Planning a trip to Italy, you wouldn’t want to miss this relaxing spa weekend in Lake Garda! #travel #health #spa #beauty

Once again our European travel and beauty writer Kat Baron is on the road giving us the low-down on the best places to stay, indulge and relax in Europe, this time its the turn of a spa retreat in Lake Garda. To read more of Kat’s adventures, check out her own blog Katscapades.

So in the last few weeks my husband and I had the special birthday treat of visiting one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan! An amazing city and I had a fantastic time, but after the hustle and bustle of bumping into fashionistas and models everywhere I turned, I needed a break!! So I found a mini-spa break just 60mins from Milan, my destination: Lake Garda!

Living in Nice, Lake Garda is nearly a 5-hour drive from our home. We are already used to long drives this time last year, we drove from Nice to Barcelona (about 7-8hours) but its incomparable to our 12-hour snowy journey from Geneva last winter. We’d been to a lot of places around Italy and France in our used and abused blue car! Too bad I can’t drive, but I know, deep down, I’m meant to be driven, lol).

My holiday checklist

Anyway, as I was sat in the passenger seat for the journey, I was able to collect my thoughts of the do’s and don’ts of a long drive to a fun destination:

  • Good night sleep prior – check.
  • All essentials stuff packed – check. (It’s very irritating knowing that you left something at home)
  • Filling breakfast – check. (We had freshly made orange, apple, carrot juice at home followed by egg-cheese-muffin sandwich and pain au chocolat pour moi! I know it’s buttery but one won’t hurt!)
  • Cash, cards, and coins – check.
  • Water – check.
  • Comfy clothes – check.

I was set and ready to go! See:

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I had no make-up on, just my usual moisturizer with SPF 24 and I just pinned my long grown fringe with hair on one side.

Are we nearly there yet?! 

After driving on the autoroute (fr) /autostrada (it) for hours, we knew we were getting near our destination as we drove through the gorgeous grape vineyards. We left Nice at 9ish and arrived in Cola’ Di Lazise, a small province of Verona southeast side of the lake at around 2ish. We booked 2 nights at the lovely Villa Dei Cedria Veneto villa designed by Luigi Canonica of Milan (the architect whose works include Foro Bonaparte, the Milan Arena and the Carcano Theatre) and built at the turn of the nineteenth century (the villa is more or less 200 years old). When the villa was restored, rooms of various sizes were created on the upper floors. As a result, it can host even the most demanding customers in an exquisite and elegant setting. In 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took it over as his residence and used it as the German headquarters for all of northern Italy.  The halls on the ground floor of the villa welcome guests in an aristocratic yet relaxing setting.

Upon entering the gates, we parked our car infront the main door and we were welcomed by their friendly staff. The reception has a huge table and what caught my attention was the elegant lobby (as seen on the left photo) with a well-preserved chandelier (other parts of the villa like the grand dining area as seen on the right has chandeliers), high ceilings and antique but chic furniture. image_3

The villa even preserved some of the original furniture dating 150-200 years old!

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This chessboard was amazing! The statues on the lower left side are 400 years old!

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The staff took care of our luggage and we were taken to the admin office just few steps from the reception (y’know, the usual check-in process). After that, one of the staff took us to our room as the others took care of our luggage. When we entered the room, I got even more excited!

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Our room was just lovely, with satin brown and black bed covers and curtains with a hydromasssage pool in our room – YES, IN OUR ROOM. I knew it before but I wasn’t expecting it could be this nice. Amaze balls.

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As explained by the staff, the pool has 3 different types of massages and it has speakers for CD, radio, tv and there’s even an iPhone (4) dock! Annoyingly we weren’t able to use this as we both have an iPhone 5, but anyway, it was just fab. The purple lights hanging from the high ceilings as you can see on the upper left photo change colours to give a more romantic, relaxed ambiance.

I also love the bathroom. It has a starry-effect ceiling, his and hers basin over a wooden drawer with white bathroom accessories, towels and toiletries.

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Oh, look at the shower – it also changes colour!

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The Villa dei Cedri is situated in an enormous park and its windows overlook the grounds.

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The park will charm plant lovers because it has rare species of trees that are easy to identify, as there are detailed signs under the most important ones (posts are available in Italian and German only).  There are also several sun beds which you can rent for €4 (you can ask the hotel reception for the wrist bands or pay cash at the park). Look at this fitting room, isn’t that cute?!

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Before heading back to the room, we dropped by at the Centro Benessere to book our treatment and massage for the following day. There are few golf cars in the park, not sure if hotel residents can rent it to tour the grounds but I borrowed it anyways.

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It was drizzling and a bit cold (about 14C degrees) so we headed back to the room. But who cares about the cold rain when we had a hot tub in our bedroom?!

We chilled out for a bit having drinks (btw everything in the minibar is free), watching movies on Sky and really just relaxing and enjoying our time.

For dinner, we tried going back to the Trattoria but it’s fully booked – so make sure you book ahead! So we decided to try the restaurant inside the park just next to the villa called Ristorante Villa Moscardo. According to the staff, it dated back 400 years!

We made a good choice. The food was just so delicious! We skipped the hors d’oeuvres and started with the first course. I had Paccheri “Villa Moscardo” basil-tomatoes-parmesan cheese-pecorino cheese and Mark had Tortiglioni alla carbonara with zucchini flowers, zucchini julienne and crispy leek. For the Main Course, I had Beef fillet grilled and Mark had Slices of beef on a bed of Rucola and parmesan cheese.

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The food was really good and we were so stuffed that we just shared Crema Catalana for dessert.

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All of these with half a bottle of house wine and water came to €67.

Oh, before I forget, look at this garden view from our bedroom window:

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Day 2!

Surprisingly, I woke up early the next day (5am but I tried to sleep and got up just before 7). This was not normal! We headed to the breakfast room at 7:30 but went back to the room since breakfast is not served until 8am. We’re early birds I know!

Breakfast’s served in one of the villa’s beautiful rooms. There was a variety of cereals, cooked breakfast, bread, cold and hot drinks and Italian cakes!

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There were also tables and chairs outside, perfect on a sunny morning. It was a bit chilly at 11C degrees so we were sitting near the fireplace.

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After breakfast, we plunged into the hydromassage in our room for about 30 minutes…why wouldn’t you!

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Then we got ready and walked towards the lake. The villa is located at Parco Termale Garda and this park has two small lakes.

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It was 14c degrees outside but the lake’s temperature is about 34-36c degrees and the hydromassage pool on the lake was 39c degrees. Imagine floating on the thermal lake and seeing the beautiful skies and trees as you open your eyes. That’s what I did. I was floating and swimming almost all over! I just love it! There wasn’t many people as well so it kind of felt like we’ve got the whole place to ourselves!  It was a refreshing feeling and I didn’t feel cold at all. The lakes are open from 9am and also open for night swimming on certain days.

We stayed at the lake for about 2 hours and went back to the room to get ready for the next treat in the spa. We didn’t really feel hungry for lunch after the big breakfast – which is surprising for me!

The Spa!

Our spa experience started with a body treatment for 60 minutes. I wanted to try the Grape Treatment (regenerating massage rich in antioxidants) but I had Spice Treatment, a tonifying and relaxing massage with essential oils of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and myrrh as recommended by the staff. My husband had a Fango Treatment described as, “The Dead Sea salt scrub is a skin exfoliant made of salt crystals from the Dead Sea, a body of water renowed for its healing, mineral infused waters. This treatment stimulates the skin, muscles and nerves, cleanses the pores and improves blood circulation and the texture of dull, bumpy and tired skin“. After the treatment, we both had a Tibet Massage for 60 minutes- holistic massage during and after which you will experience a pleasant feeling of warmth, lightness and deep relaxation. Himalayan stones and bundles filled with Dead Sea salts combined with almond oil give you a feeling of well-being and regeneration. This massage has naturally exfoliating, toning, draining, oxygenating, anti-cellulite functions. It was just sooooooooo relaxing….

After the 120-min treatment and massage, we wanted to maximise the spa’s facilities after having a cup of tea in the relaxation room overlooking the indoor pool, we tried the sauna.

The spa also has other services from mani / pedi, facial treatments, waxing and tanning.

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Hair/Skincare tips when spa-ing

After this amazing day of pampering, my skin felt so soft and my hair a little bit oily. But seeing that we spent a lot of time on water prior to our spa treatment, it is important to keep our hair and skin healthy and hydrated not just during holidays when too much time on water’s involved but also on our day-to-day life. I’d like to share some hair/skincare tips:

  • Apply sunblock (well it wasn’t sunny when we were at the lake so I didn’t) and moisturizer or body oil after dipping
  • Wax unwanted hairs the day
  • In case you’re over excited in the hydromassage like moi, do not exceed over 20 minutes dipping into 39c degrees; use aroma therapy oils for indoor hydromassage (the villa provided a tropical scent one which we both love)
  • I usually tie my hair up when swimming so it doesn’t go all over the place. I also make sure I use hair conditioner especially after dipping into water.
  • I had no make-up (no edit, no filter) on most photos I took and posted on this  blog. I give credit to having a healthy lifestyle (eating clean, juicing and exercising) for bringing great results to my hair, skin and even nails.

That evening, we drove to Verona city-centre, 30-min from Villa Dei Cedri) passing thru the green vineyards and few outlets. We wanted to see the famous Romeo and Juliet’s balcony but we got there a bit late (it closes at 6:30 pm). It was a lovely way to finish off our trip to Lake Garda!

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We walked around the lovely town and sat in one of the restaurants for dinner.

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We had the typical Italian dish – pizza, pasta and risotto with drinks for about €50 🙂 Eccellente!

The next day, we had a quick walk around the park after breakfast, packed our stuff and we hit the road to Milan… Say Ciao Milano!

Thanks for reading. If you are looking for a relaxing, romantic, thermal-water-experience and close-to-the-nature break with your loved one, family, kids or friends, I highly recommend this place.

Villa Dei Cedri S.p.a. Piazza di Sopra, 4 – 37017 Cola di Lazise (VR) Italy | http://www.villadeicedri.com

Standard Rooms (Bed and Breakfast) starts from €180 per night at The Villa. There are also residences inside and nearby the park. For more photos, please click here.

Get fruity with some futuristic juice drinks from @juiceburst and @blippar #tech #fruitjuice #app #interactive

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My my, isn’t the world changing, first there was the iPod, then there were Google Glasses, and now, keep your eyes peeled, as this summer, JuiceBurst will re-launch as the world’s first digitally interactive soft drink.  Blippar technology will have fruit literally bursting off a shelf near you!!

With an impressive 14 flavours to choose from, there is a JuiceBurst to suit everyone – from tried and tested Apple & Orange to the exotic Mango and surprisingly tasty Apple and Rhubarb.  Each 500ml bottle offers a delicious shortcut to one of your five a day, and priced at no more than a bottle of fizzy drink, JuiceBurst is actually really good value for money.

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 LETS GET INTERACTIVE!

To have the full JuiceBurst experience, simply ‘blipp’ the bottle and you’ll be taken into an interactive world, where the fruit literally bursts off the label and out of your phone / ipad.  You’ll be invited to play the fruit machine game where you could be in with a chance of winning your own stash of JuiceBurst.

So what are you waiting for go and pick up your futuristic fruit drink now – and let us know how you get on!!

Hobbit Fans look here! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug brand new trailer! #film #trailer

Its here, the brand new teaser trailer for the next Hobbit instalment. What did you think of the first film? Are you excited for the next chapter, have you already prepped your bum cheeks for another long stint in a cinema chair?!

Well, if you haven’t read the book then here’s what you can expect from Peter Jacksons next move!

The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventures of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens nationwide across the UK on 13th December 2013.

Enjoy!

Who likes it hot? Then the Sultans of Sizzle may just be for you! @prezzybox #gift #fathersday #food

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We love how Prezzybox just keeps on coming up with some fun present ideas, now its Fathers Day coming up and if your dad likes to stand tall next to a BBQ then why not give him this perfect accompaniment. The Sultans of Sizzle Hot Sauce!!

How hot do you like it? The Sultans of Sizzle Hot Sauce Gift Set is the perfect condiment to those who like some fire in their hearts. This gift pack has 3 different spicy sauces that are guaranteed to turn up the heat on you food.

Ideal for chilli lovers the Garlic Style Hot Sauce is tasty. The Jamaican Style Hot sauce is guaranteed to ignite your mouth whilst the Louisiana Style Hot Sauce brings the heat from the Deep South, deep into you.

The Sultans of Sizzle Hot Sauce Gift Set costs £19.95 from www.prezzybox.com.

Go get yours now! You’ll be burning up before you know it!!

Nicole Phillips England launches fabric by the metre to brighten up your home

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So a few weeks back we visited the Spirit of Summer show at Olympia and found this fantastic textile designer. Well, if its kitsch cloth that you’re after then Nicole Phillips is your lady. There are some new designs out now, so check them out and see how you could make your house look amazing! And don’t forget, we’re all for supporting Buy British, and this designer is just one of the great reasons why its so important! 

Here’s more about the new products! 

The perfect way to freshen up any kitchen table or window, fine textile design company Nicole Phillips England has launched a range of fabric by the metre, available in a variety of designs and a choice of oilcloth or cotton to suit every style of home.Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.46.43

Offering a practical yet pretty solution to protecting your table from spills and scratches, the new oilcloth fabric can be ordered by the metre in the quirky fish or crab-on-a-line designs that are ideal for coastal homes as well as the strawberry, asparagus and trailing rose patterns, which will complement all country inspired interiors. The high quality 100% cotton fabric is available in all Nicole Phillips England patterns on request and can be used for anything from curtains, cushion covers and blinds to tablecloths and other beautiful homemade accessories.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.47.00Designed and created by artist, Nicole Phillips, the collection of fabric by the metre highlights Nicole’s hand-painted watercolour designs that have been printed on carefully selected high quality materials.

Inspired by country and coastal themes with a foodie influence, the full Nicole Phillips England range also includes aprons, tea towels, hob covers, napkins, cushions and tote bags, all of which are made here in Great Britain.

The fabric range starts from £26 per metre for oilcloth and £38 per metre for cotton, and is available to buy online at www.nicolephillips.com.

So who is Nicole Phillips?

Founded in 2012 and launched in March 2013, Nicole Phillips has used her creative skills to bring a fresh perspective to fine textile design. The company delivers a broad range of new products with unique designs made to the highest quality standards within the UK.Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.47.14

Founder Nicole Phillips had an idyllic childhood growing up on a small island in the Bahamas before moving to England to complete her education. Her early experiences continue to influence her art today and many of the Nicole Phillips England designs feature themes relating to the sea and nature. Nicole gained a degree in Ceramics at Bath University and she ran a successful studio in West Sussex for 6 years before taking a break to start a family.

The eureka moment came one evening in 2012 when Nicole realised that her artwork was ideally suited for printing on fabric and since then she has been immersed in creating and exploiting the possibilities that this medium of textiles can bring.

Nicole now runs the business with her small team in West Sussex.

 

Need a guide to Bee-auty? Then @beeconomics_org can help you! #beauty #bees #crowdfunding

As you may have seen from their first post, Heather and Dom Ridout have upped sticks and swapped their London lives for a brand new venture in Brazil with a few bees called Beeconomics! Firstly they told us why they’re going, and now they’ve kindly written a fantastic piece on the benefits of bees and beauty! 

They’ve started up Beeconomics, and if you like what you read from their very first post for us, then good news! There’ll be more updates in the coming weeks! Also, if you feel inclined to support the cause, you can find out all you can follow them on Facebook andTwitter

Most importantly, they’ve just launched a crowd funding campaign called Show me the Honey! to help their cause, so if you want to support it, then click here!

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Back to the Beauty bit!  

Honey has incredible skin and hair care properties. It has been revered throughout history for this purpose – the Egyptians used it in mummification (the ultimate anti-ager!), Cleopatra bathed in it, the Romans used it on battle wounds, whilst the wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, Poppea, formulated a honey based moisturiser. Queen Anne of England used it to condition her hair and Madame du Barry (famous for her beauty and for being Louis XV’s final mistress) may have been the first to make a homemade honey face-mask, a practice continued by modern starlets such as Scarlett Johansson who attributes her healthy glow to a manuka mask (just honey, nothing added).

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This remarkable substance is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It soothes and moisturises and is a humectant meaning that it draws moisture towards it and seals it onto the skin, prolonging its moisturising effect. It contains phytochemicals which make it antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. It is also self preserving (due to its anti-microbial constituents, low PH, moisture content and water activity) as famously illustrated by archeologists who found 2,000 year-old jars of honey in Egyptian tombs!

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Honey can be applied neat to the skin or combined with other complementary ingredients. We’re sure you will be keen to get some on your skin – so here are some ideas for a homemade face mask using honey and things you might find in the fridge:

* Make a simple Cleopatra-esque mask using plain yogurt/cream (we find milk doesn’t stay on so well!) and honey to moisturise and soothe (recommended for sensitive skin)

* Mix honey, oats (best if ground first to avoid clumpiness) and a little lemon/lime (rich in AHAs and vitamin C) to moisturise and exfoliate

* Blend some enzyme-rich papaya (also contains vitamin A) and honey together to brighten and banish dead skin cells without scrubbing

 TAHDAAAHHH!!!! You’ll be looking like a goddess in no time!

Happy Bee-autifying!!

Fancy being part of the worlds smallest film festival? Then look no further than @nowtv #NOWTVMovieFest

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NOW TV, the new movie and sport streaming service powered by Sky, are embracing the ever evolving world of film-making by launching ‘the worlds smallest film festival’ comprising of entries entirely submitted via Vine, the recently released video sharing app from Twitter.

Having launched last week, NOW TV  are urging budding 6-second film-makers to submit their entries by simply tagging their videos with #NOWTVMovieFest along with the hash tag of the category they’d like to be entered into. So what are you waiting for

 There are some FAB prizes to win! 

Winners will be selected by a panel of industry professionals with the grand prize being a place on the Raindance Directors Diploma course and a Canon dSLR camera and category winners each receiving a Canon dSLR.

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 Where can I find out more?

For all the info, to check out the entries so far and see which categories you might like to enter, head over to the NOW TV movie blog

Entries will be accepted from now up until 30th June, with the winners being announced on the 8th July, so get Vine-ing!

To sign up for a free trial of NOW TV, click here!