Arnaud Champenois is Senior Vice President, Global Brand, Marketing and Communications at Belmond (LVMH). LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh speaks with Arnaud Champenois about hospitality, sustainability, and how 2024 is set to be a game-changing year for Belmond

Pink hotel with pool

Belmond Legends – Mount Nelson Hotel (Photographed by Rosie Marks)

LUX: ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ (Henry Miller). When did the first shoots of experiential hospitality emerge?

Arnaud Champenois: Experiential travel continues to grow in popularity as the world has become an increasingly mobile place. Prior to the 1980s, airfares were sky-high and the majority of commercial flights were to highly anglicized locations, very much on the beaten track. During this time, travel was also fairly limited to western travellers.

As ‘untrodden’ locations became an option, boomers were somewhat pioneers of experiential travel – which in that time was defined more as ‘activity-packed’ exploration holidays. Then came the internet, followed by social media and the trend snowballed from there…

Since then, the term ‘experiential travel’ has evolved. Modern luxury travellers now want something different. Tick-box, fast and thoughtless travel is in the past. Travellers want to go much deeper into a destination rather than purely seeing it and ticking it off their list. They wish to stay longer, try local delicacies, enjoy traditional music and crafts, understand the people, discover the real local treasures. They want to live the stories, not just hear them.

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Luxury travel is now providing this kind of experience, but to do this long into the future, it is vital that we as travel companies play our part in protecting and preserving the most cherished traditions and heritage of the destinations and communities travel relies upon and strive to make a net positive impact.

LUX: Looking back or looking forward, what is Belmond’s approach to restoring heritage buildings?

AC: History in built environments is fundamental to creating a sense of community and character. They are examples of a particular time and style of architecture that would otherwise be long forgotten. Whether it’s a building’s historical roots, its distinctive architecture, the materials used or some aspect of the decoration that’s particularly interesting, these buildings are visual reminders of an area’s cultural heritage, the people and industries that once and still do, establish an area.

But the hospitality industry caters to the travellers of today. Though many are interested in the historic cultural elements, they want to experience that heritage in an authentic way, whilst being allowed modern-day comforts.

white building night time lit up

MITICO 2024 – Copacabana Palace (Daniel Buren, Escala colorida para Copacabana Palace, trabalho in situ, 2023)

We believe we have a responsibility to be custodians of this timeless heritage, and to help preserve and enhance it for future generations. Our renovation and rejuvenation strategy follows our property-first approach to honour each renovation’s storied and timeless heritage; whilst celebrating the authenticity of each place and injecting contemporary soul to ensure they live on for years to come. We need our more historic assets to live and breathe and be enjoyed, not just be consigned to a museum.

Last year (2023) we revealed four major rejuvenations – the painstaking renovation of Maroma in Riviera Maya, the re-imagining Coquelicot, Belmond’s new luxury barge Coquelicot, Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Splendido in Portofino. We will continue to reimagine and rejuvenate, arming each property with the contemporary allure, enriched storytelling and meaningful guest experiences that propels them to be the best in their markets.

MITICO 2024 – Daniel Buren at Mount Nelson Hotel, 2023

LUX: What is the role for art in offering responsible hospitality?

AC: Art is a powerful medium which can support local communities giving both local established and upcoming artists a stage to reach new, larger audiences, whilst connecting guests to local cultures, inspiring and facilitating the appreciation of art.

One such example is Belmond’s partnership with internationally renowned contemporary art gallery, Galleria Continua in which we host large-scale art installations by global artists, across several of Belmond’s legendary properties. Entitled MITICO, the installations invite guests to see cultures through a different lens. Through MITICO’s acclaim and the representation of globally renowned artists through Galleria Continua, we have been able to further support local artists. Such as with the following two initiatives, equally launched with Galleria Continua: La Residencia in Mallorca’s “Artist in Residencia” programme, now in its second year. And PANORAMA, a city-wide exhibition conceptualised and organised by Italics bringing ancient, modern and contemporary art to the town of Monferrato, where Belmond will be a proud partner for the third year running.

In Cape Town at Mount Nelson, we’re working with young talented curators Heinrich Groenewald and Shona van der Merwe of RESERVOIR, who have curated an exhibition across the hotel with works from the Norval Foundation. Whilst at Castello di Casole in the undulating Tuscan hills, the hotel works closely with the archaeological museum in Casole d’Elsa, as most of their artefacts were found on the property grounds and even exhibit across the hotel.

Beyond events and installations, the curation of a rich portfolio of guest experiences centred directly around traditional art practices is a great way to support local communities. At Belmond we have a rich portfolio of experiences such as, traditional Peruvian pottery painting hosted by local pottery artists, exclusive Mexican folk art – ‘Mojigangas’ – workshops with resident artists and Balinese egg painting with third-generation egg painters, to name a few. Not only does this support the livelihoods of local artisans, but these guest experiences also help to ensure the continued existence of their crafts.

sculpture on balcony with view

MITICO 2023 – Villa San Michele ( Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Teenager sculpture greets arriving guests. Photography by François Halard)

LUX: Why is l’art de vivre a core value for Belmond?

AC: The French concept of l’art de vivre takes its cues from France’s particular penchant for the finer things in life: art, wine, dining, fashion, even romance. At Belmond, we understand the components that make up the wonderful world of luxury and, with more than 45 years’ experience, we like to think we are well placed to help our guests appreciate the art of living well!

Contemporary creativity is wonderfully engaging in helping guests celebrate l’art de vivre of the destinations we operate in. Beyond in-person art installations and photography exhibitions, a good example of how we have celebrated the distinct character of our destinations is Belmond Legends, which is a contemporary photography series that offers alternative perspectives.

With camera in hand, exceptional talents from the likes of Jalan and Jibril Durimel, Thomas Rousset and Rosie Marks immersed themselves in each iconic hotel and destination to encapsulate intimate, dynamic and authentic moments that provide a glance into genuine guest experiences within these destinations. The photographs offer a progressive and personal perspective on these already iconic destinations – showing each property in a new light.

Beyond the topic of art, we help guests celebrate l’art de vivre through many experiences that enrich the mind, body and soul; from historical tours and enriching activities such as open water swimming in the Scottish Highlands as part of the Royal Scotsman itinerary, truffle foraging in Tuscany, or private culinary classes at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

fruit on table

Belmond Legends – Villa San Michele (photographed by François Halard)

 

LUX: And finally, can you share a taste of this year’s art program?

AC: Since Belmond’s inception, we have had an intrinsic connection to the arts community, with our portfolio spanning heritage buildings and vintage trains – museums of ancient decorative crafts. Our ambition is to continue highlighting this historical aspect of our portfolio, whilst maintaining its relevancy in contemporary culture through photographic artistic collaboration.

BELMOND LEGENDS brings this concept to life with its incredible roster of international contemporary artists, whilst we lend our properties’ remarkable landscapes as their canvas.

So far, the project has brought an entirely new perspective on 11 of our legendary properties as captured by 10 internationally acclaimed photographers – Chris Rhodes, Francois Halard, Letizia Le Fur, Coco Capitan, Jalan and Jibril Durimel, Thomas Rousset, Rosie Marks, Jeano Edwards, and Jack Davison. With more announcements to come at Photo London in May 2024.

two boys in bed on train

Belmond Legends – Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (Photographed by Coco Capitán)

belmond.com

 

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frontside view of a house with sky above

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Four Seasons Napa Valley in California

Autumn and winter are fine times to visit Napa Valley. The sun shines, the crowds aren’t here and nor is the summer heat that increasingly hits Napa, one of the most verdant and spiritual areas of the US. It is also source of some of the world’s greatest wines, thanks to its location on the West Coast, influenced by the cool waters of the Pacific and the semi-desert heat inland. 

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Mention of a Four Seasons resort conjures up visions of palatial buildings and good old-fashioned luxe. Not here. You could quite easily drive past the Four Seasons Napa Valley without noticing it, which is the intention. The resort is situated in a working organic vineyard just outside the northern spa town of Calistoga, and is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hillsides. 

The wooden buildings are environmentally integrated low-rises, biophilic by design, so that nature is incorporated, not counteracted. A series of swimming pools at the centre faces the hills and the sound of piano sonatas lap across the water. Napa Valley has a light that is as famous in California as that of Provence in Europe. Here, it is luminous, reflecting from the pools to the sky. 

grey bathroom with bath

The hotel is located at the northern end of the Silverado Trail, the winding road that lines the eastern side of Napa Valley. The great wine estates of the valley are all a short scenic drive, or a longer but more satisfying bike ride, away. 

True to the laid-back style of both resort and region, the main restaurant, Calistoga’s Living Room at Truss, and its terrace with a view, is a no-tablecloths kind of place, although Four Seasons regulars may feel it’s trying a bit too hard to be cool. You can try the resort’s own wine, a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon that shows it is made here, in the hottest part of the valley. 

Our favourite dining spot – in fact, one of the best dining places in a region famed for its cuisine – was Campo Poolside, the restaurant by the pools. A chicken superfood salad with balsamic vinaigrette had textures and flavours that were crisp, powerful, biting and vivid – perfect Californian lunchtime food. Campo describes itself as Cal-Mexican but, in reality, it serves food that tastes as light as the views. 

barn-style room with tables, chairs, candles

Our room was effectively the top floor of a wooden chalet, with a balcony overlooking the mountains beyond and the vineyards below (we said hello every morning to the gentleman pruning the vines). It had the feel of being your own residence in the vines (the room had its own entrance and staircase); clever and distinctive. 

Read more: Hotel of the Month: The Lygon Arms, the Cotswolds

The resort, with its extended grounds, is very open and outdoors-based, with pathways to walk on or to ride around on in a buggy. It’s great in perfect weather, exposed in the rain. But it doesn’t rain much in Napa, especially these days. 

Find out more: fourseasons.com/napavalley 

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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A lounge with large arched windows and cream and brown furniture

The Plaza Athénée’s effortlessly chic, light-filled La Galerie

In the first part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris

Many hoteliers I respect have told me that the highest priority, when creating a landmark new city hotel, is not the architecture or the name of the chef running the kitchen, but engaging and attracting the local community. A great city hotel should feel like a private club. This is partly so that the public spaces are filled when business travellers and tourists are thinner on the ground, but also because any discerning traveller wants to feel they are going where the insiders go. 

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This philosophy drove the success of Ian Schrager’s first boutique hotels in the 1980s, and continues thanks to the panache of today’s hoteliers. It has also driven the world’s great hotels since their inception: what were the original Ritz and Savoy, if not gathering places for the great and good? Urban tribes may have diversified and expanded now, giving a greater spread of aspiration, but the principles remain. Conversely, it is dispiriting to arrive at a new hotel in a new city to find that everyone else there seems to be as foreign and clueless as you are. 

A lounge with a view of the Eiffel Tower out the window

One of the hotel’s peerless Eiffel Tower views

All of this brings me to the Plaza Athénée in Paris. You are welcomed into the marble-lined lobby and can take a peek at the outdoor atrium, one of many areas designed by interiors star Bruno Moinard. And you get a frisson that you have truly arrived in Paris because its Le Relais restaurant is the work, play and cutting place of the Parisian elite. If you want to form a new political grouping or gather key players together for a new deal, this is the place where your plan will likely be hatched, matched and dispatched. 

Having said all that, arriving in my suite, it wouldn’t have mattered if the hotel had only ever housed tourists. The living room of the suite, on the corner of avenue Montaigne, looks directly down the street, across the river, to the Eiffel Tower. Like the best views, it changes through the day, dusk and night to create a different illusion. By day, the tower is a glowering metallic structure. At night, illuminated and with lasers pointing from it as if it’s a gun turret in an old video arcade game, it feels otherworldly. 

Hotel courtyard with leaves and red umbrellas and awnings

The charming La Cour Jardin, designed by Bruno Moinard

The furnishing in the suite is determinedly classical. So much so that it has very much come back into fashion. You have a reception room big enough to hold a cocktail party for 30; there is a baby grand piano in the anteroom and bathrooms for guests of the hotel’s guests. 

Read more: Hotel of the Month: The Lygon Arms, the Cotswolds

My favourite moment? After dinner, a glass of Louis Roederer champagne at an outside table on La Terrasse Montaigne. For an evening, at least, I could have been a member of a Parisian “grande famille”, enjoying a nightcap at their local bar. Altogether a priceless experience at the Plaza. 

Find out more: dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/hotel-plaza-athenee

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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the entrance of a hotel with arched windows and doors and plants

Exterior view of the new Maybourne, Beverly Hills

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at The Maybourne, Beverly Hills

The most curious thing about the Maybourne Beverly Hills is its tranquillity. Here you are at the new US flagship of London’s swankiest hotel group (Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Berkeley), in LA, metres from Rodeo Drive, and yet the overarching feeling is one of peace. How does that happen?

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The first impression of a curious quietude was from the hotel’s rooftop pool terrace. In cities, these are often rambunctious things, squeezed in, next to a spa and a restaurant, a few sun loungers and a square of blue with a highway of guests and staff running through. Not so here: rows of loungers, immaculate staff waiting to serve, a big, blue pool, and a view across rooftops to the Hollywood Hills. You could come here for a week and not feel agitated by noise. Sure, there’s a terrace restaurant but the vibe is more Ibiza chill than urban thrill.

a bar with stools

The Maybourne pool

Our suite was all pastel shades and 20th-century modern furniture, rethought for the 21st century. A kind of Hollywood-meets-resort feel, with some gorgeous photography and art. Maybourne’s owners are significant movers in the art scene, and you can tell: even the lift lobby on our floor featured an Idris Khan edition.

Downstairs, the Terrace restaurant seemed to be a breakfast, lunch and dinner hangout for the Beverly Hills crowd and the Beverly Hills chihuahua (along with a nice variety of other breeds). Opening out onto a public garden, it was also very quiet: no fumes, no traffic noise, no honking horns. All the more interesting because the hotel was originally built in the grand style of iconic US palace hotels (think Boca Raton resort): but here, the style is everywhere, and the noise nowhere.

swimming pool

The hotel’s rooftop pool

The food was also consistently brilliant: sunny and fresh, like pan-roasted dayboat scallops with girolles and sunchokes, and an absolutely vivid, meaty whole grilled branzino with Napa cabbage and basil. The Terrace is a people-watching place, and if you want to watch people more closely, and with a slightly different lens, just move to the Maybourne Bar or the Cigar and Whiskey Bar. What’s the difference between the two? Same as the difference between the Blue Bar at the Berkeley and the Fumoir at Claridge’s (with additional cigars in the case of the Cigar and Whiskey Bar).

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

It was a bit of a mystery to me how Maybourne expected to create a global brand, given that its London hotels are so distinctive, unified by a crossover in clientele and a certain appeal to the fashion crowd through their louche artiness in their public spaces. Here they are in LA, and they have done just that. Quite an achievement.

Find out more: maybournebeverlyhills.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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hotel facade

Málaga might not be the first place that springs to mind as a luxury destination, but the recent opening of sophisticated boutique hotel Palacio Solecio alongside the first international outpost of the Pompidou centre and a super-yacht marina signals a new future for the historic Andalusian city. LUX checks in for a weekend of food, art and culture

We arrive on a warm spring evening. Our taxi drops us on the edge of the pedestrianised cobbled streets of Calle Granada, Málaga’s old Jewish quarters, where our hotel, Palacio Solecio, is located in a former 18th century Andalusian palace opposite a peach-coloured 14th century church. This part of the city has a serene, almost earthy feel to it, perhaps partly due to the plethora of historic buildings and narrow winding alleys but also because it feels lived in. There are none of the Irish bars and nightclubs that are so popular with hen and stag dos – although if that is your thing, the central strip is a matter of minutes away too. That said, Malaga has done much in recent years to shake its reputation as a party destination. With a new sleek port, a first-class culinary scene and a growing clutch of artistic attractions, it’s slowly beginning to attract more culturally-orientated visitors.

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After we’ve checked in and been shown to our bedroom – an elegant junior suite with an enormous four poster bed and a french balcony overhanging the street – we head back out to find somewhere to eat and stumble upon El Pimpi, a rustic tapas bar where, in true Mediterranean fashion, local families are crowded around tiny tables for a late night snack and glass of sherry. The menu is scrawled in Spanish on a large blackboard behind the bar and we pick a few plates, largely based on words we recognise. A few minutes later, a thick yellow wedge of tortilla arrives on our table along with boquerones en vinagre (white anchovies in oil and vinegar), patatas bravas drenched in a rich tomato sauce and crispy calamari. Málaga is renowned for having some of the best tapas in Spain and this is strong start.

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

The next day is bright and fresh – warm enough to go without a jumper in the sun. We have been given an extensive list of recommendations by the hotel’s staff (all within walking distance), but decide to spend the morning wandering and set off without any particular direction in mind.

What strikes us the most is the sheer beauty of the city: its sun-washed palette, patterned ceramic tiles, hidden churches and vibrant plazas,  the way in which the ancient and modern coexist so seamlessly. One minute we’re walking past high street brands and the next, we’re standing in front of the ruins of a Roman theatre. The cathedral is especially astounding both for its monumental scale and the lush gardens that surround it. On our visit, a woman is sitting against one of the walls, singing a slow, haunting tune.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

For lunch, we take the hotel’s advice and find a table on the edge of the famed Atarazanas food market, listed as one of the best markets in the world by The Guardian in 2019. The food is exceptional: tortillitas de camarones (crispy prawn fritters) followed by fresh tuna kebabs with thick slices of beef tomato and pepper, and two enormous grilled king prawns. We then head down to the waterfront to visit the Pompidou Centre Málaga, the first international branch of the Pompidou Centre outside of Paris to view its permanent collection which includes a promising range of works by the likes of Picasso (Málaga’s most famous son), Bacon, Giacometti and Frida Kahlo. Although some of the pieces are compelling, we find the experience as a whole disappointing: the space is disorientating and the display lacks any curatorial concept. The Carmen Thyssen Museum, however, is wonderful. The permanent displays on the lower levels offer an intriguing insight into Spanish art history with a strong collection of Old Masters, while the upper galleries stage visiting exhibitions – during our visit, there’s an excellent presentation of works by American photographer Paul Strand.

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

That evening, we dine at Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant, located in a light-filled atrium edged with pillared archways. The menu focuses on Andalusian dishes made with fresh, local produce. Our waiter recommends we choose a few plates to share and  we opt for the tomato tasting platter and kale salad followed by the red tuna tartare and scallops cooked in tomato stew (a local recipe packed with flavour). The dishes are modestly sized, but perfect after our indulgent lunch while the unpretentious serving style feels very much in keeping with hotel’s relaxed, homely atmosphere.

After dinner, we make our way to Hammam Al Andalus (a five minute walk from the hotel) where we bathe in candlelit heated pools until midnight when the baths close and we drift back to our room for one of the best night’s sleeps we’ve ever had.

Rates from €179 per night on a room only basis. For further information or to book, visit www.palaciosolecio.com/en/

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luxury hotel

The Royal Champagne is built into south-facing vineyards on the Montagne de Reims

In the final part of our luxury travel views series from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks into Champagne’s newest and most luxurious hotel: the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Épernay

If the devil is in the detail, the Royal Champagne is a devil of a place. In the best possible way. What detail to pick on? The barista-style Italian espresso machine in the room? The pale-leather welcome box containing a bottle of boutique Leclerc Briant champagne in an ice bucket, two champagne glasses and some fruit slices? The delicate mesh on the light wood occasional table? So many.

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In truth, Champagne has been in need of this hotel forever. I have been visiting the region on business and pleasure for years, and the choice has been between a couple of old-school country luxe hotels with little in the way of contemporary pleasures, and an array of functional places wholly out of keeping with champagne (the drink) and its image of indulgence.

From the very start, it’s plain that the Royal Champagne is something else: an indulgent hotel created with extreme love and style (and budget) by deep-pocketed owners wanting the best and hang the cost. (That is my impression, and I challenge them to prove me wrong.)

spa swimming pool

The pool overlooks the champagne vineyards of Épernay

You approach from Reims by driving up the Montagne de Reims, the forest-topped big hill with vineyards on both sides that demarcates the territory between Reims and Épernay, the two capitals of Champagne. Through the forest at the top of the hill, onto a lane through the vineyards, and the hotel entrance appears out of nowhere.

The Royal is built into the hillside, a contemporary building and a feat of engineering beside the historic building that gives it its name.

Read more: LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on Effective Climate Action

Inside, everything is light, open. The welcome is professional and swift, and our room, like all of them, faced out over the vineyards, with a big balcony and vista down to Épernay and to the hills of the Côte des Blancs beyond. The balcony table shaped as a hollow-sided mini-barrel was particularly cute. Inside, everything was generous, light grey, cream, gold: the big bathroom has a sliding wooden screen to the bedroom so you can bathe with a view.

The temptation to hang out in the beautiful bedrooms is extreme but should be resisted. A couple of levels below, an indoor pool stretches the length of the main building of the hotel, all with picture windows out to the vista; there are beds on pedestals at either end to relax on, as well as more conventional loungers all around, and on an expansive terrace outside there are more chill-out spaces and an outdoor pool, warmed to cope with the north European weather, on the edge of the vines.

luxury hotel bedroom

Then there’s the aptly named Le Bellevue restaurant, with a vast terrace with a view, where you can choose from an array of specialist champagnes and – amazing for the region – choose from a light, modern, organic-based menu. Bulgur and coriander tabbouleh, baked monkfish with chard risotto, that sort of thing. And do yourself a favour and allow the sommelier to choose for you from one of the small-grower champagnes: you may never have heard of them, because they only sell locally and make in tiny amounts.

The Royal Champagne is so good that it could be a destination hotel and resort for someone not interested in drinking champagne. It manages the trick of being desirable for couples, friends or families without overwhelming with one. The service is brilliant without being corporate (it’s not part of a group) and like another LUX favourite, the Alpina Gstaad, it redefines contemporary hôtellerie. It really is that good.

Book your stay: royalchampagne.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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The Splendido with its legendary pool and restaurants, above Portofino. Image courtesy of Belmond/Mattia Aquila

In the third part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai experiences la dolce vita in Portofino

My one encounter with the Splendido Mare, the village-based sister hotel of the celebrated hillside Splendido in Portofino, was a little over 10 years ago. Since then, the port area of the village has been pedestrianised, and the Mare has been upgraded with its own character (to reflect a kind of village-chic identity, escaping from the shadow of its showy sibling). What a difference! Artful touches, gentle lighting and townhouse style abound, and getting to our “village view” room along a labyrinth of corridors was a delight, with a feeling of staying in a real house. “Village view” could mean a wall, but actually it was out along the Via Mare, the cute main street, which, now pedestrianised, was a blush of colourful visitors eating ice-creams and pizza at the outdoor restaurants. Perfect insulation meant it was quiet, also.

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We arrived late one evening, met at the other end of the Via Roma (all of 100 metres away – Portofino is tiny) by the hotel porter who took our luggage while another parked our car. On the stroll into the hotel we noticed the restaurant at the front of the building, on the main piazza on the harbourfront, was buzzing; twenty minutes later we were installed at a table on its front row, with a perfect vista of the evening passeggiata as the light dimmed over the hillsides on either side of the harbour.

bedroom terrace

The terrace of one the bedrooms at Splendido Mare

The Mare has a family-run vibe, despite being part of an international hotel group; the fritto misto of fish and shellfish with fruit and vegetables was a spectacle in the serving, and worked extremely well with a bottle of Lagrein red from northeast Italy, although a more conventional choice from the wonderful wine list would have been a Frascati or even a chardonnay-based Franciacorta. Next time.

Read more: Nayla Al Khaja on filmmaking and female empowerment

The beauty of the Mare is you can step right out onto the harbourfront (now with zero traffic and no noisy Vespas – a true transformation) and, in our case, onto the hotel’s boat for a whizz around the coastline: to the lighthouse point at the tip of the peninsula and back along the coast to the resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure, playing a game of spot the mansion (Dolce & Gabbana; Versace; Berlusconi; Agnelli) and spot the yacht (pass – seems like stalking).

italian harbour

The harbourfront at Portofino, home to the Splendido Mare. Photograph by Darius Sanai

And then it’s a short shuttle ride or walk up through the gardens to the original Splendido. This grande dame is perched high above the village, and there’s no better introduction than a long pizza lunch (those pizzas! That tomato sauce!) accompanied by a longer bottle of Ca’ del Bosco rosé Franciacorta (Italy’s splendid alternative to pink champagne); the pizzeria is metres from the pool, where you can revive yourself afterwards.

The Splendido’s curved pool is a historic place to gaze out over the bay and dream; we had an even better alternative in the form of our balcony, which had the same view and no other people. Aperitif, quick change, down to the bar above the pool for a little jazz piano and the same view, seen from within the gardens; and then dinner. Definitely the place for the ravioli with Ligurian herbs, lobster and bisque.

Book your stay: belmond.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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beachfront hotel

© Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai discovers a new side to Monaco at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel

Just getting to the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel puts you in the mood. Unlike some of the grand hotels of the principality, the Beach is what it says it is. We drove past the entrance to a huge outdoor swimming pool and waterfront water-sports complex, and then down a narrow driveway to the entrance of this pink stone mini-Palace.

The vibe is deliberately casual, boutique glamour rather than formality. A low-key reception area, then up to the room with a balcony overlooking the terrace, swimming pool and sea, looking back out at Monaco in the mountains above. It was only from here (or from the yacht) that you recognise the vertiginous nature of the place: Monaco is built basically at the bottom of the cliff face, the land rising relentlessly upwards to become the Alps.

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It’s a few steps from the front entrance to the swimming pool and beach area. The pool is huge, and you have the choice of sunning yourself there, in a cabana or on the pier – when we were there, this seemed a little too adventurous as it was being washed by some rather lively waves.

beach restaurant

The Monte-Carlo Beach’s La Vigie Lounge and Restaurant. © Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

We had a pleasant aperitif on the seafront terrace and were then whisked off to Yannick Alléno at the Hôtel Hermitage in town for dinner. A new addition to the Monaco dining scene, this restaurant is overseen by superchef Alléno and occupies a crescent-shaped, sea-facing terrace amid the grandeur of the Hôtel Hermitage. It is a quite spectacular gastronomic experience: Alléno was inspired by the years he spent in Japan, and the precision, focus, perfection and lightness of the cuisine – without being in any way ‘nouvelle’ and shrunken – is mind-blowing. The best new restaurant of 2021?

Breakfast and lunch the next day were both taken at the hotel, by the sea at the beach – it is the one place in Monaco where you feel you are away from the admittedly glamorous hustle of the town. The lunch terrace restaurant, Elsa, is noted for being the first 100 per cent organic restaurant to receive a Michelin star; wild-caught fish play a starring role here and my local white fish, in a vegetable broth, was just what was required ahead of an afternoon’s swimming in the pool, accompanied by a reviving glass or two of Deutz.

Book your stay: montecarlosbm.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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hotel bar
hotel bar

Over a century after Vincent van Gogh moved to the Provençal city of Arles with the intention of setting up an artists’ commune, Maja Hoffmann, Swiss art collector and founder of the city’s contemporary art centre LUMA, is reviving his dream with l’Arlatan, a hotel and artist residence occupying a 15th-century palace. Filled with more than a million handmade, glazed ceramic tiles in vivid shades of yellow, tangerine, lavender and blue, the historic building has been transformed by Cuban-born American artist Jorge Pardo into an inhabitable piece of art. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler photographs its kaleidoscopic surfaces

curved stone staircase
swimming pool
lounge area of hotel
swimming pool
vase of flowers
ceramic tiles in bathroom
colourful hotel restaurant
colourful glass bottles
hotel bedroom
light fixtures hanging in stairway
hotel room with tiled floor
courtyard restaurant

Book your stay: arlatan.com

 

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fields in Scotland
golf course

Torrance golf course at the Fairmont St Andrews

Located on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, the Fairmont St Andrews is a grand resort hotel with a championship golf course, spa and multiple restaurants. LUX checks in for the weekend

Arrival

A challenge with some of Scotland’s great hotels is that they are quite an ‘interesting’ drive away from an airport. No such problem with the Fairmont St Andrews, to which you whiz from Edinburgh or Glasgow airport along smooth roads. An hour later, the countryside reveals a view of the North Sea, and the resort grandly perched in front of you, surrounded by farmland and, given the location, a golf course.

Fairmont is a North American brand, and you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived at a resort in northern California, with a grand driveway, ornate signs and a swanky entrance. The grandeur continues inside. Having checked in, you walk into a huge atrium lobby from where a lift takes guests to their appointed floors.

The Room

The views were tonics, and quite different to those in the Scottish Highlands. We looked out over the grassland dropping down to the steely endlessness of the North Sea, which sounds bleak but to the right were rolling hills dotted with picturesque farmhouses, and the East Neuk art colony down the coast.

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Continuing with the North American vibe, the room was huge and lavishly appointed, with marble bathrooms, excellent lighting and air-conditioning, which you often don’t get in hotels in this part of the world, where quaintness is too often an excuse for neglect. Perhaps there could have been more Scottish character in the rooms, but there was plenty of that outside the windows, and in St Andrews next door.

Hotel suite

One of the hotel’s deluxe suites 

The Experience

Unlike some places which install a treatment room and call themselves a resort, the Fairmont St Andrews really is a resort. There is a big spa, indoor pool and one of the most renowned championship golf courses in the world. A couple of miles down the road, there is also the course of the Royal and Ancient.

All this means you could entertain yourself without ever leaving the resort. There are several restaurants in the main building, but we chose to dine at the St Andrews Bar & Grill, a few minutes’ walk away on the golf course with a fabulous sea view, which served lobster, charcoal-oven steaks and oysters, along with a superb selection of champagnes. We will have to save La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, for next time.

Read more: Culture and Cuisine at La Fiermontina, Puglia, Italy

Exploring

St Andrews is famous for its golf, but is also one of the country’s most attractive old towns. We spent the day exploring the streets, the university quad, the castle and cathedral, and enjoying the astonishing variety of restaurants of different cultures packed into the tiny town with its very cosmopolitan student base.

restaurant booth

Squire Restaurant is just one of the hotel’s dining options

The Verdict

Super-swanky American resort service and standards meet one of the most desirable locations in the Old World. Our only regret is having to cut our stay short.

Find out more: fairmont.com/st-andrews-scotland 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

Suite “Antonia” features the building’s original high-vaulted stone ceilings

Occupying a restored masseria – farmhouse – on a quiet street in the historic town of Lecce, Puglia, La Fiermontina is a five-star hotel with a homely, boutique feel. LUX discovers its quiet charm

Arrival

Like many beautiful Italian cities, Lecce has an unprepossessing ring of suburbs. But drive through an archway and a magical vision appears like an ancient Roman city, even more mesmerising at night, still and lit by gentle oranges and yellows on the ochre walls.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Past the arch and La Fiermontina is down a quiet street. Walk up a stone staircase lit by uplighters into a walled courtyard, turn into the reception area, and then exit again to wander in a garden enclosed by the hotel’s ancient buildings and the old city walls. The light from the sky and the garden lighting is otherworldly.

The Room

Our suite was reached via a short staircase (there is a lift also, but it seemed a bit inauthentic) and seemed to span two buildings, old and new. The huge terrace balcony looked out over the courtyard, from where gentle jazz wafted up each evening. The bedroom had a vaulted ceiling and light stone walls, with contemporary furniture, art books and little clutter. If there is a more compelling bedroom in the whole of Italy, we would love to see it.

The Experience

We arrived on a weekday evening, slightly frazzled after flying in, renting a car and navigating the racetrack/autostrada for the hour’s drive. (Taking a taxi, easily arranged by the hotel, might be a better option next time.)

Read more: The Best of Tuscany’s Wine Resorts

Walking down from the room in search of the bar and a bite, we came across an enchanting sight. The hotel holds occasional evenings for locals and guests to sample regional beers and wines, and local cuisine in a buffet style. Puglia has been acclaimed for its wines but what is less known is that it’s part of Italy’s microbrewery revolution as well. It was hard to choose between the local beer and a local chardonnay. For the cuisine, we chose from a giant pan of pasta with sausage and melted cheese, and some antipasti.

Choices made, sit at your table in the gardens, under the olive grove near the pool, next to the walls of the ancient city, listen to the jazz and you feel far from the airport transfer.

restaurant with outdoor tables

The hotel’s outdoor restaurant focuses on local, seasonal produce

Exploring

The hotel is in the heart of the most compelling city where you can wander through the latticework of ancient streets. You can get a guide or allow your instincts to guide you. Doing the latter, we stumbled upon a hidden square with a single restaurant and terrace where lunch turned into an after-lunch digestif and into an early evening aperitif.

Verdict

The most mesmerising way to stay in one of Italy’s most interesting cities, and with a homegrown, not a big chain feel. Exquisite.

Find out more: lafiermontina.com/hotel

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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stone sculpture
stone sculpture

A sculpture by Sean Scully at Newlands House Gallery. Photograph by James Houston

When it comes to contemporary art, Petworth in West Sussex isn’t a destination that immediately springs to mind, but with the recent opening of a new gallery, headed up by famed art dealer and LUX contributor Simon de Pury, the historic village is beginning to attract a more international crowd. We travelled down from London to see for ourselves

Contemporary art gallery Newlands House opened its doors in 2020 with two blockbuster exhibitions, a presentation of photographs by Helmut Newton and a survey of works by designer, architect and artist Ron Arad, but what makes the gallery truly unique is its setting.

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Petworth sits amidst the glorious rolling hills and valleys of the South Downs National Park, but due to its proximity London (roughly an hour and a half drive), Cowdray Park Polo Club and Goodwood, it feels less remote and more buzzy than many of England’s historic country towns. Visitors arrive in sleek Porsches and Lamborghinis, and leave clutching bags filled with objets d’art.

Newlands House, however, bridges the gap between old and new. Occupying an expansive 18th century townhouse that was previously home to Augustus Brandt‘s antiques showroom, the exhibitions weave through twelve homely rooms, with works hanging beneath low wooden beams, above fireplaces and on hessian covered walls. The current exhibition, From the Real (on show until 10 October), features a compelling series of large-scale abstract paintings and sculptures by husband and wife art duo Liliane Tomasko and Sean Scully. Tomasko’s quick, bold gestures recall the language of street art while Scully’s shiny surfaces (some of the works are painted onto sheets of aluminium) and cool marine colour palette evoke more smoothing architectural forms.

Where to stay…

We checked into The Angel Inn, an upmarket gastro pub with a pretty walled garden and seven quirky guest-rooms, all of which have been recently refurbished with tasteful interiors by Augustus Brandt. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that as its an old building, the rooms do vary quite extensively in terms of size and amenities. Scots Pine is by far the most luxurious and characterful with an orange velvet sofa, large bathroom and free-standing bath.

hotel suite

The “Scots Pine” bedroom at The Angel Inn. Photograph by James Houston

For larger groups and families, there’s East House, a self-catering apartment spread across the top floors a Grade-II listed Georgian building, or Ryde House, a grand 19-century home with three spacious bedrooms and a courtyard garden.

Where to eat…

E. Street Bar & Grill offers a laid back fine dining experience with a strong focus on local, seasonal ingredients. We had oysters to start, followed by warm roasted fig and pecan salad, and tuna steaks from the grill served with thick, crispy chips. Everything was cooked to perfection. Sitting in the courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening with a chilled glass of white wine, we almost felt like we were in the south of France.

street view of a pub

The Angel Inn, Petworth. Photograph by James Houston

What else…

Petworth is famed for antiques. If you’re feeling energetic, the antiques market is piled high with furnishings, ceramics, glassware, books, maps and all other manner of curiosities, while Tallulah Fox stocks a smaller, curated collection of textiles and elegant home accessories.

A busy through-road and lack of pavements make wandering through the town a little stressful, but there are plenty of easily accessible walking routes through the surrounding  countryside. We particularly enjoyed the”Shimmings Valley” 5k trail which leads through expansive, undulating fields, and the parkland around Petworth House, a 17th-century mansion now owned by the National Trust, is spectacular. The nearby Nyetimber Vineyard, producers of award-winning English sparkling wine, is also worth visiting, but tickets need to be booked in advance for all tastings, tours and dining experiences.

Don’t miss…

The wide array of local and artisanal produce at The Hungry Guest, especially crayfish sandwiches and huge, squidgy chocolate chip cookies.

Find out more: discoverpetworth.uk, newlandshouse.gallery

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swimming pool at night
swimming pool at night

The El Mirador swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Photograph by Gary Schmid.

Seclusion, service, tropical weather, Michelin-starred dining, multiple pools, golf, gardens and sports: The Ritz-Carlton, Abama offers an escape for everybody

As we all endure multiple lockdowns of varying strictness and duration, the idea of an escape from the past year’s febrile world is an attractive one. Time for a break from the pandemic fallout accompanied by multiple heated global conversations, including one which would have brought tears to Voltaire’s eyes, about whether we should actually be allowed to have a conversation.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

All of which makes your own beachside villa a delightful prospect. Although for some people, the attractiveness fades when you start to examine the details. It may have full service, but your chef realistically isn’t going to be able to rustle up a Michelin-starred Japanese meal one night and some molecular gastronomy the next. Your pool, while potentially big, will be just that, a pool, not a choice of numerous pools in different locations. As to the atmosphere, you’ll either have to make your own, or travel to the nearest establishment which has one.

Then, there is The Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Perched on a cliff at the southern edge of the Canary Islands, with a spectacular view across the sea to a volcano bursting out of the ocean and looking as if it might come alive at any moment (don’t worry, La Gomera hasn’t erupted for three million years). Abama has a sense of geography that would be the envy of many places in more exotic settings, in a location that is a short flight and transfer from the major cities of Europe.

view of red domed building

A view from the hotel’s Citadel building. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

The luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel is at the heart of the complex, but we stayed at one of the villas, located on a series of pathways traversing exotic hanging gardens tumbling down the peak of the cliff. Despite the name, these are not villas per se, as they do not have a kitchen: ours was a large private apartment, with two big bedrooms with vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms with North African touches, a marble living and dining room, and no fewer than four balconies, all facing the sea, the volcano and, at night, a view of the stars for which the islands are famous.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

On our first night, we became addicted to room service, taking it on the biggest of the balconies, itself the size of a decent suite. Iberico ham, local Canarian potatoes with an intensity of taste served with a spicy vegetable sauce, the day’s catch of local white fish, and as secluded as you might ever want to be. Eventually one evening we headed out to El Mirador restaurant. This is located below the villas with its own pool, on the edge of the cliff itself. We dined on the restaurant’s speciality, its seafood paella with clams, mussels, white fish and calamari.

The resort exists in an elevated sphere of gastronomy. A short ride in your own dedicated golf buggy takes you up the hillside to Kabuki, an outpost of the famed Madrid restaurant of the same name, with a 100km view in three directions, a Michelin star and dishes that remain in the soul, like butterfish and white truffle nigiri, and white fish and Iberian pancetta sushi.

beach club

The Beach Club. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

There are more outdoor pools than we could count – we gave up at ten. Each set of villas has its own long, sinuous, sneaky 40m-long pool at whose side socially distanced sunbathing on the garden terrace, accompanied by butterflies and exotic flowers, is not just possible, it happens naturally. This is a place with a luxury of space.

At the bottom of the cliff, accessible by lift, hotel transport or a short walk, is the only white-sand beach of the island, with its own beach restaurant, bar, rock diving spots and a sheltered swimming area where even short swim brings you into visual contact with an array of multicoloured fish. And at the top of the resort, high on the mountainside, is one of Spain’s most celebrated 18-hole golf courses, and a set of championship quality tennis courts.

The facilities of one of the world’s greatest hotels with the seclusion of a villa? The best, as Voltaire’s Candide would say, of all worlds.

Book your stay: ritzcarlton.com

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luxurious drawing room with plants
grand building facade

The Park Avenue entrance to Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, the luxury hotel and resort brand of Hilton Worldwide, recently embarked on a major transformation of its historic New York hotel, creating 375 luxurious private residences which are set to open, along with the hotel, in 2023. Here, the group’s Senior Vice President and Global Category Head, Dino Michael discusses the importance of creating memorable experiences, understanding your guests and building local partnerships

1. What makes a luxury brand?

Experiences are everything. Truly personalised touches that create unique moments and memories are what distinguish a luxury brand. There is more license to be whimsical in luxury now more than in the past, to be familiar and welcome guests as if they are visiting someone’s home. Yet while the luxury industry is becoming more approachable and inclusive, luxury customers still appreciate and want a certain level of prestige and truly seamless, elegant service from their luxury brands. Waldorf Astoria, for instance, is a brand known for its effortless service and for creating unforgettable moments for our guests while making them feel at home no matter where they are around the world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. How do you approach global brand development for companies like Hilton, which already have a firmly established reputation and history?

In times of uncertainty, consumers gravitate towards brands they know and trust, and we want our loyal customers to be confident that they can continue to find that with Hilton. It is because of this deep connection we have with our guests that we are able to expand and further develop our brands, particularly Hilton’s luxury category.

We are looking forward to continuing to grow and develop our luxury footprint in both established urban destinations, such as the Waldorf Astoria London Admiralty Arch opening in April 2023, as well as within more remote resort locations like the Seychelles, to give consumers a trusted place to stay while exploring the world. In addition to our hotel offering, we are also seeing momentum with our residential portfolio, most notably with Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers, and Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Residences Miami, both open for sales and seeing incredible buyer interest.

luxurious drawing room with plants

The “Winter Garden” at The Towers

As an organisation we work tirelessly to meet the evolving needs of the luxury traveller, including having a long-term approach and being able to forecast where and how our discerning guests will want to travel. With privacy and exclusivity more important than ever for our guests in the post-pandemic travel landscape, unique offerings such as the recently unveiled Private Island at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi provide both a safe and reassuring way to travel, as well as the ultimate in luxury experiences.

In addition to Waldorf Astoria, Hilton’s two other luxury brands, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts, both have aggressive development timelines in the next five years. LXR, Hilton’s collection of luxury hotels and resorts, recently launched in the U.S. with the debut of the oceanfront Oceana Santa Monica which will be closely followed by openings in the Seychelles, Las Vegas and Kyoto, Japan. Conrad, our contemporary and design-forward luxury brand, continues to expand its global presence with recent openings in Punta de Mita and Abu Dhabi and upcoming openings in Las Vegas, China, Morocco and more.

3. You have worked across the hospitality sector – from culinary to residential. How does your approach to brand development vary depending on the industry?

Ultimately it is about understanding your guest as they are the heart of the hospitality business, no matter which part of the industry you work in, whether that be hotel, residential or F&B. A good example can be seen with our two Waldorf Astoria developments – both with a residential and hotel component- in New York and Miami. Waldorf Astoria New York is being restored to resemble the hotel’s classic grandeur yet will blend the old and new in a balance of modern comfort with Art Deco opulence that celebrates the scale and beauty of the iconic property. The hotel, residences and F&B components will also reflect the New York City guest and resident in a way that caters to every need they might have visiting and living in Manhattan.

Read more: LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on media

On the other hand, we have Waldorf Astoria Miami – another residential and hotel development- which
Soars 1,049 feet above Biscayne Bay as the tallest building south of New York City and a new modern architectural wonder in South Florida. We’ve taken the rich culture of Miami and let it inform how this property comes to life, while still maintaining the personal service and best-in-class experiences people come to know from Waldorf Astoria. Like all properties we develop, this project will be truly unique to its destination, offering a sense of geography and locale first, followed by the comforting reassurance of being “home” second.

This guest-centric mentality is also integral to how we develop our culinary programs across Hilton’s luxury portfolio. Overseeing the evolution and growth of our luxury F&B program is a passion of mine that stems from my humble beginnings in food and beverage within the hospitality industry. As food tourism continues to be in high demand in the luxury travel market, we continue to innovate and showcase the natural bounty of each destination through the work of world-renowned chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Dave Pynt, Michael Mina, Bryan Voltaggio, Richard Sandoval, Heinz Beck and more, bringing our guests exclusive and truly unforgettable dining experiences.

luxury apartment living room

The living room of one of the private residences at The Towers

4. Given the hotels you work with span many locations across the globe, are there any golden rules to ensure consistency of brand quality?

A defining factor of the Waldorf Astoria brand is that each property is a true representation of their destination and captures the culture and essence of locale. We aspire to create hotels for their destination, not merely in a destination which means that guests should feel that sense of place and localisation first and the Waldorf Astoria brand second.

With that said, Waldorf Astoria properties across the globe work tirelessly to deliver personalised, elegant service, unforgettable experiences, and award-winning culinary excellence, all in marquee destinations which, while perhaps a world away from home, feel like a refined, welcome haven for our guests.

5. Has there been a particular strategy by the hotels under your aegis to survive the global pandemic, given they have had to shut down for the most part?

With ever-evolving guest expectations and comfort in travelling during the pandemic we, as an industry and company, continue to innovate and find unique solutions for the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and post-pandemic climate.

We are seeing increasingly blurred lines between business and leisure travel as people have more flexibility in their work environment. As many people are choosing to “work from home” in a variety of locations outside their home, our luxury properties have capitalised on this trend by offering specialised packages catering to the extended stay traveler as well as offering alternative work spaces for those wanting to stay closer to home, including an “Escape Longer” package at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal and an “Office with a View” getaway offer at Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles.

indoor swimming pool

The “Starlight” indoor pool

For a property like Waldorf Astoria New York, many of the restoration changes already happening for the hotel and residences naturally work in a post-pandemic environment, such as fewer, larger guest rooms and residences allowing for more personalised attention and service for each guest and resident. Scaling down to 375 guest rooms will enable us to concentrate on delivering our renowned Waldorf Astoria service.

Read more: Louise Cottar of Cottar’s Safaris on meaningful luxury experiences

Additionally, Waldorf Astoria continues to align with and implement Hilton’s industry-defining initiatives and cleanliness protocols to adapt to the needs of our guests. Programs like Hilton CleanStay, an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection, along with EventReady and WorkSpaces by Hilton, allow us to provide our guests with the peace of mind and assurance that our hotels are not only operating at the highest cleanliness and safety standards, but that we are working to create programs and initiatives that allow guests to still host events, work remotely and travel in a way that makes them feel not only comfortable, but catered to.

6. To what extent does relationships with the local community play a role when establishing hotels in new locations?

Local relationships and partnerships are extremely important as we expand because they drive our impactful and authentic destination experiences across Hilton’s luxury properties. We engage with local shamanas and curanderas for native healing and wellness rituals; partner with elite establishments on private excursions that deliver a sense of place and culture in an intimate setting; and bring the region’s natural ingredients and resources to our restaurants for memorable and immersive dining experiences.

Our Conrad hotels across the globe take local engagement and social impact especially seriously, with many of our hotels offering dedicated programs that directly engage or give back to local communities. For example, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island collaborates with several local environmental groups to help promote sustainable travel and encourage guests to reduce the use of materials that impact the environment and ocean. Our Conrad property in Washington, DC also embeds sustainability into its operations, integrating Hilton’s food waste training program into the kitchen culture as well as partnering with Clean the World to recycle and redistribute soap from guest rooms to communities in need around the world.

Conrad Washington D.C. will partner with DC Central Kitchen on a culinary internship and training program for youth. The hotel will the world. All of these programs are part of Travel with Purpose, Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy to redefine and advance sustainable travel globally.

Another example of our engagement with the local community can be seen at The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York, where last year over 15,000 furniture pieces from the original hotel were put up for auction with Kaminski. The proceeds from this auction were given to support St. Bartholomew’s Conservancy in its mission to help restore and preserve the exteriors and gardens of fellow neighbourhood landmark St. Bartholomew’s Church and Community House, a celebrated local historic site and marvel of Byzantine-Romanesque architecture directly across the street.

Find out more: hilton.com/en/waldorf-astoria/

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entrance to villa
tuscan landscape

Dievole is surrounded by the endless green and gold hills of Tuscan legend. Photograph by Marco Badiani

The second half of our journey through Tuscany takes us to Dievole, a luxurious wine resort in the heart of the region’s famous rolling hills

Where

On a ridge surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and forests, in a wild part of Tuscany just 20 minutes’ drive from Siena.

The arrival

Dievole is surrounded by the endless green and gold hills of Tuscan legend. Arriving from Florence, you divert south towards Siena and turn northeast along a winding country lane, great houses appearing suddenly on hilltops, wild boars popping out of the vineyards. This is not a highly touristed part of Tuscany, you feel you are a visitor among locals, yet it is easy to get to Siena and the villages on the Chiantigiana trail. The last part of the journey takes you down a dust track to a tidy car park at the back of imposing stone buildings; there is also an old chapel opposite the pleasant reception office.

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italian villa

The Dievole winery and hotel. Photograph by Alexandra Korey

The views

This is deepest northern Tuscany, the land of Chianti and olives. The hotel’s main pool has an infinity edge overlooking vineyards and a forest in the valley; forest and vineyard extend for miles up ridges and down dells. There is another pool of equal size on the other side of the hotel. Above the pools and below the main buildings are grassy gardens where you can sit and have lunch or a drink on a wonderfully casual scattering of garden furniture. The formal terrace, for breakfast and dinner, sits behind one of the gardens and has a symphony of cicadas at night time.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

The rooms

Modern Tuscan chic without trying too hard: high ceilings, plenty of marble and space. Some rooms have the same views as the pool, others look more inwards, but all are generous, genuine, authentic and light.

entrance to villa

views of vineyards and hills

The entrance to the villa (top) with views across the estate’s vineyards vineyards and the northern Tuscan landscape. Photographs by Alexandra Korey

Wining and dining

Breakfast is the standard Italian luxury fare of a buffet biased towards fruits and cheeses. Lunch was our favourite meal here, just sitting at a table on the lawn above the low wall, beyond which the ground dropped down into the valley below. The nearest other guest was 20 metres away; indeed, Dievole is a magnificent place for not feeling on top of anyone. For lunch, our favourite pick was a grilled turkey breast with a salad of local tomatoes, whose punchy flavours went with the flavours of the air.

Within a 20km radius of Dievole are some of the top wineries of the region and the hotel’s relaxed, professional staff seemed happy for us to sample their wares during lunch. Dievole’s own wines are served at the restaurant during dinner. Not as famous or profound as other local wines, theirs were well priced and a good accompaniment to the food.

The highlight

The views changing colour and texture daily; and the staff, who made things run beautifully without ever falling into the old Italian trap of getting in the way too much. Tuscany for true connoisseurs.

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: dievole.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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safari
safari

Safari in Kenya. Image courtesy of Cottar’s Safari

Fifth generation family business Cottar’s Safaris offers a more meaningful kind of luxury experience. With three camps based in the Masai Mara, the company provides guests with the opportunity to get actively involved in various projects that centre around supporting the local community, wildlife and landscape. Here, co-owner and Managing Director Louise Cottar discusses their approach to sustainability, conservation and the future of travel

woman in safari top

Louise Cottar

1. Cottar’s Safaris has a rich history that dates back to 1919. How has the business evolved while preserving its heritage?

‘Safari’ literally means journey, and the metaphor is also a truism for us as a family we continue into our second century of providing safari services in East Africa. It’s often uncomfortable to acknowledge that early conservation was intrinsically linked with hunting, but early on, and over five generations, we have purposefully shifted to become leaders in safari services that directly and indirectly contribute to conservation. We are now one of nine Global Ecosphere Retreats in the world demonstrating that business can protect and partner with viable productive ecosystems, local communities and indigenous cultures. Embedded in our family’s DNA are central covenants: to support and develop tourism on community-owned, wildlife rich land; to provide the highest standard of guiding; to stay true to the origins and essence of what makes a safari special; to provide both luxury safari accommodation and immersive safari experiences that have positive and sustainable impacts.

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2. What inspired the focus on the Masai Mara region and how is the company involved with the local community?

The Masai Mara is the jewel of Africa when it comes to wildlife experiences and there has always been one absolutely stunning sub-area, in the south-east part of Masai Mara adjacent to the Tanzanian border, that the Cottar family have loved the most and developed an enduring relationship with the Masai community.

luxury dining room

The dining room at Cottar’s Bush Villa. Image courtesy of Cottar’s Safari

3. Why did you decide to set up the Conservation Camp and how does the experience differ from the 1920s camp and the villa?

Over the last twenty years, land surrounding the Masai Mara game national reserve was converted from community land to individually title-deeded land. We developed an initiative, asking the community to consider setting aside some 7,600 acres of land into one undivided plot for conservation, and uniquely they agreed. We lease and manage the 7,600 acre conservancy situated on this community owned land, providing a financial return for the community, whilst also securing a wonderful place for guests to visit and to value and enjoy productive ecosystems, incredible biodiversity, wilderness and wildlife. There are no fences between us and the national reserve, allowing us free movement between the two and securing for the wildlife migratory and dispersal corridors.

Read more: Travelling through Tuscany – Castello Banfi Il Borgo

One of our guests’ other favourite experiences is the chance to explore, understand and engage in Masai culture. Ranging from foraging and medicinal walks with Letilet, our local Medicine man (the YouTube documentary about him has over 9 million views) to joining our Masai Warrior School experience, or hearing insights and anecdotes during fireside talks from one of our Masai guides as they share about their rich Masai culture.

We have three different stay options in the Masai Mara. The 1920’s Camp, the Bush Villa and the Conservation Camp. We developed the conservation camp because there was a real interest from guests wanting to both have a safari holiday, but also have a more immersive conservation experience. The Conservation camp provides this conservation focus yet is a more basic camp (no electricity and bucket showers) as compared to Cottar’s 1920’s Camp and Bush Villa which are considered luxury stays. All three accommodations have an extensive list of immersive and positive impact driven activities such as a joining the only all-female ranger unit in the Masai Mara, experiencing the rehabilitation of raptors recovering from poisoning, compare Western versus African star-gazing stories of the night sky or participate in our seedball reforestation and carbon offset experience. This should go without saying, but of course we also offer professionally guided game drives and game walks.

luxurious safari camp

One of the honeymoon tents at the Cottar’s 1920s safari camp. Image courtesy of Cottar’s Safari

4. As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, do you think travel will ever be the same?

Coming out of the pandemic, I believe that there will be increasing demand for travel that is individually curated, genuinely and positively sustainable and impactful and are away from the maddening crowds.

5. What’s been your most memorable safari experience and why?

Safaris provide difficult-to-describe, sensory-stretching experiences. My most memorable safari experience was watching the emotions of a deaf teenage guest who felt the auditory and powerful vibrations of a lion who roared close to one of our open game vehicles.

6. Are there any developments or new openings in the pipeline?

We continue to develop our positive impact experiences that are fun, immersive and support conservation, community and culture. We are also planning to expand our safari accommodation in order to secure additional critical wildlife corridors in community owned areas of the Masai Mara. I hope in future that businesses such as ours are valued by our commercial success and, in terms of the value of critical biodiversity and communities that we support.

Find out more: cottars.com

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hilltop hotel in vineyards
hilltop hotel in vineyards

The Castello Banfi wine resort. Photograph by I. Franchini.

Staying at two wine estates at opposite ends of the region, LUX experiences fine wines, history, cuisine and the spiritual tranquillity that only Tuscany can offer. First up is Castello Banfi Il Borgo, a wine estate and historic hilltop hamlet transformed into a luxury hotel

Where

On a hilltop in the far south of Tuscany, above a broad sweep of valley and plains, with the massive, looming forested ancient Etruscan volcano of Monte Amiata in the far distance.

The arrival

You know you’re in wine country when you drive to Castello Banfi. The land for miles in every direction is covered with vineyards; a smooth, quiet road leads to the estate from the main road connecting Montalcino, on its hilltop to the north, with Sant’Angelo Scalo in the flat valley below. Banfi is not just a wine estate, it is a hamlet, all converted into a luxury hotel (il Borgo), wine estate and celebrated restaurant. There is even a museum of glass bottles. The feeling is that you have arrived at a very exclusive destination, but a working one, with the vines all around making some of the most famous wines of Tuscany. The ‘hotel’ is the cluster of buildings down the single cobbled road of the hamlet, which have been artfully and expensively restored.

historic fortress

rose garden

The restored hilltop fortress (above) with its rose garden

The views

The place to be here is the pool, which looks out to the south, over vineyards, agricultural land, and plains, over to forested hills in the far distance, many miles away, beyond which are the beaches of the Maremma. At night, you can sit on the grass by the pool and try and guess how far away each point of light in the blackness of the land is: 10km? 20km? In contrast to northern Tuscany, the views here are vast, unending, almost unsettling in their scale. Or is the best view from the bedrooms, which look out over a terrace and to the Monte Amiata volcano in the distance to the east? You are spoiled for choice with different vistas here.

swimming pool and vineyards

The swimming pool with views over the vineyards. Photograph by Darius Sanai

The rooms

The old hamlet’s rooms have been cleverly repurposed into a luxury setting, with beautifully treated woods, marble and fabrics. They are less about light and more about texture, although throwing a window open always reveals a dramatic sight of vineyard and horizon.

Read more: Why Maslina Resort, Hvar makes the perfect summer destination

luxurious hotel suite

One of the suites at the Hotel Il Borgo

Wining and dining

Banfi is known to connoisseurs around the world as one of the most significant producers of Tuscan wines. We were given the rare pleasure of a tasting personally overseen by the estate’s director Enrico Viglierchio. The Poggio alle Mura, one of the prestige cuvées of Banfi, is made from a blend of some of the best vineyard sites in the area, many of which you drive through as you approach the estate. Deep, powerful and rich, it’s a Brunello di Montalcino for those who love their wines to resonate. Meanwhile the range-topping Poggio all’Oro is elegant, almost delicate, its older vintages having a complexity of earthy layers, a connoisseur’s wine. You can choose from those and many more at the Sala dei Grappoli fine dining restaurant, in a medieval courtyard, which serves elaborate, intricate, complex cuisine like total black crisp egg, pallone di gravina cheese foam, avocado and Cinta Senese pork dust (and that’s just a starter). There’s also La Taverna for more relaxed, hearty Tuscan dining indoors.

taverna style restaurant

The Taverna restaurant

The highlight

Apart from the wines, it’s the architecture of this intimate private village, and the way you and the other guests (never many of them) feel that you have a whole, perfectly tended, luxury hilltop community and all its astonishing sightlines to yourselves.

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: castellobanfiwineresort.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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house hidden in trees
house hidden in trees

Maslina Resort sits within a former olive grove on the edge of Maslinica bay. Photograph by James Houston

Why should I go now?

For endless blue skies, crystal clear water, and the slow, seductive pace of island living. Croatia remains one of the most popular and reliable summer destinations in Europe, and thanks to the sheer number of islands (there are over a thousand), there are still a handful of unspoiled spots to be found.

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While Hvar town might be bring to mind superyachts and glitzy parties, the island itself is rugged and wild with dense pine forests, remote fishing villages, and a rich, layered history. Maslina Resort opened quietly in 2020, mid-pandemic, and offers a wholesome, earthy kind of luxury.

First Impressions

The colours are the first thing you notice: the vivid blue and white spray of the Adriatic sea as the speed boat curves around the base of Hvar island and into Maslinica Bay. From a distance, the wooden-clad buildings of Maslina Resort are barely distinguishable amidst the earthy green of the olive and Aleppo pine trees, but inside is everything is bright, open, and bare with smooth, cream walls, terracotta-tiled floors, and white floaty curtains, which divide the reception, library and a sunken lounge. Each space is filled with beautiful objects and eclectic furnishings, including a spectacular 12-ton rock from the island of Brač which serves as the reception desk.

It has the feel of a fashionable, much-loved pied-à-terre, which in a way, it is: the owners are French financiers who fell in love with the raw beauty of the island and purchased the land to build their own little hideaway.

sunken living room

The public spaces are open-plan, creating a sense of light and space. Photograph by James Houston

The Experience

Guests spend their days padding around barefoot in their swimsuits, wandering between the restaurant, poolside, spa and the sea. Bedrooms are divided between six-interconnected pavilions; some have their own private plunge pools or gardens, but for the best sea views, check into a panoramic suite. There are also three spacious seafront villas for groups of friends or families.

swimming pool amidst trees

The view over the bay from the balcony of a top floor bedroom. Photograph by James Houston

There’s a strong focus on holistic living that connects with the local culture and landscape. Spa treatments involve botanical oils, scrubs and baths, and for those checking in for longer stays, there are wellness programmes designed for stress-relief and detoxification. One of our favourite experiences was guided meditation under the shade of a tree in the organic garden, which sits just behind the beach, providing a soothing soundtrack of rolling waves.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

The main restaurant makes the most of the home-grown seasonal produce, pairing Mediterranean flavours with Japanese cooking techniques (think herby salads, fresh fish, flat breads, and olive oil), while the beach bar (open from 5pm onwards) offers a more causal menu of tapas and seafood dishes.

fine dining restaurant

The indoor dining room at the main restaurant. Photograph by James Houston

As the staff come mainly from the surrounding communities, they have an expansive knowledge of island’s sites, histories and customs. We spent a wonderful afternoon with one of resort’s expert guides,  who took us on a tour of the ancient town of Stari Grad followed by wine-tasting in a beautiful, candlelit cellar, and dinner at a konoba-style restaurant, perched high up on the hillside. 

Takeaway

Unlike a lot of luxury island resorts, Maslina feels genuinely rooted in its surroundings, which has less to do with its architecture, and more to do with the people and natural landscape. The atmosphere is laid-back and unpretentious; you feel at home, almost instantly.

Rates: From €300 per night, including breakfast (approx. £250 / $350)

Book your stay: maslinaresort.com

 

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hotel bedroom with plush furnishings
chateau hotel

Photograph by Anne Emmanuelle Thion

In the final part of our luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the subtle grandeur of Domaine Les Crayères in the Champagne region of France

If the method of departure from a hotel leaves a lasting memory, so too does a welcome. The luxury hotel where the doorman ignored you, or wasn’t there in your moment of need, is likely emblazoned on your heart. And the welcome at the Domaine Les Crayères was something else. It was a five-hour drive, roof down into the sun, from Baden-Baden to the outskirts of Reims in the Champagne region of France; after some moments of interest passing through (but sadly not stopping in) the wonderful hills of Alsace, the road was relentless. Crunching down the drive and drawing up to the grand mansion, I felt like nothing more than passing out on a cool bed for half an hour before an early dinner, ahead of my day of meetings the following day.

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The doorman whisked my door open and ushered me in; reception was a brief formality; all good. And then: “We would like to invite you onto our terrace for a glass of champagne, monsieur.” Really, I thought, like this? I was wearing black jeans and a polo, not evening wear. I was assured it would be fine. Still swaying from the drive, I walked out onto a broad terrace above a long stretch of parkland garden, was shown to my table and poured a glass of their champagne. Canapés appeared. The sun was about to set but still a few centimetres above the treetops; it was warm, and the terrace was scattered with lively and appropriately spaced couples. What had seemed like a slightly bad idea on arrival – shouldn’t you have a glass of champagne before dinner? – turned out to be a stroke of genius. A blanc de blancs champagne is reviving, not soporific, and when I finally went up to my room at sunset, I felt energised.

hotel bedroom with plush furnishings

One of the hotel’s elegant bedrooms

My room, at the top corner of the château, was elegant and elaborately decorated, with a view out over the same parkland. Although it is on the edge of Reims, the feel is peaceful: you have no sense of being in a big city, but nevertheless I walked to my meetings in the centre of town the next morning (full disclosure: it was a couple of kilometres each way, and I was working on my step count after a lot of driving).

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

You come to Champagne to drink champagne (or in my case to meet clients who own champagne houses), and you come to the Crayères for the best possible base while doing so – and to drink champagne and most of all to dine in its two Michelin-starred restaurant.

The atmosphere here, in its intimate dining room, was surprising in a positive way: it wasn’t so grand and formal that guests felt they had to dine in a hush. And yet the chef Philippe Mille and his creativity were very much front and centre. As well as à la carte, you can choose from various menus including an ‘Escape into the Vines’ menu. This was an astonishing piece of imagination and artistry, and so far beyond a mere manifestation of its ingredients that it would do it a disservice to describe it by the ingredients of each individual course.

fine dining dish

A foie gras dish from the two Michelin-starred restaurant at Domaine Les Crayères

There were seven courses, created to work in sequence like a story and woven together by a freshness and life so often missing from formal French dining where heavy saucing is a substitute for imagination. Oh, OK, I will describe just one of them: lobster from the Iles de Chausey, grilled on vine shoots, with shells juice (no typo there) and pinot meunier.

The champagne list – encyclopaedia, really – is extensive but what is really impressive is the selection of small-grower champagnes, many of them just farmers making champagne on their smallholding, many of them cheap, unavailable elsewhere and absolutely delicious. I do not usually seek the advice of sommeliers, finding them too often beholden to their own tastes or trends, but here, stay away from the brands you know, and seek one of these out. A unique and highly repeatable experience.

Book your stay: lescrayeres.com

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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spa swimming pool overlooking forests
luxury hotel in a park

An aerial view of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa and, to the right, the parkland of the Lichtentaler Allee

In the third edition of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai checks into Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in the scenic spa town of Baden-Baden

Drive north from Switzerland into Germany and along the flatlands of the Rhine valley, and you would have forgiven me for wanting to leave as quickly as I arrived. Yet just a few kilometres to your right you can see the undulating crest of the Black Forest (in reality a range of low mountains, not just a forest). Baden-Baden is a spa town set at the entrance to a valley; above it the road winds into the mountains, and the town itself is pleasingly encased by a variety of greens from meadows and trees.

The heart of Baden-Baden is a park, which runs along the mountain stream that flows through the town and beyond its famous opera house. This was a celebrated 19th-century retreat for the aristocracy, and the grandest location then is the grandest location now, the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Stroll through the hotel’s lobby from the entrance on a quiet street (Baden-Baden is mostly about quiet streets) and through onto the terrace and garden on the other side, and you can walk across a private bridge across the river, with its panoply of ducks, through a gate for the guests of the hotel only, into the park and surrounding gardens. From there it is a five-minute walk to the cafés and promenade at the centre of town. Perfect for a Victorian used to being shuffled around in their landau carriage.

The hotel itself remains true to its history. This is part of the impossibly aristocratic Oetker Collection, which runs, among others, the old money Le Bristol in Paris, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, and The Lanesborough in London.

elegant cocktail bar

The Art Deco bar in the Fritz & Felix restaurant, where craft beers vie with cocktails and local wines for your attention

There is a tranquil feel about this place, particularly if you choose a room overlooking the park – really, the only option you should consider. Your view is a canopy of trees and the stream: no roads or traffic in sight. Wander downstairs and sit out on the terrace for a drink, surrounded by trees.

Read more: Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava on light and space

It was a warm night when I stayed, and the combination of a very genteel 19th-century ambience and the very 21st-century cuisine of Fritz & Felix, the hotel’s contemporary-cool restaurant, was addictive. Corn salad with quinoa and pomegranate; local char (a hugely underrated fleshy white fish) with pumpkin, coconut, chilli and mandarin; pata negra with string beans and pied de mouton mushrooms. The southwest of Germany also makes some excellent pinot noir wines: it is very close to Burgundy, but as the climate is a little warmer and more continental, the Baden pinot noirs are a tad richer and softer than a typical Côte-d’Or red; and mine matched the pata negra very well.

spa swimming pool overlooking forests

The spa swimming pool

The Brenners is fabled for its spa, which is the kind of place you go to for a six-month programme to reshape your body and soul, rather than a simple treatment, though you can do that, too. There’s a big indoor pool with French windows opening out onto the gardens, and you can lounge outside when it’s warm.

Anyone who knows the Oetker hotels also knows the staff are among the best in the world at personalised treatment of guests, a kind of old-world je ne sais quoi without ever being too formal or in the way. A warm wave goodbye, water bottles installed in the car, just concluded a perfect memory. If I’d had more time, there would have been plenty of exploring Baden-Baden and its theatres, and the surrounding Black Forest and its walks and inns.

Book your stay: oetkercollection.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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mountaintop hotel overlooking a city
mountaintop hotel overlooking a city

The Dolder Grand hotel with the city of Zurich beyond. Photograph by David Biedert

In the second edition of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the rewards to be gained from combining business and pleasure at The Dolder Grand in Zurich

Zurich is a city to do business in, and another city with much more to offer than business. I could spend three days in the Kunsthaus museum alone, as well as (in normal times) the thoughtful shows in the Kunsthalle.

In corona times, business trips have fewer long meetings and meals (and in many cases, amen to that), meaning longer intervals in the places you’re visiting, particularly when juggling more than one client.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Anticipating this, and a lot of downtime at the hotel, I booked into The Dolder Grand. Zurich’s ‘city resort’ hotel has gained a spectacular reputation since it reopened after a long slumber, in 2008. It is located near the top of a hillside above the city, about 10 minutes by car or funicular from the city centre (though the bottom station of the funicular isn’t strictly in the centre of the city). On a golden summer’s day, arrival at the hotel is a tonic. You are in a semi-residential, semi-forested area high above the city, with dramatic views across Lake Zurich to the faraway crest of the high Alps.

The hotel itself was rebuilt by Norman Foster for its grand reopening, and the notable and spectacular are everywhere in the blend of classic and modern, particularly in the artworks literally strewn around the premises.

Contemporary art and design are in the hotel’s DNA; one of the restaurants was designed by Rolf Sachs, the artist/designer son of tycoon Gunter Sachs, both St Moritz royalty.
My junior suite deluxe was pure Norman Foster-meets-One Hyde Park (he designed that, too). Floor-to-ceiling windows with black frames, balcony with black railings with a view across the lake. Sofa the shape of an amoeba, copper bowls with flowers, Mojave sand-coloured carpets with a similar amoeba swirl effect. The bath was strategically placed by the window with a view out into the forest.

neon pink lighting in a restaurant

Restaurant Saltz at The Dolder Grand in Zurich, with the Fauteuil Direction chair, designed by Jean Prouvé in 1939

That evening I chose to dine on the hotel’s extensive terrace. Seeing the colours of the city, lake and mountains change as the day ended was quite an experience, even without the food and the crisp yet lucid chardonnay from the Bündner Herrschaft beyond the lake.

The cuisine was served from Saltz and looked suitably experimental. What, for example, were Swiss dumplings (chicken, salmon, pork belly, ratatouille and roasted cauliflower), I wondered? My waiter told me that they were a take on dim sum, not incarnations of the dumpy European versions. He was right: they were fragrant, vibrant, wonderful, a reinvention of dim sum using local ingredients but respectful of the original and their paper-thin encasing.

Read more: Product designer Tord Boontje on sustainable materials

Chestnut tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and tubers was earthy and genuine. It’s a casual menu, and you can pick from a variety of simple grills and add side dishes and sauces, like creamed spinach with poached quail egg, chilli soy Romanesco, chimichurri, or cognac green pepper jus. No dictatorship of the chef here.

My next day’s meeting was early, but I had to take advantage of our hotel’s pool. Clad with dark stone, it is a welcome addition to a city-centre hotel. It is rare to leave a hotel more culturally enlightened than when you arrived, but The Dolder Grand is one of those places. Not branding itself an art hotel (perish the thought), it is a contemporary cultural institution wrapped into a spectacular luxury hotel.

Find out more: thedoldergrand.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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corridor and stairway
corridor and stairway

Inside the new Castiglione wing of the Hôtel Costes. Image by Alex Profit.

The legendary celebrity magnet Hôtel Costes in Paris is reopening with 38 spectacular new rooms and suites in a new wing on the rue Castiglione. Owner Jean-Louis Costes, who has never before given an interview to the international media, tells LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about his lack of design philosophy and why the hotel owes its success to discretion

1. What is your design philosophy?

I don’t know what you mean by a design philosophy. I choose people; all my life, I have chosen people. My first designer was Philippe Starck [for the Café Costes, which propelled Jean-Louis and his brother Gilbert to fame in 1984], who was unknown at the time. Then I took Jacques Garcia [for the original Hôtel Costes in 1995], also unknown at the time. And now, as I am getting older, I have taken on Christian Liaigre, because we are both young fathers and our sons were at the same school. Each morning we would have a coffee together and he would tell me “Jean-Louis, I want to redo your hotel”.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What is the ‘legend of the Costes’ that people talk about?

There is no legend. I don’t know. I didn’t do anything deliberately, but it happened. We are different. People talk about the music, the scent. There was no music in hotels 25 years ago. We had a CD that played on a loop, I got sick of having to turn it off all the time, so I spoke to one of our old waiters who had just come out of rehab. I said to him, “Take this space and play music all day”. He knew a few labels and artists and asked if he could make our own compilation CD, and I let him do it and we sold five million CDs. It became a legend, but it was by chance.

As to the scent, everything in the Costes has a little story. I was sitting downstairs when we had just opened, and an attractive woman stopped and said, “Monsieur, are you the owner of this place?” I said yes. She said, “I like it a lot, but it smells bad.” And at that stage it was true – we were just trying to get rid of the smell of the original building works. A few days later I saw her in the pages of Elle; she was the star perfumer of France, Olivia Giacobetti. When I saw her again, I asked, “So, what should I do?” She said, “You have to create something yourself.” And I told her to go and do it, and she created our candle, which is now famous and sold around the world. Before that, hotels just didn’t have their own scents. But I created it on the spur of the moment. There was no strategy, no marketing.

women leaving a hotel

Joan Smalls, Kendall Jenner and Lily Donaldson leaving a Paris Fashion Week party at the Hôtel Costes. Image by Ben Eade/GoffPhotos.com

3. What do you like your guests to do?

I don’t like people who stay in their rooms. The guests have to meet and see real Parisians. People eating in the restaurant need to feel like they are in their own town.

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

4. What makes the Costes different?

I wanted to make an urban resort, not a business hotel, even though we have a lot of business guests. I’m also not part of a group, which makes a difference; we can be more joyful, more dynamic. I am one of the hoteliers who, over the past 25 years, has created this ‘entertainment’ style. And it’s not enough to be in a good location. You have to treat guests better than anyone else does. Your hotel needs to be more beautiful and have better facilities. I am always amazed when people build ugly little hotels and they do well with them.

marble staircase

A staircase in the Castiglione wing. Image by Alex Profit.

5. What makes the new wing, the Costes Castiglione, so special?

I’m not sure. I treat this hotel as if it’s my home, and not just the current enlargement, but from the beginning. I always created it as if I were decorating my own home.

hotel bedroom

A suite in the new wing. Image by Alex Profit.

6. Why don’t you give interviews?

To speak about a place is interesting, but to speak about myself is not. It’s just not my thing. It’s not necessary to create media to succeed. You have to be a bit enigmatic. These days, any hotel which opens and changes its bathrooms wants an article about it.

Jean-Louis gave his first international media interview for this article and asked that we do not publish a picture of him.

Find out more: hotelcostes.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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terrace views

The view from the terrace of the Royal Penthouse suite at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai enjoys fine dining and Alpine views at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva

Geneva is a city that will be known to LUX readers as a place to park the jet ahead of a skiing holiday, and a city to visit a few times a year on banking business.

It is also a centre of tourism, although its hotels tend to be focused more on the business traveller: plenty of exclusive restaurants and conference rooms, less in the way of relaxation and views.

During the lull in the pandemic last summer, I decided to combine visits to clients in Geneva, Andermatt, Zurich, Germany and Champagne into one single drive, rather than the more fraught process of taking planes, trains and taxis.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Arriving in Geneva by car rather than the usual plane/taxi combination opens your eyes to the city’s location. To arrive from northwest Europe, you make your way down a winding motorway through a valley in the Jura Mountains, with the Alps opening out in front of you beyond the lake.

It was a summer’s day with deep-blue Alpine skies, and I would rather have camped out in a deckchair then be cooped up behind the sealed windows of a business hotel, however luxurious.

Fortunately, the Mandarin Oriental is a place to combine both business and leisure. After a Covid-secure check-in, I was ushered into a lift by myself, and checked into my junior terrace suite. In many hotels, even expensive ones, a junior suite is really an excuse to charge a higher rate by sticking a sofa into a king-size bedroom. But not here.

To the right, a big glass-walled bathroom, with an electric blind you could lower for privacy. To the left, an extensive dressing area, and in the room itself a big glass desk, cabinets and bookshelves, plenty of oriental chic furniture, a triple-bed corner sofa and coffee table, with a lot of space in between. Not a suite of rooms, but a very large, well-designed and light bedroom, which could easily have been divided in two – which would have ruined the effect.

Outside was the pièce de résistance, certainly on a sunny summer’s day (less useful in Swiss winters): an extensive private terrace with sun loungers, chairs, a table, outdoor candles and a Buddha. The terrace looked out over the Rhine river at the point it tapers from the lake, across the old town and the rest of the city to the Alps beyond.

hotel bedroom with views over a river

A guest bedroom in the Royal Penthouse suite at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva

Furnishing was in a pleasing contemporary classic green and gold, and the glass bathroom answered a question Nick Jones, founder of the Soho House group, posed in my head some 20 years ago. At that stage, Nick was just planning to launch his first hotel, Babington House in the British countryside. He told me over lunch that the rooms would be completely different to anything anyone had seen before in a hotel, starting with the bathrooms. “Why should there be a bathroom on the right or left as you go in?” he said, somewhat gnomically.

Read more: Superblue’s experiential art centres & innovative business model

Now, as anyone who has been to any of the Soho House properties and their imitators will know, you can find a bath almost anywhere within the perimeter of the room. But the problem is that people want privacy and cosiness in bathrooms, sometimes; and at other times they may wish to see the world or the world to see them. The glass-walled bathroom in my terrace suite was the perfect answer: with the blind raised, this was a large, wet, marble part of the bedroom and terrace. And with it down, total privacy.

On my last night I had that welcome rarity on business trips, an evening alone, due mainly to pandemic caution deterring any formal dinners with clients. It was a warm evening, and I ordered room service on my terrace from Yakumanka, the hotel’s acclaimed Peruvian restaurant.

Three staff members arrived and swiftly moved to the terrace to set the table; the courses arrived separately, so they would not get cold.

This is pure, focused cuisine. White fish with calamari, tamarind sauce and tartar; grilled calamari with white chaufa and Szechuan leche de tigre. Particularly memorable was the sautéed rice with calamari, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and tortilla.

All accompanied by a creamy but fresh bottle of Deutz champagne and that view across the city to the Alps. A business hotel and a relaxation zone all in one in the heart of town and with the flawless professional service, swift yet relaxed, the group has made its name for.

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com/geneva

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue. 

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hotel bedroom

The Heritage Suite Bedroom at Castello Del Nero, Como Group’s latest opening in Tuscany

Olivier Jolivet has sat at the helm of COMO Group since 2017. He oversees the COMO Hotels and Resorts portfolio across 15 locations, and masterminded the launch of Castello Del Nero, the group’s first property in continental Europe. Here, Jolivet tells Chloe Frost-Smith why the luxury travel industry will see an increasing demand for small hotels, private residences and wellbeing experiences this year

Olivier Jolivet

LUX: What sets COMO apart from other luxury brands?
Olivier Jolivet: COMO and its businesses are unique in the luxury landscape. Since its inception, the shareholders stayed the same, which provides stability to the organisation and the opportunity to think long term. It’s a massive competitive advantage, especially when recruiting the right talents. COMO is not only a brand, it’s a ‘lifestyle‘ and this why we have invested in fashion, wellness, sport and will continue to do so in the future.

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LUX: COMO is currently reopening properties in select destinations after temporary closure due to the pandemic. How’s that going?
Olivier Jolivet: One of our founding purposes at COMO has been our 25-year commitment to holistic wellbeing among customers, staff and the communities where we operate. As our properties re-open, we continue to adjust measures to remain in line with different government guidelines, and when we are in doubt of guidelines, we will always go further to ensure the safety of staff and guests.

In the long term, health isn’t ever a quick fix ,but a life-long commitment. This is the driving force behind COMO Shambhala – the wellness heart of COMO, which has always prescribed an integrative approach to wellbeing.

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about the launch of COMO Shambhala By My Side?
Olivier Jolivet: COMO Shambhala By My Side is an innovative digital wellbeing companion, launched by COMO Group’s holistic wellness brand, COMO Shambhala, to bring wellness programmes and personal consultations into homes around the world. The online platform brings together the holistic expertise honed at both COMO Shambhala Urban Escape in Singapore, and COMO Hotels and Resorts wellness locations around the world. Through the digital platform users can access COMO’s rich network of international experts. COMO Shambhala By My Side provides a sanctuary for those who seek tranquillity and the inspiration to stay active during these uncertain times and beyond.

spa treatment room

luxurious bedroom

The Bayugita Master bedroom at COMO Shambhala Estate, and above, the treatment room in the retreat villa

LUX: What’s your approach to sustainability for now and in the future?
Olivier Jolivet: No matter the location, we operate with the belief that we can deliver unique experiences for our guests while operating sustainably. We reduce our consumption and source locally, managing our water and energy to minimise our impact on the environment. We celebrate local culture and support the domestic economy, offering immersive and authentic experiences. This is true for all the business we operate.

We have a long-term philosophy and sustainability has always been a key part of our make-up – we just don’t feel the need to shout about it.

Read more: Why Sofia Mitsola is one of our artists to watch in 2021

LUX: You recently oversaw the brand’s first venture into continental Europe, Castello del Nero. Why Tuscany?
Olivier Jolivet: When you want to be an international lifestyle brand, it is difficult to avoid Italy. Tuscany is one of the most amazing regions of Italy with its history, its landscape, its tradition and food. You will always have a strong local market and a great international appeal.

tuscany hotel

The exterior of the chapel at Castello del Nero

LUX: You have managed two luxury travel brands with Asia-Pacific origins – your current role with COMO and your previous position at Aman Resorts. Is this coincidence, or is there something in particular that drew you to these destinations?
Olivier Jolivet: Even if these two brands have the same geographical origin, they are very different in their conception and in their history, and yes, I was very curious about it. What drew my attention is probably the myth around them and their huge potential for growth.

Read more: Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf on the rise of a new Renaissance

LUX: Bhutan is a relatively unusual country to have in the portfolio. What is your thought process when it comes to scouting out new destinations?
Olivier Jolivet:  We look for destinations with soul. Our hotels inspire people to live fuller lives and make a meaningful difference by creating experiences worth re-living, whether it’s meditating at an ancient Bhutanese temple or diving with manta rays in the Maldives. Our guests want to satisfy their quest to explore our destinations with COMO.

water villa

A water villa at COMO Cocoa Island resort

LUX: How do you think the coronavirus crisis will affect the luxury travel in general and your group in particular?
Olivier Jolivet: Travellers will opt for smaller groups, more intimate locations and specialised offerings instead of 300-bedroom hotels. Our hotel business model has always catered to this, focusing on the soul of each destination, offering limited rooms and suites, and catering to those who seek to improve their wellbeing. For COMO, it’s not about long-term change; our core philosophy toward proactive wellness isn’t changing, it’s just never been more front of mind. We are successful not by chance, but because we continue with our vision.

LUX: What travel trends do you anticipate emerging in 2021?
Olivier Jolivet: I have always said that luxury has something to do with space and intimacy. It is now more relevant than ever, and small destinations will prevail. Travellers are on a pursuit for privacy and intimacy, and we’ve noticed an increased demand for our private villas and residences, as well as private, exclusive experiences. I also predict there will be a strong emphasis on people wanting a wellbeing offering.

LUX: Do you have any new developments in the pipeline?
Olivier Jolivet: We are focusing on developing our lifestyle component by investing into new trends, new businesses and new destinations. We’re also in the process of launching our COMO Club, with access to the world of COMO from hospitality to wellness, sport and fashion.

Find out more: comohotels.com

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man sitting with bags
man sitting with bags

Jonathan Riss has designed a collection of bags exclusively for One&Only

Belgium-born designer Jonathan Riss is the founder of JAH AHR, a luxury brand which transforms authenticated vintage designer bags through embroidery techniques. His latest collaboration with One&Only Resorts – a collection of limited edition custom-designed vintage Louis Vuitton Keepalls – is inspired by the local heritage and culture of each of the brand’s destinations. Here, Abigail Hodges speaks to the designer about his creative process, sustainable fashion and the future of travel

1. What led you to start re-crafting iconic vintage fashion pieces?

We live in a society of significant over-production and if you analyse consumer behaviour, you quickly see that people prefer iconic pieces, not because of their value, but because of the work and effort to perfect these pieces over time so they too reflect the values and desires of society.

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Today, there is an increasing demand for sustainability as well as individualisation. The idea that we not only take vintage objects and give them a new lease of life, but also to continue to work on them. To be part of this pursuit of perfection, but at the same time to continue to reflect the wants of society by offering singularly unique pieces is very interesting.

gorilla bag2. Can you tell us your favourite story about one of the bags you’ve sourced?

There are so many stories across the different mediums that we are transforming. One that springs to mind for the Keepall collection is a bag we sourced in Moscow that was originally made in 1991, on which we placed the USSR flag as this was the year of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Another bag we found was in Hong Kong that was made in 1997 which was the year of the historic handover so we imprinted this bag with the Hong Kong flag. We also sourced some bags in Tehran which have our Persian rug design reflecting the philosophy of our collections, which is to highlight the imprint of the local culture where the object was used or sourced.

 

designer in the studio

Riss at work in his studio

3. What does your design process typically involve?

The most important aspect of what we do is not the design itself, but the narrative that sits behind and around each piece. So the provenance often leads the design as the actual story of each object is much more interesting, and the design is an extension of the story, but of course, exploring different techniques of texture is a vital part of the design process enabling the execution of the narrative.

Read more: Win two life coaching sessions with Simon Hodges

4. How did your collaboration with One&Only come about?

This is a beautiful topic. One&Only owns a stunning portfolio of unique properties all over the world that really reflects the philosophy of our collection. The opportunity to create a bespoke heritage collection that allows us to showcase the cultural, social and natural aspects of each destination was an incredibly exciting opportunity as this is exactly what we do with all of our collections.

bag and kangaroo

5. When deciding how to celebrate each destination, which elements were particularly important for you to highlight?

There are almost too many elements to consider, so again, we were often led by the bag itself. For example, for Cape Town we had a bag that was originally made in 1994 which was the first year of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency so we created a design celebrating the great man himself.

Similarly, we had a bag for Rwanda that was from 2002 which is when the new Rwanda national anthem was officially inaugurated so we placed the lyrics from the anthem on an interpretation of the national flag. For Dubai, we wanted to showcase the incredible architecture as well as the importance of Islam so we overlaid a blessing on the Dubai skyline. In Mexico, we are fascinated by the contrast of the colour and vibrancy of the Dia de los Muertos with meaning behind the celebrations. In Malaysia, we loved the romance of discovering ancient statues and carvings in the jungle. The breadth of inspiration is also important to us.

6. What’s inspiring you currently?

Given what has happened in the past year, I am getting excited by the future of travel, and how the quality and experience of travel will evolve. As we have seen, anything can happen that impacts society in a dramatic way so what is interesting is to see how we elevate ourselves and I am working on a new project thinking about this, so watch this space.

Follow Jonathan Riss on Instagram: @_jay_ahr_

To purchase one of Jonathan Riss’s bags for One&Only email: [email protected]

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hotel lobby

The lobby of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

In the final edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai enjoys the Parisian elegance and ease of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

Location, location, location. What is the nearest luxury hotel to the epicentre of Paris shopping, the original Hermès flagship store on the corner of rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and rue Boissy-d’Anglas? I would understand if you were thinking Crillon, Ritz or Bristol, but you would be incorrect. The Faubourg is so close that you could fish a Birkin out of the Hermès window display with a fishing pole and a hook.

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The frontage, in a road now closed to traffic for security reasons as it is so close to the Élysée Palace, belies the grandeur of the entrance hall when you walk inside. The welcome is swift, efficient and friendly, as you would expect from this significant European luxury hotel group.

luxury hotel bedroom

The Faubourg Suite

My room was well-appointed in a very Parisian style: vintage mirrors, Vogue photography, plenty of plush. With the rue Boissy-d’Anglas closed to traffic, it was also wonderfully quiet for a city-centre room.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges discusses the complexities of familial relationships

I had declined the offer of dinner with a business contact, as I had some research to do ahead of a meeting the next day, so I slipped downstairs with my iPad and found a place in the bar, a cosy, jazzy little room at street level.

luxury hotel interiors

The Blossom restaurant

Sometimes, on travels, after a number of meals offered where different levels of cuisine are showcased, there is nothing you feel like more than a Caesar salad, which the bar provided with no qualms and in very Gallic style, with corn-fed chicken and proper fries on the side. Paris is near enough to Burgundy to justify choosing a medically necessary Macon-Uchizy from the excellent 2016 vintage as an accompaniment.

My meeting the next day was not at Hermès but at a brand located next door. A 90-second commute. Now, that’s luxury.

Find out more: sofitel-paris-lefaubourg.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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hotel suite drawing room
hotel suite drawing room

The Jackie O. Suite at the Villa Kennedy

In the third edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief returns to Villa Kennedy, a Rocco Forte hotel in the centre of Frankfurt, to discover how it stands the test of time

Frankfurt is not a city known for either its romance or its luxury experiences. So, if someone suggested flying there for a romantic weekend, you might start doubting their sanity.

But bear with me here. Having landed at Frankfurt airport, a 15-minute taxi ride through a forest into Sachsenhausen, an area of grand villas, took me to the Villa Kennedy. A villa hotel with a spa a long way metaphorically from the skyscrapers of the city centre – although Sachsenhausen is just across the river from the financial district.

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I had been to the Villa before, when Rocco Forte first opened it in 2006, and was curious to see how Europe’s most endearing (and indeed enduring) hotelier has adapted it to the times.

exterior of castle hotel

luxurious courtyard

A view of the hotel’s façade (above), and the gardens

This is a very exclusive hotel and the Zen-like atmosphere virtually wafted me up to the Jackie O. Suite, whose library room was bigger than that in many a decent home, and looked out over a tranquil central courtyard, via an extensive private terrace. The decor was sixties inspired, with swathes of gold, and the coffee table was laden with books on art and design. The bedroom was separated from the extensive bathroom area by corridor so long that you could take your exercise at the Villa Kennedy just by walking the length of your suite.

As well as being a financial capital of Germany, Frankfurt is close to the Rhine winelands, and it was pleasing to see a good selection of those wines by the glass at the Italian restaurant, Gusto, that evening. Gusto is on the ground-floor level by the internal courtyard, and while the weather was not good when I visited, I imagine sitting at a table in the courtyard would be a delightful Italianate experience on a sunny summer’s day.

Read more: How to shop for art online by Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf

I needed to finish off a presentation ahead of my meetings the next day, and the calm atmosphere and efficient service were just what was required to accompany a laptop, a glass of Trocken Rheingau Riesling and some tuna tartare with ricotta and cucumber. Perhaps, though, the restaurant has missed a trick in being too efficient, feeling like a better place for a corporate dinner or an editor working on a laptop, than a more lingering and languid romantic dinner.

swimming pool

The spa swimming pool

That’s probably due to the nature of Frankfurt, although it’s a bit of a shame. The hotel also has a celebrated spa, which I didn’t have time to visit on my overnight, but which caters to the Frankfurt elite. Combined with the efficient journey, the architecture, location, and magnificence of the suite, a visit to the spa would’ve been a perfect ending to a romantic break, as long as there was a cuisine experience to match. Turn Frankfurt into a lovers’ location: Sir Rocco, you have overcome many challenges in your colourful life, and here’s the next one. It just needs a softening of the dining area to add the right mix of atmosphere, and ecco. Done.

roccofortehotels.com

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interior restaurant

La Muña restaurant at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich.

In the second of our four part luxury travels view column, our editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the elegant alpine charm of La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich

Have you come across a La Réserve junkie? They are fans of one of Europe’s most distinctive and chichi luxury hotel groups, a kind of micro-version of the original Aman concept. There are La Réserves in Paris, Geneva and Saint-Tropez. The Geneva and St-Trop (in fact, Ramatuelle, on the coast just outside) properties have similarities. They’re both resorts, with delicious swimming pools – Geneva’s is the city’s most bijou pool and spa, as well as an outdoor pool with a country-club feel for the summertime.

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So, I was interested when the owner of the La Réserve group, Michel Reybier, told me that he was opening a La Réserve in Zurich, not a city known for the quality or variety of its luxury hotels. But where would it be? Just outside town, on a greenfield site near the lake, like Geneva? Or a city centre hotel like Paris?

hotel bathroom

The view from one of the hotel bathrooms. Image by G Gardette

The answer is, a bit of both. The La Réserve Eden au Lac is, as its name suggests, set on the shore of Lake Zurich, a ten-minute walk or five-minute taxi ride from the heart of downtown. It is still in the city centre, a conversion of one of the city’s most celebrated properties, Hotel Eden, which had become a little neglected.

Read more: How ethical blue economy investments support ocean conservation

My room, on the second floor, with a small balcony, had an entrancing view across the lake to the Alps beyond. The interior was just delightful. The bed was in the centre of the room, with a writing desk behind, a blend of 20th-century modern and contemporary touches in the design, bare walls, Ibiza-style white drapes and some beautiful Swiss marquetry.

luxury bedroom

The Eden Suite at the hotel

Reybier has made the Geneva and Saint-Tropez properties destinations in themselves due to their dining and bar options. Would Zurich be the same? The Eden Kitchen & Bar is melded into the lobby restaurant and, while many people would enjoy their Cecconi’s-type vibe, I like my hotel bars to feel a little bit more exclusive, more club-like.

Fortunately, Reybier also appointed Philippe Starck to create La Muña on the top floor. With a view across the lake and city on a clear summer day, it’s also a curious and rather wonderful mix of Alpine and ‘yachty’ (the concept is ‘an imaginary yacht club created by Starck’) in an attic-type space in the rafters of the building. It really feels like an Alpine chill-out bar serving fabulous Japanese food, with a hint of South America. Creamy spicy salmon tartar with tobiko, sesame, jalapeño and fried rice was gorgeous, as were the grilled vegan gyoza. La Muña also has a very painstakingly sourced list of Swiss wines, the best of which were superb and hard to find.

Chapeau, Monsieur Reybier, you may just have created your best Réserve yet.

Find out more: lareserve-zurich.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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hotel lounge area

The reception area at The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column, our editor-in-chief Darius Sanai recalls the breathtaking views and chic ambience of The Fullerton Bay hotel in Singapore

A first-time visitor to Singapore before would be forgiven for being rather surprised arriving at the rooftop swimming pool at The Fullerton Bay hotel. The city state has a reputation for being efficient but unexciting – a business city for the wealthy, not a tourist destination.

Walk out of the lift on the top floor of the hotel, and you realise that reputation is outdated. In front of you is a huge outdoor pool with sunloungers both beside it and along both sides, inside it – meaning you can have both a wet bar and a wet sunbathe. Or moonbathe, in my case, as I had just arrived on a long-haul flight in the evening. Beyond the pool was a bright and throbbing outdoor bar area, the front row of which looks directly across the water of Marina Bay at the celebrated skyline of the Sands landmark on the other side, beyond which is the ocean and, in the distance, the islands of Indonesia.

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It may seem ‘normal’ if you are a resident of Singapore but coming from the western hemisphere this tropical city skyline-bar-swimming pool combination is literally breathtaking. A quick swim, then down to my room to get changed ahead of a couple of drinks in the bar, refreshing the palate before a long day of meetings the next day.

hotel roof bar

The rooftop Lantern bar at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore

While I was swimming, my room had been transformed. Normally, the ground floor is no place for a suite in a luxury hotel, but at The Fullerton Bay, the ground floor is located directly on the water. No road, no path, nothing in the way – the screens in my room had been folded back by the turndown service so I had a 180-degree view of the harbour, and when I stepped out onto the balcony and into my own personal swimming pool, I could also have taken a couple of steps more and jumped into the sea.

Read more: Activist José Soares dos Santos on environmental responsibility

If I’d been on my own, I would’ve stayed right there on the balcony, ordered some champagne, and chilled in the equatorial moonlight.

Up on the roof, by 10pm, the bar was turning more into a nightclub, with people dancing in an area cleared of tables. I sat at a table on the corner of the bar terrace, a 360-degree view of Singapore city centre all around. A pretty exhilarating introduction into the city.

living room

The living room of its Robinson Suite

In a time when eating outside is advisable as well as enjoyable, The Fullerton Bay has no shortage of options, as I discovered at my outdoor breakfast the next day. It is served à la carte, with tables well spaced, and a choice of Malaysian/Indonesian (nasi goreng), Chinese, and western, it would have been perfect on a luxurious break. On a business trip, though, I recommend you don’t make the same mistake as I did and go down in a crisp white Margiela business shirt to wear at your meetings – 8am, Singapore weather is hot enough to turn you into a sweat ball, meaning a rapid return to the room to change.

rooftop jacuzzi

The hotel’s rooftop jacuzzi

Fullerton is a legendary name in the Asian luxury industry, owned by the redoubtable and charming Ng family (who are also active in Hong Kong) and the more famous hotel and original of the same name is located 100m along the waterfront. The Fullerton, a local institution, is the colonial-era palace but is not priced at the same high-level as its more exclusive sister hotel. It is where you have to go for spa treatments, and I arranged one for just before my flight home. It was a mixture of Chinese pressure-point massage, ginger, rosemary and lavender oil, and stretching and soothing that was the perfect end to the Singapore stay-over. Over the years, I have changed my pre-long-haul flight routine flying back from Asia from champagne and sushi to a swim and a spa treatment, which is definitely more effective if you want to feel fresh on landing the next day.

Find out more: fullertonhotels.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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Sophie Toh represents several luxury brands, including House of Garrard (pictured above)

Sophie Toh began her career in London’s luxury PR industry before moving to the United Arab Emirates where she established her own agency TOH. Last year, TOH was acquired by leading global luxury communications agency PRCo, placing Sophie at the helm as Group Director. Here, she discusses marketing trends, misconceptions, and the influence of media

business woman1. What first drew you to the world of PR and specifically, the luxury industry?

Growing up, I was heavily influenced by the eighties vogue for big phones, big hair and bigger egos. My first choice for a career was therefore advertising, which struck me as encapsulating the glamour, gloss and unashamedly commercial spirit of the era. I mellowed a little by the time it came to university, where, as a new politics student, I was fascinated by the focus on communications in the Blair cabinet, and decided to become a ‘spin doctor’. I diligently applied to all the political PR agencies in PR Week and found one woman ready to give me a month’s paid trial. The only small issue was that she wanted me to work on the Harvey Nichols and Bureau de Champagne accounts. Undeterred, I accepted, and I suppose subsequently fell into the luxury world.

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2. How have marketing trends changed in recent years?

We’re now speaking to consumers who learned to swipe iPhones before they can speak, and who can spot a direct sales pitch or #sponsoredpost a mile off. That’s the beauty of what we do – it’s so adaptable and fluid, strategies can change direction in line with consumer trends as quickly as you need them to. And currently, in the pandemic era, we’re seeing a huge amount of pivoting by brands and individuals trying to stay on top of the socio-economic context. I truly believe that there will always be a role for communications professionals.

men outside a cafe

Luxury tailors Atelier NA Paris are also on Sophie’s client list

3. What’s the biggest misconception about the industry?

I suppose that we’re all still busily running around promoting Harvey Nichols and champagne houses! Public relations is so much more than press releases and parties, and I think people underestimate how much experience and knowledge it takes to deliver a successful communications strategy, and equally how much influence the media and digital worlds have – good and bad.

Read more: Activist José Soares dos Santos on environmental responsibility

4. Do you have a formula for success, or do your processes change according to the project?

Our most successful work has come from a mixture of deep experience for the specific sector the client operates in, and a creative approach that can only come from real passion and insight. Enthusiasm for a client can certainly grow, but when it’s there from the start, it’s hard to beat.

render of a swimming pool

fluffy white handbag

SHA wellness clinic in Alicante, Spain (above) and handbag designer Tyler Ellis are amongst Sophie’s luxury clients

5. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt over the course of your career?

That it’s a race, not a sprint. And to never compare – either past successes with today’s, or yourself with other people. I am always immensely grateful for every day and every opportunity it brings, even on the worst of days and in times such as now. There’s no point committing to a career if you can’t also commit to finding the fun in it.

6. Where do you dream of travelling to when the world reopens?

So many places… I have a need to completely roam the world. But first to London, where my large, unruly but brilliant family awaits….

Find out more: prco.com

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historic building facade

The Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II Listed buildings in the heart of Bath

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is located in the heart of the historic city of Bath, but with access to natural thermal waters, extensive spa facilities and a calming atmosphere, it’s no ordinary city hotel. LUX checks in for a midweek stay

Staycations have soared in popularity this summer and it’s likely to be a lasting trend not only for pandemic reasons, but also for travellers seeking a more sustainable alternative to travel. For London residents especially, Bath is a no-brainer. One of the UK’s most beautiful and historic cities, it’s just over an hour by train from Paddington Station or an easy two and half hour drive, and if you’re staying at The Gainsborough Bath Spa you don’t even have to worry about parking. The valet is there to meet you at the bottom of the hotel’s steps and on check-out, the car’s ready and waiting, stocked with water bottles and a little tin of mints for the journey. It might not sound like much, but these are the kinds of thoughtful extras that contribute to a completely stress-free experience.

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The YTL group (to which The Gainsborough belongs) is known for its acute attention to detail. Added to the top-notch valet service, all the rooms, regardless of category, have complimentary mini-bars stocked with artisanal snacks and juices, and the bathrooms are filled with an abundance of good-sized Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and fitted with underfloor heating.

Luxury hotel bedroom

One of The Gainsborough’s courtyard rooms

The rooms are smart, modern and spacious, decorated in a soothing colour palette of duck-egg blue and gold with varying layouts. We stayed in a two bedroom suite, which takes the form of a maisonette with a double room and bathroom upstairs, and an additional double (or twin) room downstairs with a small sitting room. Both beds were exceptionally soft with piles of pillows, but the downstairs room was somewhat lacking in natural light whilst the rest of the suite benefited from towering ceilings and huge windows.

Read more: Diango Hernández’s disruptive Instagram art project

spa interiors

bathing pool

Aromatherapy bar (above) and one of the thermal pools in the hotel’s spa village

The Gainsborough features the only hotel spa with access to the city’s natural thermal waters. Currently, visitors are required to pre-book one-hour bathing sessions to prevent overcrowding, but that still leaves plenty of time to dip into the different pools, sauna and steam rooms with breaks in-between for shots of thick, spiced hot chocolate (a favourite of the Romans). In terms of treatments, there’s usually a wide selection including various acqua therapies, but due to current Covid restrictions, the signature massage is the only offering, beginning with a foot bath in neroli water infused with rosemary and pine essences followed by a full body massage using calming lavender oils. Spa experiences begin with a mini workshop making scented salts using a selection of Aromatherapy oils, and end with a cup of pink Hibiscus tea on the terrace overlooking the baths.

Read more: Holly Chandler of boutique travel company Fish&Pips on travelling post lockdown

restaurant interiors

Dan Moon’s restaurant is currently only open for breakfast

Dan Moon’s restaurant, which usually serves elegant dishes made from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, is only open for breakfast at the moment. In the afternoon, tea is served a chic mirrored lounge known as The Canvas Room and the bar is open in the evenings for cocktails.

It’s a hotel that prioritises its guests’ relaxation and privacy. Staff are warm and attentive, but generally leave you to wander freely, creating a pleasing sense of homeliness. It’s the kind of place you can imagine returning to year after year.

Rates start from £325 per night for a Deluxe Room including breakfast (approx. $400/ €350). Book your mid-week getaway: thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

Please note: This review was carried out before the global lockdown. Valet parking is currently not available to guests. 

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country manor house

Sibton Park Manor House in Suffolk is one of the hideaway properties in Fish&Pips’ UK portfolio

Luxury travel company Fish&Pips began by focusing on alpine holidays before expanding into the Mediterranean and more recently, the UK with a selection of handpicked hotels and remote hideaways. Here, we speak to co-founder Holly Chandler about expanding into new territories and handling the challenges of COVID-19

two women in a garden

Holly Chandler (right) & Philippa Hartley

1.How was the concept for Fish&Pips born?

Philippa Hartley (The Pips) and I (The Fish) founded Fish&Pips in 2006. The name Fish&Pips (Holly nee Fisher and Philippa, Pips) was a light bulb moment courtesy of Philippa’s Mum – it just worked – thank you, Jill.

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Philippa and I have been in each other’s lives forever. Our dads were best friends and we have been on holidays together ever since I can remember. Following university, we decided to do a winter season before looking for ‘proper jobs’ in London, and so after some Cordon Bleu training, Scott Dunn took us on at one of their luxury chalets in Méribel. We loved it and ended up winning a Chalet Team 2004 award. It was here that we realised we made a unique team. Whilst working for Scott Dunn, we saw a gap in the luxury market for a small, expert and personalised ski business, that treated its guests as individuals. With a friendly, professional approach to service, a team with a zest for life, a love of food and a background in hospitality, we had the foundations of Fish&Pips.

Over a decade on, after a lot of hard work, Fish&Pips has gone from strength to strength, and over the past thirteen years, it has cemented its reputation as one of the best small specialist ski companies in the UK, catering for 1400 ski guests each winter. Fish&Pips has been built on strong foundations of superb staff, great food and friendly but attentive service.

yacht on the ocean

Fish&Pips’ portfolio also includes super yachts such as Jeannous (pictured here) which offers holidays around the Greek islands

Our loyal guests wanted an option to holiday with us in the summer, so due to popular demand, we launched our thoughtfully curated collection of Mediterranean hotels and villas in February 2019. Our new investor (Blake Rose from Scott Dunn Travel) helped turbo charge this vision, he came with a wealth of knowledge on Mediterranean product, luxury travel and high level customer service. In June this year, we launched our UK collection of hotels and hideaway and despite the current climate, Fish&Pips has been really gaining momentum.

We are now offering a Fish&Pips holiday across the French Alps, Mediterranean and the UK, and there are plenty more exciting things to come. As we grow we want to make sure that we remain The Friendly Travel Experts, a small team with a big heart.

2. How do you select your partnering properties and is there a specific criteria that they need to fill?

Yes, and this list of criteria seems to be ever-growing. All of the properties that we select must have the Fish&Pips factor and reflect what is important to us. We will only acquire properties that feel personal and welcoming, where the team are professional and friendly and the owner or manager lead with great attention to detail. It’s also important that they are well located and that they offer activities and experiences.  They need to be stylish and have something special about the food, whether it be authentic or Michelin-starred. It is important to us to offer a variety of property types in each destination (family friendly hotels, adult and boutique hotels, wellness retreats, villas, hideaways) but they all need to satisfy the F&P criteria.

Read more: Laid-back fine dining at Knightsbridge restaurant Sumosan Twiga

We are also committed to working with properties that have a passion and policy for sustainability and supporting their local community. Minimising our impact on the environment is a responsibility of ours that we take very seriously and we are currently developing our approach and strategy on this.

When it comes to selecting properties, each property is thoroughly researched, rigorously inspected, re-inspected, and approved by myself and Philippa. It is so important to us to build a fantastic relationship with the properties and get to know them inside out. This is something we won’t falter on as it is this knowledge and detail which can make or break an experience and sets our offering apart. Over the past few months visiting new properties has had to be put on hold so we have instead spent many hours on zoom with owners and managers, but we cannot wait to see them all in person soon.

seaside villa

Each property that partners with Fish&Pips is personally chosen by the founders based on specific criteria

3. What’s your most popular collection and has it changed over the years at all?

Our original offering of operating ski chalets in Méribel Village is still a huge part of our business. However, we are now into our second year of our hotels and houses collection across Europe and we are certainly seeing this grow, not only with our ski guests, but noticeably with new guests turning to us for our expert advice for their summer holidays.

Our UK hotels and hideaway launch has been incredibly popular; in fact, the high level of enquiries blew us away. Everything was aligned for this launch – stunning properties, some fantastic press coverage and excellent timing with a UK staycation boom. We love what the UK offers – there is so much on our doorstep from heritage and history, to more incredible boutique hotels and unique hideaways. With this in mind, we are continuing to develop our UK collection and are excited to introduce more wonderful properties in the not-so distant future, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

luxurious kitchen

The kitchen dining room at Moat Cottage, one of Fish&Pips’ UK properties

Our aim is to become a one-stop shop for travellers. Whether they want a short weekend away in the UK, a summer break in the Med or a ski holiday in the Alps. We want them to be able to come to us eventually for all of their holiday needs. We have big plans!

4. How do you think the coronavirus crisis will affect the travel industry in general and Fish&Pips in particular?

It is certainly a very challenging time for travel and it is difficult predict how it will affect the industry – who knows when normality will resume? With ever evolving policy and travel advice, there is now the added complication of unpredictability! For the industry, there is an element of having to plan ahead, but also to think on your feet and pivot where necessary to react efficiently to these changes. This is where our UK offering has been so successful, as we fast tracked our plans to adapt. It’s definitely takes us out of our comfort zone not being able to make a solid strategy but being small and owner-run, means we can be reactionary relatively easily.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

What I can tell you is how this has shaped the travel industry and Fish&Pips in the short term… At the moment, travellers need the confidence to book. This is where flexible cancellation policies have really become key. This is one of the most important criteria for guests when booking now, whether it be to the Med, Alps or the UK and I can’t see this changing for quite some time.

luxury hotel

Sublime Comporta is one of Fish&Pips’ hotels in Portugal, offering a luxurious eco-retreat one hour from Lisbon. Image by Nelson Garrido

The human touch is more important now than ever and I think this will be an ongoing trend. Covid-19 has shown the importance of the ‘human touch’ and we have really felt this when it has come to people planning their holidays this summer and next winter. Guests want to be able to speak to you on the phone and use your expert knowledge and reassurance to build confidence. It is more important than ever for tour ops to be able to be that extra helping hand.

We have seen a bit of a divide with our guests this summer, and again I think this will be ongoing well into 2021. Those that are embracing the abroad escape and those that would rather not travel out of the country.

luxury bed

We have also seen the type of holidays that people are taking shift as travellers choosing not to travel abroad instead choose to spend their money on more of a luxury UK product whether it be boutique hotel, farm to fork country estate, a glamorous hideaway, a contemporary tree house or a splendid 40th birthday!

For us, we just want to make sure we are ready for guests whether they decide they want to stay close to home or to venture further afield. With this mind, we will continue to develop our portfolio in current destinations, grow our villa and hideaway offering across the board, and we are currently working on some exciting new (and slightly chillier) destinations which we hope to launch in September.

Adaptability is key so that we are ready no matter what is thrown at us next!

5. What’s your approach to sustainability?

Sustainability is something we are really passionate about at Fish&Pips and I have actually been nicknamed ‘Swampy’ for always talking about the environment. We always try to have sustainability at the front of our minds, from our chalet operations to when we research and talk to hotels.

From a chalet perspective we have teamed up with an amazing company called ‘One Tree At A Time’ who are really challenging the way that the ski industry operates. They have created a Pledge system whereby companies and individuals commit to changing the way that they operate and live, with a more sustainable future in mind. We were the first chalet company to sign up to the Pledge last winter and have seen some fantastic results. Our aim is to set a tried and tested template for other chalet companies to follow to help reduce their own carbon footprint.

luxury living room

A two bedroom cabana at luxury eco retreat Sublime Comporta

Our aim was to reduce (waste, plastic, consumption, energy, palm oil, carbon), educate (train our team, challenge our suppliers) and plant trees (offset and encourage our guests to do the same). Guests can now offset their carbon with us by planting trees with us. Last winter we planted 6,700 trees in 4 months.

Read more: Why now is the time to check into Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

When we talk to potential properties, one of our top questions is ‘What are you doing to be more environmentally responsible?’ Our UK properties are really quite impressive and are leading the way for sustainability in the hotel industry, from using locally sourced, farm to fork food, no single use plastics and really caring about their local communities.

We are currently working on a F&P Green Stamp that we will award to properties that are actioning a strong environmental policy and doing their best to make the world a little bit of a better place. Nature is one of the most important reasons for travel, so we must protect it so that future generations can have the same opportunities that we have had.

6. Where do you go to get away from it all?

In the summer I actually live on a stunning tiny Channel Island called Alderney. I’ve grown up between there and London, and have holidayed there since day dot. It has always been my solace, and place of calm, although the social scene on an island 3 miles by 1 is pretty hardcore! At the moment, Alderney feels more away from it than ever before with strict 14 day quarantine restrictions in place for anyone entering, but once you’ve stuck it out then it is totally worth it as it is business as usual – everything’s open, no masks, no bubbles, no social distancing. I am truly spoilt by the beauty of the beaches here, honestly they are out of this world and with only a handful of people to share them with. We can also escape to Guernsey, Sark or Herm by boat should cabin fever kick in. So this is my current getaway and I am actually relishing it, enjoying the peace on this beautiful, untapped island.

Come Autumn, I will absolutely be ready to travel again and I can’t wait to get back to the UK to explore all of our wondrous UK properties and scour the country for more gems – a weekend break away in any of those is my idea of heaven, and Scotland literally blows me away. In the winter, there is nothing like the feeling of freedom that skiing gives you and I won’t give up my ski holidays for anything as they are engrained in our lives having lived in Méribel for 14 winters and my husband is also ski instructor. If I have the time between running businesses (I have a couple in Alderney too) and bringing up my children, I absolutely love heading to the slopes for a few hours, followed by a large glass of wine.

As for travel outside of the UK and France, I adore the variety that Europe has to offer from villas and yachts, beaches and coves, to out-of-this-world authentic dining, to countryside retreats, and icy open space up Iceland and Scandinavia. When things settle down I cannot wait to get back out there and explore more far flung destinations, but for now, Europe offers more than enough for me.

Find out more: fishandpips.co.uk

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Reading time: 11 min
outdoor restaurant
outdoor restaurant

Elsa at Monte-Carlo Beach hotel is the first 100% organic Michelin-starred restaurant, as certified by Ecocert

Ahead of the re-opening of Monte-Carlo Beach hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant Elsa, we speak to newly appointed Head Chef Benoît Witz about his commitment to seasonal, organic produce, sustainable kitchen practices and authentic Mediterranean cuisine

Chef standing in doorway

Chef Benoit Witz

1. What can we expect from Elsa when it opens this summer?

Our focus is on local products and seasonal cuisine. We are keeping the products as simple as possible to highlight their true flavours.

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2. How do you define modern Mediterranean cuisine?

I always look for simplicity. Mediterranean cuisine, to me, is a dish that shows off the natural taste of a recognisable product. We often forgot about what’s essential. My goal is to highlight our local products, and I always choose organic ones. It is necessary to show all the beautiful products we have around us thanks to Mother Nature.

3. Do you pay attention to cooking or eating trends?

I follow clients’ wishes more than trends. I am inspired by the products I can find in the markets, or in the restaurant’s fruit and vegetable garden. My cuisine’s personality is about elegance and health. I want to follow what our body needs.

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

4. What’s your process for creating a new recipe?

I am inspired by old cooking books. I love trying new recipes and using products that have been forgotten and mixing them with new ones. It’s something unusual for food lovers. Most of the time, it’s a success and clients love that.

Table setting by the sea

Headed up by Benoît Witz, Elsa offers a menu of authentic and seasonal Mediterranean cuisine

5. How are you incorporating sustainability into Elsa’s kitchen?

There are a number different ways. First of all, our teams are trained to pay close attention to sustainability. We have constant discussions about how we can do more as it is very important to the wider company Monte-Carlo Societe des Bains de Mer and our property the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel. For example, we group the orders together in order to avoid waste, we ask all our providers to avoid plastic and all of the kitchen waste is sorted and organised. We also only buy local and organic produce.

6. What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?

I love cooking fruit and vegetables, together or separately. I often mix them with cereals such as lentils or chick peas. Since I discovered chick pea flour, I enjoy making pancakes with vegetables. I often use artichoke or salade shavings and then add pepper, salt and herbs. I simply sauté the vegetables, which is how I prefer to cook them. It’s a very easy, filling and tasty meal to make at home. You should try it!

Find out more: montecarlosbm.com/en/restaurant-monaco/elsa

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Reading time: 2 min
Country hotel
luxury historic hotel

The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds dates back to 14th century

A couple of unspoilt Cotswolds rural idylls from the 14th and 17th centuries, a rare luxury hotel in Champagne with a touch of the contemporary, and the best place to stay in medieval Heidelberg, LUX recommends four historic country hotels to visit post-lockdown

The Lygon Arms, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

Broadway is a Cotswold village straight out of central casting. This includes the tourists wandering down the exquisite High Street lined with low buildings of local stone, with the Cotswold Hills rising beyond. The colour palette of nature and history is a perfect sand yellow/deep English green.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

THE ARRIVAL

The Lygon Arms looks like a combination of coaching inn and hotel. You expect a ruddy-faced local, fresh out of the local country estate, to appear and help you with your bags, and that is exactly what we got. Parts of the structure of the hotel date back to the 14th century, and the feeling of a cosy history, lovingly recreated by its current owners, is all around you.

Luxury bar and restaurant

The Lygon Bar and Grill

THE STAY

Our room, the Charles I suite with a four-poster bed, was swathed in Tudor dark wood. We ate dinner in the courtyard at the Lygon Bar and Grill: the grilled chicken with chestnut mushrooms and tarragon was highly satisfying. The achievement of The Lygon Arms? To offer true history, nicely updated with casual contemporary service and simple high-quality food.

ANYTHING ELSE?

A 20-minute walk from the end of the High Street and up a hillside takes you to the Broadway Tower, from where you can view the invading Welsh armies swarming across the Severn River Valley. Behind the tower stretch the sweeping green uplands of the Cotswolds proper, with exquisite nature walks.

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

luxurious hotel bedroom

Le25bis is the first of its kind in Épernay

Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant, Champagne

THE LOCATION

It’s long been a matter of bemusement that you can spend your day being serenaded by a major champagne house in Épernay and then find yourself in a disappointing, generic hotel. Le 25bis, owned by a champagne house and refurbished in a luxurious modern style, promises to change that.

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

THE ARRIVAL

There is nothing quite like driving along the avenue de Champagne which radiates from the town centre. Le 25bis is fronted by a delightful courtyard with a few tables and as you walk to the reception desk, you walk past a couple enjoying a champagne tasting, a perfect scene setter.

bathroom

THE STAY

Le 25bis belongs to a well regarded boutique champagne house, Leclerc-Briant, which has a shop at the front of the house. After a long day of visiting champagne houses, there’s nothing quite like tasting the champagne made by your hotel. There are only five rooms, which are huge and have clearly been refurbished with little regard for budget, with pale contemporary furnishings with antique twists, aesthetic floral arrangements, intricate wallpapers and beautiful vintage-style (but very modern) bathrooms.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Make time to visit the Leclerc Briant house itself, and when buying from the shop at the hotel (our preferred cuvée was the eponymous entry-level cuvée, and the rosé was also delicious) make sure you buy in magnum. It is always better.

Book your stay: le25bis.com

Country hotel

Lords of the Manor is located in Upper Slaughter, a pretty hamlet in the Cotswolds

Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

If The Lygon Arms is in the low Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is in the high Cotswolds. To get there, you wind slowly through Lower Slaughter (probably Britain’s prettiest village, and that’s saying something), past an estate and into the hamlet of Upper Slaughter. Down a drive, there is a manor house with gardens dropping to a lake, and meadows and woods beyond. This view hasn’t changed much since Shakespeare’s time.

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

THE ARRIVAL

Walking into the wood-lined great hall feels like arriving at a friend’s country house. You are taken to your room up a suitably creaking staircase. Ours looked out over the drive, lawn and lake, and was decorated in lavish country house style. All around was silence.

contemporary interiors

The bar at Lords of the Manor

THE STAY

Crunching through the grounds you feel like there is nothing more you would need from your English country estate. A walk across a little wooden bridge leads to a path alongside a stream taking you to Lower Slaughter, where you can slake the thirst in an inn. The dining experience at Lords of the Manor is very proper and British: venison and foie gras pithivier with creamed butternut squash and brandy sauce.

ANYTHING ELSE?

You could explore the many sites of this glorious region, but we wager you’ll stroll from the hotel on the secluded walks, and chill out on the hotel’s terrace with a glass of champagne, looking at the grounds, and do nothing else.

Book your stay: lordsofthemanor.com

luxury hotel bedroom

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof is Heidelberg’s only five-star hotel

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg

THE LOCATION

Heidelberg, one of the world’s oldest university towns, lies at the edge of the Rhine river plain at the point at which it rises up sharply into the mountains of the northern Black Forest. It’s one of Europe’s prettiest towns, and also infused with a feeling of intellectual history – and current intellectual power.

Read more: How Hublot’s collaborations are changing the face of luxury

THE ARRIVAL

The hotel, the city’s only five-star property, is located on the edge of the old town, making it easy to get to when arriving by car or train. The family-owned luxury property is big and relatively modern. You turn into a grand driveway and are greeted by a uniformed doorman, and taken up some steps into the reception hall that leads to a jazz bar on the left and around the corner into a U-shape into a formal restaurant, the Kurfürstenstube.

hotel entrance

THE STAY

The hotel is grand and generously proportioned, as was our Executive Suite, which was light and airy with high ceilings, baroque-style furnishing in creams and beiges and rustic golds. While parts of the hotel are old, much of it has been built recently, including the large spa area. You will inevitably use the hotel as a base for visiting Heidelberg and beyond.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The hotel’s delightful concierge’s recommendations are now ours: the Kulturbrauerei, a centuries-old dining hallcum-beer hall with hearty, meaty cuisine and its own beer; and a walk down from the Königstuhl mountain, reached by a funicular.

Book your stay: europaeischerhof.com

Note: All reviews were carried out prior to the global lockdown

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 6 min
Landscape photography
Landscape photography

The view across the Rhine valley from Alsace’s Chateau de Haut-Koenigsbourg to Germany’s Black Forest.

LUX takes a journey from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance, through a historic, beautiful, tranquil and gastronomic part of France and Germany that is curiously overlooked on the international tourist map

Location photography by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

There was a point at which, quite abruptly, the Autoroute A4, the east-west artery arrowing out of Paris towards Germany, became interesting. For hours before this point, we had been driving on a wide motorway flanked by flattish fields. Wind turbines and the occasional tractor were for the most part the only distractions from the monotony, with the exception of a brief section, near the city limits of Reims, where the vineyards of Champagne crept up an unexpected hill to our right. But the Montagne de Reims is better experienced in a glass than through the glass.

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An hour or so east of Reims, as if the gods of scenery had decided on a set change there and then, the highway swept to the left and up through a sudden forest on a long incline. The forest felt ancient, revealing glades and streams between its fronds, even when travelling at a cruise. There had been no warning of this scenery’s arrival, making it all the more compelling. In a few miles, a sign told us we were in the Forest of Argonne, known as the site of some of the worst battles of the first world war, and among oenophiles as the source of wooden barrels for some of the world’s great wines.

As if now trying to free itself from its straight-laced former self, the motorway writhed through a series of hills, along viaducts and across shallow valleys. We were now in Lorraine, technically part of the same, recently created region of Grand Est that we had been driving through for hours, but in reality a different part of Europe, historically, linguistically and, evidently, topographically. Lorraine, by itself or bound to neighbouring Alsace, is arguably as Germanic as it is French. Without crossing a border, we had changed nations.

historic building

Riquewihr, one of the historic villages on the Alsace wine route

We turned off near Verdun and followed a country lane that tracked a little river, turning left at a little junction and heading into the forest. Through a tiny one-horse village aligned along the road, and some wrought-iron gates, and we arrived at our overnight stopover, the Lodge Hôtel du Domaine de Sommedieue.

Read more: Why we’re dreaming of summers at Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz

The reception area doubled as a restaurant, in an old building with a few tables outside, scattered across a lawn shaded by tall trees and bordered by a series of ponds. Our room, tidy, clean, well prepared and functional, was in a newly refurbished building a few metres away. The Sommedieue advertises itself as a fishing lodge, but we don’t fish, so we ordered a bottle of very good Côtes du Rhône from the receptionist/ waitress, who happily chilled out by the bar with her beau, with no pressure on us late arrivals to drink up and allow her to lock up. We drank the bottle, then another, at an outside table, alone with our thoughts and the plopping of fish, until a deep night-time absorbed us all.

lake with boats

Uberlingersee, the northwestern stretch of Bodensee (Lake Constance), in southern Germany, is an idyllic destination for summertime leisure visitors

The next morning the waitress had been replaced by the busy, jolly owner, who asked me which newspapers we would like. He placed a selection on a long wooden table inside the restaurant which he had festooned with a breakfast spread worthy of a still life: fresh, fat loaves, thickly sliced; home-made raspberry and apricot jam; slabs of butter; a bowl of apples.

We headed on, eastwards, through Lorraine, through forests and past rivers and lakes, still in France but with road signs reading as if they were in German: Harskirchen, Hirschland. Lorraine and neighbouring Alsace were at the heart of Europe’s history and wars for centuries, sometimes French, sometimes German, sometimes independent: they have seen peace only since the establishment of the forebear of the European Union after the second world war.

The town of Phalsbourg is bounded on one side by high wooded hills and on the other by meadows dropping down into the lowlands of Alsace. It sits on the border of Alsace and Lorraine, and we were there for its annual festival, the Festival de Théâtre. We arrived in the late afternoon, and walked into the central square, which with its gabled, almost Hanseatic architecture, feels like it belongs more to the Baltic than a country with a Mediterranean coast. We had a pizza on the terrace of one of the square’s handful of restaurants, while the festivities geared up; children and adults wearing the traditional red wandered by, eating candy floss and sipping on local wines respectively. A jazz band launched into a fabulous set as the day turned from gold to light blue to darker blue.

As the band finished, we climbed into the car and headed into the hills enveloped in deep forest and arrived, around midnight, at the Auberge d’Imsthal, a little inn set on a lake in the forest, ringed by hills. I sat on the balcony, listening to fish splashing and animals crashing through the forest, looking for shooting stars.

Church at night

Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Phalsbourg, a town in the hills on the border of France’s Alsace and Lorraine regions

The Alsace Wine Route carves its way across slopes lined with vineyards and scattered with Hansel and Gretel villages. The road is slightly elevated from the Rhine floodplain, and as you snake through the vineyards you see views of the deep blue mass of the Black Forest mountains. Halfway along the wine route, we stopped off at the village of Eguisheim, which sits amid its vineyards near the leading edge of a steep hillside leading up to the Vosges mountains.

Read more: Artist Marc Ferrero on his collaboration with Hublot

Eguisheim is tiny – the size of a city square in Paris or Madrid – but seems both eternal and infinite. Its narrow streets, lined by 500-year-old gabled houses, many of them in pastel shades, are arranged in an oval shape, with a breathtakingly bijou square with a fountain at its heart. We sat in a courtyard belonging to a wine producer and drank light, pure local crémant rosé sparkling wine, as the sky and the buildings changed colour and a cool breeze wafted down from the mountains as night fell.

convertible silver car

Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet

For our epic drive across Europe, we had a Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet, a big, handsome, luxurious convertible with seemingly limitless performance and the ability to whizz down any road in a ‘swoosh’ of power and smoothness. The armchairs cradled us like a jealous lover, and, with the roof down, their air-conditioning kept us chill when the sun shone, and warm at night.

The most memorable, and attractive, thing about the Swoosh-mobile was its effortlessness; the way you could fire it up and almost instantly be going at the speed limit, while it made bumps and bits of broken road disappear as if they were not there. So many fast cars these days are tuned as if they are going to be driven on a racetrack, riding down the road so firmly that you fear the movements on your expensive wristwatch will disassemble themselves every time you hit a bump, and making you fear for the integrity of the wheel every time you crash into a pothole. The S 560 is different: it is made to give its driver and passengers the most soothing drive possible, at a level of luxury that would have been inconceivable in a car only 15 years ago.

Read more: Entrepreneur Dr. Li Li on the importance of global relationships

If that makes it sound like the car is boring to drive, it’s not. There is a certain rakish, louche joy in whipping the roof down, cranking the concert-standard Burmester hi-fi up to high, and aiming down the road, elbow on window sill, the car emitting a deep, sonorous but quite muted gurgle. It responds well to changes of direction, not driving nearly as softly as its super-smooth ride would have you fear. Perhaps on a racetrack it would suffer against sportier rivals, but who takes this kind of car on a racetrack anyway?

It certainly didn’t suffer on the autobahn. Parts of German motorways remain free of speed limits, meaning that, once you spot the roadside sign telling you all speed checks are off you can go as fast as you wish without fear of being stopped or photographed by the police. As the autobahn descended from the Black Forest towards Bodensee (Lake Constance) on the final part of our journey, the no-limits sign appeared. The road arrowed straight down a gentle incline bordered on either side by meadows, with no junctions, and no traffic ahead of us. With the accelerator buried, and a rumble of chest-beating from somewhere inside the exhaust system, we surged, roof down, unstoppably, past an indicated 150mph in a matter of seconds. I finally eased off at 155mph when the wind above the open roof was at a severe hurricane level. The S 560 may be easy going, but it can also go.

car dashboard

Convertible sportscar

Such speed hastened our arrival on the shores of Bodensee, which is shared between three countries: Germany on its northern shores; Switzerland on the south shore opposite; and Austria at its eastern edge. Überlingen, on the German shore, is a small and historic resort town. That evening we strolled along the lakefront along a pathway festooned with gardens and small hotels, past the Strandbad (lake beach), where families were sunbathing, playing games and jumping into the lake, and to the centre of Überlingen. A row of cafes, restaurants and ice-cream booths faced the lake, alongside the pedestrian path; a passenger ferry docked, sending a mother duck and her ducklings into a tizzy and causing a passer-by to rescue a duckling which had jumped into a hole for safety. A ten-year-old brother and sister played trumpet and violin, quite competently, attracting a pile of donations for their bicycle fund. A mini beach-volleyball tournament attracted a small crowd, sipping local beer sold from a pop-up stand, on the waterfront. Überlingen is a special find, a tidy, beautifully preserved hark back to another era that feels all the more relaxing now because of it.

For our final overnight, we drove five minutes to the Park Hotel St Leonhard, on a gentle hillside, covered with meadows, orchards and vineyards, above the town. From the wide balcony of our room, the hill sloped down into the town towards the lake; across the two fingers of Bodensee, the lights of the settlements on the Swiss side lit up, the Alps forming a jagged graphic backdrop. The air was wet, herbaceous and grassy. This had been Europe, both new and old, at its very best; and sometimes true luxury cannot be measured by hotel stars.

Four Alsace wines to try

Alsace’s wines remain curiously undiscovered. Whites and sparkling dominate, all are fresh and sophisticated, some are sweet but others are dry, complex and fabulous value; and there are many good producers, keeping prices reasonable.

Domaine Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile
Rich, rounded, but bone-dry riesling with layers of candy and lime. Fabulous wine and value.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris
Sweet but not cloying, packed with a thousand fruit salads and much more. One of the greats.

Bruno Hertz Crémant d’Alsace Rosé
Heart-stoppingly pure sparking pink, simple and delicious, tasting of summer forest.

Domaine Hugel Riesling
Somehow unctuous and dry at the same time, stony with kiwis; older vintages can age beautifully.

For more information visit: mercedes-benz.co.uk

Note: This trip was undertaken pre-lockdown. LUX paid in full for all the hotels in this feature. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
Luxury lakeside hotel
Luxury lakeside hotel

Badrutt’s Palace overlooking Lake St Moritz

St Moritz is well known as the winter playground of Europe’s rich and aristocratic. But don’t dismiss the resort, and especially its venerable and truly grand hotel Badrutt’s Palace, as a summer destination

One single word: Badrutt’s. Among a certain crowd, it conjures up associations: dancing in King’s Club after a long day’s skiing and après-skiing; bumping into billionaires in their Moncler in the wood-panelled corridors; and probably the most desirable (in a conventional way) New Year’s Eve gala in the world. (It may also whip up associations of bedrooms looking out over the frozen lake, though that would mean you don’t actually own a place of your own to winter in St Moritz – tsk.)

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But there’s another Badrutt’s, in another St Moritz. They may be geographically identical, but the summertime town, and Palace, are a different world, and perhaps not yet as well discovered.

Our suite (declaration: we don’t own a place in St Moritz) opened out onto a balcony terrace on which we strolled on the first night, gazing across the lake, up to the mountains beyond, and along the broad Engadine valley in both directions. In summer on the mountains, myriad textures and colours replace winter’s uniform white and brown of snow and rock. A deep-green forest around the grey-blue lake; emerald meadows; high pasture the colour of a dying weeping willow; peak rockscapes in black and grey, slashed by snow, still there from the wintertime blizzards, high up. All looking back at us on our balcony.

luxury hotel room

One of the hotel’s Village Deluxe rooms

Unlike some self-proclaimed palace hotels, Badrutt’s really does feel like a palace. The grand state rooms are places to stroll through in your most formal clothes (you can wander around in hiking gear, but somehow it doesn’t feel right) and in Le Restaurant, the grand dining room, you need to dress formally to match the ambience.

And what an ambience; here it seems you are walking past le tout of Europe’s old aristocracy. The lady at the corner table wearing a gown at breakfast reading the international New York Times every morning; that cluster of teenagers who look like the Romanovs; the artist wearing a smart deep-blue blazer who doesn’t just look like X; he is X. (We wouldn’t name names.)

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

And there’s much more to the dining experience than that. We spent one delightful evening in Chesa Veglia, an old house across the street that has been converted into possibly the world’s most upmarket pizzeria (they sometimes allow children to make their own pizzas here, but we’re not supposed to say that). This is relaxed Palace, informal Palace, Palace with its hair down, wearing an Italian-stallion leather bracelet, drinking Ornellaia by the gallon. The food is perfect pizza, and the staff seem to be having as much fun as the guests.

yachting on a lake

Sailing on the lake in the hotel’s yacht

St Moritz in summer is more influenced by the weather of the Mediterranean than northern Europe, so long sunny days are likely; on the one day of cloud we had in our week, we escaped into the vast indoor pool area, which has its own rock mountain off which kids can dive. The deep-tissue massages are as thorough as you would expect a mountain spa to offer.

There are rumours of more developments soon, including a Badrutt’s chalet in the mountains to escape to. Watch this space, or better still, just go.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: badruttspalace.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
Ocean safari
Luxury beach suite

One of the beach suites with a private pool at Alphonse Island

Keith Rose-Innes is an environmentalist and globally renowned fly-fisherman. Having first travelled to the Seychelles as a fly-fishing guide, he is now the Managing Director of Alphonse Island, where he continues to promote sustainable travel. Here, he speaks to Chloe Frost-Smith about falling in love with the Seychelles, building an eco camp and his predictions for the travel industry after lockdown

Portrait of a man

Keith Rose-Innes. Credit Nick Kelly

1. Your passion for fly-fishing has taken you all over the world. What has been your most memorable moment from your travels?

My first trip to the outer atolls of the Seychelles is still my most memorable travelling experience. Google Maps didn’t exist in the early days and we would arrive with old nautical charts. It was incredible knowing that you could be the first person to guide a fly-fisherman on that particular flat, and that you might discover an incredible spot at any time and then personally, name it for guests to experience in the future.

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Sustainable tourism provides the opportunity to form partnerships that can protect places such as these. Unlike many other fly-fishing driven conservation efforts, we have never been focussed on solely protecting the marine environment; we have also contributed equally to the protection and preservation of the terrestrial ecosystems of the outer atolls. The Alphonse Fishing Company, Blue Safari Seychelles, Islands Development Company and Island Conservation Society have joined together to form a partnership to manage and execute strategies and projects to protect the species and environments through means of public funding, which is collected via donations and fundraising initiatives. These funds are then donated to the foundations of Alphonse, Farquhar, Cosmoledo and Astove. These are specific to the individual atolls to oversee the funding of the projects operated by the Island Conservation Society. Each destination has a weekly presentation that provides a detailed update of the progress the various programs are making and also provides the opportunity for guests to discuss the environmental topics with qualified environmentalists and marine biologists.

Remote exotic island

An aerial view of Poivre Island, one of the Seychelles’ outer islands

2. Other than the obvious, what made you decide to settle in the remote atolls of the Seychelles?

I cut my teeth as a fly-fishing guide in the Seychelles 22 years ago and guided full time for 17 years before co-founding Alphonse Fishing Company and now our latest initiative, Blue Safari Seychelles. The years I’ve spent promoting and establishing the remote atolls of the Seychelles as one of the world’s best saltwater fly-fishing and ecotourism destinations have been the best years of my life. Although I travel extensively and have a second home in South Africa, my real home is on the remote atolls of the Seychelles. If I had to hang my hat anywhere in the world, it would be in the Seychelles. Living how I do comes with obvious perks, not least of which is access to the various incredible ecosystems on my doorstep. I have been lucky enough to be the first to fly fish and guide trips to numerous of the now well-known outer atolls of the Seychelles. Many would call it pioneering, but I see it as school fees. I know the outer atolls of the Seychelles so well and I love every day that I get back out on the water.

3. What was the inspiration behind Cosmoledo Eco Camp, and do you have any plans to create similar concepts anywhere else in the future?

The purpose of the Cosmoledo Eco Lodge is to establish sustainable ecotourism in line with the Blue Economy, as well as to conserve and monitor the area. One of the most important reasons for the camp is to have a year round presence monitoring the environment to deter foreign, commercial fishing activities which have been taking place. During the months from May to November when the Eco Camp closes to guests, a team of Island Conservation Society rangers and scientists stay on location with our skeleton crew to monitor the area.

The temporary and minimalistic camp was constructed with recycled containers that were retrofitted in South Africa, shipped to Seychelles and then placed on plinths and opened up to form a front deck and back bathroom. The entire container is covered with a sail to create shade and cover from the rain. It’s a concept that I hadn’t seen done anywhere else and echoes a sense of responsibility as almost everything used in the building was recycled.

The feeling you get when staying in a very comfortable, air-conditioned and full glass front container is unique. It’s almost like the cabin of a ship placed in a nature wonderland. The bird sounds, untouched vegetation and view over the lagoon are incredible. The main central area is a tent that is placed on the sand and placement of the camp was selected where there were foundations from buildings erected in the past. The entire camp can be removed completely without leaving any trace of humans behind.

Beach front villa

A beach villa at Alphonse Island

4. What were the main challenges of turning shipping containers into entirely eco-friendly pods?

Initially, it was difficult to imagine how we’d fit all the necessities in such a small space, but once completed, we realised how little you actually need. The next hardest aspect was fitting everything onto three barges [for transportation] and building the camp in only 21 days. We couldn’t fit all of the necessary furniture onto the barges, so we decided to build some it on site from the recycled pallets and timber, which were used to brace everything inside the containers when shipped.

Read more: How Andermatt Swiss Alps is tackling climate change

5. How do you think travel has been impacted by the current lockdown, and what will travel look like once this period ends?

I think it’s still too soon to comprehend the outcome as we are only starting to feel the far-reaching ramifications of a total lockdown of the worldwide tourism sector. It has affected our business immensely as we have hibernated all islands. We are, however, in a strong position and we will open up when things are safe to do so.

My outcome is somewhat positive as smaller to medium-sized private hotels should excel and especially, in destinations that have not experienced any cases of Covid-19. Hotels that have an emphasis on safety, social distancing and health protocol will be focused on.

I do feel that long-haul travel will be somewhat impacted from a health concern point of view and vacation travel may become less frequent, but as the focus shifts towards wellness it is quite possible that travellers may choose longer periods at a destination that caters to all needs, whilst avoiding busy airports and numerous flights. Without a question, there will be a renewed focus on family time, wellness, authenticity, environmentally-friendly travel, well-being and nature. After lockdown, family time will be key, which is why I believe small eco-lodges with family-based activities will excel.

Ocean safari

A guided walk on Alphonse island. Image by Anthony Grote

6. Have you seen any positive effects on the environment during lockdown, and if so, are there any sustainable steps which can be taken to ensure these continue?

We haven’t seen any direct environmental positives that directly relate to Covid-19 other than less air pollution. There are some negatives as a weak economy prevents our ability to fundraise for the foundations that protect our atolls.

There has, however, been a huge silver-lining. My life’s work has been to try to assist in protecting these amazing places and on the 26 March 2020, the President of the Seychelles, Danny Faure, officially signed the bill demarcating 30% of the territorial waters of the Seychelles, legally binding Marine Protected Areas as part of the large-scale Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative, exchanging national debt relief in exchange for ocean conservation policy co-designed by the Nature Conservancy, Seychelles Government and the World Bank. The Alphonse Group, Desroches, Farquhar, Poivre, Cosmoledo and Astove are all included in the gazette, culminating in a five-year project led by the UNDP-GEF with Island Conservation Society, Blue Safari and Alphonse Fishing Company as some of the key partners amongst others who are specifically focused on protecting the unique and pristine tropical marine ecosystems of these remote atolls. The policy designates the offshore waters up to 1km from the outer coral reefs as protected ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. These designations seek to conserve the exceptional biodiversity and natural value of these marine areas whilst ensuring the enjoyment of sustainable ecosystem services into the future. We are blessed to have the Seychelles Outer Islands in a prestige state that has changed very little since the early days and now, it’s up to us humans to protect it.

Find out more: bluesafari.com, alphonse-island.com

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Reading time: 7 min
interiors of lounge
Luxury country estate house

The grand exterior and park of the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden

Our editor-in-chief reflects on travels to some of the world’s great hotels, old and new, across Europe and Asia

Brenners Park, Baden-Baden

Swing open the balcony door at the Brenners, and you are in a fairytale land of luscious trees and deep lawns, with a stream running along the end of the garden in front of you. Locals and tourists stroll along the path beyond, kids run in the flower-bedecked meadow.

Not that long ago, Baden-Baden in Germany was pretty much the place in the world to come to get away from it all. In the days before jets, the view from the Brenners Park, overlooking the gardens, with the tops of the hills of the Black Forest immediately beyond, and the opera house just down at the end of the park, was as good as it could possibly get.

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It feels pretty good right now. I ease myself into one of the balcony chairs, listening to the birdsong, reflecting that we are in the heart of Europe, a tiny distance from my home, somewhere unencumbered by the over-commercialisation of modern tourist destinations, and without hurricanes, typhoons or sweltering heat.

The hotel is in a little valley which itself is the centre of the spa town of Baden-Baden. Walk out through the grounds, over a little bridge, turn right and you are in a Baroque town centre within around four minutes’ walk. The park itself feels like the hotel’s back garden. Arriving at the grand entrance, you are aware of drawing up at an institution that has attracted the world’s great and good since 1872. Emperors from Germany to Persia stayed here. The reception area has the feel of the ground country house, rather than a city hotel, and a short climb up an oak-panelled staircase (or in a cute vintage lift) took us to a grand corridor with our suite at one end, and the connection to the adjoining villa containing the hotel’s famous wellness and spa area.

True to its history, the Villa Stéphanie is a health, medicine and recuperation centre in its own right. Sure, you can swim lengths in the conservatory pool and chillax on wooden sun loungers inside facing the park, or outside in the park in summer. You can also have a treatment and a tour of the wet facilities in the 5,000sq m spa, with its pool areas overlooking the gardens. You can also get proper medical consultations and physiotherapy along with everything else – the medical centre is housed in yet another building, adjacent to Villa Stéphanie.

Interiors of restaurant

The subtly modernised Fritz & Felix restaurant

I settled for an excellent analysis and treatment session of physiotherapy regarding my tennis elbow (conclusion: too much phone use, and too little actual tennis) after which a refreshing 50-length swim gave me an appetite. We wandered down for dinner at Fritz & Felix, an art-deco styled but distinctly contemporary culinary concept, a restaurant/ bar/kitchen. It was a refreshing contrast to our expectations of a historic German hotel. The menu, all in lower case, featured a delicious looking selection of high-quality but simple dishes: sole with capers, parsley, lemon and olive oil; local pike perch with lentils, balsamic, thyme and olives; fillet of beef with chimichurri and broccoli. The rack of lamb with chick peas, raisins and cumin went down particularly well.

The Brenners Park is part of the same group as the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France and the Bristol in Paris, and you can tell with every flutter of perfect service. Pure class.

Book your stay: oetkercollection.com

Rooftop Swimming pool

Mandarin Oriental Singapore’s swimming pools with views across Marina Bay

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

It was late when I arrived at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. The transfer from the airport was quick, only 15 minutes. But the flight had been delayed, we had circled during a storm, and I had missed my dinner arrangement, so was feeling rather irritable.

I explained this all to the pleasant young lady who met me at reception and took me to my room (in-room check-in is such a slam dunk for a luxury hotel that they should all be required to do it to retain their five-star status) and she sympathised and, in that luxury Asian hotel way, immediately came up with a solution. Why didn’t I go to the poolside lounge bar, Bay@5, still open, for a glass of wine and a bite to eat?

Read more: Back to school with Van Cleef & Arpels

There aren’t many city hotels in the world where the swimming pool bar will be open, let alone tempting, at 11 o’clock at night, but this Mandarin, it turns out, was very much one of them. On exiting onto the pool terrace, I was greeted with a night-time-hued blue pool and surrounding tropical foliage and, across the waters of Marina Bay, an archipelago of black liquid and skyscrapers that is one of the most intimate yet dramatic night-time cityscapes in the world. Being on the fifth floor, we were just raised above the streetscape of the bay area.

The storm had passed over, the sky was starry with a warm breeze. The terrace of the bar area had a few couples and a small group sipping wine, and 80s music playing. I sipped on a beer so cold the condensation poured and reformed and poured again onto my lap, and instantly I felt much improved.

Contemporary interiors of a bar

The bar at Mandarin Oriental Singapore

The food was exactly what you might want after a long and jet-lagged journey: I had a vegetarian pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and grilled vegetables, and a hamachi ceviche with coriander. There was a selection of cocktails from Mandarin Oriental bars across the world, some fine Australian wines, and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne, but the draft beer suited me fine that evening – I was the last to leave, and back in my room I was half tempted to leave the curtains open so the harbour lights lulled me to sleep, although in the morning I would have been woken by the tropical sun.

I had a morning in my room before meetings in the afternoon, which was nothing if not invigorating. The decor was contemporary Asian luxury: lots of greys and taupes, some piano blacks, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately, Mandarin Oriental has not yet fallen for the trend of assuming everyone works lying down propped up on pillows in their beds, and there was a proper office chair and desk, which I shunted around to face the view. On my final morning I had an hour spare, and went back to the pool deck, this time to do some lengths of the huge pool and spend 10 minutes lying under the overhead sun. With a view directly across the harbour and out of the sea, it felt like we were on a tropical island, and in a sense we were. Pretty impressive for a city-centre hotel, and I can’t think of anywhere that beats it for a resort in a city of glamour.

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com

Grand country house

The Four Seasons Hampshire brings a modern style to its 18th-century English manor house and park

Four Seasons Hampshire

The clouds were dramatic as we headed up the drive towards the brick manor house that is the Four Seasons hotel in Hampshire. The hotel is on a slight hill above open fields of English countryside, and on a sunny day, puffs of white and slabs of grey fought each other for places in the Atlantic-washed sky. Arrival was made even more atmospheric at the sight of three fawn-coloured horses, their riders gently leading them across a lawn to the stable block.

The feeling here is of space and light; you (or your kids) are free to roam down the slope leading around the hotel to the restaurant, café and eventually the shooting field at the back. Inside the building, a covered passageway in the conservatory leads to a spa block with a big indoor pool with a glass roof, and outdoor Jacuzzi and sunbathing area, completely private on an Italianate terrace.

interiors of lounge

The lounge are of the Wild Carrot restaurant at Four Seasons Hampshire

Our room was a blend of traditional English coloured cushions – pinks, dark pastels, and burnt orange – a combination of leatherwork, ornate wallpapers, with windows looking over the open fields. Less than 40 minutes from Heathrow, you are plunged into a serious English country house experience.

Read more: High altitude luxury at Riffelalp Resort 2222m, Zermatt

We were expecting a slightly formalised English dining experience, but fortunately the management had more sense than that. Wild Carrot, the main restaurant, has been reborn as a kind of grand Parisian bistro. There were leather banquettes, bare wooden floors and no tablecloths, and a menu featuring lots of raw and local ingredients. Typical was the very welcome lightly torched house-cured mackerel with pickled radish and hollandaise, and a main of Somerset salt-marsh lamb rack with roasted cucumber, Greek yoghurt, tomato chutney and mint. All the vegetables are locally grown.

Luxurious indoor swimming pool

The hotel’s pool is attached to the converted stables

Unlike some traditional English country house hotels, signs proclaim children and dogs are welcome, and there are plenty of activities for both. The riding stables offered us a trek across the fields and around the lakes and hacking around the woodland on horses which had been perfectly matched to our height, weight and experience. There is also a high-wire adventure park, which involves zip wires, ladders and perilous bridges to clamber across, all with highly professional instructors.

There is also tennis, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, croquet and an immensely satisfying spa. The grounds are vast – a walk down to and around the lake and back is enough to work up a full day’s appetite. Altogether, it’s impossible to think of another English country house hotel which offers such a complete range of experiences in such luxury, let alone one so near Heathrow Airport and the capital.

Book your stay: fourseasons.com

Grand palace in snowy setting

The Gstaad Palace was once called, for good reason, the ‘Winter- Palace’

Gstaad Palace

A memory of a place is first recalled by rapid-fire still or moving image (or maybe now a GIF?) in your brain. A few weeks after my visit, my instant memory of the Gstaad Palace was our table at Le Grill restaurant. Wood-panelled walls and ceilings and a thick Alpine carpet, and veneered wooden chairs and occasional tables gave it a mountain chic. Formally dressed waiters bustled around, chatting with guests they have known evidently for years or decades.

They were no less courteous to us, to their credit, although of course we had no common anecdotes to share with them. With Alpine flowers on the thick tablecloths, and cuisine rich and local ingredients, including flambéed dishes prepared at the table by the waiters like a glorious piece of 1970s revival, it was an evening experience unlike almost any other.

Read more: The Thinking Traveller’s Founders Huw & Rossella Beaugié on nurturing quality

There was a fantastic Hungarian traditional string band playing in adjacent bar, alternating with a soulful jazz band. The house Burgundy, poured from magnums, accompanied everything extremely well. You could choose Le Grill to propose to your other half, for a family get-together, or a casual dinner for one – it’s that versatile.

When we drew back the thick red curtains of our suite in the morning, we were greeted by the Alps as drawn by Laurent de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the Elephant. Big, forested round hills dropped into a broad bowl, above which jagged rocky peaks loomed. The Palace is the cornerstone of Gstaad, the reason the village has become one of the epicentres of wealth in Europe. In winter, after dinner at Le Grill or one of the other restaurants, you would roll down to the GreenGo nightclub, with James Bond and Pussy Galore sitting on corner sofas sipping two olive martinis as Julio Iglesias rocks the dance floor.

cosy lounge area with open fire

Today, the hotel’s modern spa adds a warmer kind of seclusion from the outside world

In summer, when we went, the nightclub is a swimming pool, connected to the spa (open year round) and looking out onto a garden with a cute kids’ playground, and lined by the hotel’s famous clay tennis courts. Here, you can play as if you were born with a pro living in your garden house (as many guests likely were) with a 270-degree view of the mountain bowl of the Bernese Oberland. If you need something bigger than the hotel’s internal pool, wander up to the Olympic-sized pool the hotel shares with the village (it has its own sun-lounger area, and this is a very posh village). We loved our simple, abundant mountain-food lunch at the pool bar.

The Palace is the kind of place which makes you feel very welcome, but at which it is always evident that there are layers of society into which money simply won’t buy. In its lavish lounge and bar area, just behind reception, old families from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, whose forebears have been coming here for generations, chat easily about art, girls and boys, and schools. The windows in the corridor leading down to the restaurant contain watches and jewellery, from famous brands, that simply might not be available to you unless you know them personally.

The service, however, is sublime for everyone – there was not a flicker of an eyebrow when we booked a tennis court, arrived on the court, and realised we didn’t have any rackets or balls. They were served up in an instant. I just enjoyed sitting on the terrace at breakfast, picking out a gluten-free croissant, looking out over the view, and catching snippets of cultured conversation in several European languages. Perhaps we will be coming back here for generations also.

Book your stay: palace.ch

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 12 min
Lighthouse villa with views over sea
Interiors of a chic living room

Masseria Cardinale is one of The Thinking Traveller’s larger villas in Sicily, located in the countryside with authentic design features

The Thinking Traveller is a villa rental company that offers exclusive access to some of the most desirable properties in the Mediterranean. Guests of The Thinking Traveller also gain access to local insider knowledge through the company’s on-the-ground concierge team who plan bespoke itineraries and experiences. Here, we speak to the founders Huw and Rossella Beaugié about their villa selection process, luxury retreats and their intrinsically sustainable ethos
Man and woman standing in tropical garden

Rossella & Huw Beaugié

LUX: How was the concept for The Thinking Traveller conceived?
Huw Beaugié: We started the company in 2002. Prior to that [Rossella and I] had been living in Paris, where we met in ‘98. Rossella was a cell biologist doing her PhD in Paris and I was an engineer working in marketing at that time. Rossella is from Sicily, so we had been travelling to Sicily a lot already. We went there in November 2000 and that was the kind of the catalyst. We climbed up a mountain called Stromboli, and doing that made us decide that we would like to move there for a bit, which we ended up doing two years later.

Rossella Beaugié: We started doing walking tours first of all and then very soon my friends started saying ‘oh we’ve got this nice house on the island, would you want to try renting it out?’. So the first brochure we put together had three walking tours with volcanos and hills, and then seven villas, I think. At the time we were doing everything ourselves but it worked.

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Huw Beaugié: There wasn’t anything of great quality in Sicily so we realised that we needed to really help these villa owners to create a property and product that would fit our clients and the people we wanted to be our clients. We started advising [the property owners], helping with design and we even began advancing money to invest in pools or refurbishments. We would make contact with interior designers to help them develop the houses. Really quickly we figured that if we were making all these investments, the only way we could really work with these houses and make it profitable would be to deal with them exclusively. That is one of the things we have stuck with ever since. We started with seven houses and we now have about 220 in various destinations in the Mediterranean, but the really vital and big unique selling point is that they are all exclusive to us and that means we can still keep on investing to make sure the quality and service is right, and to have our people on the ground to support that. We are expanding slowly, being careful to always keep the quality increasing rather than diluting.

Pool views over countryside

Views over the Sicilian countryside from the pool at Masseria Cardinale

Rossella Beaugié: The secret has been that right from the beginning. For the first 10 years we were in Sicily so we were around the whole time and then we started hiring staff who are really knowledgeable people and know everybody locally, meaning they can find the best doctor if needed, the best yoga teacher or if you wanted to organise a dinner we can do that. We don’t have reps who move around, our staff work for us 12 months a year and they have insider knowledge.

LUX: What challenges have you encountered now that your main offices are in the UK and you’re based here?
Rossella Beaugié: We have developed quite slowly. There have been two regions that we were interested in but because we hadn’t found the right people or properties we wanted to offer clients, we decided not to go with them. We are happy with the regions we’re working in because we have amazing teams and the owners of properties share our priorities and ethos. The team here receive so many offers of villas everywhere, we could have 10,000 villas! We get that many offers because they see the website, they like it and we have a good reputation, but we have been careful of where we go and what we take on.

Lighthouse villa with views over sea

Faro di Brucoli is a refurbished lighthouse in Sicily with views of Mount Etna across the Ionian Sea

LUX: How do you select the villas to represent?
Rossella Beaugié: They tend to come to us. It is usually owners knowing us already, maybe due to our reputation amongst other owners who also have these kinds of top level properties. So what we do first of all is decide whether it’s for us and we can see that now straight away with Google and photos.

Read more: High altitude luxury at Riffelalp Resort 2222m, Zermatt

Huw Beaugié: Probably 70% of them we cut immediately. The next 30% we go further and ask for more information, and then perhaps the final 5% will end up with a visit and a detailed report and out of those, we probably only take on one property.

Dining table with sea views

Bedroom with sea views

Here and above: Iola is a contemporary villa located on the Greek island of Corfu with sweeping sea views

LUX: What are the key elements you’re looking for?
Rossella Beaugié: We are now at a stage where we know what our clients want so we have criteria, but at the bottom of it, we really need to truly like the property in terms of style and we have to know that the owner could be a good partner because it’s their house and they continue managing the property so they need to be able to reinvest and sort out problems quickly. In terms of more objective criteria, the location and views are important but it depends on the region. Greece, for example, is really all about location so being on the sea and beaches. Privacy is also important and then there are all the things like ensuite bedrooms, a good kitchen, a nice-sized pool, not being overlooked. Then once we take on the property, we have a list of stuff that they have to have such as good quality linen, appliances etc. We recommend things and then our local managers go and do what we call a quality check.

Read more: Founder of Nila House Lady Carole Bamford’s guide to Jaipur

LUX: Is it important to you to have a wide range of different properties in your portfolio?
Rossella Beaugié: Yes, we have clients that have gone from a very charming, chic, three-bedroom house in Puglia and then they book our best property in Sicily, which sleeps 24 with a chef because maybe they are doing a multi generation family holiday, or it’s someone’s wedding anniversary and they want to invite everyone. So yes, we need diversity in terms of size and level of service. Some people could afford to have service everyday but they just want privacy, they want to be able to go around without clothes if they like. Then there are also different styles of property. Some people want minimal or really cutting-edge design, and some other people want to go to a place in Puglia or Sicily with traditional charm.

Huw Beaugié: We also work a lot with people who haven’t even started building. The optimum situation is when someone comes to us and says ‘I’ve bought a piece of land’ or ‘I’m looking to buy a piece of land, and what are your suggestions?’ Or people say ‘I’ve bought this ruin and what should I do with it?’ With those projects, we are involved from the beginning right through to the delivery. We suggest interior designers, architects, landscape designers, everything. Those are the villas that tend to perform the best.

Antique furnished living room

 

Bedroom inside old building

Masseria Cardinale (here and above) offers guests traditional charm combined with luxurious modern amenities

LUX: Can you tell us a bit more about the experiences side of the business? What can you make happen for your clients?
Huw Beaugié: We try to make anything happen that the clients want as long as it’s not against the law!

Rossella Beaugié: The kinds of things that are becoming standard for us is that everyone wants a cook. Especially in Puglia and Sicily, people want to learn to cook and so we organise cooking classes either in the villas or on vineyards. We have three kids who were born in Sicily and grew up there which means we were able to try out things with them and find out what they found boring. From that, we designed some guided experiences with experts who will prepare the tours on two levels so that it works for the parents and it’s entertaining for the kids. Wine tasting is very requested, and water sports are popular, but then we also have occasions like weddings when people want a Steinway piano in the garden or a certain opera singer to perform.

Read more: Inside The Dorchester Collection’s first branded residences

Huw Beaugié: What we are starting to do more of is themed weeks so things like getting a celebrity chef out to a villa for a week and creating a programme for full immersion in the food, which might include cooking classes, demonstrations and tours of markets. This year, we are doing a partnership with Bodyism so that you can take a wellness instructor out with you to the villa.

Villa pool inside courtyard

Flower arranging

The Thinking Traveller has paired up with McQueens Flower shop to offer guests flower arranging courses at Palazzo Gorgoni (above), one of their properties in Puglia

LUX: What’s your approach to sustainability?
Huw Beaugié: It’s the same as when we started. The basic model of restoring or building unique properties in rural locations or old towns using local people to build, cook and garden, all of that is just inherently sustainable. Generally, you’re also using local materials and the money is staying local. The things that have been added to that model since 2004 is more use of solar energy. However, sustainable a client is they never want to give up on air conditioning, which is one of the single biggest consumers of energy in a villa so solar energy supplements that. Then the other big thing is water: drinking water and swimming pool water. Swimming pools lose hundreds of litres of water a day through evaporation so we encourage people to cover pools when they’re not using them and at night. Same with air con, setting the temperature between 24 and 27 degrees, for example, rather than at 18 degrees and wrapping yourself up in a duvet, which uses a lot more energy. In terms of drinking water, we are doing a big campaign to try and get people to install water filters in their homes, which is difficult in the Med where bottled water is standard, but it’s changing.

Rossella Beaugié: We have these little leaflets which we leave in the houses called ‘Think Green’ which have sustainability tips for guests. People are more aware of sustainability issues so it is easier now than it was in the past to encourage these ways of behaving.

View The Thinking Traveller’s portfolio of properties: thethinkingtraveller.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Entranceway to a beautiful whitewashed building
House hidden amongst the trees

Supported by the Lady Bamford Foundation as a centre for craft and sustainable design, Nila House occupies a 1940s residence in Jaipur restored by Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai. Image by James Houston

Lady Carole Bamford, the founder of Daylesford Organic, beauty brand Bamford and numerous charitable foundations including Nila House gives us a guide to her spiritual home, Jaipur

Woman sitting on steps of building

Lady Carole Bamford

Where I hunt for treasures…

I always look forward to visiting the government khadi shops. I find myself spending hours there, lost in the piles of beautiful hand-spun fabric. Handwoven in villages across the country, the simple white cloth with all its imperfections is my idea of the ultimate luxury item.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Cultural immersion…

The riot of colour and sound of the markets is extraordinary, and the old city has some of the best textiles and jewellery. I recently met a family of hand-block carvers who have been creating intricate wooden blocks for generations. Such artisans have a wealth of knowledge that we at Nila House, our new centre for preserving these traditions, believe should be shared with a broader audience so that it can be carried on into the future.

Entranceway to a beautiful whitewashed building

Image by James Houston

My perfect day in the city…

I always start my day with a puja prayer ritual followed by yoga and meditation. Then I will head out with my design team to visit our suppliers. I love visiting the workshops; I always learn so much, watching the dedication and meditativeness of their work. In the afternoon I might explore antique textiles at Rajasthani Arts to see if there is anything for our archives.

Read more: Hôtel Chais Monnet & the beauty of southwest France

Best dining spot…

47 Jobner Bagh is my favourite place to escape the crowds and noise. This charming family-run hotel has the best home-cooked Indian food. My favourite is a bowl of dal makhani, mopped up with a hot naan bread.

Clothes hanging against white wall

Indian craftsman threading fabric

The building features a shop and studio spaces for local artisans. Images by James Houston

Home away from home…

We always stay at the The Oberoi Rajvilas. It is our home in Jaipur and the wonderful staff look after us like family.

Worth a detour…

I love visiting the paper factories in Sanganeer, just outside Jaipur. They have some of the most beautiful paper you can find, all handmade from natural materials – from cotton rag and banana fibre to the beautiful textured seed paper that we use for all of our packaging [at Nila House].

Nila House is a cultural centre dedicated to preserving traditional craft methods and supporting artisans across India; it is part of the Lady Bamford Foundation. Find out more: carolebamford.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 2 min
Lion walking across wild plains
walking safari with elephant in background

Traveljar guests can enjoy unique wildlife experiences such as morning walks with the orphaned elephants in Zambia. Imag by Andrew White

Traveljar designs luxurious travel itineraries tailored to guests’ interests and led by industry experts such as scientists, Olympic medalists and award-winning photographers. Chloe Frost-Smith speaks to Libby White, Director of Experiences, and Andrew White, Director of Conservation, about responsible travel, wildlife encounters, and far-flung destinations

1. Conservation is at the heart of your business. What are your top tips on how to travel more sustainably?

Libby: We really try to help our guests to become responsible travellers and learn how their trips can benefit conservation, communities and the environment. My number one tip would be to think about what kind of impact you want to leave behind from your travels. At Traveljar, we have partnered with suppliers who provide ethical and sustainable destinations so our guests are having a positive impact no matter where they choose to stay.

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Another top tip is to get involved! We love to help our guests find meaningful ways to give back during their trip. We can arrange a day of learning about rhino conservation in South Africa, visit an elephant orphanage in Zambia, spend the day reading to kids in a rural school in Zambia at our library project or take a tour around your accommodation and the local community to learn more about the sustainable practices that are in place to benefit the area. Traveljar also donates to one of our four NGO partners for every trip booked with us and all of our itineraries show guests how their trip is giving back.

Luxurious safari lodge

Wilderness Safari, Chitabe Camp in Botswana where guests can stay in sustainable luxury as the camp is 100% solar powered.

2. Where would you send travellers asking for the most off-the-beaten-track destinations?

Andrew: Two places immediately come to mind for me, the first one being Busanga Plains in Zambia. Located in the northern part of the Kafue National Park, this grassy seasonal floodplain is known for some of the best lion viewings in Africa. Because there are only a few lodges operating here and less visitors, you will get a more intimate safari experience, giving you a true remote bush safari away from the crowds.

Lion walking across wild plains

Lion on the Busanga Plains. Image by Andrew White

The other destination I would recommend is Virunga National Park in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is one of only three places in the world to see mountain gorillas and is very much off the beaten track when it comes to a holiday. Responsible tourism has the chance to make a difference to the communities living here. As well as support the conservation efforts in the park like the Senkwekwe Centre for orphaned gorillas and their ranger program which has over 700 male and female rangers who are protecting the park’s wildlife. For the adventurous, you can hike up Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano, to one of the world’s largest lava lakes.

Close up image of gorilla's face

Mountain Gorilla. Image by Nelis Wolmarans

3. What has been your most memorable wildlife encounter to date?

Libby: Without a doubt for me it was seeing my very first rhino in Pilanesberg National Park (in South Africa) and then taking to the air in a helicopter for an anti-poaching patrol with our partner, Rhino 911. Seeing these gentle giants in their natural habitat for the first time was incredible but then to also get the chance to learn more about the dangers facing rhinos and the people try to protect them, made the experience one I will never forget. It has made me even more committed to doing what I can through Traveljar to try and help Rhino 911 in saving this endangered species.

Andrew: There is something very exciting about getting the opportunity to watch animal behaviour on a safari. One of my most memorable wildlife moments was in South Luangwa National park with two clients, both of whom had never seen African Wild Dogs before. After picking up their tracks, we found the pack sleeping in the long grass. Wild dogs are very playful and social and we got to watch them splashing around in the pools of water. Strengthening social bonds and listening to the chatter between them highlights their intelligence and our guests were amazed by their actions. That afternoon we followed the pack as they moved along the river in search of Impala and watched with interest as the dogs chased the impala across the plans, using incredible teamwork in the diminishing light.

Man and woman standing by helicopter

Libby & Andrew White with Rhino 911 in South Africa

4. How do you define experiential travel, and do you have a favourite moment from one of your expeditions?

Libby: For us, experiential travel is travelling with purpose and the ability to show our guest that you can combine a relaxing, luxury holiday while giving back. We believe that when people travel with purpose, that they have the potential to positively impact the communities and wildlife they encounter along their travels, as well as to come home feeling inspired themselves.

My favourite moment so far has been taking guests to help set up a library in a rural school in Zambia as part of our community engagement commitment. It was amazing to be able to watch my clients read and interact with the kids, to see the positive impact it was having on them as well and to know that, together, we had all been a part of providing books for over 600 children to continue developing their reading skills for their future.

African children reading books

Children reading with books donated from Traveljar’s library project in Mfuwe, Zambia. Image by Andrew White

Andrew: My favourite moment from our expeditions is always the chance to take clients on a morning walk with the orphaned elephants at the Lilayi Elephant Orphanage in Zambia. I have personally been involved with Game Rangers International for the last 10 years and being able to help others learn about the work this incredible NGO is doing to rescue, rehabilitate and release these elephants back to the wild is always very special to me.

5. What makes your itineraries ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips?

Libby: All of our itineraries are 100% bespoke, making them completely tailored to the client’s travel wishes. We decided to do our trips this way because we felt like what equals the “perfect” trip for one person is not the same for the next. We take the time to really get to know our clients and understand what they are hoping for from their trip. Guests can choose every aspect of their adventure, along with our expert guidance, from the type of accommodation they stay in, to the activities they participate in, down to which partner we make a donation to from their trip. In planning a trip this way, we can create the “perfect” and “once-in-a-lifetime” adventure for each individual.

Elephant roaming at sunset

Elephant at sunset in Botswana’s Chobe National Park by Barbara Eidel

6. What is your favourite image from your photographic safari masterclasses and why?

Andrew: For me, the photographic masterclass is all about helping our clients get their dream photo. By travelling with Nelis Wolmarans or myself, our guests will visit beautiful destinations with incredible wildlife, leading to a number of opportunities to either learn more about wildlife photography for the first time or to work on perfecting their skills or trying out new techniques. One of my favourite pictures from a photographic masterclass trip was a beautiful elephant at sunset photo by our client Barbara Eidel, taken in the Chobe National Park. I had the chance to take her on her first African safari last summer and help her in developing her wildlife photography skills, building confidence and creativity in her work . Having a client at the end of the trip enthusiastically share their photos with you and ask when the next trip is going to be, makes it a very memorable adventure together.

Find out more: travel-jar.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Spider on lake in countryside
Small art gallery inside an art hotel

Ellerman House’s art collection features nearly 1,000 works

Hotels have long housed art collections, and now many are opening their own gallery spaces alongside art-focused programmes to offer guests unique cultural experiences. In his latest column for LUX, Abercrombie & Kent’s Founder Geoffrey Kent handpicks his favourite art hotels across the globe

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa

Art lovers will delight in staying at this landmark hotel on Cape Town’s coast. Within the elegant Edwardian mansion of Ellerman House, close to 1,000 works of art reflect the changes in South Africa’s social and geographical landscape since the 1930s. Artists in the collection include John Meyer, Erik Laubscher, Jan Volschenk, Cathcart William Methven, and Pieter Wenning to name but a few. Guests can take a self-guided art tour with an electronic tablet providing insight into each piece. If you prefer, the in-house guide is on hand to take you around the extensive collection and beyond – guests can request guided excursions to the city’s local galleries, enjoying behind-the-scenes access and unmatched insight.

ellerman.co.za

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Luxurious hotel bathroom with artworks

The bathroom of the Royal Suite at The Silo, Cape Town

The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa

A disused grain silo may seem an unlikely candidate for a museum and an art hotel. Yet, this imposing building on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront has been transformed in recent years into a bastion for the African arts. The lower portion of the building is now my friend Jochen Zeitz’s eponymous Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. It’s home to the continent’s most extensive collection of contemporary African art. I’m proud to be one of its founding members and to support its primary aim of encouraging intercultural understanding. It’s a fantastic collection in an extraordinary building. Above, the museum is the beautiful Silo hotel in which I stayed for a few days before departing for the South Pole on one of my Inspiring Expeditions. The six storeys of luxury accommodation are brimming with curated artwork. The Silo’s owner, Liz Biden of The Royal Portfolio, has used the space to display her collection of African pieces. There are works by upcoming artists as well as more established names, such as Nandipha Mntambo, Cyrus Kabiru, and Mohau Modisakeng. The hotel even features its boutique gallery The Vault.

theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo

Artworks hanging on walls of lobby area

Hotel B is Lima’s first and only art hotel

Hotel B, Lima, Peru

For those of us who travel often, firsts are increasingly hard to come by, yet Hotel B is that rarest of things. Lima’s first – and only – art hotel is aptly situated in the city’s most bohemian district amid galleries and fashion boutiques. The building itself is brimming with character, converted as it is from a 1920s colonial mansion. Stay in this restored ‘grand dame’ to admire its private collection of more than 200 artworks, proudly displayed across the landings. Hotel B’s close relationship with nearby Lucia de la Puente Gallery allows guests to request private viewings easily; the gallery offers a fantastic insight into the world of contemporary Peruvian art.

hotelb.pe

Read more: In conversation with Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat

Spider on lake in countryside

‘Crouching Spider’ sculpture by Louise Bourgeois at Villa La Coste in Provence

Villa la Coste, Provence, France

The pastoral landscape of Provence is impossible to upstage, so the owners of Villa La Coste have sought instead to adorn it with dazzling flourishes of creativity. Throughout the biodynamic vineyard of Château La Coste and art hotel, sculptures are tucked amid verdant woodland, hills, and lawns – including works by acclaimed artists Ai Weiwei and Tracey Emin. You can enjoy a two-hour private art and architecture walk with the curator, learning all about the eclectic collection while taking in the beautiful Provençal countryside. Also, the hotel is home to its very own arts centre and hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Stay here, and you’ll never be short of art to admire (nor home-grown wine to sip as you do).

villalacoste.com

Art hotel bedroom

MONA Tasmania offers visitors the chance to stay on the museum grounds in a contemporary pavilion

MONA, Tasmania, Australia

Set on the banks of the River Derwent, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is Australia’s largest privately owned gallery and museum. It was masterminded by gambler and mathematician David Walsh and exhibits his diverse taste in art – from Ancient Egyptian relics to quirky dioramas. Whilst the museum isn’t strictly a hotel, visitors have the opportunity to stay in one of eight contemporary pavilions, each with its own unique character. As well as access to an enclosed lap pool, sauna, and gym, you’ll have a museum chock-full of eclectic and eccentric artwork right on your doorstep. Enjoy unfettered access to MONA’s permanent collection, and utilise its ‘O’ device during self-guided wanders to learn more about the art.

mona.net.au

Find out more: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
Mountainside city at night
Mountainside city at night

Georiga’s capital Tbilisi sits amidst the Caucasus mountains, on the border of Europe and Asia. Image by Denis Arslanbekov

Why should I book now?

Thinking of booking a spring break? There are few places more lovely than the Caucasus mountains, on the border of Europe and Asia. And in the region, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is unmistakably the most beautiful city. In a broad valley surrounded by mountains, at its heart is a medieval old town with a fortress towering above. The country has two millennia of history and feels like it was once the centre of a culture and empire – which it was. Winters are cold, summers are hot, and spring, with the trees and blossoms in full bloom, are perfect.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

What’s the lowdown?

The Radisson Blu is the best-located hotel in the city, at the top end of the broad Rustaveli Avenue, the magnificent boulevard, lined with palatial buildings, that bisects the town centre like a more elegant Champs-Elysees. Rooms have views across the city to the mountains beyond. It’s a modern, light and airy place with a lot of glass everywhere. Climbing out of our car and being greeted by the doorman was our first taste of hearty, genuine Georgian hospitality – we had two recommendations of things to do before even entering the reception area. The receptionists were equally friendly, and, you felt, from their hearts: this was genuine national pride, not just training.

Interiors of a chic restaurant

Filini is the hotel’s chic Italian restaurant (above), and in the warmer months, guests can dine on the rooftop terrace (below)

Chic rooftop restaurant

Getting horizontal

Our “superior” category room was spacious and very light, with full glass walls on two sides, and gorgeous views across to the churches of the old town. Decor is contemporary and minimal: whites, creams and light greens. The minibar was filled with local snacks – creamy Argo beer, and packets of local pistachios. There are two restaurants in the hotel, both of them contemporary-chic, and an excellent selection of neighbourhood restaurants just across the square. Wander down Rustaveli Avenue, where a highly fashionable passeggiata takes places every evening in the warmer months, and you get to the Old Town’s wonders, but as a place to stay, we preferred being slightly out of the tourist main drag at the other end of Rustaveli.

Read more: Galleria Continua’s Lorenzo Fiaschi on opening a space in Rome

Luxurious hotel bedroom with floor to ceiling glass windows

The rooms on the higher floors offer the best views over the Old Town

Flipside

The Radisson Blu Tbilisi really didn’t have any drawbacks. Although we would advise anyone visiting to pay more for a room on a higher floor, to maximise those views.

Rates: From GEL 424.80 (approx. £100/€150/ $150)

Book your stay: radissonhotels.com/en-us/hotels/radisson-blu-tbilisi

Darius Sanai

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Luxury dining experience in wilderness with monkey running across
Luxury dining experience in wilderness with monkey running across

A monkey runs across the private pool terrace of the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite at Sher Bagh. Image by James Houston

Why should I go now?

Thanks to  stricter wildlife policies, India’s population of endangered Bengal tigers has increased by 33 percent since 2014, and with 60 tigers roaming 500-square-miles of wilderness, Ranthambore National Park remains the best place to see them.

The park was once the private hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, and is still home to many ruins of hunting lodges as well as a majestic crumbling fort from the 10th century. The landscape itself is varied with everything from dense jungle to open plains and desert-like areas; each safari jeep is assigned an area on arrival to prevent overcrowding and limit the impact on the habitat.

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The park tends to be quieter at this time of year, making the safari experience especially peaceful and whilst seeing a wild tiger is never guaranteed, it helps to have a knowledgeable guide. SUJÁN Sher Bagh is known to have not just the best guides and trackers, but the luxury group is also committed to conservation, meaning that every guest who stays at the camp is contributing to the group’s philanthropic initiatives.

Sun loungers underneath tree canopy

Sher Bagh’s swimming pool overlooks the wild grasslands. Image by James Houston

What’s the lowdown?

Sher Bagh is a luxury tented camp pitched under a canopy of indigenous trees on the fringes of Ranthambore National Park. There are only 12 tents with the majority arranged in a semi-circle and the royal suite secluded behind mud walls, giving the whole place an intimate, homely atmosphere, emphasised by the warmth of the staff. The place is designed to evoke the romance of old-world travel with wood panelled floors, leather furnishings, vintage trunks, crystal decanters of whiskey and golden oil lamps that light the pathways and hang from the branches come nightfall. The staff are mainly all from the local villages, and everything from the tents to the interior decorations and even the smooth mud surfaces of the pathways are created by local craftspeople, whilst the kitchen uses ingredients grown in the gardens and cultivated on the camp’s farm.

A white lily on lily pads in a pool of water

Image by James Houston

Man hanging golden lanterns onto a tree

Sher Bagh’s staff hang lamps on the trees at every dusk, creating a magical ‘fairy-tale’ atmosphere. Image by James Houston

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the beautiful grand dining tent with a menu of delicious Anglo-Indian dishes, whilst dinner is traditional Indian cuisine served in a surprise location each evening. The thali and the buttery flaked parathas were amongst the best we’ve ever tasted, and we also loved the selection of canapés served with pre-drinks round the fire every evening, but the bespoke dining experiences were the real highlight. After a morning game drive, our jeep pulled up into the farm yard where a decadent breakfast buffet was laid out underneath the shade of a tree. Before eating, we were given the opportunity to try milking one of the cows and collect eggs from the henhouse, which were then cooked by the chef with fresh herbs and spices. On our final night, we arrived back at our tent to find a table set up on our private pool terrace, surround by hundreds of glowing lanterns.

Dining tables inside luxury tent

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the main dining tent (above), but bespoke experiences can also be arranged. Below: breakfast served on the camp’s farm after an early morning safari. Images by James Houston

Breakfast buffet in the bush

The park’s animals naturally wander into the surroundings areas. This is especially the case with the monkeys who, during our stay, swung between the branches overhead, played on the roof of our tent and drank from our pool. In the mornings, the camp naturalist showed us the tracks and trip-camera images of nighttime visitors to the farm, including a leopard, sloth bear and hyena. Understandably guides are required to accompany guests back to the tents after dark, but the real magic of the place comes from not knowing what you might encounter, who might be peeping at you through the branches or sharing the same pathways.

Read more: The must-visit destinations of 2020 by Geoffrey Kent

Indeed, most guests come to Sher Bagh for the wildlife experiences. The camp’s luxury 4×4 vehicles depart for safaris every morning and afternoon, with stops halfway through for drinks and snacks in the jungle. Whilst tigers are the main draw, the park is also home to leopards, sloth bears, deer, mongoose, wild boars, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles and an array of tropical birds. For us, one of the most beautiful experiences was watching the monkeys walking amongst the villagers on their way to morning worship. In between drives, the camp is a very peaceful place to relax, swimming, reading or listening to the hum of the jungle.

Getting horiztonal

We stayed in the largest and most luxurious tent: the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite. Enclosed behind  mud walls, the tent is the most secluded area of the camp with its own private heated swimming pool overlooking the grasslands. The interiors follow the camp’s colonial theme with cream linens, and rosewood and teak furnishings, including a beautiful four-poster bed and two open wardrobes each equipped with a branded safari fleece (the morning drives can be very chilly). There’s a separate sitting room with a curated selection of books, and a spacious bathroom, featuring natural, sustainable bath products. Laundry and ironing are complimentary and the suite comes with a high-tech DSLR camera for guests to borrow on safaris.

Luxury safari tent

Most of the tents are arranged in a semi circle (above), whilst the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite is secluded behind mud walls (below). Images by James Houston

Inside a luxury safari tent

Flipside

Sher Bagh manages to balance the highest level of luxury with authenticity and honesty. Sustainable practices are integrated into every element of the camp from the homegrown ingredients to the local staff and use of natural materials. The air conditioning units in the rooms and communal areas are the only contradiction to this ethos that we noticed, and although it’s understandably necessary to keep the rooms cool during the hotter months, it seems a shame that these can’t be replaced with a more environmentally friendly option.

Rates: From ₹55,000 for a luxury tent including all meals (approx. £600/€700/ $750)

Book your stay: thesujanlife.com/sher-bagh

Millie Walton

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Reading time: 5 min
Exterior of an alpine hotel in winter
Exterior of an alpine hotel in winter

Hôtel de l’Etrier is located in the sunny Alpine resort of Crans-Montana

Why should I go now?

While many Swiss resorts suffer from “deep valley” syndrome in midwinter, with the sun hidden by peaks for most of the day, Crans-Montana is both snowy (it sits at 1450m and its top station is at 3000m) and sunny, as it’s on a south-facing shelf high above the deep Rhône valley. Hôtel de l’Etrier is a Crans-Montana institution: take one of its recently refurbished, Alpine-contemporary pine clad, coolly lit south-facing rooms with a big balcony, and you have one of the best views of any Alpine hotel, and one of the sunniest locations.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

What’s the lowdown?

L’Etrier is a three minute walk from the main Crans lift station (you can leave your skis at the lift station rental store, which incidentally does an excellent line in Swiss Stoeckli skis, among our favourites). Step into the hotel and you have a picture-window view from the bar across the Valais Alps; there are few better places to relax with a long cocktail after (or maybe before) a day on the excellent Crans slopes.

Luxurious indoor swimming pool with loungers

The hotel has a spa and indoor pool, which connects to an outside swimming pool in summer

You also have access to two of this foodie village’s most well-known restaurants without even stepping outside, as a passageway leads to the Michelin-starred Pas de l’Ours restaurant and its more casual counterpart, the Bistrot de l’Ours, serving signature dishes such as candied pig shank with curry, beer cabbage, juniper and apple vitelotte.

Alpine lounge area with armchair and fire

The bar offers a cosy atmosphere for casual dining, whilst le Fer à Cheval restaurant (below) serves traditional Swiss alpine cuisine

Detail image of a table with wine and hams

The bar in the hotel itself is supremely relaxed and serves casual food, and this was our favourite hangout of all, in a deep armchair by a picture window looking out at the dramatic view. Many Alpine hotels nestle deep in valleys and views are limited; not so here. There is also an indoor pool (connecting outside in summer) and spa/wet area.

Getting horizontal

Our “superior” room was just that. It wasn’t the last word in high luxury, and l’Etrier is not priced as such, being a four-star hotel. But we preferred it to rooms we have had in some of Europe’s (and Switzerland’s) grandest institutions. The light pine and modern lighting decor were just right; the furnishings were light and contemporary without being irritatingly over-designed and the emphasis was on comfort.

Read more: Andermatt’s new high-altitude restaurants

Spacious bedroom with pine fittings

One of the hotel’s spacious suites

The balcony had such magnificent views across the resort, below, the woods around it and across the Rhône valley to the giant peaks of the Pennine Alps surrounding the distant resorts of Zermatt and Zinal, that we spent an evening sitting and admiring the rose-coloured sunset, despite the increasing Alpine winter cold. Some rooms are just right in terms of general vibe: this was a room you didn’t want to leave, in the evenings, as the canopy of stars emerged above the mountains and valley.

Flipside

Crans-Montana is quite a spread-out resort and none of its top hotels can claim to be quite in the centre of things; L’Etrier is no different, and while it’s very near the main lift, it’s an eight minute walk (or two minute shuttle) to the centre of Crans, one of the two villages.

Rates: From 200 CHF  (approx. £150 /€200/ $200)

Book your stay: hoteletrier.ch

Darius Sanai

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Reading time: 3 min
large leopard standing on rock
Lush rainforest with waterfalls

Argentina is one of Geoffrey Kent’s must-visit destinations for 2020. Image by Jonatan Lewczuk

LUX columnist and Abercrombie & Kent founder Geoffrey Kent reveals his hottest destinations for the new year plus top tips of what to see and do

Egypt

Egypt has an enduring appeal with its mesmeric relics, atmospheric souks, and natural wonders. After the tumult of recent years, the Land of the Pharaohs is making a deserved comeback. In 2018, more than 11 million tourists visited Egypt, and the World Tourism Organisation has since named the country the world’s fastest-growing travel destination. In the latter half of 2020, the Grand Egyptian Museum is finally set to open. Encompassing 500,000 square metres, this vast exhibition space will showcase an omnium-gatherum of Ancient Egyptian finds – 30,000 of which have never been exhibited in public before.

My top tip: Egypt is a place where it’s imperative to have an experienced local guide so that you can truly appreciate this ancient civilisation’s history and culture.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Egyptian pyramids with camel trail

‘Egypt has an enduring appeal with its mesmeric relics, atmospheric souks, and natural wonders’

Sri Lanka

The ‘teardrop of India’ brims with lush landscapes, ancient treasures, and rich cultural heritage. Successive waves of Indian, Arab and European traders flocked to Sri Lanka’s palm-fringed shores, attracted by rare spices, precious stones, and magnificent elephants. Today ancient cities, tea plantations, and hill stations vie travellers’ attentions, alongside eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, great beaches and national parks with an abundance of wildlife. On a Sri Lanka holiday, a large dose of tropical warmth awaits, in both the weather and the welcome.

My top tip: Sri Lanka is home to the biggest leopards that I have seen anywhere – be sure to spend time in Yala National Park, where dozens of these magnificent cats live.

large leopard standing on rock

Geoffrey Kent recommends visiting Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park to see leopards

Argentina

There are few places in the world where you can feel the same sense of vastness and isolation that you can find in Argentina’s breathtakingly rugged landscapes. Voyage to Argentina in 2020 to experience one of nature’s most magnificent events: a total solar eclipse. Set to take place on 14 December, this aligning of celestial bodies will be visible from just a few South American countries. In Argentina, the event will briefly plunge northern Patagonia into darkness in the middle of the afternoon. Be among the few to witness this rare, magical moment in a region already famed for its spectacular scenery.

My top tip: If you go this year, you can become one of the first guests to stay at the explora Patagonia Argentina, the latest in the hotel group’s roster of exemplary eco-lodges.

Read more: An evening of contemporary art and fine dining with Gaggenau

Large glacial lake surrounded by mountains

Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the Andes Mountains in Argentina

Laos

Until recently, Laos was in the shadow of its more famous Indochinese neighbours. It has often been overlooked by travellers considering a visit to South-East Asia. This country’s charm and authenticity are drawing a growing number of visitors to its lesser-travelled trails, however, and we expect the trend to continue in 2020. Step back in time as you explore this nation of jungles, temples, hill-top villages, and ancient relics for yourself, free of the frantic pace of so many other Asian cities.

My top tip: Go in the forthcoming year to discover the Plain of Jars for yourself. Stretching across the Xiangkhoang Plateau, this vast archaeological site features thousands of enormous stone vessels, scattered by a past civilisation whose culture remains a mystery. While folklore suggests the jars belonged to giants, further excavations in 2019 point instead towards a more anthropological answer: that this was once a burial ground. Visit this hard-to-reach UNESCO World Heritage Site by flying in via helicopter, accompanied by an expert guide.

Exotic waterfalls with blue waters

Geoffrey Kent predicts Laos will grow in popularity as a travel destination in 2020

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most enthralling – and often overlooked – destinations. Following on from an incredible trip there in late 2019 – one of my Inspiring Expeditions – it easily earns its spot on my list for this year. I can recommend thoroughly. Situated in the Horn of Africa, it’s a land of dramatic contrasts – stunning lakes and mountain ranges as well as the Blue Nile. It is home to strikingly diverse and beautiful people such as the Kara, the Hamar, Mursi, and Nyangatom to name but a few – proudly independent, who have never been subjugated in modern times. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela offer historical intrigue, while the other-worldly Danakil Depression and wildlife of the Simien and Bale Mountains are a major draw for nature lovers. Whether in the bustling cities or remote highlights, you’ll find an abundance of history, tradition, and goodwill.

My top tip: Visit during the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people in Addis Ababa. Witness freshly cut grass and flowers being placed in water – a traditional offering that thanks God for the end of the rainy season and the start of spring. It’s a fantastic opportunity for immersion in this aspect of the country’s culture.

Winding Mountain road

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most enthralling – and often overlooked – destinations, says Geoffrey Kent

The Arctic

Celebrate the audacity of exploration on an extraordinary cruise through the rarely traversed Northwest Passage. In 2020, A&K’s Ultimate Iceland & Greenland luxury expedition cruise will be led by a modern explorer, famed mountaineer Alex Pancoe, who just completed the Explorers Grand Slam, an adventurers’ challenge consisting of climbing the seven summits—the highest mountains on each continent—as well as cross-country skiing the final degree to the North and South Poles. Accompanied by Pancoe, voyage from western Greenland to Nome Alaska. Following in the footsteps of Leif Erikson (Erik the Red), who founded the Viking colony in Greenland and ventured to Newfoundland a full 500 years before Columbus, and coming in the wake of more recent great explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Robert McClure.

My top tip: an exceptional expedition crew and luxurious ship make all the difference when travelling to the poles.

Travel expert Geoffrey Kent pictured on a cruise ship in the arctic ocean surrounded by glaciers

Geoffrey Kent cruising the Arctic Ocean

Find out more: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Reading time: 5 min
Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace
Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace

Boutique hotel Les Manoir de Portes de Deauville offers a homely kind of luxury in the heart of Normandy

Located just two hours from Paris, Deauville has long been a chic weekend destination for Parisians and now with the newly opened boutique hotel Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville, it’s perfect for families too. LUX Managing Editor Serena Hamilton discovers

Europeans tend to lean towards the same destinations in France. They go every summer, stay in the same house or hotel, get croissants from the same boulangerie and eat dinner in the same bistro. There’s something undoubtedly comforting about that kind of routine, knowing that your expectations will be met year after year, and yet, comfort as everyone knows doesn’t necessarily equal excitement or adventure. So this year, we decided to try somewhere new.

Deauville and its neighbouring town Trouville are often referred to as the “Parisian riviera” not just because of their proximity to the French capital, but also for their chic ambience. Deauville, for example, boasts a year round calendar of film festivals, yachting regattas and vintage car rallies as well as great shopping and a beautiful, albeit busy white sandy beach complete with Instagrammable candy-coloured parasols. The streets are immaculate and everyone is stylishly dressed, which is wonderful if you don’t have children hanging off your arms. For us, holidays are generally more about relaxation, and we tend to look for places which can offer adult-orientated calm whilst simultaneously catering to the children’s endless energy. Not a lot to ask for is it? Thankfully, Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville fitted the bill perfectly.

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Located a few minutes outside of Deauville town, the boutique hotel only opened its doors this summer and straddles the line between country manor hotel and Parisian chic. It’s set within acres of lush parkland, with a 16th century manor house at the centre and nine surrounding private cottages.The furnishings throughout are a mix of contemporary and antique, whilst the colour palette of pale pinks and creams pairs perfectly with the dark exposed beams and more rustic touches. Some of the rooms and shared spaces also have beautiful old brick fireplaces. More importantly, though, it feels like a space to be lived in rather than just admired, which means you can properly relax rather than stressing every time a child clambers over an armchair.

Historic manor house and lawn

The hotel is set within stunning parkland and gardens (see below) with bedrooms in the main manor house as well as private cottages

Garden of a manor house

We were staying in a very pretty little cottages (adjacent to the one booked by our family friends), which provided more space and the added luxury of total privacy, whilst still in easy access of the outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi. As parents it was pure bliss to sit drinking our morning coffee on the lawn whilst our children ran around the park and tipped each other out of the hammocks.

Read more: Half Moon Bay Antigua reveals Rosewood Residences

Sadly, the restaurant wasn’t yet open during our stay, but there were plenty of excellent nearby options including the historic town of Honfleur, where we enjoyed several lunches of delicious moules-frites on the harbour’s edge. In the evenings, after tucking the children into their beds, we strolled across the lawn to the main house for a cheese and charcuterie board with local wines in the cosy lounge bar. No need for hushed in-room dining, or babysitters.

Rustic elegant interiors of a hotel bedroom

Luxurious hotel suite with contemporary furnishings

The interiors blend rustic chic with contemporary furnishings and a calming colour palette

The staff, especially, made us feel immediately welcome and were wonderfully patient with the children’s endless requests for hot chocolates and snacks, which isn’t always the norm with luxury hotels. They were also very knowledgable about the local area and suggested child-friendly activities such as a cute petit train ride through the heart of Deauville, and strolls through the stunning countryside.

It might not be quite the place for the usual Deauville crowd, but for anyone wanting to relax in an elegant, unpretentious setting that’s within easy distance of a beach as well as upmarket restaurants and shops, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Rates start from €120 per night including breakfast (approx. £100/$150). Book your stay: portesdedeauville.com

 

 

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Render of luxurious beachside villa
Architectural render of villas on tropical island

One of the luxurious five-bedroom residences at Rosewood Half Moon Bay in Antigua

Due to open in 2022, Half Moon Bay Antigua is set to offer luxury hotel accommodation and private beach-front residences by Rosewood. Here, Rosie Ellison-Balaam takes a first look at the residential designs

Sprawling a 132 acre plot on the Caribbean island of Antigua, Half Moon Bay Antigua comprises 47 pavilion-style suites and luxurious residences by Rosewood. Headed up by Amsterdam-based practice Piet Boon, the design across the resort focuses on incorporating natural materials and light to provide bright, large spaces. The residences, for example, range from two to five bedrooms and have direct access to the shore as well as en-suite facilities, and the option of a gym and wine cellar.

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Following the natural sloping landscape of the site, Piet Boon has also designed a series of private outdoor terraces for each of the homes, made from wood and soft yellowed stone. These platforms have a subtle division of space, creating a private dining area, a restful area with a panoramic view of the ocean, and two swimming pools. The space is also enclosed by tropical plants thanks to the project’s landscape designers VITA.

Infinity pool at villa with sea views

Render of luxury terrace with sea views

The outdoor terraces provide space for relaxation and al fresco dining

The interior design of the residences focuses on warm, natural materials such as stone-tiled and wooden floors, with exposed timber beams and a neutral colour palette. The communal spaces are large and light-filled with contemporary fittings including a long island in the kitchen for preparing and serving food.

Render of luxurious beachside villa

One of the resort’s exclusive beach villas

For more information visit: halfmoonbayantigua.com

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Luxurious beach swimming pool
Luxurious tropical beach resort

The Tongsai Bay is an eco-friendly luxury resort on the tropical island of Koh Samui

The Tongsai Bay is a family-owned luxury resort on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. Set amidst acres of wild tropical landscape, the resort is dedicated to wildlife conservation and sustainable practices. Here, we speak to the resort’s owner Gob Thanakorn about continuing his father’s vision, the challenges of promoting sustainability and why Thailand needs to combat over-development

Portrait of man and woman standing in natural setting

Gob Thanakorn with his wife Goya

1. How was the concept for The Tongsai Bay born?

Tongsai was a brain-child of my late father Akorn Hoontrakul. He was CEO of the Imperial group of hotels, which our family owned 100%. When he decided that it was time to grow and venture out of Bangkok, he surveyed Koh Samui because he thought that Phuket was already developed and Samui had a great potential even though there wasn’t an airport back then. A survey team was sent and I was lucky enough to be on that trip as a 12-year-old. We took the night train from Bkk to Poonpin district in Suratthani (you can still do this part today) and somehow got on a naval ship from Suratthani to Koh Samui. I remember Tongsai as a little piece of backpacker’s paradise. There were only 8 bungalows and a snack hut with green snake on the ceiling. There was a lady without anything on the bottom going for a swim in the sea. Out of all the beaches I saw on that trip, I liked Tongsai the least because of the deep water and course sand. As a 12-year-old, I didn’t think much about the fact that it was a private beach and how beautiful it was being a cove all to itself. This was back in 1986.

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My father then went on a separate trip and he bought the land of Tongsai (the bay and beach was called Tongsai Bay before we even bought the land) within 7 days of laying eyes on it from the sea. He later said to friends that “it was love at first sight”. My father spent 3 months planning how he wanted to develop his resort with an eye on making it his retirement home. He literally slept on the beach during this time. There’s a picture to prove it.

When Tongsai was opened in 1987, it was the first five star hotel on Koh Samui. My father used the tagline “….where mother nature was the architect”. So the concept always was that Tongsai would be a hotel nestled within existing natural beauty of Koh Samui where space is in abundant and privacy is key. Supporting evidence can be found in many of the guest rooms where cottages were built over rock formations instead of blowing it. We have two rooms that have rocks inside the room next to the bed. They used to be called Rock suites. Cottage 235 was taken out of inventory during the renovation years of 1995 because a large Banyan Tree would have to be taken down. Dad chose the tree over a room. According to him, he tried to save as many large trees as possible during the construction of the hotel. Going around them, leaving space for coconut trees to rise through terraces was how he avoided cutting trees. Tongsai Pool Villa 511 used to be called the Mango Villa because a twin wild mango trees are in the middle of the terrace. They still stand today – guests can have complimentary wild mangoes when it’s the season to bear fruit.

Luxury villa terrace with swimming pool

The terraces provide guests with large outdoor living spaces and stunning sea views

As we developed the Tongsai Grand Villas in 1998, the “great outdoor living” concept was used to promote the new villas because of the size of the terrace on each villa. We emphasised the outdoor area more than the indoor air-conditioned area because guests liked to be outside more than inside. So a gazebo was a main feature along with the “bathtub on the terrace” which later made Tongsai famous for being the hotel with a bathtub with sea views.

When dad died in 2002, my wife and I took over the responsibility We had lived and work at Tongsai for a few years and learnt that we used to appreciate nature, but we never thought about protecting it. We encountered a Slow Loris, a nocturnal mammal one night coming back from a late night out and we realised that Tongsai is a home for wild animals living freely and safely. So we put in place measures to protect all kind of animals in the hotel ground including firing staff who are caught killing or hurting animals. Any dead animal will have to be reported and sent for autopsy by a local vet to determine if it died of natural causes or by humans. If it was by human actions, further investigation will pursue. So far we have never fire anyone because of this reason yet. But the message was loud and clear for our staff who now act as eyes and ears for animal protection.

Luxurious hotel bedroom decorated in yellow

The bedroom of a Grand Villa

We have had bird watchers do a survey found 60 plus kinds of birds in a year. Monitor lizards could be seen swimming in the sea (and occasionally the main swimming pool!), climbing coconut trees or lazily walking the lawn. There are squirrels and tree shrews abound. The occasional fireflies can also be spotted at night around Sept  to Oct. In order to achieve this, we completely ban all chemical usage in natural space in the hotel so no pesticides, insecticides or chemical fertilisers are used at all.

It is also worth noting that we are resentful of animals in captivity and forced labour so therefore we do not help guests to book elephant rides, visit zoos/aquariums or circuses. We support the elephant sanctuary where “retired” elephants are fed and left to live a peaceful life in a larger confinement, but unchained. It’s a long answer but you could see how in 32 years the concept had grown but the core remains. That’s why we claim to be “natural to the Core”.

Read more: British model Anna Proffitt on the need for slow fashion

2. What are some of the challenges you face in providing a sustainable luxury service?

I’d put it down to the added work and steps that are required for staff to go to the length of being sustainable. It’s almost the opposite of being convenient for many people in Thailand. You talk about waste and people think cleaning the beach and putting rubbish in the bins. We say we have to know the rubbish first and then we can know how to treat it. Food waste, for example, can be mixed with organic garden waste to make fertilisers so it’s not too bad but the gardeners will say that it’s added work for them. Non-biodegradable waste can be sorted, but that’s not solving the problem at the root cause. It’s better to find substitutes and use recyclable or purely biodegradable. So we opt to buy drinks in glass bottles only – we won’t buy from brands that use plastic containers – but this adds extra work for our beverages staff who feel that glass bottles are heavier whereas a single use plastic bottle is much more convenient and less work. We use lemongrass straws instead of plastic straws too – it’s simple things like this that can reduce non-biodegradable waste. Auditing is also hard and can come across as unfriendly and potentially cause rift with some departments. Sometimes it costs more to source more environmentally friendly products in terms of money, but also time. Educating suppliers can also be draining. Thailand is a society where convenience is king. It’s very difficult to challenge this culture.

Luxurious beach swimming pool

The main pool sits on the edge of the beach

3. What’s your proudest sustainability initiative at the resort?

I’d say the fact that we continue to find Slow Loris in the hotel ground speaks volume about how natural this place is and that can only be a result of the measures we have put in place to protect animals and the natural surrounding in the hotel. We didn’t expand in terms of number of rooms so we didn’t have to cut down trees to open ways for more buildings. I suppose we are proud to say that if you look up Google Earth you will see a patch of 25 acres that is greener than the surrounding pieces of land. We are an oasis for animals surrounded by developments dominated by concrete.

Read more: Inside Mandarin Oriental Geneva’s Royal Penthouse Suite

4. How would you like to see the hospitality industry change over the next few years?

I hope there are less developments since there’s already an over-supply of hotels and villas for sale on Koh Samui and in many other parts of Thailand. The ones that try to keep nature intact are more commendable than others whilst most who would clear all trees first then replant later, which destroys natural habitat for local animals and thus reduces the biodiversity tremendously. I guess it’s wishful thinking, but I think Thailand needs to exercise and enforce its regulations in order to combat overdevelopment fairly and equally. If the law says you need to have functioning waste water plants, then all hotels and restaurants must abide. Sadly, it’s not the case and the authorities don’t even check on a regular basis or follow up with action plan. If the law says you need to have 50% green area then they should be audited regularly and equally too. Ultimately, if mankind can realise that it’s of utmost importance to even just recognise the value of biodiversity (especially in the tropical zones where biodiversity is higher) and act to protect it, we may have a chance to live in a balanced world. If we do all we can to preserve or even increase the biodiversity of the natural world, we will be able to enjoy a quality of life equally. Nature conservation, in the end, is an effort to preserve that biodiversity since it’s the most important indicator of how healthy the natural world is. We have gone too far to destroy the earth and still many are refusing to accept the fact that humans are the cause of the imbalance. It’s time to be responsible humans, which applies to everything you do in the hospitality industry.

Luxury pool villa on an island

One of the resort’s luxurious pool villas

5. What are your 3 top tips for travelling sustainably?

Respect the nature and the culture wherever you go. Be responsible when it comes to littering or choose to consume wisely, considering what is biodegradable and what is not. Basically, try your best not to use single use products especially water. Also be aware of activities that involve animal forced labour and just don’t support them.

6. And finally – what’s your best kept secret on the island of Koh Samui?

It’s a secret!

Find out more: tongsaibay.co.th

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Reading time: 9 min
First class aeroplane seat
First class aeroplane seat

The comfort of the club suites has been improved by the recent introduction of bed linen by the White Company. Image by Nick Morrish/British Airways

British Airways has had a hard time from business travellers, some of it justified. But LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai rediscovered his fondness for the airline on a recent long-haul trip

In the world of the affluent intercontinental business traveller, there are various unwritten rules. One regards jet lag affecting your schedule: it doesn’t. (We recently found an HR manual from the early 2000s which specified a full rest and recovery day for employees on landing after any long-haul flight, which seems as antiquated as exchanging telegrams now.) 14 hour flight, straight into meetings whatever time zone your head is on, followed by dinner and an all nighter as you catch up with everyone in your original timezone. The next morning, kick off at 7 and work through until, and on, whatever flight comes next.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Another rule regards local customs and language. For a while, pre-globalisation and social media, it was considered polite to learn a little about the country you are doing business in, and perhaps a few key phrases of language. Now, when any four year old can have instagram friends in Bolivia and Vietnam, local customs are for kids. As for language, speak English and just ask Siri. (An important exception to this appears to be China, which is gearing up for the reverse, its own global cultural expansion).

Inside club class on a british airways plane

BA’s Club World has previously received criticism for its seat layout, but the new flatbed units are more private than in other airlines, says Darius Sanai

Both of these rules seems to have seeped into general business culture from the all-work-no-play USA, and specifically from companies like McKinsey and Bain, where a staff member who sleeps at all is an unproductive staff member with spare capacity.

And finally, if you come from or have anything to do with the UK, there’s the British Airways bashing. It seems to be de rigueur to use one fo the following stock phrases: “I had to fly BA, everything else was full,” “I actually prefer the service in (fill in airline) economy class to BA Club” or “(Fill in airline) business class is way better than even BA First”.

Well, after a period of flying long-haul business class on a number of other, acclaimed, airlines, LUX returned to the BA fold for a recent flight from London to Hong Kong and back from Singapore, and whisper it, but we beg to differ. (We should also state here that we paid full fare for all our flights, including the BA ones, and that LUX has, despite our top-tier Gold frequent flyer status, not taken any flights comped or subsidised by BA, or any favours at all from the airline, over the past five years).

Read more: Parisian tailoring house Cifonelli sets up shop in Mayfair

For starters, there is the pre-flight routine. Take any other airline out of London, and you have to either go through the normal security scrum or, in a handful of cases, get chauffeured to a dedicated check in. Given the traffic in London and around Heathrow and concomitant stress about arrival time, we would take our BA option any day: a 20 minute, tranquil Heathrow Express (always upgrade to Business First class), followed by dedicated security at the BA Wing of Terminal Five, which sees you walk from train station to lounge in three minutes (record) and six minutes (average), without having to deal with the main security melee or the crowds of shoppers on the other side. The First lounge itself is spacious and comfortable with open views and the wines and food are good (though not exceptional) – although the cleanliness (simple table wiping, hello??) still needs attention.

Interiors of a smart airport lounge

British Airways’ Concorde Room at Terminal 5, London Heathrow. Image by Nick Morrish/British Airways

Then, on the plane. BA’s Club World has received some flak over the years for its seat layout, where passengers in their seat-bed pods sit awkwardly facing each other in opposite directions at takeoff and landing, and where passengers in one row need to step over the feet of sleeping passengers in the next to access the aisle. I think this is partly justified, and have been known to deliver a hefty kick to one fellow passenger who kept waking me up by repeatedly whacking into my feet as he stepped over me to access the aisle (seriously, if you’re under 70 and can’t step over an obstacle 50cm high, you need to do something about your fitness).

The flip side is that the flatbed units are actually less exposed to the aisles than in other airlines, and that your head and upper body lie very cosily in the unit when you are asleep.

A big improvement was the recent introduction of bed linen by The White Company; I had thought this would be a superficial gesture, but the soft bottom mattress protector, smooth duvet and puffy pillow are superior to the offerings on any other airline I have flown. Meanwhile, all-new Club World suites are being rolled out shortly, promising a step change (excuse the pun) in quality.

Read more: Jetcraft’s owner & chairman Jahid Fazal-Karim on global trading

BA also seems to have made an effort to address an old gripe from long haul travellers, the service. This isn’t yet at the levels of the top Asian airlines, but staff have made a step change in service, willingness, and helpfulness, and, call me American, but it’s rather nice dealing with people who speak English as a native language and who have the same cultural references – a call for a late night KitKat brought the requisite chocolate bar, not a cuddly toy.

The accoutrements of the flights are also excellent: tablecloths, proper cutlery, nicely printed menus, a good choice of food and a cute snack bar with an array of fruit and snacks. The wines are still not up to the celebrated standards they were before the previous round of cost-cutting, but at least they are not getting any worse and contacts at the airline say there are plans to reinvest in them. (Tip: always drink the champagne. Although BA Club World no longer serves prestige Cuvée champagnes as standard, they are always good and you are drinking a much more expensive product than the wines, which typically cost a third of the price per bottle, or less, of the champagnes. This applies to almost all airlines.).

Luxury plane food

Club Class onboard dining choices are excellent, but the wine is still not up to previous BA standards

And while the BA Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow may not have the quality of bathroom as the American Airlines one, it serves a killer English breakfast with particularly superb mushrooms, in a tranquil post-flight atmosphere, and also has free massages available in its Elemis spa.

After my latest round trip, I asked myself if I would insist to my travel bookers on trying another long-haul airline first next time; and my conclusion was that I would ask them to try BA first of all, for a combination of the reasons above. As long as the airline doesn’t let things slip again as it did when current CEO Alex Cruz first took over (note to Alex: reinvest in the wines. People care and it’s important for your brand). And now comes the hard part: getting the long-haul business travel warrior community to talk about flying BA as a boast, not an excuse. You heard it first here.

For more information visit: BA.com

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Luxury hotel on peninsula at sunset
City beach landscape with skyscrapers in background

Bulgari Resort Dubai is located on the white sandy beaches of Jumeira Bay

Why should I go now?

Still dreaming of that perfect glass of chilled Puligny-Montrachet at sunset on the beach? Keep your memories of those warm summer nights alive, by heading over to Dubai, where the perfect season to visit is just beginning. From around November to March, temperatures come off the searing heat of summer months, so don’t pack away those shorts and sandals yet.

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The city has an over-achieving buzz about it that always bring you back to experience something new. Straight off visiting the top of the Burj Khalifa, we were swiftly introduced to a model construction of the Creek Tower, which will stand at 1.3 kilometres high, surpassing the current tallest skyscraper by 472 meters. The new addition to Dubai’s iconic skyline is projected to be completed in time for the World Expo in 2020.

What’s the lowdown?

If walking through a hall of a hundred doors to get to your room puts you off, Bulgari is the luxury boutique answer to your fear of mega hotels in Dubai. It is a 20 minute drive from the airport, on the seahorse-shaped white sandy beached island of Jumeira Bay, the latest addition to the Bulgari Hotels and Resorts collection comprising six properties in five different countries.

Here, you get the opulent and glamorous experience that Dubai is famous for, without the garishness and glitz. The coral-influenced panel design of the exterior structure coincidentally looked a lot like melted parmesan crisps, perfectly exemplifying the brand’s philosophy of blending their Italian heritage with the region’s maritime influence.

Luxury beach side swimming pool

The resort’s main swimming pool sits just above the ocean

From the lobby to the rooms, one could easily mistake oneself to be at the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan. Recognisable signature designs of top Italian furniture brands (Flos, B&B Italia, Poliform, Rimadesio – to name a few) will definitely inspire you to add a few new pieces to your own home. Throughout the resort’s walls, you are reminded of Bulgari’s 130 year legacy with glamorous photography and design sketches of the brand’s timeless jewellery and the famous people they adorned.

Read more: The luxury concierge company that provides the perfect holiday wardrobe

Should the weather get too hot to go outdoors, and it often does, the spa also offers one of the longest and most impressive indoor swimming pools in Dubai complete with private relaxation cabanas. Yes, fly to the sun, and sit indoors. Wise, as the locals know.

Getting horizontal

We stayed in a two-bedroom family villa, which can be best described by one word: home. The moment we arrived, we were greeted at the door by our personal butler, catering to our every need. As we enjoyed fresh fruits, house-made chocolates, dates, and Amaretti biscuits, our butler helped to unpack our luggage. We loved the spacious living area furnished with a large leather sofa of rich mocha, and almond nougat-coloured marble tables. Most of our family time and meals were spent there, where they even set up a cute tent filled with toys and activities for our children.

Luxury beach villa in contemporary design

Luxurious living room space inside hotel suite

Here and above: one of the resort’s luxurious beach villas with a spacious living room

Given the exclusive, honeymoon vibe of the resort, it’s surprisingly kid-friendly with an all day Kids Club which even features a shallow plunge pool. If it’s too hot to relax on the beach, each villa has a personal pool, which we found perfect for a refreshing dip after our indulgent breakfasts. Our ever-present butler made sure that we were comfortably cool with Bulgari-branded fresh coconuts, sorbet popsicles, and ice cream-filled mochi. Needless to say, we found ourselves always looking forward to going back “home” to the comforts of our little retreat after a long day out.

Anything else?

If you stay at a villa, try the private barbecue dinner with a personal chef. We had lobster, sea bass, and wagyu steaks straight off our own sizzling grill, with no danger of the husband donning his chef’s whites and making like a BBQ cook-off king. Trust us: there’s nothing like being able to walk just ten steps back to your bedroom after an amazing dinner that puts you in a food coma. Don’t worry, you’ll work it off the next day with a serious cardio session of shopping at Dubai Mall.

Japanese interiors of a restaurant

The resort’s intimate Japanese restaurant Hoseki

And before you leave, do leave yourself in the hands of Chef Masahiro Sugiyama at resident Japanese restaurant, Hoseki, meaning “ Gem Stone” in Japanese. This sleek and modern restaurant with just 9 seats has a perfect view of Dubai’s glittering skyline and serves only an Omakase menu. You’ll get intimate with Chef Sugiyama who comes from 6 generations of sushi chefs before him. As he serves curated sushi, he explains in detail how each ingredient, all flown in fresh from Tokyo, comes into perfect harmony on your palate. Here, you can truly just sit back, relax and sip on a cup of ice-cold Junmai Daigin Jyo sake. Make sure to book ahead.

Rates: From 2,000 AED for an entry-level room during low season (approx. £400/€500/ $550)

Book your stay: bulgarihotels.com

Emily Lee

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Reading time: 4 min
Luxury cruise ship on the ocean at sunset
Luxurious cruise ship pictured floating at sunset

Sirena is the newest addition to Oceania Cruises’ fleet

Luxury cruise brand Oceania Cruises is in the midst of multi-million dollar project, which will see the refurbishment of their six ship fleet and the introduction of new exotic itineraries. We speak to the brand’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director Bernard Carter about the changes to come, fine dining at sea and how the brand is tackling sustainability

Portrait of a business man

Bernard Carter

1. Can you tell us about the OceaniaNEXT initiative and what it means for the brand?

Our $100 million OceaniaNEXT initiative is a sweeping array of dramatic enhancements designed to elevate every facet of the guest experience; from thoughtfully-crafted new dining experiences and reimagined menus, to the re-inspiration of our six luxurious and intimate ships.

The ships are being completely transformed – with brand new designer suites and staterooms and stunning new décor in the restaurants, lounges and bars – which will result in ‘better-than-new’ ships.

On top of this, we have announced we are preparing to take delivery of two new Allura-class ships in 2022 and 2025. This new class of ship will represent an evolution of the Oceania Cruises’ experience with all the elements our guests treasure: a warm, intimate, residential style, the most spacious standard staterooms afloat, amazing suites, and of course, excellent cuisine.

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2. How do you provide fine dining services onboard?

Along with destination and service, we believe that cuisine is a key element of the cruise experience and this is what Oceania Cruises has been built on. Our promise to offer ‘The Finest Cuisine At Sea’ stands at the very heart of our business.

The key to offering such incredible food at sea is planning. We plan menus months in advance to ensure the smooth running of onboard operations.

This meticulous planning sits hand-in-hand with the need to build an impeccable network of trusted suppliers, who can deliver the quality goods we demand for ‘The Finest Cuisine At Sea’. Meats, fish and produce from specific and dedicated farms, some where we are the only customer – every detail is covered with care and attention to ensure we only use the very best ingredients.

Fine dining table with wine and bread

Oceania Cruises has a reputation for high quality cuisine onboard their ships

More than a quarter of all crew onboard an Oceania Cruises’ ship is dedicated to the culinary experience. Our high ratio of culinary staff to guest means that each dish is able to be created in our state-of-the-art galley à la minute.

Alongside the fantastic food on offer in our restaurants, we love to engage with our guests and offer them the chance to have a hands-on experience at The Culinary Center, our cookery school onboard Marina and Riviera. Here, our guests can cook along with our talented master chefs at fully-equipped individual workstations. We also offer a range of culinary excursions, giving guests the chance to see well-known destinations through an alternative ‘culinary lens’.

3. With a career spanning 25 years in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed?

There’s been a real and meaningful shift towards wellness in the last ten years or so. Where once, the likes of offering fitness classes and having fully-equipped gyms onboard were seen as a nice-to-have element, they are now a crucial element of a holistic suite of wellness options for guests.

Just last month, we unveiled our new ‘Aquamar Spa + Vitality Centre’ the most unique and comprehensive spa and wellness centre at sea. This will be introduced across all ships by mid-January 2020 as part of our OceaniaNEXT enhancement.

This extends well beyond a traditional spa, offering a complete and original collection of holistic wellness encounters both onboard and ashore, including wellness cuisine options, land-based tours in ports of call, and onboard treatments and classes.

Our guests are active, they are leading rich and fulfilled lives. For them, wellness is not a pursuit, it’s a lifestyle.

Read next: Jetcraft’s owner & chairman Jahid Fazal-Karim on global trading

4. Do you think the expectations of luxury cruise clients differ from the demands of customers at luxury hotels, and if so how?

In a word: no. Guests who appreciate, and seek out luxury do so in all areas of their life – from cars to jewellery, from cuisine to travel.

At Oceania Cruises, our guests are a like-minded group who appreciate the same things, and our onboard operation being akin to an English country hotel, or a private members club lends itself to discerning individuals that want to explore the world from the comfort of their own home away from home.

Dining room onboard a cruise ship

Luxury bedroom onboard a ship

Here: The Penthouse Suite onboard Insignia. Above: the ship’s grand dining room

5. How are you tackling issues of sustainability?

Our environmental commitment is continually evolving and expanding into additional areas of our operations, both shipboard and shoreside.

Our industry is inextricably linked to the condition of our oceans and as such, continual improvement is one of our core responsibilities. In line with this accountability comes our commitment to preventing accidents and incidents involving pollution, reducing the environmental impact of our operations, and managing waste through recycling and reusing materials.

A great example of this is earlier this year, Oceania Cruises became the first cruise line to introduce VERO Water, the Gold Standard in still and sparkling water service onboard. All guest accommodation is be stocked with refillable and reusable VERO Water decanters as well as all restaurants and bars. With the introduction of VERO, we will eliminate more than three million single-use plastic bottles per year from onboard use

This is being extended further to include keepsake refillable water bottles for each guest to take VERO Water ashore with them, eliminating several million more bottles per year.

6. What’s been your most memorable voyage to date?

I have been lucky enough to experience many amazing cruise destinations during my career, but my most memorable has to be the 14-night journey onboard Nautica from the historically pivotal city of Istanbul through to cosmopolitan and vibrant Barcelona.

After an overnight stay onboard in Istanbul (which allowed us to really explore the city in depth) we set off around a variety of Greek islands, each with their own unique charm. These included Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini and UNESCO heritage site, Monemvasia – where only a limited number of visitors each year are allowed onto the Old Town, built into a massive rock that can only be reached by a half-mile causeway.

Having spent a week living the ‘island life’ we headed to the western Mediterranean to experience the beauty of Sicily, the Italian gems of Rome and Florence and then to the billionaires’ haven, Monte Carlo. This second week was quite simply a majestic parade of history, culture and luxury – and as we ended in Barcelona it actually felt like we had been on two holidays in one!

For more information visit: oceaniacruises.com

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Guggenheim museum Bilbao at night
Guggenheim museum Bilbao at night

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Image by Niclas Dehmel

This month, our columnist and Abercrombie & Kent’s founder Geoffrey Kent focuses in on Spain’s diverse offering of cultural itineraries

As an art lover, dabbling collector – I particularly like Joan Miró – and founder and co-chairman of a travel company that caters to a clientele made up of ultra-high-net-worth individuals and connoisseurs of many persuasions, these kinds of topics come up frequently. For a cultural odyssey which takes in some of the world’s great art houses, my current top tip is: take a Spanish sojourn.

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Spain’s contribution to the world of art packs an impressive punch – and has done for centuries. This year, the country’s great treasure trove of art is celebrating its 200th anniversary, so right now is the perfect time to experience this cultural hothouse, as viewed through its famous art institutions: among them the Prado, Museu Picasso, and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Madrid

city of Madrid at sunset with aerial view

Image by Florian Wehde

Museo del Prado

The Prado is undeniably one of the most important art museums in the world – and one of the planet’s most visited tourist attractions. It houses an outstanding display of works by Spain’s three greatest painters: Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco, together with famous pieces by Flemish, Italian, and other European masters. Together, its collection is considered among the finest ever assembled, spanning the 12th to early 20th centuries, numbering in the thousands, and containing not just paintings and sculpture, but also historic documents, prints, and drawings. Founded in 1819, this year it celebrates its bicentenary as Spain’s premier gallery. For a deeper understanding of the works on display, A&K offers guests the privilege of enjoying the Prado’s collection and temporary exhibitions privately after hours, guided by specialist art historians.

Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

Located near the Prado, the magnificent Thyssen-Bornemisza boasts one of the most important privately assembled art collections in the world. It offers art lovers an experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. The museum’s permanent collection spans eight centuries of European painting, as well as a display of 18th- and 19th-century North American paintings. Until 26 January 2020, the temporary exhibition will be exposing the relationship between the Impressionists and the art of photography.

Read more: Champagne Bollinger celebrates 40-year James Bond partnership

Museo Sorolla

Off the beaten track for most visitors to Madrid, you won’t be overrun by tourists as you wander the Sorolla’s light-filled spaces. Originally the house and studio of Spain’s greatest late 19th- and early 20th-century painter, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) – known as the ‘Spanish Master of Light’. It houses an eclectic collection, including paintings by family members, his daughter Elena among them. Although his work is sometimes compared to that of Sargent, Sorolla does not belong to any specific school, and the house also contains pieces by the old masters who inspired him. The galleries also host special exhibitions by current artists. As a result, Museo Sorolla presents a fascinating journey through Spain’s history of art.

Where to stay: The Westin Palace, which is steps from both the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.

Barcelona

Aerial view of a city

Image by Alfons Taekema

Casa Vicens

One of the world’s first Art Nouveau buildings, this house designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) for Manuel Vicens i Montaner is rightly considered a masterpiece and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing in the tranquil neighbourhood of Gràcia, it is an oasis of calm covered in striking green and white tiles. Inside you can learn about Gaudí and his significance within the Modernism movement. Guests of A&K get the opportunity to beat the morning crowds with a private before-hours visit to Casa Vicens, or a sunset tour.

Museu Picasso

Set on Montcada Street in La Ribera neighbourhood (once home to Barcelona’s great and good), Museu Picasso lies in the heart of the city’s cultural, commercial, and tourist district, surrounded by centuries of history and art. The museum itself is housed in five medieval palaces, architecturally as impressive as the artistic treasures within. Containing 4,251 works by one of Spain’s – and history’s – most influential artists, it is the largest gallery dedicated to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and the only one established during his lifetime. It is the ideal place to study the artist’s formative years, containing many early works, and illustrating his enduring relationship with Barcelona.

Read more: One&Only opens a second luxury resort in Rwanda

Fundació Joan Miró

For me, a trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to this great Catalan artist. Miró was born in the city in 1893 and he established the Joan Miró Foundation in 1975. Located on the Montjuïc Hill, this art space in one of Barcelona’s most popular museums. It houses more than 10,000 pieces of Miró’s art from his first sketches to final paintings, including many seminal works. It also contains ‘Espai 13’, which promotes the work of young experimental artists.

Luxurious rooftop pool

Views from Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s rooftop

Where to stay: I particularly like Mandarin Oriental hotels, and the one in Barcelona is located on the glorious Passeig de Gràcia, mere moments from Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.

Bilbao

Landscape image of Bilbao city

Image by Yves Alarie

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

With its sweeping curves of glittering metal and glass, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao building itself needs no introduction – the scale and futuristic beauty of Frank Gehry’s 1990s titanium structure leaves a lasting impression. It was built to showcase art works such as Jeff Koons’ sculpture Puppy, Richard Serra’s unique sculptures and Mark Rothko paintings. Next to the museum’s permanent collection, the regular rotation of temporary exhibitions across different periods – not always Modern – draws art enthusiasts back time and again.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

The city is also home to the wonderful Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, which houses paintings from the 12th century to the present day and is considered one of the finest art museums outside Madrid.

Where to stay: The just-renovated Gran Hotel Domine – it boasts the best views of the Guggenheim.

For more information visit: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Cliffside hotel with view of the ocean
Luxury outdoor hotel swimming pool

L’Hotel Marrakech is one of Voyager Club’s Hidden Gems in Morocco

Sophie Caulcutt is the co-founder of luxury travel and fashion concierge company Voyager Club, which connects travellers with unique hotels, provides lifestyle services and curates personalised vacation wardrobes. Here, we speak to the 28-year-old entrepreneur about luxury experiences, fashion, and the hottest destinations for 2020

Portrait of young woman in a white dress

Sophie Caulcutt

1. How did Voyager Club go from an idea to a reality?

My background is in fashion and my other passion has always been travel. My co-founder, Ashley Barras, (who is also an avid traveller) and I couldn’t understand why no one was connecting the dots between the two, where you were going and what you put in your suitcase…so we had a vision to create a travel and lifestyle company that would be the first company to do just that. Voyager Club was launched in September 2018.

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As well as offering clients a vacation wardrobe service, #MyVacationStylist, that curates bespoke wardrobes for every traveller wherever they are going, partnering with MatchesFashion – Voyager Club also works with Hidden Gem hotels and exclusive privately villas around the world. We do the 360 for clients, from travel to concierge to the vacation wardrobe but all our services are also à la carte.

2. What kinds of experiences can the lifestyle concierge organise?

We strive on offering the most personalised experiences so every trip is bespoke to each client. Anything from insider itineraries and off the radar experiences to curating the perfect holiday wardrobe. With our little black book, Voyager Club can also organise the money can’t buy experiences around the world such as access to exclusive global events with MatchesFashion and their favourite designers to renting a house or yacht that would not usually be for rent. We also offer what we call ‘super brand’ concierge, helping brands make the impossible possible from events, pop-ups and experiences in beautiful destinations.

Cliffside hotel with view of the ocean

Another of Voyager Club’s Hidden Gems: Monastero Santa Rosa on the Almalfi Coast

3. How do you tailor a holiday wardrobe to an individual’s preferences?

If a client chooses the #MyVacationStylist service, they will be paired with an expert stylist for an in-person or phone consultation and asked questions about favourite designers, colours as well as the vacation itinerary. Our vacation stylists will then create an edit based on the client’s preferences and ship them to their hotel, villa, yacht or chalet in time for their trip. The best part is you only pay for what you keep.

Read more: Why you should invest in a wine storage cabinet

Layout of holiday clothing

Voyager Club’s #MyVacationStylist service is a personalised shopping service, tailored to fit with the client’s itinerary

Suitcase filled with luxury clothing

4. Favourite brand right now?

I have a few…This season La Double J which are amazingly versatile in a suitcase, Ulla Johnson and Gioia Bini for vacation mode and my favourite new discovery are Métier bags, which are a work of art.

5. Where do you predict will be the hottest holiday destinations next year?

Eco-retreats in South America as our commitment to sustainability grows and Comporta [in Portugal] for summer escapes with its bohemian beauty.

6. What are your travel essentials?

Noise cancelling headphones, vitamins, a great swimsuit and always a pair of great flats (I always pack a pair of Le Monde Beryl mules). I never travel without my own beauty products which I decant into miniatures from Muji and always keep in my wash bag ready to go!

To find out more, visit: voyagerclub.co

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Grand facade of luxury five star hotel
Grand facade of luxury five star hotel

The newly opened Fullerton Hotel Sydney, located in the city’s historic General Post Office

Earlier this month, the opening of the Fullerton Hotel Sydney marked the Singapore-based brand’s first expansion overseas. LUX takes a look inside the heritage property

The latest opening by Singapore-based brand Fullerton Hotel & Resorts offers guests more than just luxury hotel. Housed in Sydney’s historic General Post Office, the hotel is the result of a careful restoration project which involved building 416 guest rooms and cleaning the sweeping sandstone façade.

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Luxurious hotel bedroom with city views

One of the hotel’s luxurious suites

Grand staircase inside luxury hotel

The grand staircase at the Fullerton Hotel Sydney

During its former life, the GPO was known as a gateway to the world, functioning as the centre of NSW’s telephone and mail communication for many years, and Sydney’s postal headquarters until 1996. Designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built in 1866, the building was and still is regarded as one of the city’s major landmarks.

Vintage photograph of worker typing in office

Vintage photographs of workers inside post office

Here and above: Archive images from the Telegraph Section at the G.P.O., November 1953

The hotel’s programme of complimentary heritage tours aims to introduce guests and members of the public to the building’s history with a 90-minute walk involving unique anecdotes and insights.

For more information visit: fullertonhotels.com/fullerton-hotel-sydney

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Children celebrating Holi festival in India
Charity programme in Africa with bike repairs

A&K Philanthropy programmes include the Duuma Wajane Bike Shop in Tanzania, where women repair and resell secondhand bikes to support their community

This month, Geoffrey Kent, founder and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent, reports on his industry’s move towards sustainability and why he thinks responsible tourism is the most authentic way to travel
Man standing by yacht harbour

Geoffrey Kent

Working towards sustainable tourism is the travel industry’s duty, and while big airlines and hotels should lead the way, there are still plenty of ways for individuals to make the right decisions. Being a responsible tourist might sound complicated – or lofty – but it does not need to be either. If 7.7 billion people were to make more sustainable choices, the planet would be better off. Think of the influence one individual can have; I have been very inspired by teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, whose solitary climate change protest outside the Swedish parliament sparked a youth movement in some 112 countries. It’s often children who are the most aware and passionate. We must live up to their expectations.

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Thankfully, the concept of responsible tourism is catching on. It’s true that notions of sustainability, carbon neutrality, animal welfare and cultural sensitivity haven’t always been in sync with the travel industry, but increasingly we find our customers are asking us to book hotels with eco-friendly practices, to support the local communities they’re visiting and to find carbon-neutral ways of making the journey.

A recent study that we commissioned found that 65% of respondents are likely to be more conscious and careful of their own behaviour when travelling and 50% are likely to stay at hotels that contribute positively to the local environment by engaging in behaviours such as sourcing food locally. We’ve found that if our clients are ‘green’ at home, they tend to take those practices on holiday. At Abercrombie & Kent, we can create itineraries for our clients that are both environmentally conscious and culturally sensitive; we were doing this long before responsible tourism was a thing.

Our experience and network of travel partners have taught us that integrating sustainability into your travel arrangements does not mean sacrificing luxury or comfort. When it comes to five-star luxury with serious eco-credentials, the Six Senses group are leading the way with their programmes: energy conservation, water re-use, waste recycling, responsible purchasing and wildlife protection are all part of their policy. There are small groups and properties also committed to the cause: Sanctuary Retreats for example, The Brando in Tahiti, Caiman Ecolodge in Brazil, Mashpi Lodge in Quito and 1 Hotels. Some of the big hotel chains are at it, too; all the properties in the Fairmont Hotel chain are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

Children celebrating Holi festival in India

A&K Philanthropy also supports Hansraj Children’s Home in Udaipur, India

It’s not just on land either, A&K operates an annual cruise to Antarctica with James McClintock, an endowed professor of polar and marine biology at the University of Alabama. He shares adventures from more than 30 years of Antarctic research into ocean acidification and how climate change has impacted the food chain, especially penguin rookeries on the Antarctic Peninsula. A&K has worked with Dr McClintock for the past 12 years to support his research, providing more than $350,000 worth of high-tech equipment, from satellite penguin tags to webcams that allow scientists around the world to monitor penguin rookeries.

Our approach to animal welfare issues is uncompromising. Since the company’s inception, I have championed the concept of ‘shoot with a camera, not with a gun’. Our clients travel to Africa to connect with and celebrate its abundant wildlife, diverse landscapes and thrilling experiences. Elsewhere, we follow vigorous animal welfare guidelines developed by the Association of British Travel Agents in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation, a third-party organisation whose mission it is to protect vulnerable animals from abuse.

Read more: ‘Extremis’ by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar opens at Setareh Gallery

But there’s more to responsible tourism than getting to your destination and back without wreaking havoc on the community you’ve visited. Imagine a trip that offers you the opportunity to make connections through unique local experiences not found in a guidebook. Travel philanthropy can create the most memorable moments of your holiday. Whenever possible, we ask our clients to take part in our Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) programme.

We founded AKP in 1982 as a non-profit working with communities on education, health care, conservation and enterprise development, in the areas our clients travel to. Simply put, we work with our neighbours. Anywhere there is a Sanctuary lodge or camp, we establish a nearby project. In Uganda that means Bwindi, located beside Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. In Zambia, near Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma, we work with Nakatindi village. It’s vital that these communities should benefit from any influx of tourism into their ancestral homelands. Anywhere there is a Sanctuary boat operating on a waterway, we establish a project at a place where we regularly undertake shore excursions. For example, in Myanmar that’s at Sin Kyun village where we bring education, clean water and hope to a small remote village on the Irrawaddy river.

AKP has full-time community development professionals on staff around the world. Our philanthropy co-ordinators meet with communities to identify local issues and establish where we can have the greatest impact. We never just have a great year, write a cheque and walk away. At Nakatindi, we heard from tribal elders that their highest concern was mother-to-child HIV transmission, so we established a new maternity ward to provide a clean birth environment. These decisions are made in consultation with our community partners, government officials and departments and sometimes other non-profits in the area.

In 2017 and 2018, our guests gave most significantly to education and healthcare, but contributions come thanks to inspiration, never solicitation. Our female teenage guests are often the drivers. They visit a programme with their families and have the empathy and persistence to inspire their families to be philanthropic. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I’ve had from the parents of teenage girls, who say, “She keeps mentioning the programme we visited and we’ve got to do something about it.”

I believe responsible tourism is a more authentic way to travel. Our guests define luxury as having an authentic experience, an encounter that is true to the place and its traditions, incorporating elements of the past and reflecting local culture. They want to get out and explore, experiencing traditions that are not akin to their own. What can be more responsible than that? Lives are changed when one is immersed in a different culture, and one reaches a new understanding of how life is lived in another part of the world.

Find out more: abercrombiekent.co.uk

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Hilltop luxury villa hotel surrounded by forest
Hilltop luxury villa hotel surrounded by forest

Borgo Pignano sits within a stunning 750-acre estate

Why should I go now?

Tuscany is always beautiful, but especially so when basking in firey Autumnal hues, the ground scattered with crispy orange and red leaves. Set in the hills between Volterra and San Gimignano, boutique hotel Borgo Pignano is remote and staggeringly beautiful – the perfect place to disappear for a few days, especially when the hotel is nearing the end of its season (the hotel closes early November and reopens in April). If you’re lucky, you can go the whole day without spotting a single other person.

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What’s the lowdown?

Just over an hour’s drive from Florence, Borgo Pignano is 750-acre estate encompassing 15 rooms, 12 cottages and apartments, an organic farm and various workshops that produce everything from the hotel’s sustainable bath products and candles to the jars of honey and jam that you find at breakfast. A gorgeous 18th century villa sits at the centre of the property surrounded by gardens and forest land, with the main swimming pool carved into the original quarry stone of the hillside.

Luxurious library room

The hotel’s library

Once a hilltop hamlet, the property has been lovingly restored to preserve its original grandeur and romance. The rooms are decorated with painted frescos, patterned textiles and antique furnishings. In the evenings, guests are invited for drinks in the living room where the in-house mixologist makes cocktails whilst waiters circulate paired canapés. It feels old-world in the very best sense, fostering an atmosphere of earthy, cosy luxury in which guests are treated like old friends rather than moving bank cards.

Luxurious grand living room space

The living room, where evening drinks are served

Meals are generally served in the main villa’s dining room, with a menu featuring local and organic ingredients which are grown on site including dishes such as herb-filled goat’s cheese salad with pollen from the estate’s honeycomb. Guests are encouraged to freely roam the farm to learn more about the hotel’s sustainable efforts, and can also pick up walking routes from reception to further explore the surrounding landscape. There’s also an art gallery on site with contemporary exhibitions and a spa that offers treatments using natural remedies such as flowers, herbs, plant extracts, oils and honey.

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

Getting horizontal

Located in the main villa, our room was once the bedroom of the marchesa with an adjoining single bedroom for her child. Elegantly and simply furnished with a large four-poster curtained bed, wooden shutters and stone tiled floors, it was a unique and calming space. We especially loved the hidden doors, painted to blend in with the walls.

Luxurious hotel suite decorated with grand furnishings

The signature suite, located in the hotel’s main villa

Flipside

The swimming pool isn’t heated so the water is very cold at this time of year, but we very much enjoyed a bracing swim before breakfast. It’s also worth remembering to pack a few jumpers as the evenings get quite chilly.

Rates from: €220 in low season with breakfast included (approx. £200/ $250)

Book your stay: borgopignano.com

Millie Walton

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Vineyards pictured at night with orange sky
A woman jumping in a vineyard with a basket full of grapes

“I worked in nature as if it was in the studio. The vineyards seemed to me a very poetical, mysterious and playful environment.” – Marie Benattar

Louis Roederer makes what might just be the world’s most famous champagne, Cristal, and a range of others all renowned for their sophistication and complexity. Less known is the family-owned company’s visionary art foundation, and foray into the luxury boutique hotel industry. Darius Sanai speaks to CEO and 7th-generation family scion, Frédéric Rouzaud, about photography,
art, hospitality, and almost everything except champagne
Man in a suit and glasses standing in a hotel

Frédéric Rouzaud

Travelling from the heart of London to the heart of Paris is, in some ways, like stepping from one luxury universe into another. In Mayfair, every conversation is about money – what’s for sale, what’s being sold, who might buy what. A brand is a currency, there to have its value inflated and sold on to the next wheeler-dealer.

Paris may be the home of the global luxury industry, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is – mostly – not considered appropriate to have the same conversations. For every private equity group buying and selling companies like card sharps distributing aces, there is a celebrated company (don’t call them brands) that has been in family hands for centuries.

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This is one of the first thoughts that flows through my head when I meet Frédéric Rouzaud in a hotel lobby in the chi-chi 16th arrondissement. Through the Maison Louis Roederer, Rouzaud may be the family owner and CEO of one of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands – who doesn’t know Cristal, after all – but it’s apparent that this thoughtful, understated and gently smiling gentleman in a dapper suit is a different breed to many modern CEOs. Louis Roederer is a Maison, not a brand.

Photography by Michel Slomka

We settle in quickly to an easy conversation about art, and in particular photography. Recently, Louis Roederer invited young abstract artistic photographers to create images of the champagne house, its cellars and grounds, giving them carte blanche to interpret whatever they wished, however they wanted.

The results, which have never been publicly exhibited, are published on these pages. But Rouzaud, who expresses an enthusiasm for photography and 20th and 21st century art, is doing so much more in the world of art through the Fondation Louis Roederer (a private foundation), and has a plan to develop a collection of luxury boutique hotels. Here is a polymath who is plainly not interested in being pigeonholed. And, of course, the Louis Roederer brand owns several wine estates and makes some of the world’s most celebrated champagnes – not just Cristal, which needs little introduction – including a personal favourite, the complex yet ethereal blanc de blancs.

Abstract photography of women in white dresses

“I found in champagne perfect elements related to dreams… it appears as a perfect opportunity to explore a fairy direction.” – Marie Benattar

LUX: Tell us more about your hotel projects?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We bought our first hotel last November, in the Alps in France. A hotel seems far away from the wine world, but not so far when you look for a long-term strategy that you need to have for hotels. Like for wine, it’s about the French ‘art de vivre’. It’s about gastronomy, the experience and wine. My idea is to create a small boutique hotel collection, and also by having some private houses open to private consumers who would like to live a very nice experience around wine in our different properties. [Outside of Champagne] we have wine properties in Provence, Portugal, two châteaux in Bordeaux, one in California. The idea is to create a small collection either by buying hotels like we did in the Alps or by creating some hotels within our winery sites, which are generally very nice places to stay.

Read more: Wes Anderson & Juman Malouf curate an exhibition at Fondazione Prada

LUX: Will there be a particular aesthetic?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We will try to make people feel comfortable and at home. We will work with some designers that have this sense of conviviality, [to create] a nice experience. We will adapt to each place – the style, the sense of the place. It will be a five-star hotel that is casual and comfortable, family friendly.

Vineyards photographed at night

“I worked at night by the light of the moon. I have aspired to build mirage images in order to reveal what can not be mastered by man, the very power of nature. The artificial lights were developed to unmask ghostly presences, unreal scenes, dreamlike horizons.” – Lucie Jean

LUX: There is a very powerful partnership between your Maison and the art world. The ph