Monday, August 22, 2016

Oxfordshire, England - Soho Farmhouse

This past weekend I visited Soho Farmhouse, the latest addition to the Soho House family. Set on over 100 acres of farm land in the Oxfordshire countryside (about a two hour drive from Central London), the property is a member's only club exclusively for Soho House members. However, non-members can enjoy the facilities if they book an overnight stay (good luck, the staff informed me that cabins are reserved until Christmas right now, and after you read this post you will see why!). 

As Soho House operates a strict no photography policy, all photos here are copyright from Soho Farmhouse.

You will not be at a loss for things to do at Soho Farmhouse, it seems they have thought of everything! The indoor/outdoor swimming pool is heated for year-round use and situated on a small pond (guests can hop in row boats and row themselves around on the pond). The pool is connected to the gym and nearby tennis courts, and surrounded by a lawn filled with sun beds and an outdoor drinks bar. Next to the pool is one of several restaurants, Pen Yen, featuring a Japanese menu (below). 

The main dining room is set inside a magnificent wood paneled, steal beam and brick barn with an open kitchen and two levels of dining, including a second floor outdoor terrace. How cool are the chandeliers made out of wagon wheels? The a la carte menu features burgers, seafood, vegetarian options and Sunday roasts. All of the vegetables are sourced from the garden on the property and the rest of the products are sourced locally in the surrounding area.

Accommodations include 40 cabins each decorated in a beautiful country farm chic style, complete with their own mini kitchens. They range from studios to one, two and three bedrooms. Larger parties can book an entire farm house or farm cottage on the property. 

For those looking for a more rustic camping experience (think: Glamping), another fun option are the bell tents. Each teepee comes with a six-foot bed, a wood burning stove, rugs and a pair of armchairs. Bathroom, shower and sauna facilities are located in the Boathouse, less than 100 meters away. There’s also an outdoor living area, with tea, coffee, a hot water bottle station and hay bales around a fire pit.

For a few hours of pampering you can check into the Cowshed Spa complete with a hair salon and a shop stocked with all the best Cowshed products:

There is also the coziest pub on the property. I can imagine on a winter's day with the fireplace blaring you would never want to leave. A small stage hosts live music acts inside in the evenings.

Walking around Soho Farmhouse and visiting all of the different buildings on site and discovering what was inside, I felt like a kid on a treasure hunt. The Farmshop and Deli is a cafe serving all sorts of hot and cold drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, delicious cakes, deli sandwiches and yummy items you can purchase for take away:

For horse lovers, you can rent a horse for £50 an hour and walk, trot or cantor your way around the fields, accompanied by a guide:

There are two shops on the property as well, one that sells fresh flowers, home decor items and branded Soho House paraphernalia, as well as a high-fashion clothing store:

A horse drawn carriage is on hand all day to take you anywhere you would like to go on the property. It is also used in the morning to deliver fresh bottles of milk to each cabin and in the evening it pulls up to your cabin with a fresh stack of firewood for your fireplace:

There are lots of outdoor seating options and firepits for lounging, or for the more active you will find miles of nature trails you can walk or cycle around.

Soho Farmhouse even has their own cinema, so you can go to the movies in the evening:

While I was there they were setting up for a wedding in one of their barns, candles and bales of hay set the mood.

I'm already plotting my next visit to Soho Farmhouse. Whether you are looking for a countryside retreat to get away from it all, or want an active jam-packed vacation, this is the spot!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Newport, Rhode Island - The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn

There are few places more quintessential New England summer chic than Newport, Rhode Island. And the perfect place to take it all in on a sunny day is the rolling lawn overlooking the harbor and the Jamestown bridge at the Relais & Chateaux property Castle Hill Inn

Whether you are staying at the property or not, you can enjoy a lovely alfresco lunch at their informal bar and restaurant called The Lawn. Think warm summer breezes, fresh salty ocean air, frosty cold cocktails, and delectable favorites like lobster rolls, a variety of seafood and juicy burgers (topped with lobster if you want!).

You won't be at a loss for entertainment, some of the most stunning yachts and sail boats parade back and forth on their way in and out of the harbor. I would have gladly accepted a ride on this one:

For lunch we devoured native fish tacos with crispy tortillas, slaw and a side of corn on the cob:

As well as a marinated seafood salad with calamari, smoked mussels, baby shrimp and roasted peppers in a garlic-fennel vinaigrette:

After lunch you can take an afternoon nap on one of the large, white Adirondack chairs that dot the lawn. Really there is no reason to leave ... 

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