Chewton Glen in Hampshire, England

When I was writing this piece for my National Geographic Urban Insider blog, I realized that I never posted pictures of Chewton Glen, an iconic British hotel in Hampshire, England with gorgeous grounds, gardens, and rooms. It was an absolute whirlwind of a visit (less than 24 hours) but I fell madly in love and will go back, especially since they recently unveiled Treehouse Suites - think breakfast in a hamper and your own private balcony in the forest. My friend Hanna, who was living in England at the time, came and stayed with me and I was so tempted to cancel the next portion of my trip and catch up with Hanna for 3 days here.

The first thing I noticed were the green Hunter wellies lined up in the lobby. I wanted to throw on a pair and go on an English walk to the seaside, which was close, or go clay pigeon shooting. There are deliciously cozy corners of the lobby to sink into, fine dining at Vetiver (Hanna and I ate dinner there and then ordered dessert in our room), tennis, golf, a spa, and hiking trails. It really is the most beautiful country house hotel, privately owned and also part of Relais & Châteaux.

Hanna lounging in our roomLight streaming in our roomThe spa pool Cozy couchReception areaBreakfastMain Entrance

2012 to 2013: Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Oh, The Places You'll Go! There's no better book for a graduation gift than this Dr. Seuss classic. I've cherished my three copies for years and love reading it at the end of each year. And oh, what a year this was! Here's to more adventure in 2013 - Happy New Year!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”

San FranciscoPenzance, Cornwall, EnglandIsles of Scilly, EnglandLondonCoworth Park, EnglandChewton Glen, Hampshire, EnglandBath, EnglandStratford, EnglandThe Cotswolds, EnglandHighclere Castle aka Downton AbbeyColonial WilliamsburgFlorence, ItalyVenice, Italy Ravello, Amalfi Coast, ItalyScottsdale, Arizona (hometown!)Kiawah, South CarolinaMiddleton Place - Charleston, South CarolinaNevis, Caribbean

Gold Coast, AustraliaO'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, AustraliaHamptonsLake George, Adirondacks, New YorkThimble Islands, ConnecticutNewport, Rhode IslandMission Hill, British Columbia, CanadaLas VegasLos Angeles (twice!)Cusco, PeruMachu PicchuSacred Valley, PeruBarcelonaZurichHudson Valley, New YorkBudapest, HungaryVienna, AustriaPrague, Czech Republic

Washington, D.C.New York City - Home

Lime Wood Hotel, Hampshire, England

The New Forest in Hampshire (post and pics of thatched roofs! ponies! boats! scones! here) is the fairy tale land of England. And when I got to Lime Wood Hotel, a truly perfect country house hotel, I thought there would surely be hundreds of forest fairies and pixie dust. The main building was a hunting lodge in the 13th-century, now impeccably restored to a fresh, comfortable, quirky, beautiful getaway. I could easily have spent 3 days exploring the bike trails and yoga classes, and drinking bottomless cups of Earl Grey at afternoon tea.

Just look at these two. Wish you were them? Me too!

Prepping for afternoon teaI loved the table settings in the dining room

My favorite spot for teaMy other favorite spot for tea, the indoor courtyardAfternoon at Lime Wood English gardensFeels like home! Drinks outsideSpa Pool Love at first sight - the reception areaRoof Garden

GymMain Entrance

The New Forest, Hampshire, England

Thatched roof homes, cozy country pubs, tiny towns, and beautiful vistas that stretch for miles close to the English Channel: this is The New Forest in Hampshire, England. Just 2 hours from London, the area is now a National Park but was first used as a royal hunting area for William the Conqueror in 1079. Think Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, part of which was filmed here. More than anywhere else, this is the England where fairies seem to hide in trees and where lifting up a rock might reveal magic dust.

The best part of The New Forest is how many of its traditions live on - New Forest ponies are allowed to roam free, and I had to stop my car often to let them pass. In the fall, a historic custom continues as hundreds of pigs are let loose to eat fallen acorns and other nuts that are poisonous to the ponies and cattle, typically for 6-8 weeks. The pigs must be marked by their owners and from this ritual, known as pannage, comes delicious acorn-fed pork sold in the late fall.

Besides the great hotels in the area (Chewton Glen, The Pig, and Lime Wood are the best), I also loved afternoon tea at The Stanwell House in Lymington, an adorable little town on the water.

The Stanwell House, LymingtonAfternoon tea at The Stanwell HouseLymingtonBoats in Lymington

Perfect English day Thatched roof - found everywhere in The New ForestThe Fox & The Hound Pub The New Forest Inn - a country pub with 4 rooms available to rent