dubai. I’m not really sure how any of it will work and certainly the hotel research for Dubai is going to take a different style to previous form! Everything needs to be family friendly now! For now though – I’m just keen to a) get through the first flight unscathed and b) hope the car is big enough for a staycation!
Anna Parker is always on the lookout for luxury and unique stays. Her preferred way of travel is in style with her husband, always wanting to enjoy the outdoors! Since July this year travel will now include Baby Parker so she’s now on the look out for the same things, but family friendly!
She started her blog, Penelope, Parker and Baby, to keep note of where they went and what they enjoyed. She has also used it to share experiences and tips, and to be able to point others at ideas that will help them on their travels!! If she can build into a holiday some wine-tasting, cycling, sailing or walking, then she’s a happy traveller! On any trip she always wants to see the country for real rather than just the hotel and its tours. With Baby in tow, the blog will become something of a record as he grows up of all the family adventures.