Bag pipe player at Ashford Castle in County Mayo.

Bag pipe player at Ashford Castle in County Mayo.

In a day when gas prices are plummeting just as other travel costs are escalating, you can combine the two for some exceptional savings. But at the same time, you may as well treat yourself to some of the better things in life as you travel.

Red Carnation Hotels, a group of boutique hotels, is one of the better choices. At least that’s the opinion of readers of Travel & Leisure.

In an annual survey of readers, the magazine has announced that five of Red Carnation’s hotels have been awarded the “2016 World’s Best Hotels.” Adding sugar to the story, two of Red Carnation Hotels, London’s “41” and Ireland’s “Ashford Castle” were voted Number 1 in three different categories.

Also honored were the company’s Milestone Hotel, The Egerton House Hotel and the Chesterfield Mayfair were amongst the high ranking properties.

Jonathan Raggett, managing director of the boutique chain commented: “I am immensely proud of all the Red Carnation Hotels recognized among the world’s best by Travel & Leisure. Many of our hotels, especially the Number 1 properties-‘41’ and ‘Ashford Castle,’ continue to set the standards of excellence and luxury in the areas in which we operate.”

Ashford Castle was voted the best resort hotel in the United Kingdom and rated Number 6 in a new category, Best Resort Hotels in Europe.

This is especially interesting as Ashford Castle is a recent acquisition by Red Carnation and recently completed a three-year extensive restoration and enhancement program to lift it to its award-winning position.

Meanwhile another Red Carnation Hotel is channeling Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

London’s Chesterfield Mayfair has launched a new Afternoon Tea that has been inspired by Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which opened as a musical recently in the Theater Royal Drury Lane.

The Chesterfield’s tea is complete with Wonka Bars, everlasting gobstoppers and even Golden Tickets. The indulgent tea will take guests on a journey through the sweet, colorful and chocolaty world of Charlie and his friends.

Many of you may remember the movie version of Charlie, Willy Wonka, starring Gene Wilder.

The Chesterfield Mayfair has had along tradition of hosting afternoon tea and even received an award for excellence from the Tea Guild for “Outstanding Afternoon Tea.” Now who even knew there was such an organization as the Tea Guild. But they are guardians of proper tea in the U.K. The Chesterfield Mayfair received the prestigious award for three consecutive years.

Afternoon Tea has such iconic treats as: Oompa Loompa cupcakes, Golden Eggs, Blueberry Macaroons, Wonka Bars, Fizzy lifting cake, chocolate chip scones and fruit scones with clotted cream.

Conservatory

Afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair. Real men eat tea sandwiches, people.

Some of these items may sound foreign to American ears. That’s because they are foreign. Some are indigenous to the Willy Wonka story (Oompa Loompa and Golden Eggs), while others are considered a treat “…to die for…” as one Brit friend once commented. That would be the Clotted Cream. You may have to go to the UK or the Chesterfield Mayfair to sample that because there are precious few locations in the United States that have even heard of the delicacy.

Now let’s look at the Tea Menu: There is a selection of savory finger sandwiches, with guests having an everlasting gobstopper (no idea what that is), a candy cane, lollipop and golden ticket to take home.

The Golden Ticket is tucked inside a closed envelope and offers the guest a variety of treats that range from a two-night weekend stay at a junior suite to complimentary magnums of champagne (for the big kids). Every Golden Ticket is a guaranteed winner.

There is a kicker, however. Open the envelope too soon and the prize vaporizes. Guests are only permitted to open the envelope upon the next visit to the Chesterfield Mayfair.

The promotion is only available through September and the tab is $45 per person plus the inevitable service charge. It is held in Butler’s restaurant at the hotel. For information and reservations, check out the hotel online at www.chesterfieldmayfair.com. You can also email at meetch@rchmail.com.

A word about Africa

Looking for something a bit more exciting? Check out African Travel’s travel itinerary themed to Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

The tour, “In the footsteps of Mandela,” offers encounters with the people and places he influenced in his efforts to end apartheid.

South Africa is one of the most stunning and beautiful nations in the world. From SOWETO (SouthWestTownship and home to the once segregated black Africans) to Kruger National Park, guests will sample and enjoy this beautiful country.

At Kapama Private Game Reserve near Kruger, guests will see game drives and the opportunity to see some of Africa’s most prized wild animals in their natural habitat. There’ll be hippos, antelope, zebra, giraffe, and maybe even a lion or two.

For information check out www.africantravelinc.com.

images source: Red Carnation Hotels

Bob & Sandy Nesoff are members, American Society of Journalists and authors, North American Travel Journalists Association

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