On My Horizon English Countryside – The Newt in Somerset.

Most U.S. travelers lack a several hundred-year-old charming countryside manor for a weekend escape, the peripheries of London are teeming with choices, and we recommend staying at several for various reasons. The moment I met our rep for this palatial property, I knew I had to visit. Just the charming, oh so Very Very British name intrigued me. I’ve visited numerous U.K manor homes and adore all of them, oh to be two hours away from these glorious estates! One recent post, Meet the Shepherdess – who has a shepherdess to care for the lambs grown on property!?

My travel mantra – each of us has a unique fingerprint and thus the proper hotel or manor house may be suitable for one but not another. We solve the mystery.

Just a two-hour drive from London, and not far from the mythical Stonehenge, The Newt in Somerset is one of England’s most stunning luxury hotels. Named one of the World’s Best Hotels in 2023, it’s barely a 2.5-hour train ride from London. Full report coming soon after my Somerset Stopover!

The Newt in Somerset, is a magical 1,000-acre estate in a postcard perfect area of villages, nestled between the small market villages Bruton and Castle Cary in the English countryside. A working Georgian country farmland estate, perfectly manicured labyrinthine gardens, orchards, woodlands, and blooming grounds. The 42 spacious rooms are divided between Hadspen House, its outbuildings, and the Farmyard, a bike or buggy ride away. The heart is Hadspen House, a restored 17th-century honeyed limestone manor surrounded by luxurious lawns.

Inside the house, the ambience is elegant, yet homey and enormously comfortable, enjoy settling in graceful rooms and snug nooks with a cozy living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Stately portraits of the Hobhouse family who lived at Hadspen for over two centuries, gaze over the guests.  I’m looking forward to an evening tipple in the gilded cocktail bar.

The Newt offers enough activities to keep guests on property or off and amused for days. A heated pool is not the only buzz, sign up for honey tasting and explore the Beezantium, a building designed to portray the world from a bee’s perspective.

Be transported back to Roman Britannia; explore a reimagined Roman Villa with mosaics and pastel frescoes created next to unearthed Roman ruins, walk in the footsteps of our Roman ancestors in the reimagined Villa Ventorum.

The owners, South African billionaire, and tech magnate Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos are known for their sumptuous Babylonstoren in South Africa. Its gardens are sculpted on those of the Dutch East India Company with wine as the primary draw. Their UK goal was a country manor home with cider orchards. Babylonstoren is wine centric, The Newt is all about cider or as ‘cyder’ as it is locally described. Three hundred types of apple trees growing in the expansive orchards contribute to the cyder production.

The spa includes an inside outside heated pool, a hammam and a rasul mud chamber. A choice of Turkish and Moroccan hammam experiences promise Top to Toe Indulgences. My Hammam experience is reserved!

Nearby, if you must leave, consider these options: this pocket of Somerset possesses utterly praise worthy bona fides. The village of Bruton has an outpost of London based, well-known Hauser & Wirth art gallery surrounded by a Piet Oudolf-designed Garden, and a Farm Stop.  

Just down the lane, nestled in the countryside village of Batcombe, tuck in for lunch or supper at The Three Horseshoes, an AA Rosette Starred restaurant. A quaint 17th Century local Inn with country pub, excellent dining, and an Inn. Cookery from esteemed chef Margot Henderson, whose food celebrates craftsmanship & community. She and her husband Fergus are well known in the kitchens of British chefs.

Fine ales, and fresh, seasonal ingredients with modern British cuisines from their famous signature dishes to traditional favorites such as pies, steaks, gourmet burgers and roasts. Drawing from local ingredients and farms, using seasonal fruit and vegetables in support of their local farming community, most of their meat comes from Stafforshire farms. The Longhorn Beef comes from Will Pearson’s Dunwood Farm in Longsdon, just 5 miles away, and the lamb mainly from Tom Allen in Foxt, just under 10 miles away.

Did you know: Why pubs are called Three Horseshoes? The coat of arms of The Worshipful Company of Farriers, dating back to 1356, depicts three horseshoes illustrating their trade, and whenever a pub takes on the name of The Three Horseshoes it tells you that there used to be a blacksmith or farriers nearby; the name derives from the belief that when a horse lost its shoe, the horse’s rider would have no choice but to stop at the nearest coaching inn on their journey to re-shoe his horse and thus when they arrived, the horse wore only three shoes instead of four.

Full reviews and personal photos on my return.

Say Yes to Soaked and Slathered! Morocco Hammam.

During a recent spa afternoon with my dearest friend and her visiting daughter, we chatted about about Hammams in Turkey and Morocco. I laughingly explained that there are no similarities in a U.S. Spa procedure compared to a Hammam in Morocco or Turkey.

My first Hammam Istanbul

When visiting Morocco, there are several Must Do’s: try tajine, haggle with a souk vendor, visit a hammam! Scrubbing by a stranger is an enlightening experience.

My first scrub was in the oldest public Hammam in Istanbul, where the female attendants in black underwear spoke no English – nor do I speak Turkish. Led by hand, like a child, the guest is often required to wear totally useless paper undies. A massive round heated marble slab covered with other paper panty clothed women is the first step, washed with buckets of warm bubbly water, we then gingerly sloshed across the marble floor to small private room, watery light emanated from sapphire glass in the domed ceiling. Deep steaming before the vigorous body scrub. A question in Turkish, I nodded yes, the response: a brass bucket of water hurled at my head! Waterboarding was my first thought, no, merely hair wash.

Marble is the key building component in these glorious ancient bathing palaces, I am always in awe, no matter the city.

The Hammam is one of the most ancient wellness rituals in the world.  For centuries in Arabia, the ritual was propagated by the Turks. When the Ottomans discovered Roman bath habits and combined these with their own, a whole new divinely purifying ritual emerged.

The process is similar in Morocco, I am a dedicated hammam junkie – every six days, I willingly let a stranger scrub me spotless, polish my skin and wash my hair by tossing a bucket of water at me. A practiced Hammam expert, I now know when the water bombardment treatment begins. The language complications are still widespread, Madame Like? Is Good?

In the old cities of Morocco, every public square has five things: a Koran school for children, a Mosque, a communal oven, a public fountain and a hammam. Public baths or hammams are an important ritual. Old Hammams in Morocco consists of a similar 3 room structure and offer a similar bathing procedure as the Turkish Hammam. Located near a mosque, they facilitate the purification of body and soul before prayers.

A five-star hotel, of course, offers an utterly luxurious experience! Marble palaces oozing opulence, dreamlike brass lanterns splash light patterns across marble or intricate tiled walls, scented steam, and a reverential hush create an intimate sanctuary devoted to your senses. Hammam is a fully immersive traditional treatment at most hotels. Just nod Yes!

In Marrakech, our exceptional guide took me to the oldest Hammam in Marrakech, Hammam Mouassine, built in 1562. Walking underground, he introduced me to the men who feed a hot fire all day and night to heat the huge water cauldrons which produce the steam in the hammam! I love that technology has not replaced these men; if you know where to look, ancient culture is still in place in many locales.  In the medina, a heap of wood and fragrant smoke usually leads to a community oven or here, to the underground caldron in the oldest hammam. Astonishing – a modern city which treasures its culture and history.

La Sultana Hammam

Customarily, the heat for the Moroccan hammam is provided by the farnatchi, the man in charge of tending the fire beneath the bathhouse that heats its floors and walls.  Women would bring a ceramic urn known as a tanjia of a beef stew to cook outside the fire all day – one of these pots was resting at the edge of the stove. Tanjia is the name of both the stew and the ceramic urn it’s cooked in.

You don’t need to drag the tubs of black scrubbing soap home, it’s available online! Elbahya Moroccan Black Soap for Hammam. With Eucalyptus and Olive Moroccan black soap also known as hammam beldi soap have been used for centuries to clean and nourish skin with vitamins and minerals. Made with olive oil and olive paste, this soap is extremely rich in vitamin-e it is a great moisturizer and emollient.

An ancient ritual as integral to Moroccan life as mint tea and tajine. Every Saturday is scrub day in my shower!