Weekly roundup: competitions, holiday inspiration and culinary delights

This new weekly feature offers a roundup of the content on our blog from the past week, in case you missed anything. Split into categories, it’s another way for you to easily find the posts of value to you.

13 – 19 June

Exclusive offers and competitions

Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

Could you win a trip with flights to Constance Le Prince Maurice in Mauritius?

Only 2 days to go to win the holiday of a lifetime!
The deadline for entry to our Win a 5 Star Holiday to Mauritius competition is looming – if you haven’t entered yet, do so before midnight GMT on Wednesday 22 June!

New competition: the item I can’t go on holiday without is…
This week we launched a new week long competition on our blog, twitter and Facebook page. Winners can choose from a magnum of champagne, a Serge Lutens fragrance or a bottle of wine.

Competition winners announced: Most Romantic Holiday Pictures
We announced the winner’s of last week’s Twitter competition to win a bottle of Deutz Champagne – all they had to do was enter their most romantic holiday snaps to us.

Culinary

Constance Belle Mare Plage, Blue Penny table decorations

Constance Belle Mare Plage, Blue Penny

Recipe: chicken and prawn fricassee, stewed Chinese bredes with boucane
Want to create some of our chef’s amazing dishes yourself at home? Every Friday, we post some of the most amazing, delicious and popular recipes online. Why not try this chicken and prawn fricassee out at your next dinner party?

Constance Star Martini
Talking of dinner parties, why not kick things off with this unique cocktail created by our very own head bartender, Guillaume Grafeuille?

Inspiration

Frog, Madagascar

Frog, Madagascar

Holiday inspiration: Madagascar – walks on the wild side
Planning the trip of a lifetime and need some inspiration? Our regular ‘holiday inspiration’ features will give you the information you need. Last week, we gave you the low down on the unique island of Madagascar, where the Constance Tsarabanjina Lodge is located.

Spa & Sports

Fish underwater in the Maldives

Snorkeling in the Maldives

Snorkeling paradise: The Maldives
Love snorkeling? Then you’ll love the Maldives. Check out our guide to what makes snorkeling in the Maldives a unique experience.

US Open Golf 2011 gets underway, 16–19 June
The US Open got underway last week and as Constance Hotels Experience has some championship golf courses of our very own, we thought we’d tell you the places you can find out all you need to know about the Open.

News and Events

Winners of 2011 Le Prince Maurice prize for literature

Winners of 2011 Le Prince Maurice prize for literature

Le Prince Maurice Prize for romantic literature
The winner of the 2011 Le Prince Maurice Prize was announced last week at a wonderful awards ceremony in Mauritius. Find out who won and see photos from the evening here.

BBC Good Food Show Summer 2011
A round up the BBC’s Good Food Show from Summer 2011 in the UK.

Holiday inspiration: Madagascar – walks on the wild side

Bungalow at Lodge Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Bungalow at Lodge Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is brimming with lush forests, endemic wildlife, coral reefs and mile upon mile of beautiful beaches.

Visitors to the island are spoilt for choice when it comes to discovering the natural landscape. There are a number of different walks and tours you can do around the island, depending on how adventurous you want to be and your fitness levels.

Easy walking – Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Lemur, Madagascar

Lemur, Madagascar

If you prefer to see the island’s best known animals – the tree-dwelling lemurs – without too much difficulty, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is an easy drive east from the capital Antananarivo. Andasibe (also known as Perinet) and Mantadia are, in fact, two parks adjacent to each other.

At Andasibe there are well marked, flat trails through the lush humid forest covered with moss, ferns and over 100 species of orchid that bloom from September – January.

Due to the number of visitors to the park, the wildlife is fairly used to humans. You’re likely to see the largest lemur, the indri, as well as bamboo and brown lemurs. Their loud calls echo through the forests in the early morning and again in the late afternoon.

There are over 100 different species of birds including the Madagascar baza, wagtail, yellowbrow and vanga. You’ll also find chameleons, geckos and a host of insects in the thick undergrowth.

Mantadia is larger and more remote than its neighbour, situated 15km north of Andasibe. Less visited by tourists, the trails are more varied, steeper and can be slippery after rain. There are several short circuits to choose from.

The park is home to many lemurs including the rare black and white ruffed lemurs. Rare birds including mesites, ground rollers, greenbuls and asitys have all been spotted here.

For the more adventurous – Ankarana National Park

Chameleon, Madagascar

Chameleon, Madagascar

If you like the idea of wildlife but also want to get off the beaten track and enjoy a challenging hike, then Ankarana National Park in the north of the island is the place to head. It’s recommended that you hire a guide to take you into the park.

Ankarana’s defining feature is the ‘tsingy’ – spectacular eroded limestone spires, set against tropical rainforest, deciduous forest, lakes, caves and canyons.

The reserve has a high number of primates, as well as large populations of crowned lemurs, black lemurs and dwarf lemurs. There are some 100 species of birds, as well as reptiles and frogs. The labyrinth of caves is home to 14 different species of bat and the world’s only cave-living crocodiles. Some of Madagascar’s endemic Baobab trees can also be found here.

There are a number of half day hikes you can take into the reserve.  If you’re looking for a longer trek, consult with your guide about options that can take in all of the locations listed below. The three entry points to the park are:

  • Mahamasina – the most accessible
  • to the West near Amboandriky, which requires a 4×4
  • North at Matsaborimanga, only accessible during the dry season.

For nature lovers looking for an all-out challenge – Marojejy National Park

Frog, Madagascar

Frog, Madagascar

If you want wild, breathtaking and unspoilt natural landscapes then Marojejy National Park to the North East of the island is undoubtedly one of the most impressive places you could visit in the world.

Some 90% of the park is covered with original primary forest. For years the park was only open to scientists, and so has remained relatively untouched. Marojejy was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Marojejy National Park is just one of two sites where the highly endangered silky sifaka lemur can be found, along with the Indri, bamboo and Weasel sportive lemurs among others. There are over 100 bird species, including the helmet vanga and short legged ground roller, some 60 frogs, and geckos and chameleons. There are at least 275 species of ferns and over 50 varieties of palms.

Typically, visitors to the park explore during a strenuous three day hike, entering the park at the main entrance of Andapa.

Constance Lodge Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Our luxury resort, Constance Lodge Tsarabanjina, is situated on the beautiful island of Madagascar. For more details and booking, visit the website.

Luxe accommodation for the holiday of a lifetime

Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

Stunning interiors at Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

If you think you know all there is to know about luxury apartments and villas, think again. From water villas on stilts to presidential suites like your own private hotel, there’s a lot more to luxury accommodation than you might think.

At Constance Hotels, all our suites and villas offer luxe or super-luxe accommodation that blends with the stunning natural landscape they’re part of – and that means each offers something a little special and unique to our visitors.

Whether you’re looking for classic tropical paradise or funky villas tucked away in the rainforest, the selection below gives you a taste of what you can expect upon arrival.

Maldives

Constance Moofushi is situated in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives archipelago. Our latest resort has won acclaim for its eco-approach and fashionable barefoot chic. All villas are exquisitely decorated using natural materials.

 

 

Constance Moofushi water villa

Constance Moofushi water villa

  • Beach Villas come with private sun deck, and ocean views from the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Water Villas set on stilts offer seclusion and direct access to the sea from a private sundeck.
  • Senior Water Villas are generously sized, and include a private outdoor bath tub, unobstructed views of the sunrise and direct access to the water.

Constance Halaveli is situated in the North Ari Atoll. Designed with privacy in mind, these villas all feature private plunge pools, are decorated in wood and marble, and are located on the beach or over the water. Guests can take advantage of in-villa dining, as well enjoying the resort’s restaurants.

Constance Halaveli water villa

Sleek interiors at Constance Halaveli water villa

  • Beach Villas enjoy a tropical garden backdrop, and are decorated using wood in contemporary Maldivian style. The double storey beach villas offer more space over two floors, with indoor and outdoor showers and a furnished terrace.
  • Water Villas are set along a jetty that weaves across the calm waters below. Offering romance and privacy for some perfect castaway moments, previous guests have found it hard to drag themselves away from these beautiful villas. Read their reviews of Constance Halaveli
  • Presidential Beach Villa is the ultimate in get-away-from-it-all luxury with a larger plunge pool, dining room and private gym.

Seychelles

Constance Ephelia is situated on two of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Mahé, overlooking the marine national park of Port Launay. Although a large resort, Ephelia enjoys a unique location and is designed to make you feel you’re the only people there.

Constance Ephelia hillside villas, bathroom

Decadent bathroom at Constance Ephelia hillside villas

  • There’s a great choice of Junior and Senior Suites, with Villas situated on the beach (all include a private pool) or atop the hillside looking across the water.
  • Spa Villas – if you need your senses pampering and a place to indulge and unwind, Ephelia’s sublime spa villas will bring harmony to your senses. They’re equipped with a large hot tub, steam shower, sauna, double treatment room for massages, spacious bedroom and tranquil gazebo area – perfect for meditation or cocktails, depending on the mood.
  • Presidential Villa is perfect for William and Kate style indulgence. The villa comes with breathtaking views across the sea, 3 bedrooms, its own gym, private spa, pool and outdoor lounge and dining area.

Constance Lémuria is set amidst lush vegetation on the pristine island of Praslin. The white sandy beaches of Anse Kerlan are turtle nesting sites, and are surrounded by rare flora and fauna.

Constance Lemuria Presidential Villa

Constance Lemuria Presidential Villa, Seychelles

Materials used in the sleek design of the resort include wood, marble, stone and pink granite.

  • Junior and Senior Suites offer intimacy and blend with the landscape, offering stunning views across the Indian Ocean. You can relax on your private terrace under the shade of the overhanging palm trees.
  • Luxurious Villas offer a bespoke service as they come complete with their own villa master who will tailor the Constance service to your individual requirements. The villas open directly on to the gardens and beach, and include lounge, dining room and swimming pool.
  • Presidential Villa at Lémuria offers all-out privacy and indulgence, more akin to staying in your own private hotel than a villa within a resort. Perched on the granite blocks of the southern tip of the Anse Kerlan, the villa comes with 3 suites, an outside Jacuzzi, study and dining room. The ultimate in decadence, there are 3 swimming pools situated at different levels, all leading to a private beach.

Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina offers a fabulous luxurious getaway on its own private island. Situated in the north-western part of Madagascar, Tsarabanjina is one of the islets of the Mitsio Archipelago.

Constance Tsarabanjina bungalow

Constance Tsarabanjina bungalow, Madagascar

If you want to play Robinson Crusoe without leaving behind your luxuries, this is the place to escape to. There’s no TV and no phones (apart from your mobile). Instead, you can enjoy the island paradise of white sandy beaches, lush tropical vegetation and coral reefs brimming with fish.

  • Each thatched roof bungalow overlooks the sea and is situated on either the north or south beach. This is 5 star luxury with the added bonus of total seclusion from the outside world.

Mauritius

Constance Le Prince Maurice is a boutique hotel on the eastern coast of Mauritius set on a peninsula protected from the winds.

Constance Le Prince Maurice suite on stilts

Constance Le Prince Maurice suite on stilts, Mauritius

  • Décor is inspired by the spice trade. Junior Suites have thatched roofs, indoor sitting area, bedroom, bathroom and private terrace or balcony. The Senior Villas offer direct access to the beach and a private pool or outdoor soaking bath.
  • The deluxe Princely Suite combines space, superb design and privacy. Made up of two junior and one senior suite it is set in its own garden, and comes complete with two pools and 3 private terraces each with a different view across the lagoon.

Constance Belle Mare Plage is set on the eastern coast of Mauritius, along a 2km white sand beach against a backdrop of 15 hectares (37 acres) of tropical gardens and protected by a coral reef.

Constance Belle Mare Plage junior suite bathroom

Constance Belle Mare Plage junior suite bathroom, Mauritius

  • Junior Suites, some beachfront, are equipped with private balcony or terrace. The Deluxe Suites face the sea, and include a living room and option to connect to a Prestige Room, ideal for families.
  • The Villas come with private pool, and evoke romance and tranquillity surrounded by small lakes, frangipani flowers and coconut groves.
  • The Presidential Villa is set in its own garden area, offering total privacy. The villa comes with lounge, dining room, kitchen, private pool and large veranda. Two villa masters attend to the needs of guests, making sure your stay is tailor-made for you.

The Constance Halaveli beach tandoori experience

At Constance Halaveli, in the Maldives, we offer a unique dining experience at our Meeru restaurant.

Nightime at Meeru beach restaurant, Constance Halaveli

Meeru beach restaurant at Constance Halaveli

The Halaveli tandoor oven is the first of its kind in the Indian Ocean - created for us by our Engineering Department.

Cooking delicious meat and fish dishes

Guests can enjoy a wide selection of top quality meat and fish, baked ‘à la minute’ in front of them directly on the beach. This cooking method preserves the integrity of the ingredients and ensures a perfect texture: crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.

The engineering behind the tandoor oven

The oven is based on a traditional Indian tandoor oven, and is similar in shape and the way it works. The tandoor is made out of a steel cylinder and lined with a combination of concrete and glass that is fused together by burning charcoal.

Constance Halaveli beach tandoor oven

Meat and fish taste delicious when cooked in the Constance Halaveli beach tandoor oven

It’s then buried in the sand with stones placed on the outside to insulate the heat. Compared to traditional models, the Halaveli tandoor oven reaches the extreme temperature of 700°C after being lit for approximately 5 hours and burns through 10 kgs of charcoal in an evening.

Seasoning the oven

Each new tandoor is ‘seasoned’ with a homemade spice mix (masala mix), which is unique to each tandoor Chef. The exquisite flavour of the food is the result of the combination of the shape, concrete and glass construction and the extreme high temperatures.

Tandoor oven at the Meeru beach restaurant, Constance Halaveli

Tandoor oven at the Meeru beach restaurant, Constance Halaveli

Read some of the rave reviews about Constance Halaveli on TripAdvisor posted recently. Find out more about the resort in our spotlight on Constance Halaveli.

5 tips to transform your dinner parties

Gone are the days of starched linen tablecloths, evening wear and passing the port to the left. Today’s dinner parties are all about a relaxed atmosphere, great conversation and simple, fresh food.

Kitchen as theatre

Contemporary kitchen dining room

Contemporary kitchen dining room

The formal dining room has given way to an open plan living area that incorporates the kitchen/dining area and comfy sofas where guests can relax. This lo-key luxe was epitomised by last week’s photo showing Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama sitting on a mustard yellow sofa in front of slim grey units in the newly refitted kitchen at Downing Street.

Inspired by TV shows and chefs like Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal, people’s confidence in their cooking skills is growing and they want to show them off – hence the new kitchen-come-living space. Couple this with a desire to bring people together over good food and wine, and you have the winning formula for a convivial and laid back evening.

What to serve

Fruit on sale at the market

Seasonal fresh food is always a winner

Local, fresh and seasonal food is the order of the day when planning your menu. Plan ahead so you’re not preparing everything at the last minute.  Go for a theme (Italian, Mexican etc) or select the main course, and decide on the other dishes to complement it. If your main course is rich, choose a lighter pudding and vice versa. Cheeseboards are popular too, and a great opportunity to introduce different wines.

Décor

If the evening goes well, your guests will be basking in a warm and inviting atmosphere conducive to great conversation. Keep the décor simple but elegant. Large colourful blooms in short vases can be stunning while a simple candelabra adds a perfect dash of romance to a table. And don’t forget, music really adds to the atmosphere.

Dining al fresco

Candles on the dining table

Dining by candlelight

If you’ve got the space, outdoor dining can be magical. Serve drinks at low tables surrounded by large scatter cushions. Paper lanterns along pathways and tealights in trees transform a garden into an enchanted space. Outdoor fires are a huge hit if your guests are staying late into the evening – go for chimineas or fire pits.

 

Guests – getting the perfect mix

Somewhere between 4 and 8 guests (including hosts) is the perfect number. Choose people you know get on, or have common interests. If you’re mixing singletons and couples, resist the temptation to play matchmaker. Let people know what the mood of the evening will be. Guests usually arrive up to half an hour late so be prepared beforehand and don’t overdo the chablis while you’re waiting for them to turn up.

Each week we publish some of our favourite recipes from the Constance kitchens for you to try at home.

Discover the Coco de Mer at Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island, Seychelles

Lying in the heart of Praslin Island, Seychelles, is Vallée de Mai  –  a National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the highly revered Coco de Mer seed.

Coco de mer

Coco de Mer is found at Vallee de Mai nature reserve on Praslin Island in the Seychelles

Vallée de Mai is the only place in the world where you’ll find Coco de Mer  - or the sea coconut.

Believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac and fertility symbol, the Coco de Mer is famous for its size and likeness to the female reproductive area.

The seed can weigh up to 30kg and grow to nearly 20 inches in diameter.

General Gordon of Khartoum believed that the prehistoric rainforest at Vallée de Mai was the original site of the Garden of Eden, and that the Coco de Mer was its forbidden fruit.

Today, visitors to the reserve can wander along sheltered pathways beneath the giant palm trees, whose leaves can measure 6m wide and 14 m long. Vallée de Mai is also home to five other endemic palms and fauna, and the rare the Seychelles Black Parrot.

Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, were presented with a rare Coco de Mer during their recent honeymoon to the Seychelles.

Find out more about our luxury hotels in the Seychelles, the Constance Ephelia Resort and Constance Lémuria Resort.