Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, The Getaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Getaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

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Shopping in Queens Centre– the most diverse borough in NYC

As some of you know I love shopping. I was in New York City over the Thanksgiving period and as a result I was able to do some Black Friday shopping. The options on where to shop whilst in New York are all but limitless. New York has some of the best department stores in the world, including Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and countless Fifth Avenue boutique shops. I was advised by my friend to go shopping in Queens Center and I really enjoyed it. I love shopping and for all the shopaholics among us, a destination filled with shops, boutiques as well as eateries to escape the busy hustle and bustle of shops sounds like the ideal day out. Well for me, it certainly was as I left my husband at the hotel after our breakfast and spent my day at Queens Centre. I ended up being there for 6 hours and came back with multiple shopping bags filled with goods from Kiko Milano, Gap and my beautiful new handbag and pouch from Armani Exchange in addition to some other bits and bobs. In addition, I also managed to collect almost 19,000 steps on my iWatch. Clearly shopping is not only good for your mind. I often go shopping to treat myself when I am stressed but what I also realized that it clearly made me more active on that day.

Stores: 

The Queens Centre has recently been renovated and offers its visitors an opportunity to shop in the modern, spacious surroundings. I discovered that Queens Center attracts nearly 27 million shoppers annually, compared to:
– 20 million visitors to Niagara Falls
– 17.4 million visitors to Disneyland
That is more than the combined, annual total number of visitors to: The Eiffel Tower (7 million) or The Statue of Liberty (4.2 million) so you should definitely check it out!

Everyone can find the brands they like in there ranging from a very popular JCPenney’s and Macy’s, Apple, A|X Armani Exchange, to all other known retailers such as TDisney Store, Hollister, MAC, Swarovski, Forever 21, H&M or Michael Kors. I went to many of these stores and managed to splash some cash on the goods from GAP, Kiko Milano, Armani Exchange as well as some small bits and bobs from the other brands. I was offered a first class suburban shopping experience in an urban environment.

If you feel you need a break from all the shopping, it makes sense to enjoy one of the eateries. In addition, you can also grab some chocolates from Godiva or a piece of cake from The Cheescake Factory to enjoy later.

Discounts: 

As I was in Queens Centre during the Black Friday the discounts were pretty hefty however if you decide to visit this great mall during other periods of the year then some special discounts are available to all out-of-town guests. When I went to the Concierge (that is located at the top floor of the mall) and provided her with my Business Card I received the Visitors Savings URL and the secret Password that gave me the access to the deals! You should definitely check it out!

Location & how to get there:

Queens Centre is located in the heart of Queens in Elmhurst in New York. Queens is a dynamic borough rich in Arts & Culture and can be described as the most diverse borough in New York City.  If you would like to experience live entertainment, music performances or art galleries then you should definitely add it to your travel itinerary whilst in NYC.

Queens Centre is easily accessible by public transport – I took a subway train to get there and it only took 35 min from Manhattan. It is well placed and a mass transit hub, at the intersections of Queens Boulevard, the Long Island Expressway and Woodhaven
Boulevard.

Opening hours :

These opening hours change during the special events like i.e. Black Friday when Queens Centre was open until 2a.m. but usually the Queens Centre is open until 10 p.m. at most days.

Address:

90-15 Queens Blvd

Elmhurst, NY 11373

Website: 

http://www.shopqueenscenter.com/

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Pauline

Christmas Gift Edit

As Christmas approaches, I started thinking about what to get for my friends and family. Chocolates and socks are a necessity but what else can you get to make the people you care about happy? As a result of my search, I put together a shortlist of products that I could consider for my closest family members-my husband, my parents and my sister. I hope you find my suggestions useful and if you decide to buy any of the items listed below then I hope that the person you get them for will appreciate them.

Firstly, I wanted to get something special for my husband. He is going to get a few small presents and as he loves his roast dinners I decided to get him the ‘Christmas Roast Dinner Box’ from Ross & Ross. Ross and Ross is a small, multi award winning fine food company based in the Cotswolds. It specializes in Wedding & Event Catering and Handmade British food gifts.

The owners Ross Bearman and Ross Whitmill share a passion for great British food. They have worked in the fine food industry for over 15 years. Their website offers a range of fine-food gift boxes and last year they expanded the popular Man Box collection to include a cider variety in addition to launching The Homemade Curing Kit. I have previously bought my husband The XL Man Box from their website and he loved it so when I saw this limited edition Christmas Box, it was a no brainer and I bought it for him immediately. Christmas Roast Dinner Box has everything you need to make your Christmas dinner that extra bit amazing and more tasty. The box contains:
– Roast Potato Oil
– Pigs in Blankets Dust
– Roast Turkey Rub
– Brussel Sprouts Dust

For more gift ideas, please check their website:

https://www.rossandrossfood.co.uk/shop/

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What’s more, as we both love traveling I decided to get him the Adventure Map from Firebox. If you like scratch maps then the adventure map offers a new twist and is aimed at explorers who are willing to take risks or to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences.

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The Adventure Map features over 280 adventurous bucket list experiences, which can be uncovered as they’re completed. It is a perfect gift and I am sure that my husband will love it. What’s most important though we will be able to experience and share these experiences together-I cannot wait to decide where to go and what to do next!

If you would like to order your own Adventure Map then go to:

https://www.firebox.com/Adventure-Map/p7996

Secondly, I thought about my parents. I always get them a joint present that they can enjoy together in addition to their favourite perfumes. I recently came across The ‘Happy Linen Company’ that produces beautiful bedding exclusively designed for them. The business was founded at the beginning of 2017 by a team passionate about the unique prints and linens. The company offers a range of exclusive bed sets made from the finest blended cotton, 100% cotton flannels and fantastic children’s curtains. The goal of its owners is to establish an affordable, ‘go-to’ brand for bed linen. I decided to order a beautiful duvet cover & pillow case set with a Nordic inspired festive Scandi print. I love the fact that this set is reversible so my parents will get 2 great designs in one set. All Happy Linen Company’s goods are created using a blend of high quality natural cotton and polyester ensuring a soft, durable, easy care finish. Nobody can ever have too much bedding and my parents love changing theirs regularly so I am sure that they will be happy with it.

For more beautiful bedding, please check their website:

https://happylinencompany.co.uk

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Thirdly, I wanted to get something personal for my older sister. I have recently discovered Scrumpies of Mayfair-a British brand that got their name from going to ‘scrump’ apples from an orchard – a very unique British form of mischief. A range of Scrumpies knickers caters for every personality and each of 8 unique styles are named after a different apple. The brand was established by a married couple who retired from their careers as international lawyers to design these stylish knickers. I have instantly fell in love with their designs which only use the highest quality fabrics like British silk, French lace and Czech crystals. Scrumpies of Mayfair are a perfect Christmas gift and they come beautifully packaged in a blue box. Each of the boxes also contains a unique collectable charm which can be worn in many ways. How many charms will you collect?

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I decided to get a pair of Northern Lights knickers for my sister as they are very chic and elegant. They look absolutely perfect and I am sure that she will like them.

To purchase any Scrumpies of Mayfair’s knickers visit their website:

https://scrumpiesofmayfair.com/

In addition, she loves to watch box-sets and Netfix with a cup of tea whilst being wrapped up in a warm blanket so got her some traditional English tea, some shortbread biscuits to go with it and a super-soft blanket from Heat Holders. It will not only make a superb Christmas gift, but make the perfect addition to any home. The blanket comes in 16 colours and it is sized at 180cm x 200cm. I decided to get it in Cherry shade. What I like about Heat Holders blankets is that they have adapted their unique thermal technology to produce these luxury premium fleece blankets, which achieve a toasty 1.4 tog rating. In addition Heat Holders blankets are fully machine washable so easy to care for.

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For more information and to purchase visit www.heatholders.co.uk

I hope that this review will give you some ideas and help you to come up with a perfect gift for your dad

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Pauline

 

The House Ribeira Hotel in Porto, Portugal

Last week, I was with my husband in Portugal for 4 days. This time we visited a picturesque city of Porto and stayed at the trendy House Ribeira Hotel which was transformed into a modern hotel from an abandoned ballet school and theatre.

Atmosphere:

As soon as we entered this trendy, boutique hotel we felt welcomed and the front desk staff were extremely accommodating. As we had a very early morning flight and arrived at the hotel at 10a.m., we dropped our bags and took some advice from the receptionist who recommended for us to take one of the bus tours. When we came back to hotel, around 5p.m. on that day we were welcomed with a glass of Port wine whilst filling in the paperwork-a really nice touch that made us feel appreciated and welcomed.

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The hotel is addressed to a modern, urban audience that seeks not only a great place to stay during their travels but also the authenticity of this marvellous city.

Location:

The House Ribeira Hotel is superbly situated in the centre of Porto’s downtown area. The river is only a minute away by foot and there are lots of restaurants and cafes nearby. The nearest station (Sao Bento) is only 700m away. The main square is only around 15 minutes walk from the hotel and the shopping district and the famous Rue Santa Caterina street is around 10 min walk from the hotel.  Most other key attractions (i.e. Alfandega do Porto, Luis I Bridge, Port Wine Cellars, Palacio da Bosa) are within walking distance making it a perfect place to stay whilst in Porto.

The Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport airport is around 20-30 min from the hotel and the taxi costs around 30-40 Euros.

Facilities:

The House Ribeira Hotel has only 56 rooms spread over 6 floors. The hotel’s design is meant to make you ‘feel like home’.

This theme is visible everywhere, starting from the reception, moving to the bar and breakfast area and ending in the rooms. If you like a modern, funky look then you will love the sitting in one of the multifunctional areas located at the opposite sides of the reception.

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They are furnished with a mix of bench seating, with some interesting cushions and colourful stools, which create a modern, vibrant and colourful look.

Next to reception, there is an open refrigerator stocking a selection of 24/7 ‘grab and go’ packaged sandwiches, snacks and fruit juices. Nice when you just need to get a quick snack on the go.

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Daily breakfast service is available from 7:30a.m.-11a.m. and the cafeteria is open from 1p.m. -11p.m.

Room:

We stayed in a premium room located on the forth floor . Our room was equipped with a private bathroom, interactive TV,  mini bar with a selection of soft drinks and wine, safe, air conditioning. There was a free Wi-Fi available throughout the property. Our bed was comfortable and the room had a simple, modern design. There was a walk in wardrobe as well as study desk with 2 chairs.

Our bathroom had a contemporary, open-plan design with glass-panelled toilet and shower cubicles. Some basic toiletries were provided.

Overall experience:

Although, we were in Porto for only 3 nights, we had a great stay at the House Ribeira Hotel. The hotel has a perfect location, staff was extremely friendly and our room was comfortable and  modern. I would definitely recommend it to any travellers who enjoy chic looking surroundings and like to feel like home whilst away.

If you consider visiting Porto then you can book your stay at The House Ribeira hotel through Booking.com. In addition, if you book your accommodation via this referral link, you’ll get £20 in cash.

Address:

Rua do Infante D. Henrique 26,

4050-492 Porto,

Portugal

Website:

http://www.shotels.pt/thehouse/home

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Bank Holiday stay at Fishmore Hall Hotel in Ludlow, UK

2 weeks ago, we decided to travel to Shropshire for an extended Bank Holiday weekend.  We left London during the early afternoon and after a few hours drive we arrived at Fishmore Hall hotel in Ludlow.

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Atmosphere:

Fishmore Hall has a very informal atmosphere and from the moment we stepped in to check-in until the moment we checked-out we felt welcomed. All the staff were friendly and professional.

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Location:

Fishmore Hall is situated in Shropshire, around a 3 hour drive from London on the outskirts of Ludlow. The town is well-known for its food festival, interesting shops and historic castle. It is a great holiday destination with many walking trails and sightseeing opportunities to meet the demands of even the most demanding travellers.

 

The beautiful view of Brown Clee Hill and Titterstone Clee Hill can be enjoyed from some of the hotel’s bedrooms or its garden. We spent a romantic afternoon overlooking the fields and rolling hills whilst having a few drinks in the hotels relaxation area located in its gardens.

Dining in an elegant atmosphere may be enjoyed in the restaurant at Fishmore Hall, with views across the beautiful countryside through the large French windows. Afternoon Tea upon arrival may be arranged.
Within close proximity to the hotel are activities ranging from golf to fishing and horse riding. Fishmore Hall is just 1 miles from Ludlow, famous for its food festival, restaurants, shops and historic castle.

Facilities:

Fishmore Hall Hotel has been awarded 3 red star status by the AA. Red Star hotels represent the most outstanding examples in each star category and signify the best in the British Isles.

Forelles Fine Dinning restaurant offers classically based modern British cuisine and welcomes both residents and non-residents who can choose from 2 A La Carte Menus. We decided to have our dinners in there and we weren’t disappointed – both menus were delicious. For guests looking for a more relaxed dining experience, light meals and snacks are available in the elegant setting of the Brasserie. In addition, guests can enjoy a Classic Afternoon Tea which was recommended as one of the best afternoon teas in Shropshire.

 

All visitors can also relax at the guest lounge with and have a drink at the bar which offers a nice selection of drinks and cocktails.

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If, like me, you enjoy having a moment to yourself and a bit of pampering then you will love that the Fishmore Hall Hotel has a luxurious spa – SPA SHELL- overlooking the Shropshire hills.

 

The SPA SHELL features a sauna, steam room, and an outdoor whirlpool. A range of prestigious Elemis treatments and massages are available.

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I decided to have Elemis Garden of England Rose Massage whilst my husband had a classic Full Body Massage. We both really enjoyed the spa facilities and our massages.

 

Room:

Fishmore Hall Hotel is a privately-owned boutique hotel that offers a plenty of rooms to choose from. We stayed in the Executive room (no. 5) which was deeply comfortable, elegant and sexy.

It had a flat screen TV and a very comfortable king-size bed. In addition, there was a desk, table and chairs, and a complimentary Wi-Fi. Our mini bar was stocked up with some local goodies and some complimentary milk and water were given.

 

Our bathroom was spacious and walk in shower as well as a separate bath. Some soft towels, bath robes and slippers were provided. The bathroom was equipped with a selection of exclusive Elemis toiletries.

 

Overall experience:

Although, we stayed only for 2 nights, we had a very relaxing time at Fishmore Hall Hotel. It is a place where you could be assured of being personally pampered in beautiful rural surroundings in a modern SPA, in addition to being able to unwind in peace and quiet whilst admiring the surrounding nature. What’s more, if you are a bit of a foodie then the hotel’s restaurant will definitely meet your expectations as it offers excellent locally-sourced food.

 

If you consider visiting Ludlow then you can book your stay at Fishmore Hall through Booking.com. In addition, if you book your accommodation via this referral link, you’ll get £20 in cash.

Address:

Fishmore Road
Ludlow
Shropshire
SY8 3DP

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

CAKE Restaurant Payment app

Do you live or work in central London? If you do then I would like to tell you about CAKE – the new payment application for Londoners. I decided to give it a go as I go out regularly and the application promises to make it easier to enjoy London’s best restaurants and bars.

You can pay or split your bill all in one app.

Firstly, you can plan where to eat by browsing the places nearby or see a full list of places where you can pay with the app when you tap ‘Explore’.

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As soon as you are sure where you would like to go for your meal or drinks you can contact the venue to request a table.

There is a good selection of restaurants and bars to choose from. Some of the restaurants that CAKE collaborates with are:

  • Rum Kitchen
  • Bunga Bunga
  • Tonteria
  • Lima
  • 100 Kensington
  • Aroma Italia
  • Bar American

As my husband loves Indian food, on Tuesday we decided to book a table at Cinnamon Bazaar located in Covent Garden.

The experience:

After we had our meal at Cinnamon Bazaar we let our server know that we wanted to pay with CAKE. The payment was simple-when I opened a tab in the app and showed my reference number to my waiter who then connected my bill to the app. The payment amount owed was shown in the app and when I approved it the payment was made. There was also an option to split a bill with other dinners which would be really handy if you went out with friends.

Overall experience:

I really enjoyed using CAKE app as it gives anyone opportunity to browse and pay for your meal at many local cafes and restaurants. In addition, the app offers you the possibility to quickly split your bill if you decide to use it while out with your friends.

Hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Henley Royal Regatta, Henley-on-Thames

I have recently experienced Henley Royal Regatta with my colleagues.

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If you are keen on watching some exciting rowing events then Henley Royal Regatta is definitely an event you should attend. It is held annually on the River Thames in the picturesque town of Henley-on-Thames.

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It has a long tradition dating back to 1839 and the event lasts for five days (Wednesday to Sunday) ending normally on the first weekend in July.

The races are over a course of 1 mile and many home and international teams compete in it every year. The regatta pre-dates both national or international rowing organisation and it has its own rules.

We were lucky to be invited to join the Royal Stewards Enclosure.

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It is situated on the Berkshire bank, opposite the Finish Line and reserved for Members and their Guests. Stuarts are responsible for organising the event and in many cases are former rowers themselves. The Stewards Enclosure has a very strict dress code. A lounge suit or jacket with flannels and a tie or cravat is required for men and dresses and skirts (hemlines beneath the knee) are required for women.

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The regatta is known to be one of the most prestigious events of the English social season and lots of celebrities visit the Royal Stewards Enclosure yearly. Some of my colleagues saw George Clooney who lives not far from Henley enjoying the event.

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We had a lovely day out as a team. As the weather was amazing it was really relaxing and whilst I was sipping my Champagne I almost forgot that I was at the work event!

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I would definitely recommend attending but be careful what you wear as if you do not meet the strict dress code, you’ll be turned away.

Hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline