Fun, funny, or weird

The Montague Ski Lodge: alpine atmosphere in central London


ABOVE: In a few weeks, The Montague's deck will be transformed into a mountain ski lodge.

Red Carnation Hotels has a knack for knocking the stuffiness out of the four- and five-star hotel experience, and this winter, it's doing so again with a reprise of The Montague Ski Lodge at The Montague on the Gardens in central London.

From November 19, 2014 to January 30, 2015, the hotel's outdoor deck will be "magically transformed into a mountain ski lodge for the winter season, complete with falling snow, pine trees, snowmen, reindeer, piste maps, and twinkling lights."

The Ski Lodge's bar will offer après-ski drinks such as Jägermeister; apple, pear, peach and watermelon Schnapps; sherry trifle; mandarin, candy cane- and toffee-flavored vodkas; and winter warmers such as mulled wine and spiced cider.

To visit the Ski Lodge, Londoners and tourists can purchase a "ski pass" that's valid for a repast of mini turkey burgers, bratwurst, deep-fried Camembert, and a choice of three drinks from the Ski Lodge's bar menu. The price is £25 (about US 42).

If you're from out of town, you may prefer to book a "Montague Ski Lodge"package that includes two nights at the hotel, a full English breakfast, and access to the Ski Lodge.

What? You really want to ski? Then take a "Ski Lodge selfie" and post it on Faceback, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #SkiMontague. You'll be entered into a prize drawing for a three-night weekend at the Hotel d'Angleterre in Geneva, Switzerland with flights, ski hire, and lift pass included.

For more information about The Montague Ski Lodge, see:

Montague Ski Lodge

To learn more about the hotel, or to book a room, visit:

The Montague on the Gardens 

BELOW: A street view of The Montague on the Gardens, sans reindeer and snowmen.


Photos: Red Carnation Hotels.

Source: Arnelle Kendall. Matchmaking for pet-loving homeowners and travelers

Alpacas in Umbria, Italy

ABOVE: Have you ever wanted to spend the summer with a herd of alpacas? can match you up with an apartment and alpaca farm in Umbria, Italy.

INSET BELOW: A friendly dog at a home in Ayvalik, Turkey, where the sitters will watch eight cats, two dogs, and three tortoises for two weeks in June.


When we travel, we often rent apartments for a week or two, but now we've discovered something even better--at least for certain types of trips--thanks to is the brainchild of Andy Peck, who created the site four years ago. James Cave tells the story:

"Andy Peck stumbled across a family in the North of Spain who needed someone to come and look after their home and dog Dave while they were away on vacation. Andy got in touch and was accepted for the house sit. A few weeks later, he was looking after Dave and the family home in Spain.

"Realising that there were potentially thousands of other house and pet owners who would benefit from a service that connected homeowners and sitters, Andy launched in 2010."

How it works: is an international, UK-based matchmaking service for homeowners and sitters that offers a number of membership plans.

To join, you pay as little as US $7.49 a month (billed annually), which allows you to register as a housesitter and create a profile on the site. (You'll also get daily e-mail alerts of new listings 24 hours before the listings go online.)

When you see a listing on that interests you, you apply via the site's secure messaging system. The homeowners will then decide whether you get to stay in their London townhouse, French vacation cottage, Umbrian apartment with alpaca farm, etc.

Normally, there's no exchange of money: You get a free vacation stay, and the homeowners have someone to watch their home, plants, pets, etc. while they're out of town.

What your responsibilities are:

Dog in Ayvalik, Turkey

James Cave writes: "Most house sits involve pet care, and a homeowner's main reason for using is not wanting to put their pets into a kennel, so house sitting is best suited to to animal lovers."

He adds: "It's also not uncommon to see people asking for their plants to be watered or the mail collected. in areas with particularly cold winters (France, for example), many people get a house sitter to keep the pipes from freezing over."

And that's pretty much it. You live in the house, take care of any living things that need watering and feeding, and enjoy the surrounding city, town, or village. If the homeowner is satisfied, you'll earn a positive reference in your profile, and that will make it easier to get more house sits in the future.

What kind of people sign up for house sitting:

According to, "House sitters are usually mature professionals or retirees, looking to house sit for any number of reasons." The site's registered sitters have included "veterinary surgeons, pilots, clerics, medics, retired police, CEOs, writers, and animal rescue staff."

Still, you needn't fit into one of these categories to apply for house sitting, although you may find it trickier to land a cottage sit in Midsomer Mallow if you're a twenty-something tattoo artist. (Then again, you might get lucky if the homeowners are having trouble finding a sitter for their pet python or tarantulas).

Where to get more information:

To learn about house sitting (or finding a house sitter), visit


BELOW: Why rent a cottage on this 17-acre property in Normandy when you can stay free for three months in return for keeping an eye on the pool, gardens, and two young helpers?

House sit in Vimoutiers, Normandy


Hurtigruten's 'Whisky Project' sends booze on a cruise

MS Fram with Scotch whisky

ABOVE: Two 150-liter barrels of single-malt Scotch whisky await loading on MS Fram. INSET BELOW: Enjoy a wee dram from the Fram.

You may have heard about the Norwegian tradition of shipping acquavit to the Southern Hemispherre and back before bottling. That spiritous seafaring tradition is still observed, but Hurtigruten--the Tromsø-based Norwegian coastal-ferry and cruise line--has just added a twist (and no, we're not talking about a twist of lemon):

  • This year, Hurtigruten's expedition ship, MS Fram, will carry two 150-liter barrels of single-malt Scotch whisky across the northern and southern polar circles, the zero meridian, and the equator for aquavit-style aging.

AMS Fram Expedition Whisky bottleccording to MS Fram's captain, Arild Harvik, the goal of the "Whisky Project" is to improve the spirit's already excellent qualities through wave action, temperature changes, and sea air during the whisky's nine-month cruise.

The barrels were loaded onto MS Fram in Hamburg last October. In July, after a voyage of nearly 125,000 km or 78,000 miles, the cask-strength whisky will be bottled directly from the barrels in a limited edition of no more than 200 bottles.

Each bottle will come with a whisky diary and certificate, and it will be sold in MS Fram's shop beginning this fall. (Passengers will also be able to sample the "MS Fram Expedition Whisky" at the onboard bar.)

This spring, you can cruise with the casks.

To whet your appetite for the well-traveled tipple, Hurtigruten is offering two whisky-themed cruises on MS Fram this spring:

Both voyages start in Bergen, Norway, and will be accompanied by a Scottish lecturer and whisky expert.

For more information, click the itinerary links above or visit

BELOW: A barrel of single-malt Scotch embarks for a nine-month cruise on Hurtigruten's MS Fram

Hurtigruten MS FRAM and whisky

Photos: Hurtigruten USA.
Source: Gillies & Zaiser for Hurtigruten USA.