Blog Archives

Your Family History On Film By Caroline Phillips

I’m sitting surrounded by a pile of 31 of my mini DV camcorder tapes and 15 VHS ones. Bear with me. I know this doesn’t sound fascinating. But I am almost crying, actually. I’m the least techie person in the world. I do know that video is no longer, that it doesn’t exist, that it has gone in a puff of smoke to techie hell. And so I’ve lost access to hours of much-loved films of my kids in nursery school nativity plays, end-of-term concerts, my children at their first to 13th birthdays, that first swim, first tooth out…. You get the gist.

Let me rewind (spot the word that comes from my world, the days of video). I hadn’t been able to watch any of these films for years, not since our last video player went to the techie crematorium. But suddenly it’s dawned on me that I am not going to be able to watch any of the films ever again. I scour Ebay, pathetically, to see if I can find an old video recorder. My husband giggles at the idea, telling me such items went out with Sony Walkmans (remember them?). And then….oh serendipity….the head of a family office — a man who looks after a handful of ultra high net worth individuals — recommends Lemongrove Productions, the service that he uses for his clients.

It turns out that Lemongrove, a family-owned business, sorts out your cherished family films, DVDs, photos, miles of cine film, acres of home-made movies and slides, and stores them for you digitally. Or they will edit them and turn them into a professional film for you. Or, indeed, they will film your family and family events afresh with broadcasting quality shots, creating beautiful films. Clients’ written testimonials range from ‘crying’ (with wonder) to ‘crying’ (with joy).

There are few people better placed to do the job. (No, this is not paid advertorial. It’s a genuine tip about a tip-top service. You’re welcome.) Ed Danson, founder of Lemongrove, used to shoot footage that was watched by millions of people. That was in his capacity as a TV sports cameraman. He brings the same eye, skills and quality to his work on family movies. Ed’s wife, Charlotte, runs the business with him in between shooting hundreds of hours of footage of their children, Charlie and Joe. “We understand how precious family footage is,” says Charlotte, “but also appreciate how overwhelming it can be when it comes to wondering what to do with it.”

Ed arrives at my house raring to collate and create my family media. He’s enthusiastic about taking my old family films to transfer onto new technology. He takes all my footage, puts it into chronological order (from videos with nappies to ones where my girls are nearly taller than me). Using state-of-the-art industry equipment, he transfers it into a digital format, loading it onto a portable hard drive that becomes my personal digital archive.

Lemme say that again: the techie Tyrannosaurus (me) now boasts an, ahem, personal digital archive. “That allows you to watch, edit and burn copies of your films at home,” says Ed. I don’t understand why I’d want to burn his work, as it’s lovely. But I don’t say anything.

The 46 VHS and mini DV tapes that I sent to Lemongrove have come back on a three-inch by three-inch hard drive. Not only have they shrunk, but I can watch them now. Result. “We keep all the raw footage, the original transfer; we don’t delete the files until you tell us,” adds Ed.

For those who wish to go one step further, Lemongrove will make a bespoke film, transforming hours of your home video footage. Ed and Charlotte have helped hundreds of families to turn their home videos into films. “Whenever possible, we’ll visit clients at home to collect their footage and photographs and discuss their ideas for their film and play you some examples of our previous work,” he says. (That meeting is obligation-free and with no charge for it).

The dynamic duo works on the film until the client is happy — no charge for the extra time — and cut it to music of your choice (they license the music) and include titles, photographs and, if you want them, special effects. Ed or Charlotte bring each draft to the client to check — alternatively, they upload it to a secure website for clients to view at leisure — making a note of any changes the client would like, and then they do the final edit. Lemongrove streamlines approximately each hour you’ve shot into a slick 5-minute offering. “We supply it in any format from DVD to blu-ray, iPhone, iPad or more,” explains Ed.

They don’t just collate your work though. Lemongrove also create original films. “We do a film shoot in which we interview you and your children to capture who they are and what makes them tick,” says Ed. “We spend a day filming wherever you choose. The footage is then edited into a 10 to 15 minute ‘Chapter.’” You can leave it at that or — as most families do — repeat the process, filming a ‘Chapter’ every year or so. Ed shows me one of these films. “Alec likes fighting, but I like to play with my favourite toys,” says one child, grassing gravely on his brother.

Lemongrove Productions also offers their version of This is Your Life, that biographical television documentary hosted by Eammon Andrews and then by Michael Aspel. Lemongrove use interviews with friends and family alongside family photos and footage to reveal the subject’s life story or to create family biographies.

A particularly moving film they made was for someone’s funeral, which was shown in addition to the eulogies. For a 100th birthday, various family members of the soon-to-be centenarian answered the question, ‘What does the birthday lady mean to you?’ The result is touching — even without knowing the subject. Yet another is a life shown in photographs for someone who had never shot any film. “We scan and retouch the photographs, getting rid of scratches and coffee ring stains.”

And suddenly, inspiration strikes, and I realise that there’s a ton of footage on my smart phone. And on my old phones that I use no longer. You know, the phones that have died and are just sitting in the drawer waiting for me to do something with them like….like…. “Ed,” I ask, tentatively, “Can you make a film out of all my smart phone photos and videos?” And, of course, the answer’s yes. Yes they can.

Further Information

For further information, go to www.lemongroveproductions.com or call +44 (0)20 8090 3049.

David Yarrow’s Pride Rock By The Luxury Channel

“Pride Rock” by David Yarrow

This Autumn, David Yarrow, the world-renowned fine art photographer, presented “Pride Rock,” a major exhibition showcasing his latest photographic works at the Maddox Gallery in Mayfair, in London. Featuring a bespoke selection of his most iconic photographs, “Pride Rock” highlighted the beauty of the endangered planet and the art of narrative as conveyed by one of the most evocative fine art photographers in the world today.

For more than two decades, the legendary British photographer has been putting himself in harm’s way to capture immersive images of the world’s most revered and endangered species. This latest exhibition of his photographs offered a compelling retrospective of Yarrow’s spectacular work in the wild, as well as his elaborate storytelling portraiture, and gave unprecedented access into his truly stunning archive.

David Yarrow’s Book

Widely heralded as a disruptor in the industry, the exhibition coincided with the release of Yarrow’s first photographic monograph in two years, featuring 150 of his most famous and iconic works during this time, balanced with a first-person narrative weaving through the pages.

“There are no universal rules in photography — only personal ones,” Yarrow revealed. “My central premise is that if photography was a language, then focus would be the most important word in that lexicon. Focus deliberately includes or it deliberately excludes, and it should be emphatically clear what the photographer is trying to say.”

“Africa” by David Yarrow

Recognised as the world’s best-selling fine art photographer of his genre, in recent years Yarrow has found his true comfort zone in capturing the animal and human world in a fresh and creative way, with philanthropy and conservation central to his passion to document. In 2018 alone, charitable donations from the sales of his images exceeded $2 million. Already serving on the advisory board of Tusk as part of his extensive conservation efforts to protect the natural world, in 2019 Yarrow teamed up with Land Rover in support of Tusk to raise awareness of declining lion numbers in Africa, by capturing a set of stunning wildlife images.

For further information about David Yarrow, go to www.davidyarrow.photography, and for further information about the Maddox Gallery, go to www.maddoxgallery.com.

Eileen Cooper’s “Personal Space” Presented At Huxley-Parlour Gallery By The Luxury Channel

“Ruby Red” by Eileen Cooper OBE

Huxley-Parlour Gallery in London is presenting “Personal Space”, an exhibition of new oil paintings by the acclaimed British artist and former Keeper of the Royal Academy, Eileen Cooper OBE. The 15 new works being presented fuse objective drawing from life, combined with the instantly recognisable, imaginative works that Cooper is known for. The focus of the exhibition is on the female figure in private and intimate spaces, expanding on themes Cooper has explored throughout her forty-year career – those of universal female experience, primarily fertility, sexuality and motherhood.

The works depict woman engaged in intimate and sometimes simple acts, including brushing or washing hair or applying make-up. Through these works, Cooper investigates the rhythms and rituals of ‘‘getting ready.’’ Other paintings celebrate female friendship, sisterhood and sense of self. All of the subjects appear confident, gazing stridently out at the viewer or at their own figures in the multitude of mirrors that populate the paintings.

Although not strictly representational, this latest body of work comes after an intensive year of drawing from life, a marked change in the artist’s process, after a lifetime of working directly from imagination. Cooper has skilfully blended this new part of her practise with her characteristic use of graphic, decisive line, flattened space and bold colour palette.

“Lipstick,” “Learning To Read” and “Personal Space” by Eileen Cooper OBE

Founded in London in 2010, Huxley-Parlour Gallery is a natural choice of exhibition space, due to its vibrant exhibition programme and focus on artists who have played a significant role in the history of art, and those who continue to shape the field in the present day. Of Cooper, Gallery Director Giles Huxley-Parlour, reveals that she ‘‘has been a force in the British art world for many years and I am very pleased to announce our first exhibition together. In these joyous, strongly graphic pictures is encased the spirit of an artist determined to work at the highest levels of artistic dexterity, but also to produce work that speaks to us all of the universal human experience that she so voraciously absorbs. It is a powerful and compelling combination.’’

Eileen Cooper’s exhibition, “Personal Space,” will be held from 17th October – 16th November 2019 at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, 3-5 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE. Opening hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5.30 pm, or visit www.huxleyparlour.com. For more information about Eileen Cooper OBE, visit www.eileencooper.co.uk.

Plenty To “Leica” At The Annual Photography Awards By Ramy Salameh

The Leica Oskar Barnack Awards 2019 (LOBA), now in its 39th year, is a photographic competition and ceremony attracting entrants from across the globe, shining a light on new talent, exquisite craftsmanship and one of the world’s most renowned camera companies. The awards ceremony took place in Berlin, a city which this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a momentous moment much chronicled through photo-journalism. Today, Berlin is known as a place of freedom, opportunity and individuality, and these factors made it the ideal platform to host LOBA.

There are some photographs that transcend age and epoch; a momentary blink of the shutter produces an image which continues to reverberate and inspire viewers to this day. Think in terms of the iconic ‘‘Kiss’’ between a US sailor and nurse on V-J Day in Times Square, New York (1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt) or Thomas Hoepker’s 1966 photograph of Mohammad Ali glaring into the lens with fist filling the frame or the heart-rending moment ‘‘Napalm Girl’’ formed the central figure of a photo depicting children fleeing from a Napalm bomb during the Vietnam War (AP photographer Nick Ut, June 8, 1972).

One thing all these images have in common is that they were taken with a Leica camera; a brand and product reflecting quality craftsmanship and engineering in the photographic arena, which now stretches back more than 100 years. Ever since Oskar Barnack produced the very first Leitz camera in 1914, which gave birth to 35mm photography, the company has been fine tuning, innovating and developing their ranges of cameras.

The LOBA finalists’ work is currently displayed upon the walls of the Neue Schule Fur Fotografie Gallery in Berlin, which allowed guests to peruse the photos ahead of the awards ceremony. Every image would certainly have resonated with the late Oskar Barnack, whose earliest known photographs, using the Ur-Leica prototype camera, showed an early talent and interest in photo-journalism by capturing stirring and pertinent images, such as ‘‘Flood of Wetzlar’’ in 1920.

The value of any Leica camera makes it a luxury product; however, the company makes sure that new generations of photographers, both amateur and professional, have the ability to engage with their products in some way and understand the historical lineage of the brand.

This year’s ceremony continues that legacy and took place at St. Elisabeth’s Church, now used as a spectacular venue in the heart of Berlin, with a sister venue – Villa Elisabeth – next door, both sitting within the verdant Church Park in the district of Mitte.

Out of the twelve finalists, sourced from over 2,300 entrants in 99 countries, the overall winner was the American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz, with a series of images centred around water as a universal theme. The project took the photographer on an 8-year worldwide journey, to understand how this essential resource is perceived on different continents and how this relationship shapes their link to the broader environment.

Nanna Heitmann, pictured above, took home the Newcomer Award 2019 for her series titled ‘‘Hiding from Baba Yaga.’’ Again, the project took the photographer on journey along part of the Yenisei River, one of the longest rivers in the world, where she captured the lives of people she met along the way in a sensitive and intimate way.

Story-telling and immersive experiences are now the cornerstone of the luxury sector and Leica achieves this through myriad events and the Leica Akademie, which in the UK can be found at their flagship London store on Duke Street, in Mayfair, offering a gallery and workshops hosted by leading photographers.

Jason Heward, Leica UK Managing Director, explains, “For more than a century, Leica has been inspiring creativity and helping people to become photographers. Our stores are destinations where we can connect on a deep experiential level through our galleries and our Akademie. You will come to the store to see great photography, or attend a workshop to discover how to take beautiful images. This is what Leica does and has always done. Leica is photography.”

More Information

For more information go to:

LOBA – www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com

Leica’s London Flagship – www.leicastore-uk.co.uk

Escape To The Silo Hotel In Cape Town By Ella Braimer Jones

I’m lying in a bath tub in my suite on the eighth floor, watching the world below me — a docked ship here, twinkling lights over there, two policemen wandering past on the ground below — knowing that even those on the rooftops of another hotel nearby can spy nothing more revealing than the reflective material of the glass windows of my bathroom. Now that’s the kind of privacy that celebrities going to South Africa look for when in Cape Town. Which is just one of a thousand reasons why the 5-star hotel I’m staying in on the V&A Waterfront ticks all the boxes.

I’m in The Silo hotel, inside a grain silo built on the waterfront in the 1920s. It was once Africa’s tallest building (bar the Pyramids) and has now been turned into a vibrant new hotel and adjoining contemporary art museum, Zeitz MOCAA — or Museum of Contemporary African Art. Both the museum and hotel are designed by whizzy British architect Thomas Heatherwick of London’s Heatherwick Studio. The hotel is built in the former grain silo elevator section — the train tracks for delivering grain still end outside the building.

I’m probably exaggerating to say that the silo building stands out from miles away — but it did to me, especially those windows that resemble hexagonal bug-eyes. ‘Pillowed window bays’ they’re called, apparently. It turns out that they’re designed in such a way as to allow everyone outside to admire the beauty of the architectural wonder, whilst guests inside its incredible window design (each window with 54 panels) get to see the busy world around them without being seen. Hence my bath-tub moment.

But let’s rewind to the beginning. The Silo hotel sets a new standard for luxury Cape Town accommodation, surrounded by the natural wonder of South Africa’s Mother City. The hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design, a tribute to timeless glamour and contemporary luxury, offering the highest levels of personalised service.

On arrival at the hotel, I am immediately touched by the staff’s professionalism and generous attention to detail. I’ve hardly crossed the threshold when I order a drink of hot chocolate with, well, ‘funny milk’ and the waiter inquires solicitously whether this is a ‘preference’ or an ‘intolerance to dairy.’ On arriving in the suite mere minutes later, someone has already placed almond milk instead of the cow’s alternative in the mini bar. All this happens as a matter of course, with no fanfare. Now that’s what I call personalised service.

It is, to be honest, pretty rough coming off an 11-hour flight, especially for my cold-stricken, temperature-running mother. But, unrequested, the waiter takes it upon himself to rush off and make ‘medicine,’ as he calls it (a fresh ginger and lemon rescue remedy, as it turns out). When we arrive in our private sitting room in our double-storey family suite, fresh lemon and ginger sit in the fridge, unbidden and very welcome. In similar fashion, a handful of valets take charge of our hire car throughout our stay, making sure the vehicle is ready before we’ve scarcely even finished deciding that we’re leaving the building (they seem to have a sixth sense on this score). It’s the little things in life.

I’m no expert in interior design, but I’ve grown up around those who are (antique dealers, decorators, interiors journalists and the like), and Liz Biden — The Silo’s co-owner with her husband Phil — has a deft and stylish touch as an interior decorator. It’s a jazzy ensemble that she’s composed with high notes of upmarket art alongside vintage finds and a base beat of traditional African artefacts: think Liz’s ooh-ah take on Africa-meets-contemporary-art-meets-industrial-with-lots-of-colours eclectic kind of interiors. She manages to create the wow factor — the hotel interior’s as good as the museum below — along with a feeling of homeliness and a sense that we’re in one of the world’s top hotels.

There is nothing pared back about her style. Big eat-you-up sofas are upholstered in midnight jungle scenes of velvet in one suite. Or there are comfy, sink-into armchairs in mustard, teal and ruby red. The chandeliers hang from the ceiling like monkeys, twinkling next to each other. New ‘antique’ rugs sit alongside lime sofas and bold contemporary paintings.

Her design philosophy appears to lie along the lines of more is more. I love one of the suites (the flagship penthouse) that offers more and more…and yet more: a sitting-room, kitchenette, his and her bathrooms, private massage room, and desks that overlook the cityscape. There are just 28 rooms and suites, and each is individually and stylishly decorated; there are over 300 pieces of original art in the hotel, many of them replicated in the museum below.

It’s obvious that guests love the vibe that Liz has created. Capetonians travel from across the ‘Mother City’ just to Instagram an evening cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop bar, next to its glass-sided and multi-coloured swimming pool with its ‘disco’ lighting: the water bubbling away in illuminated underwater puffing ‘clouds’ of pink and blue. Or they just go there to sit and look at the cityscape and Table Mountain in the distance.

Ah, the city. Cape Town is somewhere that combines natural beauty with modern conveniences, making it an alluring destination; yes, this is still true, regardless of its dangers and gang violence. I prefer to focus on its booming nightlife, food and wine culture, historical heritage, and loads of natural wonders. Although, by my reckoning, there can be little to beat the wonders of The Silo hotel, but we step outside, anyway.

So what are the Mother City’s best sights? Pop into the adjoining building, the Zeitz MOCAA museum, for zeitgeisty African art in the biggest and best space for contemporary art in the continent. Thomas Heatherwick’s team have carved huge sections out of the building’s tubular interior to create a complex network of 80 gallery spaces. Ogle at its grain-shaped atrium, and original steel columns. Then walk just a few steps to the shops and cafés of the V&A Waterfront. It may be touristy, but it’s a must for up-cycled fabric works, painted ostrich eggs and other African artefacts.

If you decide to go further afield, take an open-topped bus (or jump into a taxi) to get a sense of the city. (The bus will take you in a loop from the Waterfront to Camps Bay and on to Kirstenbosch and then along Long Street with its galleries). You can sometimes see whales breaching off the coast. A stop at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens — ask The Silo chef to make up your picnic basket — has to be on the tick list. Here you’ll see nine different members of the Protea family, 100-year-old wild olive Bonsai and 65-year-old Ficus, a tree canopy, and breathe air cleaner than a peppermint. But then you must also visit Bo-Kaap, the old Malay quarter with its colourful houses of fluorescent green, candy-floss pink and mustard yellow.

Then drive to Klein Constantia estate in the suburbs, for the best wine estate in the Cape with its beautiful 358-acre grounds, tasting room, world-class wines (especially the dessert ones) and a quality shop selling everything from barrel-head bread boards to decanter cleaners. Don’t miss the National Gallery either for its (very moving) Steven Cohen Chandelier 2002 video, plus its collection of Kente cloths (worn ceremoniously over the shoulder) and mid 20th century African masks. And then return to The Silo hotel, for the best sights of all.

Further Information

Rooms at The Silo hotel start from R13 500 (circa £654) per room per night — book your stay here. For further information about excursions and sightseeing around Cape Town, go to www.capetown.travel. For car rental, go to Avis at www.avis.co.za.

The Luxury Channel Meets Nicholas Frankl of My Yacht Group By Fiona Sanderson

Whilst in Monaco for the Yacht Show, The Luxury Channel sat down with Nicholas Frankl, the founder of My Yacht Group. Frankl runs the company with his twin sister, Annabelle, curating luxury and ultra-high net worth experiences for discerning guests and brand partners at the world’s premier sporting and social events. Here, he gives us a unique insight into his amazing world….

Nicholas Frankl (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Hi Nick! How are things going?

Things are going great! We’ve had some fantastic clients here [in Monaco], and we’ve hosted a number of wonderful evenings with some of our partners – including our astronauts, which has been just incredible [My Yacht Group has a partnership with Axiom Space]. They have a very specific objective – they want to meet billionaires who can afford to go to space and who have the time and the inclination to do so. They’re a really interesting client to work with, so we’re really relishing it. The clients we’re inviting here are all incredibly excited about it. It’s been amazing.

How did My Yacht Group begin?

My Yacht Group originally came out of Monaco Grand Prix, and it’s still our signature event – it’s what we do and what we’re known for. We host about 50/60 clients a year who come from all over the world. Although some are actually Monaco residents who live here, but they’re not next to the race track. We actually did our very first event here 15 years ago. We started doing our Friday evening party, which became the event on the Friday evening, and we’ve since had some amazing guests attend over the years. People said to us, “wow, this is a really nice party and so different from other things that we go to – you should do more of them!” So about 11 years ago, we did start doing more of them. Now we have a series of events all over the world. We’ve built this community of wonderful people where the most important thing is that we have their trust, so when we invite them to something, they want to come. Which is really nice because most of the time, you invite someone to something and they don’t show up! I guess for us, it’s different because it’s a social event – it’s social business networking.

How did you first involve the brands you work with?

All of the brands we work with have the same challenges – which is, how do we deepen the relationship with our existing clients, and how do we find new ones? Many brands are struggling with that and they’re not very good at it. For the last 15 years, especially in the luxury business, it was incredibly easy for brands to just open another store and people would show up and then they made their money. So they didn’t really have to do anything! Now the world has changed and you don’t have quite so many Chinese, Russian and Middle Eastern guys flying through the door unannounced, so you’ve got to work a little harder for your revenue. That, I think, is a challenge for a lot of these people. A good friend of mine – who is the head of a major brand – said to me, “we don’t have relationship executives – we have order takers.” Well, that’s not the same thing! I’m in the relationship business and the people that I entertain and invite to our events are sophisticated people that by and large are not new money. Well, some of them are because they’ve made a lot of money from block chain and bit coin and we’re in that market, so there are always new opportunities. But many of them are educated people who already have a yacht and a plane and a collection of cars, but they’re interested in new things. Last night, I was on the biggest boat in the harbour and organised a private dinner with some really amazing people and one of them texted me this morning to say, “I’ve got to buy this boat!”

Image courtesy of Tom Wheatley

How do people find you?

They look me up. Funnily enough, I had someone randomly calling me from New York the other day who’s the head of a big brand, and he had been told he had to meet me because he’d been to one of our events, so he had his secretary call me. People just know us, as we have such a big network of people now around the world. Someone will say, “I’m going to Monaco,” and someone will say to them, “oh, you have to call Nicholas; he’ll either know what’s going on or he’s hosting the best thing that’s going on.” The Grand Prix, of course, is a real challenge because it’s obviously very popular and everyone seems to have a friend of a friend who must come to the party on the Friday night!

Networking clubs seem to be opening up all the time, so why does yours stand out from the rest?

We’re not a club; there’s no membership fee. It’s invitation only. You’re either invited or you’re not. It’s not a snobby thing but we are very good at putting people together who we know are going to have synergy. I guess that’s our little magic sauce. It makes a big difference when we host our events, whether they happen to be 20-person dinners or 120-person yacht receptions and charity events. Certainly for the dinners, I know all the guests because I invite all of them and for the yacht parties, I know 80% of the attendees. It’s quite rare to go to a large-scale event aboard a yacht and someone knows 80% of the guests. That means they can actually connect people, and there’s also a point of connection for the guests. How do you know Nicholas and Annabelle? We met in St Barts, we met in Pebble Beach, we met in Hong Kong, we met in Miami, we met on the yacht in Monaco. Oh, you were in Monaco? I was in Monaco! Oh, you were in St Barts? I have a house in St Barts! It’s a very different thing and for those individuals, it’s a substantial difference from what they’re used to with brand parties, which are usually a discombobulated group of random people who have been randomly invited by 25 different assistants, and everyone’s standing around wondering who’s who. But there might be someone an arm shake away that you would want to meet but you never will because no-one’s going to introduce you.

What are the partnerships that stand out to you? You mentioned astronauts and space?

Well, space is literally out of this world! [Laughs] We’ve had hundreds of partners over the years. We’ve got long-standing relationships with private banks that we’ve had going on nearly a decade. We’ve worked with private aviation, with Bombardier – we worked with them for nearly a decade. We launched Whispering Angel 13 years ago and it’s now the world’s number one rose. We launched them here in Monaco. We did the first events and the first publicity and got them into the Beverley Hills Hotel and Soho House and various other places. When I told the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles that they needed Whispering Angel, they said they’d never heard of it. So I said, “your rose’s crap and you need Whispering Angel; it’s going to be the biggest seller on your list.” [Laughs] It’s now the biggest seller on their list! But they’ve been with us for more than a decade. So we like establishing real genuine friendships and great business relationships that work for everybody.

You must see a real mix, with new entrepreneurs alongside businesses that have been established for years?

It’s a complete mixture. We did the first block chain Monaco Grand Prix event two years ago. We had 65 of the world’s leading block chain entrepreneurs, we had three superyachts and we had Bob Sinclar playing on the helipad of the Legend yacht and it was just amazing. Billion dollar individuals who’d made a vast fortune in block chain in just a few years – bitcoin, ethereum, eos, all these amazing currencies – they all said, “wow, this is the coolest block chain event we’ve ever been to,” and they’re a pretty interesting group of people to say that!

Image courtesy of Geoff Brooks

So this is your passion?

Yes, my passion is connecting great people together and then you see the magic that comes out of that. Everything from marriage, babies, obviously business relationships, yacht deals, car deals, plane deals, land deals, house deals, distribution deals, you name it. When you put people together like these people, things happen. Magic happens. We’ve had marriages and babies as a direct result of my yacht parties. It’s like an extended family.

What’s next for you?

We’ve just had a meeting with our friends at the Singapore Yacht Show. We’ve always wanted to do something at the Singapore Yacht Show, and I think it’s a great opportunity for the right brand to capture that market. South East Asia is still a booming market. We’ve done Hong Kong a couple of times now, with Art Basel Hong Kong. We’re going to do the Super Bowl next year. The city of Miami came to us and asked us to create something special for the Super Bowl for February next year. That’s something new and innovative and cool – bringing our brand to the Super Bowl, which is a different type of experience to the superyacht experience. So we’re constantly innovating. We’re connected with astronauts and Axiom Space. It’s a very unique offer, to be one of the world’s first civilians in space. For the first time in human history, in 3 billion years, we have the chance in 3 months – that’s 3 months, not 30 years of a career – to go to space as a private individual, to be launched to go to the International Space Station. That is a 100 billion dollar project and you are going to spend 50 million dollars doing it. So it’s not actually that difficult to think about. It’s pretty extraordinary. We’ll change your life – and there’s not many things that’ll change your life like going to space. And we’ve already got clients signed up.

Tell me about your charity work?

For many years, we’ve worked with a number of great charity partners. We’ve just had a meeting with YachtAid Global, which is a fantastic charity working with superyacht owners for emergency relief in areas hit by hurricanes. They’ve been doing it for many years, but they’re really becoming a much higher profile charity now. They sent superyachts in as the first responders in the Bahamas in the Abacos. That came to our attention because we love the Bahamas. We then started promoting them to our yacht owners in Monaco to try and generate some support. We also work with the Blue Angels Foundation, which is a foundation for veterans who are retired or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Here in Monaco, we work with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and we work with a lot of other great charities too.

For further information about My Yacht Group, visit www.myyachtgroup.com.

On The Rising Tide At Monaco Yacht Show By Fiona Sanderson

Image courtesy of MC Clic and Monaco Yacht Show

Attracting over 125 superyachts (over 40 of which are new launches making their worldwide debut), Monaco Yacht Show kicked off in suitably opulent style, as the Principality welcomed builders, brokers and buyers alike down to the dock. It is a far cry from the very first edition of the Show, held back in 1991, where there were just 31 yachts moored in Port Hercules!

According to one yachting executive at the Show, the thinking behind this year’s event was “…to attract people who are new to yachting, as well as retain our existing client base, but at the end of the day, we target HNWIs. I think that whenever a show targets very affluent people, it should offer an experience in keeping with their lifestyles.”

Image courtesy of MC Clic and Monaco Yacht Show

In-keeping with the expectations afforded by such lifestyles, visitors to the Show can get behind the wheel of some of the most prestigious classic and customised vehicles on the market, at the Car Deck exhibition. Next door, in the aptly named Tenders & Toys exhibition, the fun continues with a range of “accessories,” from electric surfboards to mini submarines.

However, the real reason for a visit to the Show is the yachts themselves, and there was no reason for guests to be disappointed. New launches announced include Heesen’s Project Akira, the first model in its new 5700 Aluminium class. The 56.7 metre, four deck yacht features exterior design by Frank Laupman’s Omega Architects, and interior design by London-based studio Harrison Eidsgaard. Akira’s floor to ceiling glass windows open out onto a sky lounge to create the feel of indoor/outdoor living, while her sharp angles are balanced by clean, elegant lines. There is also an option for the purchaser to personalise the design of the yacht at any time during the build, without affecting the delivery time.

Image courtesy of MC Clic and Monaco Yacht Show

Meanwhile, Wally has revealed the 165 Wallypower, the brand’s latest concept since it became part of the Feretti Group earlier this year. Designer Espen Øino teamed up with Wally’s founder, Luca Bassani, to develop the 50-metre superyacht. The Mediterranean cruiser boasts a large saloon and dining area on the main deck, complete with fold-down balconies, leading to an outdoor swimming pool with staircases on either side to take you down to a seating area right at the water’s edge.

Other projects include Italian yard Wider’s 54-metre Wider 180 superyacht; the build of which has already started, with delivery scheduled for early 2020. The exterior design, by Rome-based design studio Andrea Vallicelli & C Yacht Design, incorporates a 160-metre large beach area boasting a seawater swimming pool and a spa.

Image courtesy of Stefany and Monaco Yacht Show

Today – possibly more than ever before – Monaco Yacht Show is about promoting the superyacht lifestyle to a high-end clientele through dedicated, tailor-made experiences, and through the exceptional craftsmanship and level of detail from some of the best yards in the world.

Escape To South Africa’s Vineyard Hotel By Caroline Phillips

In the foyer, there’s an antique copper consommé pot large enough to please the most exacting cannibal. The patio flooring is the ballast from a shipwreck and the bar is made of wood salvaged from another wreck. Everywhere there are antique nick-nacks and curiosities. ‘Brass navigational divide 1740’ and ‘Brass taps 1830’ are just two of the curios in the display cabinets.

But it’s the nature that has everyone bagging Insta opportunities. The shafts of sunlight cut through the mountain peaks and there’s the sound of the river rushing by. We admire the sheer rock-face — its brown-grey mightiness covered by the greenery of trees on its lower slopes — in the rising morning light. We gaze later in wonder at the same mountain as dusk falls, the sunset lighting its faces and the mist settling on its upper reaches.

Then suddenly there’s a cloud bursting behind the mountain peaks. It’s possible to appreciate Table Mountain in all its splendour at all times of day and night. Short of camping on it, we could hardly be any closer.

My family and I are staying in a deluxe apartment in The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, with the eastern slopes of Table Mountain virtually on our balcony. The hotel — in Newlands, an affluent and leafy suburb — is set amid seven acres of landscaped gardens, bordered by the Liesbeek River and with a vineyard with 128 vines.

Yet the hotel is just moments away from the upmarket shopping of Cavendish Square; a five-minute Avis rental car drive (or pop on a Hop On, Hop Off open-topped bus and do a full circuit) to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens — with its mint-clear air, extraordinary plants, ravines and trails for walkers; close too to the world-famous Constantia wine route; and just 20 minutes by car to the shopping and galleries of the V&A Waterfront: for everything from sushi to decorated ostrich eggs and tribal artefacts, plus the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world.

Are you ready for a little bit of history now? The Vineyard Hotel has been evolving since 1652 when it was first created as a refreshment station for passing ships, contracted to the Dutch East India company. It was rebuilt in 1798 by Lord Andrew and Lady Ann Barnard (he was secretary to the Governor of the Cape), in the centre of a mid-17th century vineyard. In 1980, it became the family-owned hotel that it is today — purchased by the late Francois Petousis.

There are sepia photographs, watercolours and extracts from 19th century newspapers lining the walls of the original 18th century Cape mansion that forms its centre. ‘The Vineyard is one of the finest estates in the Colony,’ according to an excerpt from an 1854 book displayed on one wall.

It’s a walk-in history book (albeit one with 194 beds, including 25 suites and nine apartments), from 1798 right up to ooh, well, yesterday; and it boasts a patchwork of decorative and architectural styles from the 18th to 21st centuries. Our apartment is an example of the latter, with its new and sleek open-plan galley kitchen and dining area, contemporary furniture and L-shaped sofa, large rugs on wooden floors, exposed brickwork and white on white. Sort of Scandi design hits Cape Town vibe.

The hotel lures an eclectic clientele: from a man in a kilt and sports teams to international and local families, corporate guests, neighbourhood residents and independent travellers, its character often changing according to the day or hour.

It turns out that the Vineyard Hotel is a local landmark and something of an institution: a go-to place for locals. There are monied Capetonians to be found taking tea or drinks on the terrace, by the tinkling cherub fountain. Festive Capetonians celebrating over a birthday breakfast (the buffet is excellent) in the dining room with palm trees and 35ft ficus tree inside the 20th century metal and glass covered court-yard.

There are locals to be found gathering in its bar over a pint or four to watch top sporting events. And upmarket neighbourhood residents training in its gym. Plus locals and overseas visitors in its Angsana Spa: well, all I can say is go for a signature massage and let therapist Taslynn work on your key pressure points to strengthen your ‘qi’ or energy. You’ll walk out unknotted, taller and happier.

And now to its fine dining restaurant. This is one of the holy grails for locals and visitors alike. We wander through the garden to Myoga (‘ginger blossom’ in Japanese), its multi-award winning 90-seater restaurant. It’s decorated with a Buddha, chandelier, hanging copper pans and ceiling fan. Plus Louis XIV-style chairs, an Oriental ceiling, and an open kitchen through green arches with Doric columns.

It’s in this restaurant that executive chef Mike Basset oversees a modern menu, including local and global dishes, with lots of sustainable organic produce from the Cape and surrounds. Serious foodies go for the 6-course tasting option (‘restricted to one desert,’ as the menu proclaims) paired with Cape wines; but we wimp out and try just three courses, with a mere two glasses of vino. But what a three they are! Delicious! And five-star service too — and not just from Adrienne, the waitress who’s studying to be a lawyer.

We’re offered Baleni salt from Limpopo (who wouldn’t want to taste this for its name alone?) with artisanal cheese butter and more-ish fieekeh (green wheat) and lentil bread. Then there’s a tasty tuna tartare — complete with hazelnuts and miso ‘jam.’ A braai (barbecued) salad that includes alliums (a bulbous plant): a dish that I’m going to copy. Plus hot smoked Snoek (a game fish) and then Abalobi (caught using an App used to track sustainable fishing). We finish with a memorable guava and rose sorbet.

This is a hotel to which I’ll return. The luxury it offers is its tranquil setting and peaceful atmosphere away from the buzz of central Cape Town; its friendly, attentive, warm and efficient staff — many of whom have been working here not just for years but for decades; its genuinely home-from-home accommodation and lack of pretension; and also the fact that staying here feels pleasurably like being part of the community. It’s only a four-star, but there’s so much about it that recommends it more highly than that.

There’s something else that marks it out. There are notices around the grounds that read, ‘Slow traffic. Tortoises crossing.’ There are 11 tortoises, even though one bears the number ‘13’ on its back. (Each has a digit painted on it.) They’re the largest species of such reptiles in the continent: tortoises the size of old turtles (the biggest weighing 40kg) and others that are still relatively small, at 30cm.

The eldest tortoises are Gloria (number 13) and Thomas (number 11): apparently they’re ‘around 50 years old.’ Number 10 takes an entire day to walk halfway up the path to the front door of our apartment. I do it in 32 seconds. But let’s face it: ambling slowly is really just an excuse for them to chill longer in this lovely hotel. Some of the tortoises have hung out here for 40 years, since the early 1980s. It’s easy to see why they’d want to. Anyone would.

Further Information

The lead-in price for an apartment is R5000 (around £275 per night). Please call 021 657 4500 or visit www.vineyard.co.za for bookings and room rates. For further information about Cape Town, visit www.capetown.travel. For a car rental, go to Avis at www.avis.co.za.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

Where To Eat In Edinburgh By Caroline Phillips

Image courtesy of Danii Vnoutchkov

Where offers the best dining experiences and ingredients north of the border? Edinburgh. It’s renowned for its fine food scene. If Michelin accolades are your thing, then the city is home to four restaurants with a star. But if the prissiness of such eateries is not your bag, then there are few places better for unpretentious fare than Fhior, which opened last year. Fhior lives up to its name, which means ‘true’ in Gaellic. It offers an excellent and interesting modern Scottish menu with Nordic overtones. Everything’s super fresh, seasonal and local and the chef, Scott Smith, is big on the use of unusual herbs such as nasturtium capers (made from nasturtium seeds) and sweet cicely.

Additionally, hoorah, they only do one sitting: so you can eat in a leisurely way. The vibe is, anyway, casual: blond tables, banquettes and a simple space with (mostly) white walls. ‘Please give my condiments to the chef,’ reads one illustration that hangs there. Plus there are friendly, knowledgeable staff sporting white aprons and white T-shirts. Diners share plates (one-off ceramics with organic forms inspired by Norwegian nature) which simply arrive when the kitchen’s ready, and people just keep on and on ordering.

I love the beremeal bread — an ancient form of heritage barley from Orkney. The Caledonian oysters (£2 each) are a winner, so too the Tamworth ham and leek croquettes (£5.50). The deboned mackerel is succulent — with the sea a very recent memory — and it comes with hispi cabbage soaked overnight in buttermilk, with onion puree and toasted buckwheat with grated pecorino (too many tastes and textures, perhaps).

Then there’s a great bavette (skirt, so a deliciously strong flavour), with a chimichurri sauce of parsley, garlic and oregano plus poppy seeds and shallots (£11). Finally the Maurangie Brie stuffed with truffle, and Lanark blue ewes’ milk cheese. Oh, and chocolate cake with sweet cicely gel with a hint of damson, all caramelised and piquant. And everything (apparently) accompanied by an unusual wine list of smallholdings: I wouldn’t know as I don’t drink. The food is delicious and also competitively priced (we ate lunch but even the dinner of four tasting courses is just £40) and unmissable.

Another place you must hot-foot it to is the new Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage, which is open seven days a week and offers Scottish New Wave food. The Lookout has a sister, well, a step-sister really — having opened in partnership with Collective, which promotes contemporary art in the City Observatory and in a neighbouring purpose-built exhibition space. The restaurant is also within the City Observatory walls — so, with a visit, you tick off one of the tourist spots too.

The Lookout is a glass house that’s light-filled, airy and partially suspended over Calton Hill — it’s built on a cantilever. It has unbeatable views (not just of the Georgian city and the Castle but right across to the Firth of Forth) through its glass ‘walls.’ The décor’s unstuffy and Scandi — with a beechwood pyramid ceiling, café-style tables, a polished concrete floor and an open kitchen. If the view is unbeatable, the food is even better. After a rhubarb martini, and bread with butter churned with cream (sooooo light), try the crab with sorrel and scurvy grass (a herb like horseradish) or the Isle of Skye skate (£24) or the Orkney beef with bone marrow hollandaise (£28), then the salted caramel pud — and then you’ll know what they eat in culinary heaven. Actually, I’m not going to tell you any more: just go….if you can get in.

If there’s sibling rivalry going on, the new-born Lookout is definitely Mummy’s favourite. But the Lookout’s older brother, the original Gardener’s Cottage — which, as the name implies was a gardener’s cottage, and is still surrounded by a sweet garden of lovage to fennel — is still an essential go-to eaterie (although my most recent meal there was not excellent, as it was on previous occasions). But it’s just so quaint, eccentric and gorgeous. You walk up the garden path to the 1836 cottage and then….

It has large Kilner jars in the entrance (containing everything from garlic oil to pickled beetroot), industrial lights, and a rough wooden floor. It offers rustic, seasonal fare (like its younger sister), but made in its teeny open kitchen, and served at communal tables in two rooms. The homemade sour dough’s a winner (baked at Quay Commons, another family member, which also provides the Gardener’s Cottage with butchered meats and filleted fish). The cod with lobster bisque, Jerusalem artichoke, fennel and cauliflower hits the spot. The set lunch of three courses is a mere £22. The restaurant also offers breakfast (think porridge and tea-soaked prunes).

Finally no visit to Edinburgh is complete without dining casually on flipping-fresh fish and shellfish at one or both of the two Fishers Restaurants. (I haven’t tried their third restaurant, the Shore Bar and Restaurant.) If you’re sightseeing, Fishers Leith — which opened two decades ago — is seconds from the Royal Yacht Britannia in the docks at Leith. If you’re into character in your restaurants, Fishers Leith is also in a 17th century watchtower — and, somehow, always feels as if it’s night in there. Plus there’s a mermaid above the bar (wood, not real) and a blackboard with daily specials. I love everything there, starting with their fish soup and a mean moules marienière and working my way through the menu. Who (apart from a pescatarian) could resist fillet of Shetland monkfish Saltimbocca, with spelt, beetroot, hazelnut and bramble salad, topped with butter milk herb dressing? (£26) Think solid, homely food.

Meanwhile, Fishers in the City is, as the name implies, in the city: in the centre of old Edinburgh. It’s the junior of Fishers Leith by about ten years, although the food is better in Leith, the older one. But Fishers in the City is definitely worth a visit for friendly service and brasserie-style meals on simple marble or wood-topped tables, midst decorative rowing boats and oars. It draws a cheery, buzzy crowd. They also sell some of the world’s best scallops: hand-dived Orkney ones with brown shrimp butter (£24) and they make a dependable fish curry with coley and prawns (£20). ‘Life is good,’ as the sign reads here.

If you want fancy Michelin eats, there are four restaurants with a star and at least two wannabes that are almost there. If you hanker for such haute eating, book restaurant 21212 in Royal Terrace — which has the distinction both of being located in the longest Georgian terrace in Europe and also having first earned its star in 2010. Or try The Kitchin (now in its 12th year with a star), The Balmoral’s Number One (one star for its 16th consecutive year) or….cue for drum roll….Restaurant Martin Wishart (19th year). There are other Scottish restaurants such as Timberyard (contrary to anything its name might suggest, it’s an old brick warehouse with a wood-burning stove) that’s probably also in line for a You Know What. (For what it’s worth, Inspectors, I like their cured trout, tomato, lovage, wild leek, roe and also the hen’s egg, asparagus, hen of the woods, goats butter and hemp dish). Timberyard aside, there was also local dismay that the Castle Terrace was omitted from the 2019 Michelin guide.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

David Linley – On The Crest Of A Wave By The Luxury Channel

Thirty years on and the British furniture maker known professionally as David Linley is busier than ever creating works for a long list of international clients. His eponymous brand remains, however, quintessentially British, underlined by his warmth, ingenuity and creativity. Born into the Royal family, David is the son of Antony Armstrong-Jones, who became the 1st Earl of Snowdon after he married David’s mother, Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II. David was styled as Viscount Linley and after his father passed away in 2017, he became the 2nd Earl of Snowdon. As of May 2019, he is 21st in line to the British throne.

We spoke to David about starting up his business and the future of his brand, and – with Monaco Yacht Show starting next week – about the specific design process needed for a life at sea….

What does the notion of British craftsmanship mean to you, and how has it changed over the years?

Craftsmanship used to be everyday currency. There were workshop guilds until the 20th century, when mass production came in, and machines replaced the need for handmade objects. Our generation has lived through an interesting time where mass manufacturing gathered considerable importance over the years, but now we are seeing an ever-increasing backlash of facilities which have been setup to make small volumes of ethically produced items. I believe craftsmanship exists as a result of an appetite for craft and by nature, an appreciation of the making process. Today we have a better balance – we have access to mass produced items where necessary, but also the luxury of bespoke and handmade items, like our furniture, which we appreciate and enjoy for the crafted character that it brings.

How has Linley as a business evolved over the last 30 years?

The company has grown significantly from when I started making. It was just my mallet, chisel and I in a beautiful workshop in Surrey, making one-off commissions. When demand meant it was impossible for me to make everything on my own, I opened a showroom at Number 1 Kings Road in 1985 to expand and create an environment to display my furniture.

With bespoke pieces, how important is it to understand their lasting impact over generations?

I always say what man has made, man can make again. Making pieces for today’s environmentally conscious world, it is important that they are made to last through generations and to use the skills of restoration craftspeople to add to the life span of our furniture. The nostalgic idea of having something passed down through generations, that was originally designed for your grandparents, or even great grandparents, is always an appealing concept. It is encouraging to see people are starting to appreciate and relate to the same feeling when buying antique furniture these days. Actually, Sir Roy Strong, former Director of the V&A, once said that “David Linley’s furniture will become the antiques of the future!”

What furniture trends should we be paying attention to this season?

I don’t agree with following trends; as a company, Linley has always evolved organically rather than changing aesthetic every season. We always aim to improve our designs with new product ranges, creating pieces that are more suitable for the current day and the needs of our clients. Sometimes it can involve exploring a different design method or a new crafting technique. Evolution is the key. With consumer’s needs in mind, the aim is to make them feel part of the Linley journey and create pieces that last, rather than items that are thrown away and replaced with new trends.

What is the most outlandish commission you have ever received?

Claridge’s Hotel is my highlight of many commissions, which all have a unique place in my memory. With this project, we had to incorporate so many elements, such as catering for the needs of the hotel and their clients, many of whom we have privately worked for, as well as preserving all the historic and architectural elements of the building. The Claridge’s Map Room is particularly eye-catching. Four hundred man hours went into creating the marquetry map that adorns the back wall. I have vivid childhood memories of going to Claridge’s on special occasions. To me, it is important to re-create that feeling.

What is your favourite piece of furniture?

I admire lots of different furniture and styles, but I recently inherited a student piece, that I made in 1980, and gave as a gift to my father as I couldn’t think of anyone else who would inspire me as much. It was placed on his desk and he would always show it to people whom he photographed.

Where does your own love of design come from, and who inspired you growing up?

My love of furniture comes from being curious – I was thought by my grandmother to look for secret compartments in cabinets of curiosity. I say the same to my children, “be curious!” I take them to museums to see one special object, just like my parents did when I was a child. You can’t teach people to be interested in design, but you can intrigue their curiosity and hope that creativity channels from there. In the world of furniture making, I think there are a lot of influencers. For me, it was my teacher, David Bucher at Bedales, who was keen for me to make things and not to worry about the academic world. We all went to see him years after graduating. He was a father figure to us all at Bedales and was so proud of us and what we achieved after leaving the school. I can name many more like Wendell Castle, whose work inspires me and various other people at Parnham. Malcolm Appleby, who also taught me, was also a great influence and someone who I have had the pleasure of collaborating with, creating a piece for Masterpiece 2017 and a special edition Shooting Companion box.

Do you think that the art of craftsmanship is being lost on the young of today?

I think we can’t generalise, and I won’t be the one to do so. I do think there is greater understating of craftsmanship and creativity in schools and it is contributing to the industry considerably. There is a shift from when I was at school, when you were supposed to do well academically, but now it is acceptable to be entrepreneurial, make things, and it is appreciated and admired. At QEST, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, they endeavour to fund the education of talented and aspiring craftspeople, which helps sustain Britain’s cultural heritage. QEST is at the forefront of supporting education and excellence in craft in the UK. Meanwhile, our workshops also always take younger enthusiastic trainees and develop their skills to make high quality furniture. People these days take interest and want to take responsibility in what they are purchasing, and that demand has resulted in the younger generation rejecting higher paid jobs for more fulfilling career opportunities.

As well as homes, you’ve also designed furniture for yachts. How different is the design process for boats?

In yachts, attention to detail and tolerances are much higher. The nature of being over water and movements of the sea need to be considered, as well as how the piece is attached to the wall and floors. We are more mindful of humidity and salt contents; also weight becomes a considerable issue as it has an impact on the motion of the yacht. We engineer and design with marine requirements in mind, like using lightweight core materials, or laminating layers of stone to reduce weight. When designing in the marine world, materials are selected specifically for living on board; this results in products that withhold test of time in a different environment. At Linley, we’ve been making pieces specifically for yachts for 25 years. Not just furniture, but watch boxes, and binocular cases. Our bespoke accessories inspire great affection but are also practical – their quality is always appropriate to the yacht.

How do you juggle your two careers, running Linley and also being Chairman of Christie’s? Is establishing a good work/life balance important to you?

If I knew that one, I would be a millionaire! I try to juggle my life in a harmonious way where I value the effects of my labour. Being curious means that I go to Portobello Market with my children and collect interesting things. The pleasure for me is that my daughter has now become interested in making jewellery, because she spent her weekends with me in the market searching for curiosities. My life and work balance I get wrong every day, but I aspire to get it right and make sure I can see my career path developing, and I hope to see my children have the same work ethic as my grandmother thought me to have. We have a strong work ethic which rarely allows us to sit back and relax, but reflection is as important as progress.

Finally, the one question we ask everyone! What is your favourite luxury?

Time! Having the time to do something is luxury to me. My motorcycle, for example, cuts time for getting from one place to another for me and therefore I can’t live without it! My Bamford watch is my favourite luxury that I wear on my wrist every day. It is a fine piece of craftsmanship which inspires me every time I look at it for its complexity in design and excellence.

For further information, go to www.davidlinley.com.

The Luxury Channel Meets Kelly Hoppen By The Luxury Channel

She’s one of the most well-known and respected interior designers working today, and so we duly spoke with Kelly Hoppen MBE ahead of the London Design Festival to discuss this season’s hottest interior trends, her collaboration with Disney, and why she nearly got fired on her first day of the TV series Dragon’s Den….

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s London Design Festival?

I’m really excited to see what the London Design Festival has in store – it’s always filled with surprises and fuels me with design inspiration. In the same way, I’m really looking forward to going back to Decorex after having not been for so long! We are exhibiting an amazing new collection of wooden tiles with Hakwood, which I’m really excited about.

What’s the one latest interiors trend that we should all be adopting in our homes this season?

I’m so happy, as it seems that people are finally beginning to realise one of the most important aspects of interior design – that colour affects mood. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that certain colours coincide with different moods and I’m so pleased to be seeing this philosophy adopted in people’s homes. However, I have to say that the trend I’m most excited about is glass. Glass is a magnificent medium which I’ve felt has never been pushed to its full potential; I’m really looking forward to seeing glass inspired lighting, furniture and installations which combine both clear and coloured glass.

For someone who has a second home abroad, how would you go about styling it?

100% your surroundings have such an impact on the way you design. When you’re abroad, your frame of mind is different and therefore the way you approach design is. Whether you’re designing something by the sea and are drawn towards minimalism, clean lines and space, or if you’re inspired by warmth and mountainous terrain which encourages you to incorporate layers, textures and tones, surroundings always infiltrate into the design process.

How has your own style evolved and changed over the years?

My style has always been driven by balance, contrast and a neutral palette which still drives my design aesthetic now. There have been several subtle changes that I’ve made to my style but essentially, the core values and philosophy of East meets West have always been the same.

What’s the one thing people probably wouldn’t expect to find in your own home?

I’d have to say my Philips lumiere “wake-up” light alarm clock, which wakes me up with the sounds of the sea and sunrise effect lighting.

What’s your favourite room in your home?

That’s difficult, as it changes all the time! I love my dressing room because it’s my space where I get to play dress up but I also love our snug bedroom, and our kitchen which is the most perfect place to bring family and friends together. Every room has a different feeling and atmosphere which means I struggle to pick an ultimate favourite.

What would you say is your design philosophy?

My design philosophy has always centred around the balanced combination of East meets West. Each of my designs fuses together the clean, modern lines and shapes of the West with the sumptuous textures and layers of the East to create a timeless and balanced space suitable for all moods, occasions and audiences.

How would you define British interior style?

If you’d asked me this 20 or 30 years ago, I would have said that Brits do have a particular, classic style. However, the world that we live in now is so international and interior style has become more eclectic and driven by vintage design traits. Nowadays, Brits are amazing at creating moveable interiors which feel lived in, not static designs which can become out-dated.

When designing the interiors of a home, what would you say are the most important factors that need to be considered?

For me, one of the most important interior design features is lighting as it has the complete ability to set the tone and mood of a space through layering, dimming and placement. But honestly, everything is important so that it all comes together.

As well as homes, you’ve also designed yachts, such as Pearl 75, and cruise ships, such as Celebrity Edge. How different is the design process for a “house on water” compared to bricks and mortar back on dry land?

Every job is totally unique in terms of approaching their practicalities. When you’re designing a cruise ship or an aircraft, you’re designing for thousands of people and therefore have to consider the practicalities of weight and movement, which are not so pressing when designing on land. Whilst each project’s practicalities are completely different, the design process remains the same for all.

You’re well-known for your time on Dragon’s Den. What was your funniest moment whilst on the show?

It has to be when Peter Jones wore a face mask that lit up and made me laugh to the point that I slid off my chair. This all happened on my first day and I honestly thought I was going to be fired for laughing so much on a show where seriousness is key. To this day, I’d still love to see the outtakes; it was truly one of the funniest moments of my life!

You also collaborated with Disney to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse….

I’ve always loved Disney and especially Mickey Mouse, and so when the opportunity to collaborate came about, I instantly snapped at the chance. Of the whole process, one of the best moments was when I went into the boss’s office at Disney HQ and pointed at this beautiful glass dome which held a rose and asked if it was real; to this, the boss replied “yes, it’s been infused with kryptonite” and I believed him! It was here that I had that real Disney moment where you believe that anything in the Disney world can be real.

You’re an ambassador for Cool Earth – how do you incorporate sustainable practices into your designs and your business?

We try to act as environmentally responsible and sustainably as possible across all of the design projects. Whether it’s looking at using eco-paints and minimising plastic in design to working with Celebrity Cruise to research how they can reduce in-house waste, we always try to make sure that our environmental impact is as small as possible.

Finally, the one question we ask everyone! What is your favourite luxury?

For me, there is no greater luxury than being able to spend time with my wonderful grandson, Rudy, who is my ultimate best friend.

For more information, go to www.kellyhoppen.com.

Doors Are Now Open To Designjunction By The Luxury Channel

Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross (image courtesy of John Sturrock)

Presenting breakthrough brands shaping design today, the highly anticipated Designjunction has opened its doors for the ninth edition of the show. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in everything Designjunction has to offer, whether it’s discovering the latest furniture and lighting trends in Cubitt House, or engaging in design debates at the Talks Programme in the Everyman Cinema. “Re(act)” is the show’s theme for 2019, as Designjunction welcomes more than 150 exhibitors from around the world, from leading established brands to emerging design talent.

Designs by Kazuya Washio for Yamaha Design Studio, Kenji Abe for Nikon Design Centre, Sofia Leover for Rients and Matt Delegate for Keechdesign

In The Canopy, Yamaha Design Studio and Keechdesign collaborate on an interactive exhibit of designed objects inspired by building blocks. The two studios have challenged eight UK-based designers from big brands, such as Nikon and Hitachi, as well as from design and architecture studios, to create toys that also offer a new purpose or experience value. The stand is an interactive space where visitors can experience and play with the final designed objects. By creating joy from objects, the exhibition aims to prolong their lifecycle.

Talk To Me by Steuart Padwick (image courtesy of Daniel Shearing)

Positioned on the King’s Boulevard walkway leading to Granary Square, multi-award-winning British designer Steuart Padwick presents his five and a half metre high sculptures, called “Talk To Me,” in support of the mental health anti-stigma campaign, Time To Change. As visitors approach the breathing, interactive giant wooden figures, a proximity sensor is triggered, and they begin to voice poignant and uplifting words read aloud by notable names including Niamh Cusack, Joelle Taylor, Adam Kammerling and Chris Thorpe. These conversations start to crack the “burden” of each figure to release a glowing light.

Giant Floor Pink Pendant by Anglepoise and Dawn To Dusk by Haberdashery

Alongside the ten shortlisted projects for the Rado Star Prize UK 2019, two lighting brands – Anglepoise and Haberdashery – have unveiled colourful installations in The King’s Cross Light Tunnel. British lighting brand Anglepoise presents six playful installations, each featuring a Giant Anglepoise Lamp, which lights up inspirational quotes installed on the light panels of the tunnel. Visitors are invited to jump into the sets and take photos by the light of a “Giant.” Elsewhere in the Light Tunnel, Haberdashery are showing their award-winning Dawn To Dusk lamps in an installation that celebrates the rising and setting sun. Inspired by memories of light, the table lamp is from their Evoke collection, which this year alone has won the Red Dot Best of The Best Award and a European Product Design Platinum Award.

For more details and to plan your visit, head to www.thedesignjunction.co.uk.

Highlights Ahead of Decorex International By The Luxury Channel

Bar designed by Lambart & Brown at Decorex International

It’s one of the world’s leading shows for the high-end interior design market, and it’s back for its 42nd year at Olympia London. Decorex International attracts over 15,000 visitors from across the globe, all of whom are hoping to see the 400 leading names from the world of luxury interiors who, over the course of four jam-packed days, showcase the latest in bespoke furniture, conceptual lighting, hand-painted wallpaper and exquisite fabrics.

Stools and Table by Tom Faulkner

Established names returning this year include furniture maker Tom Faulkner, who will present a selection of his latest designs, distinguished by their striking silhouettes, definitive lines and bold shapes. They are produced in a rich mix of steel, bronze, marble, glass, gold, leather and even plaster.

Siren Wall Lights by Curiousa & Curiousa and Sunny Side Up Lamp Base by Rosanna Lonsdale

Lighting company Curiousa & Curiousa will unveil new designs from their Siren wall light range, characterised by the layering of colourful hand-blown glass plates, bowls and dishes. Meanwhile, Rosanna Lonsdale will unveil a new collection of coloured decorative lamp bases, all of which are hand-made to order in her London studio.

Kelfield Collection by Hyde House

Hyde House will launch new freestanding furniture designs made using its trademark ResinateTM service. Born by the desire to offer a broader scope of options when finishing furniture, ResinateTM allows people to bring a design to life with any wallpaper options.

The Sissinghurst Castle Garden Copper Planter by Architectural Heritage

Architectural Heritage will be showcasing a faithful copy of an original copper planter situated in the Cottage Garden at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Kent, having worked alongside the National Trust in order to produce it. Fashioned from thick sheet brass, The Sissinghurst Castle Garden Copper Planter has a bulbous shape, distinctive rivets and Verdigris patination, all of which replicate the original. A contribution from the sale of every planter sold will be made in support of the National Trust’s conservation work, to ensure the nation’s historic houses, gardens and open spaces can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Lufa Series Room Divider by Fernando Laposse

Decorex will also see the launch of a number of ornate screens and room dividers. The new Sisal screen by Fernando Laposse is an evolution of the Mexican designer’s sisal furniture work. All of his pieces, made using ecologically sound materials, are routed in illuminating the impact of contemporary material and product on local communities (Sisal – used in ropes and carpets among other things – was one of the main sources of employment for the Mayan communities of the Yucatan peninsula).

Chevron Screen by Lynne MacLachlan

Made through a 3D printing process that uses Polylactic Acid, the Chevron Screen by Lynne MacLachlan is a biodegradable plastic made of organic and renewable resources, which is melted and extruded layer by layer to create strong and light parts in a myriad of colours and opacity. Clever positioning and layering of colour create lenticular optical effects and light filtering, meaning the effect varies depending on positioning in a room.

Milano Screen by Extraverso

The Milano screen by Extraverso, meanwhile, is a brass structure with lacquered printed panels, which honours the city of Milan via an illustration by Anna Sutor (who previously worked at Norman Foster in London).

Fabrics by Rose Uniacke

First-time exhibitors at Decorex International include Rose Uniacke, who will showcase the latest offerings from the brand’s new fabric range; Vincent Sheppard, who will launch a new selection of outdoor furniture designs; and Kirath Ghundoo, who will present a gold wallpaper base.

Outdoor Furniture by Vincent Sheppard and Gold Wallpaper Base by Kirath Ghundoo

Decorex International 2019 takes place from Sunday 6th – Wednesday 9th October 2019 at Olympia London. For more information, visit www.decorex.com.

Immersive Installation Inspired By The Sea – Take The Plunge At London Design Festival By The Luxury Channel

Take The Plunge (image courtesy of Ed Reeve)

Volume Creative, in collaboration with Virgin Voyages, invites visitors to Take The Plunge, with a playful installation at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, as part of London Design Festival. The interactive project shows how the power of design can evoke curiosity, in a stand-alone immersive experience where visitors are invited on a journey of discovery into an abstract world (the minimalist exterior juxtaposes with the warmth that awaits within). Visitors step into an endless horizon, giving way to an extraordinary secondary space is depictive of a sunset under the sea, the whole concept having been inspired by a love of the sea, the great unknown, and the promise of epic discoveries. Take The Plunge hints at this spirit of adventure and celebrates the endless possibilities of great design, using multi-sensory techniques to capture the joyful elements of an oceanic journey.

Take The Plunge (image courtesy of Ed Reeve)

On first sight, a black matt and gloss chevron motif fills the street level window. Visitors put on protective bamboo socks to walk alongside the black patterned walls, before stepping down past vertical clusters of white tubes. This leads to a bright white corridor, called “The Pathway of Discovery,” that has been designed to dazzle. Walls of vertical white tubes elongate the space, and mirrors create an endless horizon. Secret sounds of whispered message play via directional speakers. This creates a moment to pause for reflection, both figurative and literal.

Take The Plunge (images courtesy of Ed Reeve)

The extraordinary secondary chamber, depicting an imagined sunset under the sea, is revealed next. It is filled with clusters of suspended tubes, and cocooned with even more. The chamber is coloured with a rich sunset ombré of coral and crimson, and features a moving light installation. Within this chamber, an ambient soundscape is played, called ‘”Ocean of Plasticity” by artist Adrian Newton, whose work focuses on using sound to explore the relationships between people and the environment. The composition is a response to the ocean plastic crisis, and explores what a marine ecosystem might sound like if completely transformed by plastic. The piece is also a reminder of the need to change how we value the objects we buy, if we are to transform our relationship with nature, and the sounds featured in the exhibition were all sourced from plastic objects found on a beach in southern England. 


Take The Plunge (image courtesy of Ed Reeve)

Take the Plunge suggests the spirit of adventure, the beauty of the sea and, at its heart, celebrates the endless possibilities of great sustainable design (all the elements in the installation are recycled, recyclable locally, or will be repurposed). A Special Project for London Design Festival 2019, you can visit it at Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf. It is open daily 10am – 8pm, from 14th – 22nd September 2019.

New York Canine Couture By Camilla Hellman

Dogs are a part of the family, and more and more we like them to travel with us – having them stay with us at our hotel or have them jump on the plane with us. New York’s The Mark Hotel, situated on Madison Avenue by Central Park, welcomes our four-legged companions and is the most dog-friendly hotel in New York, making sure their guests’ pets are properly pampered.

Having already created their popular Woof Woof Kit and a dog bowl designed by Jacques Grange, they have now collaborated with Milan-based Poldo Dog Couture on a bespoke range of The Mark Hotel dog coats – a raincoat with a hood, and a bomber jacket that is perfect for chilly Autumn days in the Park. The dog coats are in The Mark Hotel’s signature orange and navy colors and will be featured in The Mark Hotel’s online boutique, LeShop.

And so, during New York Fashion Week, canines also got their couture moment as The Mark Hotel held a picnic in Central Park for dogs and their owners to view the Poldo Dog Couture range of chic dog coats. The gourmet picnic was prepared by the hotel’s Michelin-star chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Poldo Dog Couture’s co-founder Riccardo Gardoni revelaed that he was “very happy to collaborate with The Mark, which carries the distinction of being one of the world’s most exquisite hotels, providing a unique luxury experience to its guests – humans and dogs alike!” Maurizio Azzimonti added that: “In a world where attention to detail in all aspects of our lives makes the difference, we cannot overlook our big and small life companions.”

To complete your dog’s winter “look,” The Luxury Channel has also discovered the ultimate in dog paw wear: WagWellies – insulated dog booties from Wagwear. Dogs large and small need to protect their feet from salt (and dirt), and WagWellies actually stay on, having a velcro closure. They are also matching in style to Hunter boots, so you can co-ordinate your footwear to your dog’s!

Further Information

The Mark Hotel – www.themarkhotel.com

Poldo Dog Couture – www.poldodogcouture.com

Wagwear – www.wagwear.com

Blacklane – Cars With Conscience By Elle L

The boom of fast food, fast fashion and fast cars can be bewildering for the eco-conscious of us. The world is in chaos but most are unaware due to the constant churn of PVC ‘‘Barbie’’ dresses available for next day delivery online for the price of a cup of coffee. Most of these clothes end up in landfill. It’s nonsensical. This is just one of the reasons I have turned my head towards being an ambassador to sustainable fashion. More and more talk of ‘‘sustainability’’ is starting to emerge in the headlines, but now is the time for action. Beyond fashion, it’s so important to know what big and small changes we can make in our everyday lives to support a move towards a healthier planet. I’ve been seeking out sustainable solutions so I can live the good life without the cost to the environment.

In the last few months, I’ve had to travel and I am aware of my carbon footprint. My charity work has taken me as far as the natural jungles of the Amazon to the concrete jungles of New York. This is where I stumbled across Blacklane and their eco-conscious car service. It’s a great alternative car concierge app and really a favourite for me, as they have a fleet of Teslas and electronic luxury cars that make necessary trips both comfortable and less impactful to the environment. For rides in traditional chauffeured vehicles like Mercedes-Benz and Audi, Blacklane offsets the carbon emissions of all of its trips. Not just that, they are innovative with the app, which let’s you message your driver and they can track your flight so are already aware of any delays should they occur. The service is second to none and I recommend them as just one way you can choose better when next booking a car around town or to the airport.

For more information, go to www.blacklane.com.

Roll Out The Red Carpet For London Design Week By The Luxury Channel

The Rug Company has collaborated with award-winning multi-disciplinary design studio, Winch Design, to create a luxurious new collection of hand-knotted rugs, which will be launched during London Design Festival in September. The collection is inspired by nature’s organic forms and specifically by the details found on land, in air and at sea; realms in which Winch creates its individually tailored homes. Each design encapsulates the beautiful textures of the natural world; sand underfoot, the clear blue of tropical seas, bursts of sunlight through the sky, and rolling clouds after the rain falls. The unique designs have been expertly translated into striking masterpieces for the floor by The Rug Company’s master craftsmen, using the finest handspun wool and silk yarns.

“Nothing inspires us more than the natural world and we wanted this collection to truly celebrate the colours and textures around us all,” said CEO and co-founder Andrew Winch. “We trusted The Rug Company to make these designs sing with the beauty of nature,” he added.

The four designs are called Plume, Meridian, Riviera and Cirrus.

Plume takes inspiration from the textures and colours of a plume of beautiful feathers, fanning dramatically across the floor. The inky blues, greys and soft ambers of the feathers are layered in such a way that the final impression is of overlapping birds’ wings, bringing rich dimension, texture and drama to any space.

For Meridian, bold silk lines fan out from the central point of the design, like a burst of bright sunlight over an open landscape. Meridian comes in two colourways – Meridian Sand and Meridian Aqua; the shimmering gold threads of the sunburst complement the blue-grey tones behind, and iridescent silver threads overlay soft cream wool. The metallic silky yarns radiate a subtle sheen, creating a soft energy and projecting light back into the room from beneath your feet.

Riviera was inspired by the ocean and was designed to emulate the light reflecting off ripples of water in the shallows of a calm sea. Delicate movements and reflective light are captured through the clever use of turquoise blues, greys and subtle pinks, the final effect being of water reflecting the soft light of the setting sun. A gentle ombre graduation from one end of the rug to the other gives the impression of deepening water, as though the viewer is paddling out to sea, leaving the sandy beach behind.

Finally, Cirrus is a rolling landscape of atmospheric colours and shapes, creating the illusion of bright sunlight hitting inky storm clouds after heavy rain. Contrasting indigos, blues, greys and creams are expertly blended like an oil painting in this piece inspired by stormy skies.

The collection will be available in showrooms worldwide and online from September 2019. For more information, visit www.therugcompany.com and www.winchdesign.com.

In A Spin With Crazy Pizza By Scott Manson

London’s Crazy Pizza restaurant is renowned for the dough-flinging antics of its chefs. But beyond the dining room theatre, does it deliver on taste too?

It’s the hottest day of the year in London, with temperatures nudging the high thirties, and all I want to do, frankly, is sit in front of an enormous fan. But I promised my partner a night out at a great new restaurant – and she won’t be dissuaded by the fact that the city is in meltdown.

But within a few seconds of entering the cool, air-conditioned heaven that is Marylebone’s Crazy Pizza, I’m glad we persevered. Even by 7pm, the place is packed and buzzing – filled with a happy mix of families, smart Chelsea types and groups of lively ladies who look like they’ve been here since lunchtime. In short, it feels fun.

Set up by Ex-Formula One boss Flavio Briatore, who owns restaurants, bars and clubs in the UK, Italy, Dubai and Monaco, Crazy Pizza is a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The waiting staff are relaxed but attentive, and the chefs in the open kitchen keep diners amused with their impressive dough spinning antics. What they do take seriously, though, is the food. They make their own mozzarella on site and the pizzas are thin crust and yeast-free, which means diners don’t get the uncomfortably full feeling often associated with enjoying the doughy delights of Italy.

We kicked off with some of the home-made mozzarella, served simply with some colourful heritage tomatoes and drizzled in spiky green olive oil. Pure, salty and sweet – it proved the perfect opener to a great dining experience.

Pizza was our main course choice (it’s the only choice, to be fair), with my partner opting for the simple pomodoro option, her reasoning being that the best test of an Italian kitchen is its tomato sauce. I went for the pata negra pizza, served with lashings of glistening, gossamer-thin ham and underpinned by that rich tomato base. Both were light enough that, we reasoned, you could surely eat them every day. If I lived closer to the restaurant, I might do just that.

Dessert was also a treat. The ‘‘a la minute’’ tiramisu is a fresh, simple classic done well and prepared table-side – which saw the people next to us instantly decide that they would be having the same.

As we headed back out into the steamy London night, there was a queue of people waiting for a table. Clearly, in a few short months since opening, the word has spread about this place. In a city that has no shortage of Italian restaurants, Crazy Pizza feels like it’s offering a great new twist on a familiar dining experience and, on the strength of this visit, it deserves to be a huge success.

For more information, go to www.crazypizza.co.

Star Cars At Concours of Elegance By Scott Manson

Scott Manson discovers some of the world’s finest – and rarest – automobiles on show at the UK’s Concours of Elegance….

The historic backdrop of Henry VIII’s former home – Hampton Court Palace – plays host to the eighth annual Concours of Elegance, from 6th – 8th September 2019. This gathering of the rarest classic and performance cars from across the world sees the cars painstakingly selected by a Concours Steering Committee – a respected team of authoritative experts – before they are displayed in the beautiful grounds of the Palace.

For car enthusiasts, there are displays from car clubs representing marques such as Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley and Rolls-Royce, as well as an exhibit of every Aston Martin Zagato variant ever manufactured. From the 1960 DB4 GT Zagato, to the Vanquish Zagato Coupe, attendees will be able to browse an amazing 16 examples of the vehicle.

There’s plenty here too, though, for those who don’t know their Testa Rossa from their Dino. Charles Heidsieck, the official Champagne of the event, will host ticketed tastings on Saturday and Sunday. One of the great names of Champagne, it was founded in 1851 by Charles-Camille Heidsieck, the original “Champagne Charlie,” and continues to receive countless awards and accolades year after year. You’ll find it flowing at every bar across the event.

Visitors can also enjoy a luxury shopping trip as pop-up boutiques will show off their craftsmanship, with the likes of Lock & Co, Hatters, Henry Pool and Collier & Dobson in attendance. Celebrated chef Tom Aikens is on hand for lunch duties too, with Tom’s Kitchen providing delicious picnics (pre-booking essential), comprising a mix of traditional classics such as sausage rolls and quiche, and Eton mess.

Easily accessed from London, this is a fitting end to the summer social season and an unrivalled chance to see some of the world’s finest cars in one place.

For further information and to book tickets, go to www.concoursofelegance.co.uk.

Escape To Singapore – A Non-Stop Evolution Since 1819 By Rosalind Milani Gallieni

Marina Bay Sands (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

The year 2019 marks 200 years of history for Singapore, with a slew of exhibitions and events lined up to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial milestone. The celebrations will give Singaporeans the chance to reflect on the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore in 1819, an avid collector and explorer in the region whose arrival was one of the “key turning points” that changed the country’s trajectory.

View From The Fullerton Hotel Lighthouse (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Singapore is a constant buzz of activity with business, technology, traffic, exhibitions, shows, architecture, and under it all – its heritage. By taking in these humble origins, you realise just how massive and driven this creation of a cosmopolitan city has been. Don’t miss putting an hour aside for the Fullerton Heritage trail, which starts out from The Fullerton Hotel and from “mile zero,” the spot that marks all street measurements for the original calculation of fares and charges from this landmark. Everything started from this building, which, once completed in 1928, was the largest building in the city and today, it is the epitome of a by-gone grandeur. The sweeping front entrance, with it very own roundabout, also leads to the pedestrian Cavanagh Bridge, which stretches over the Singapore River to the Asian Civilisations Museum. Once inside, the majestic lobby has an atrium that spans the length of the building and its internal corridors, which lead to the 400 elegantly appointed rooms.

The Fullerton hotel (image courtesy of Fullerton Hotels)

The lookout from the Fullerton Lighthouse on top on the building is a real highlight of any stay here, as it is the original lookout point from the days when the hotel stood directly on the main waterfront. The entire horizon is everything that makes up Singapore today, and to end the day up here in the breeze, with the bar serving worldly cocktails, is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

The Lighthouse Rooftop Bar at The Fullerton Hotel (image courtesy of Fullerton Hotels)

Raffles is conveniently a stone’s throw away for a quick nip, famous for the peanut shells that litter the floor, as they did in the colonial days. The story goes that the monkey nuts were given free of charge to accompany the drinks as they were cheap as chips and so were supplied by the sack-full, but I rather prefer the story that this tradition goes way back to when tigers roamed free, and the residents and staff would hear the crackling of the nuts to alert them as the big cats walked about the hotel! Singapore is, after all, also called Lion City – from the Sanskrit Singa Pura – but there is also talk of a Malayan tiger visiting the town, so the story has its various interpretations.

Raffles Singapore (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

The following day, I head to see the street food markets, stopping off for a walk down Haji Lane where the latest trends and cocktails are served up from small shop-fronts and cool bars with tables spilling out onto the pavements. The city is alive all day and all night, and there is little fear of crime, nor is there a policeman in sight. I am told you can leave your handbag on a table to reserve it while you get your drink inside, and come back to find it exactly where you left it.

Singapore Sidecars (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

I coast the Marina waterfront with its scented hedgerows, and sweep up to the front of The Fullerton Bay Hotel, sister hotel to The Fullerton, in the sidecar of a fine vintage Vespa driven by Simon Wong, whose company Singapore Sidecars is renowned for its bespoke sidecar experiences. The doormen, in bespoke long silk coats, come over with beaming smiles, before ushering me inside. The first impression feels rather like stepping onboard a sumptuous yacht, as the water glistens at the end of the original Clifford Pier, which has now become a signature restaurant and a go-to for Singaporean treats and sumptuous heritage afternoon teas.

Arrival Area at The Fullerton Bay Hotel (image courtesy of Fullerton Hotels)

The hotel is cool, sophisticated and highly polished. The styled public areas have the hand of rising star designer Andre Fu, and sitting alongside this style is the contemporary design of the rooms, each with its own balcony overlooking the water – at any moment, you feel as though you might be setting sail to some remote island, like the Bawah Resort.

Singapore At Night (image courtesy of Nitin Mathew)

The Singapore skyline is in full view from this prime location, set in the heart of the city’s art and cultural scene. The lights at night sparkle from one end of the marina to the other, way up into the sky, up the skyscrapers and all the way to the Levo rooftops of the Marina Bay Sands edifice, which I can only describe as a triple-tower triumph with, why not, a floating boat on top.

Duxton Hill (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

To get away from the high-rises, head to the hills, specifically to the historical Duxton Hill, an area which was once a nutmeg plantation owned by William Montgomerie. In time, it developed into a fishing village, then a rather sought after place of vice (read: opium) while today, it is an uber cool commercial hub within the city, with food markets, boutiques, design-led concept stores, trend-setting bars (some as small as just eight seats), and the best street-food offering inside the Maxwell Food Centre. Think the tastiest noodles and a true local environment.

The Duxton Six Senses (image courtesy of Seth Powers and Six Senses)

The Oriental spirit and acclaimed imagination of designer Anouska Hempel has also been drawn here, her vision presented in a perfectly harmonised fashion in a period building, now branded the Six Senses Duxton – part of Six Senses Singapore, which opened in November 2017. The first boutique hotel in Singapore, it houses some of the designer’s personal collection of signature café screens and calligraphy wallpapers. Her meticulous perfection is most evident in the traditional Chinese medicine room, where a huge hand-painted tiger greets you, and also in the famous Yellow Pot bar on the ground floor. Its design is an inspiration to the Art Deco movement, where Anouska had an original flower patterned centre-piece replicated with painstaking attention to recreate three more to panel the walls and the ceiling, in celebration of the local chrysanthemum flower of Kaifeng city.

The Yellow Pot Restaurant at Duxton Six Senses (image courtesy of Seth Powers and Six Senses)

Originally a group of shop-houses, the hotel’s 49 guestrooms and suites have been uniquely designed, and Anouska’s touches can be sensed throughout, punctuated by her sensitivity to preserve local traditions. Her colour palette (of glamorous piano-black, rust, cinnamon, yellow and white) and golden coloured fans as big as the setting sun, are all in tune with the signature flavours of Mongolian sunflower-oil, turmeric vodka shots, and amber yellow-peril cocktails, crowned with a chrysanthemum.

The Reception Area at Duxton Six Senses (image courtesy of Seth Powers and Six Senses)

Singapore is the crossroads and interchange to the Asian world, and the cuisine at the Duxton Chinese restaurant captures the billowing smells of Pak Choi broth, which roll like the breakers onto the palm-lined streets, inviting you in. The visitor to Anouska Hempel’s Orient is in for an eccentric, elegant surprise. Each dish is served in large yellow bowls, black tiffins and black Bento boxes, which you open using metre-long wok sticks, whilst very cool and disciplined staff dance in attendance.

The Yellow Pot Restaurant at Duxton Six Senses (image courtesy of Jambu Studio and Six Senses)

However, my foodie travels in Singapore wouldn’t have been the same were it not for the little black dining book of Andrew Henning, visionary General Manager of The Westbury Mayfair Hotel in London. This was a short and concise inside track of the best foodie destinations in town, and an insight into the directional new dishes soon to be presented in the heart of Mayfair at the hotel’s POLO Bar, with chef Tim Ross-Watson in the kitchen. Interestingly, Tim is now back in London after spending 12 years in Singapore, so you don’t really need to travel that far now to experience these amazing flavours!

Andrew’s Little Black Book For Singapore

Salted&Hung

Chef Drew Nocente’s kitchen-lab style restaurant specialises in cured and grilled meats, charcuterie and fresh produce, all drawn together by his passions in life: cooking and surrounding himself with the wonders of fresh food infused with Italian heritage. On trend and nearly re-decorated (sadly, we didn’t see the finished result), it is a must-visit restaurant, and it is right alongside the newly re-opened Raffles on Purvis Street.

Salted&Hung (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

The Tippling Club

Chef-Owner Ryan Clift settles down in three shop-houses, just alongside another great spot, The Duxton Club hotel. His avant-garde culinary experience comes close to theatre, and is served from the bar (the best place to be to get involved in the action of the preparation) or at the tables, which are illuminated by large nets of chicken wire filled with light bulbs – everything is a feast for the eyes and the senses. Not to mention the sensory collection on the drinks menu with cocktails created to encompass fragrances and aromas – think cut grass, olives, and leather.

Chef Ryan Clift at Tippling Club (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Native

A creative cocktail bar with a focus on commercially foraging for its ingredients! Once you find this funky hole-in-the-wall on Amoy Street (there’s no sign out front), your taste buds will be tickled by flavours only found in Asia. Everything is sourced locally and everything has a story, which makes for a fascinating chat with the engaging bartenders!

Native (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Manhattan

Frequently voted one of the best bars in the world, Manhattan is reminiscent of a grand hotel bar with a touch of old New York glamour and sophistication. If you want one of the best solera-aged Negronis with the signature M-branded ice-cube, this is where you can find an array of particularly special cocktails which have been created weeks in advance, and left to evolve independently and unexpectedly in oak barrels. On tap – not shaken, not stirred….

Manhattan (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Ding Dong

A trend-setting southeast Asian diner and cocktail bar that is well worth visiting, for food design, flavour experiences and the best convivial diner-style atmosphere.

Ding Dong (image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni)

Dining And Decadence At Pikes Hotel In Ibiza By Scott Manson

Ibiza’s famous Pikes hotel is known for its hedonistic night time parties. But as Scott Manson finds out, it’s become a favourite with discerning diners too….

On an island full of legendary places of eat, drink and party, Ibiza’s Pikes stands head and shoulders above much of the opposition. It’s been the hotel stay of choice of many decadent celebrities over the years – Grace Jones and Freddie Mercury to name two of its most regular customers. And no superstar DJ who visits the island can claim to be a true Ibiza veteran unless they’ve spent at least one ‘lost’ evening at its legendary in-house nightclub.

But, more recently, a gastronomic renaissance has hit this wonderfully quirky finca-turned-boutique bolthole. While the island’s hippest in-the-know visitors still flock there for its brilliant parties, more and more of them are also dropping in for a long, lazy lunch or a late-night dinner – prior to a night of cutting loose on the dance floor.

It’s a truly unique space and worth wandering around before dinner. There’s surprise and delight at every turn, from a giant mural of a cat wearing a monocle, to a piece of Tracy Emin-esque neon slogan art. The restaurant, Room 39, serves up modern takes on classic dishes, many of them with a British stance. Indeed, its Sunday roast has been described by many as the best on the island.

But we’re here to sample Saturday’s fare and, settling in with a bottle of delicious Whispering Angel rose wine, our table was soon filled with nibbles – fat green olives, beautiful breads, gossamer-thin slices of local ham and pungent aioli – with the added bonus that our meal was soundtracked by a DJ playing low-key, atmospheric Balearic classics as we dined.

It’s a well-chosen menu, just staying the right side of experimental, with plenty to challenge the palate – but without making less adventurous diners feel intimidated. The pressed octopus, served with burnt grapefruit, avocado and pistachio was a delightful starter, as was the silky, simple pleasure of a white onion velouté, delicately studded with truffle.

But it’s the mains that are the star of the show, with one in particular – the Gallego beef sirloin – providing a melt-in-the-mouth, umami-packed punch. The beef hails from Galicia, where cows are allowed to live for longer, which gives the meat more marbling and a deeper flavour. In short, it tastes like beef should and, at €32, is an absolute steal. Similarly strong was a beautiful, pearly chunk of cod loin in a mahon crust, served with buttered leeks and curried mussels. It was a subtle, almost smoky dish and one that saw me scooping several servings of it from my partner’s plate. On the side, some crispy fries with a perfect fluffy centre (served with Ibiza salt, of course) gave us the carb energy boost we craved.

Even better was that, once done, we could waddle over to the poolside and sit in the shade as our children played, as we ruminated on a place that’s managed the near-impossible feat of being a raver’s paradise by night, and a gourmand’s delight by day. But when you go for dinner at Pikes, it’s surely rude not to head on in afterwards for a bit of dance floor action? But that’s a story for another day….

Need To Know – Great Events At Pikes This Summer

Choose Love
Back for the second year running, Choose Love is a charity event in aid of Help Refugees. Syrian TV Chef and former refugee Imad Alarnab takes over the Pikes kitchen to prepare a mouth-watering Syrian dinner. Booking essential!

Ronnie Scott’s Live
Straight from London’s Soho is Ronnie Scott’s Live – a series of dinner and live music dates throughout the season as part of the legendary jazz club’s 60th birthday celebrations.

For more information and to make a booking, go to www.pikesibiza.com.

Waiting For Bond’s Golden Gondola In Soelden By Ramy Salameh

A three-hour early morning train trip from Zurich to Oetztal main station in the Tirol defined my inter-rail journey in first class. Within a glass-domed carriage, offering epic vistas of the ever-changing natural landscape of Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Austria, I arrived in the Oetztal Valley in time to take lunch at ICE Q Panorama Restaurant, a lofty 3000m above sea level, which was one of the settings for the fictional super spy James Bond in Spectre.

‘‘Let two more gondola pass and then it’s ours,’’ stated Daniel Goldstein of Soelden Tourism. For those in the know, one specific “golden” gondola is dedicated to Bond, James Bond – wrapped with ‘‘007 Elements’’ imagery on the exterior and playing Bond tunes inside – initiated our exploration into the sphere of the world’s most coveted secret agent.

In 2015, the most famous film franchise used the Gaislachkogl Mountain to shoot key action scenes of Spectre. Any destination that achieves several priceless minutes appearing in a Bond movie is granted a unique and lasting legacy, one which the Oetztal Valley has honoured through the creation of a stunning cinematic installation at over 3000m; inside a series of solid, dark, cold and brooding concrete spaces, is a presentation of the most dramatic scenes of the film, encapsulating the world of 007, past and present.

Our ascent to the summit of Gaislachkogl passed over the heads of mountain bikers racing down the winding single and flow trails, part of a dedicated area called ‘‘Bike Republic Soelden.’’ The higher we went, the easier it was to understand why the Bond production team had decided on this location, especially as our Gondola entered the curved mouth of Gaislachkoglbahn top-station, which ignited a show reel of Spectre flashbacks. Atop the summit, a dramatic 360 degree sweep of the jagged snow-topped Oetztal Alps, whose crevices and fissures fell from each summit like strands of melted wax, juxtaposed the stark contemporary architecture of ICE Q Panoramic Restaurant and the bespoke building of ‘‘007 Elements’’ constructed inside the summit of the Gaislachkogl. ‘‘Elements’’ is spread over two levels and 1300sqm of space, showcasing the spell-binding opening scene always expected of a 007 film.

ICE Q, a venue used in the film, is a demonstration of architectural beauty, where ‘‘less is more;’’ clean straight lines of glass and steel has created a futuristic cube-like structure that seemingly floats upon the apex of a mountain. The restaurant’s glass facade invites the breath-taking landscape to envelop the modern and minimalist dining area, whilst serving fine cuisine alongside their exclusive in-house wine, Pinot 3000.

On a craggy outcrop, sitting 50m away from the floor-to-ceiling restaurant windows is a Land Rover, balanced perilously and almost absurdly on a series of spiky rocks, prompting questions of how, why, really? This was one of three vehicles used in the opening chase scene of Spectre, which the production team intentionally left up in the mountain and now links into the new ‘‘Elements’’ experience.

Adjacent to ICE Q is the entrance to this new cinematic installation, which captures the imagination and allows the visitor an intimate view of the making of a James Bond film. The name ‘‘Elements’’ crystallises the experience of moving through a series of galleries that immerse, interact and provide a sensory story tracing the history of the Bond franchise and their pursuit of cinematic immortality. Visitors enter ‘‘007 Elements’’ via The Barrel of The Gun anteroom, before moving onto nine further spaces that are a shock to all the senses; the Valley Passage looks out onto the Rettenbach Glacier Road, a winding Alpine strip snaking into the distance. Here lie two further vehicles frozen in time and place on the icy landscape. The Tech Lab interactively explores everything from cutting-edge technology used in several Bond films, to legacy props including the ubiquitous Omega wrist watch. Arguably the most dramatic space is Action Hall featuring the front portion of the aircraft Bond pilots in Spectre, cleverly curated to appear as if it has just smashed through the hall’s large windows, giving a detailed insight as to how this segment was filmed. The Screening Room allows you to watch the entire sequence, providing a thrilling end to the tour.

With barely time to catch one’s breath from this homage to James Bond, then the Oetztal Valley in which Soelden resides is home to Austria’s largest, trendiest and craziest adventure park, AREA 47; a name that conjures up images of the evil lair of a Bond nemesis or some form of military installation for secret agents. However, AREA 47 is a thrill-seeker’s haven – maybe even heaven, most definitely a training ground for would-be adventurists and the odd professional cliff diver, courtesy of a 27m high dive board, the centre-piece of a 20,000sqm swimming lake within a natural complex of 95,000sqm.

Located between two major bridges (road and rail), two fast flowing rivers (Inn and Ache) surrounded by forests and high-peaked alpine mountains, AREA 47 cleverly uses the natural and man-made topography to maximum advantage. The park offers some 35 different types of activities that will get the heart bursting rather than simply pumping, ranging from white-water rafting to canyoning and mountain-biking to wake-boarding, a hybrid of water skiing and surfing on a cable towing system spanning 420m in a secondary and dedicated lake.

As I arrived at the site, a brave soul jumped bungee-style from a platform constructed at the top of a huge road bridge pillar, swinging like a pendulum, whilst across the River Inn on the other pillar, a figure clasped the grand climbing wall motionless and lizard-like, as they planned their next move. In between, silhouetted figures navigated a 27m high rope course, moving from one obstacle to another. As I descended at speed from the ‘‘Flying Fox’’ zip-wire, crossing the River Inn and the 20,000sqm swimming lake, it was a good perch to view someone being propelled from a water cannon, whilst another was catapulted from the Steigl blobbing air-cushion, as more queued at the top of the 18m high surf-slide to be jettisoned across the surface of the lake like a skimming-stone.

“AREA 47 is for professional athletes too,” mentioned Jessica Isak, a representative of the park, as we toured the facility. “The guy cycling who just passed us is Dan MacAskill, a legendary trial mountain biker,” she said, before pointing towards another person walking towards the 27m dive platform. “He is a professional cliff diver, David Coulturi, who we sponsor,” she added. The complex is where thrill-seekers overlap with elite athletes, yet both feed off each other’s laid-back hipster culture innate with extreme sports, especially in the beach bar where dare-devil feats are retold.

One thing is for sure, in this part of Austria, nature will leave you “shaken, not stirred!”

Further Information

For further information about 007 Elements, go to www.007elements.soelden.com. For further information about AREA 47, go to www.area47.at. Inter-rail tickets can be purchased through www.internationalrail.com. Ramy Salameh stayed at Aqua Dome; for further information. go to www.aqua-dome.at.

Experience A Treatment Journey At The Coach House Spa By Caroline Phillips

The English countryside, a glass architect and a massage. What do they have in common? This is what I discover when I have a treatment in the Coach House Spa, at Beaverbrook, the luxury country estate hotel near Leatherhead, England. The Coach House was previously used for the Bentleys of the then-owner of the property, the late press baron and politician, Lord Beaverbrook. There’s little to remind of that time, given the spa’s water-blue, fern-green and poppy-red tiles and golden-leaves-on-sky stained glass skylights by Brian Clarke, creator of the world’s most monumental stained glass works. A scheme by the glass architect that evokes English country fields and water or looks like a psychedelic trip on the Underground, depending on your point of view.

Spa membership is by invitation only. It’s rumoured (in whispers) to cost around a quarter of a million pounds, for this life and the next. Or there are a limited number of weekday memberships. It’s also open to day guests (from £240 per day) and hotel residents.

There are six treatment suites, a sauna, nail lounge and indoor and al fresco swimming pools. And a gym stocked with Technogym Artis cardio machines and free weights. Plus The English Bathhouse — a version of a hammam — that’s clean and white, like a futuristic space ship or pod. The original coach house has morphed into a studio, with fitness, yoga, meditation and Pilates offered in rotation.

Then there’s the Boutique and Apothecary, a place I’d be happy to spend hours in sniffing and purchasing healing lotions and potions. It reflects the spa’s ethos of keeping it simple and holistic. It sells Coach House oils — made in consultation with Beaverbrook’s head gardener and created from medicinal plants, flowers and fruits from the estate — that are used in the spa treatments. Additionally there are unusual artisanal products, such as Lola’s Apothecary bath salts from Devon and Amanda Serin’s (of A.S Apothecary) herbal alchemy, plus seaweed-fibre exercise gear and natural sponges.

As for the spa menu, there are exfoliating body treatments to honey-filled facials on offer. Plus therapists trained in everything from Swedish, Thai, Remedial, Shiatsu, Lymphatic Drainage and Biodynamic Bodywork, ready to offer bespoke massages. My therapist, Carrie (as in Caroline) offers me an Epsom Salts footbath, washing my feet with green tea soap. Then, with expert hands, she gives me a massage that combines myofascial release, energy work, acupressure and Swedish strokes.

She’s instinctive, and doesn’t work generically: the massage truly is tailored. It’s also relaxing, healing and, best of all —erstwhile ballerina that Carrie is — she enlightens me with (what proves to be) a spot-on tip about my feet (missed both by my doctor and a reflexologist) and the adverse impact my specific problem is having on my posture and musculature.

After my pampering, my BF appears, bleary and happy, declaring her massage excellent. Then we nip to the spa’s eaterie, The Deli — a place of Kilner jars, cold pressed juices, Ottolenghi-style salads and banana bread. We eat our wood-fired, stone oven baked flatbread ‘sandwiches’ in the sunny courtyard, my shoulders unhunched and my knotted back released. What’s not to like?

Further Information

Spa Day packages at Beaverbrook start from £240 per person – click here for further details. To read Caroline’s full review of Beaverbrook, click here.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

Escape To Beaverbrook By Caroline Phillips

It’s a Grand Cru classé of a hotel. Its quality akin to vintage Dom Pérignon meets grade 5 Wagyu beef melded with Iranian Beluga. First division, first class and first-rate, in other words. Such words of undiluted praise are rare for me, and I’ve been reviewing five-star properties for 30 years.

This is Beaverbrook, the luxury, country-estate hotel, spa and golf destination in the Surrey Hills, near Leatherhead, England. Until my BF and I arrived there, ‘Leatherhead’ just conjured up visions of rural suburbia. But despite being just 20 miles from London, the hotel enjoys an almost uninterrupted 18th century-style view: of the South Downs and the 470-acre Beaverbrook Estate.

Beaverbrook is the erstwhile home of Lord Beaverbrook, aka Max Aitken — politician (he served in both World War cabinets), press baron (he made The Daily Express the largest circulation newspaper in the world) and the man parodied as Lord Copper in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.

It’s a late-Victorian mansion — Classical meets Italianate with a bit of French château. Here in Cherkley Court — as ‘Beaverbrook’ was previously known — Lord Beaverbrook hosted high society, literary giants and world leaders. So it’s bursting with history although, according to staff, the resident ghost has left. Lady Beaverbrook outlived her husband by three decades (he was, after all, 31 years her senior); and after his passing, she reportedly lived mostly in her ‘bedsit,’ the now Dowager Suite. The mansion was unloved, the garden in ruins.

Beaverbrook opened late 2017, after a spend of £90 million and seven years. There’s a Jean Cocteau painted glass window that Lord Beaverbrook installed. There’s also the original cinema (at the time the UK’s first private one) with its Art Deco wooden panelling and period wall lamps — but now also with a vintage-look popcorn maker and super comfy, beetroot corduroy armchairs and pouffes.

It’s the room in which Lord Beaverbrook and his friend, Churchill, watched war newsreels when the former served as Churchill’s Minister of Aircraft Production in the Second World War. The Spitfire was conceived in this house — Lord Beaverbrook was famous for his appeal to the public for pots and pans to make Spitfires — and its motif is replicated on silver pins on the lapels of the cricket-jumper-clad staff and on the walls of the hotel.

So what about the rest of the house? The décor is by Susie Atkinson of Soho and Babington House fame. There’s an elegant morning room with plump sofas overlooking the Italianate garden; library with board games, roaring fire and tomes for or by previous guests, such as British Intelligence in the Second World War; plus a big hall with glass atrium, massive Gerhard Richter ‘Patterns’ tapestry and a grand piano scattered with framed photographs of Lord Beaverbrook, Cherkley Court and Winston Churchill.

It’s time to mount the sweeping staircase, the wall of which is adorned with Brian Clarke’s stained-glass spitfire paintings. The bedrooms and suites bear the names of illustrious people who’ve stayed here. They may not have slept up the drive in the reimagined Garden House (now a cosy place that also takes dogs) or in the former Coach House, but here in The House, well, that’s another thing….

There’s Noël Coward, Ian Fleming, Lady Diana Cooper, Bonar Law, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor, Neville Chamberlain, Jean Cocteau, Charlie Chaplin. Pause for awe. Then continue. David Lloyd George, Wallis Simpson, H. G. Wells, Somerset Maugham, Rebecca West, W. B. Yeats. Just 18 rooms. My favourite is Lady Diana Cooper’s with its claw-foot bath and four-poster.

Our bedroom bears the names of Joe and Rose Kennedy. It’s traditional with a twist — with lime fabric walls, a high chintz bedhead and glass chandelier. Plus a help-yourself bottle of Sipsmith sloe gin. There are books on the Kennedys and photos of ‘Joe’ (after using ‘his’ bedroom, I think I can call him that) with Chamberlain, plus Kennedy family pics. Our marble and mosaic bathroom has an open fire, early-edition Kipling books and Bamford toiletries of geranium and lavender.

We tear ourselves away only because we have a pasta lesson in the hotel’s Cookery School, up the suitably long drive, in the Garden House: a place tucked away beside a private walled garden and with the vibe of (yet another, this one designed by Nicola Harding) charming private English country house. The class takes place in a demo kitchen — which is reached through the hotel’s Italian restaurant kitchen — overlooking ancient trees and with a picture window for peeping into the professionals’ kitchen.

The Cookery School at Beaverbrook (image courtesy of Dan Jones)

It’s not obvious that chef Kaz Suzuki — Japanese, raised in New Zealand and now residing in England — should be a go-to person for teaching Italian cookery. But — as we make nuggets of homemade gnocchi and strips of pappardelle under his enthusiastic tutelage — it turns out that he is. If inspectors awarded Michelin stars for cookery lessons, he’d get one.

In the evening, the sound of jazz skips up the stairs to our bedroom. So we leave it again. This time for Sir Frank’s Bar — a nod to the grand old man of advertising, Sir Frank Lowe, who has put his stamp on Beaverbrook by dreaming up its Spitfire theme — with its 1920s vibe, gilded birdcage, parquet floor and putty-pink walls. Its tasselled lamps and teal velvet bar stools. And 250 paintings by inveterate Victorian traveller, biologist and botanical artist, Marianne North.

The crowd is gay (in the original sense of the word) and chic. It’s like being at a Flapper party, whilst being served spicy Japanese green peas for snacks. We also sip delicious mocktails of Virgin Kir Royale (blackberry purée, sparkling apple) and another made of hedgerow pickings, elderflower and the like.

Afterwards, we go to the Dining Room where Head Chef Taiji Maruyama serves modern, pioneering Japanese cuisine. Instead of stark lighting and cool lines, the room is warm and traditional: think soft seating, sofas and a chandelier. As for the chef, he’s ex Nobu, trained at Tokyo’s Michelin-starred Kojyu, is big on Kappo (a multi-course meal selected entirely by the chef) and is also a fan of molecular gastronomy. The meal alone is worth the drive from London (or Manchester or Edinburgh).

I can’t tell you about the dishes: the popcorn shrimp, the broccoli with kimchi, the rhubarb sorbet with lemon foam….because I’m busy today and I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from immediately jumping into my car to beetle back to Beaverbrook for a repeat meal. The same goes for the cactus-fed turbot, black cod, fatty tuna and Mochi ice-cream. Sorry.

After a sound night’s sleep — even though our bedroom curtains let in a teensy bit too much light and it would be nice if the door from the adjoining suite were to close with the sound of one hand clapping — I have a pampering treatment. It takes place in the Coach House, previously used for Beaverbrook’s Bentleys and now a spa. That’s excellent too – see here. And there’s little Zen about the place, with its water-blue, fern-green and poppy-red tiles and golden-leaves-on-stained-glass skylights by Brian Clarke. Plus there’s an indoor and outdoor pool and a hammam that’s looks like a Zaha Hadid-designed space ship (but isn’t).

I could go on and on about the wonders of Beaverbrook. About its staff who are professional and friendly (but not too familiar): the type who once glided solicitously around Annabel’s and Harry’s Bar tending guests’ every whim, before such establishments were bling-ified. I could harp on about their uniforms: the 1920s waistcoats, braces, flat caps. And all about the house being dotted, welcomingly, at tea time with cake stands and (serve yourself) plates of flapjacks. But I’m not going to.

Further Information

Address: Beaverbrook, Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8QX
Tel: +44 (0)1372 571300
Price: Rooms at Beaverbrook start from £385 per night on a room only basis, inclusive of VAT.
Website: www.beaverbrook.co.uk

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

Turkish Delight By Scott Manson

A D-Resort experience on Turkey’s coast proves to be the last word in peace and relaxation….

Turkey’s Dogus Group, owner of a string of high-end hotels throughout the world – from Villa Dubrovnik to Capri Palace – arguably has its most impressive properties closer to home. And while the Turkish economy on the whole is in a challenging position, it’s clear from a recent visit to D-Resort Göcek and another – the D Maris Bay on the Datça peninsula – that the group’s home-grown portfolio is doing very nicely.

With impressive occupancy rates, well-drilled staff and hotel environments that are nothing less than outstanding, it’s little wonder that both hotels have picked up a host of awards and glowing reviews since they launched.

We started at D-Resort Göcek, located in a pretty and peaceful coastal village situated around 20 minutes from Dalaman airport. It offers a gorgeous private beach and sits between the town’s two marinas in a tropical-type setting – helped by the importation of tons of powder-white Egyptian sand – among palm trees and azure seas, at the foot of pine-clad hills.

It’s an impressive sight, with huge superyachts bobbing around in those turquoise waters, and a bleached-blond wood beach restaurant serving up the freshest of local fish to diners. Admittedly, the sea was a little cold for swimming when we were there but, come the summer months, the temperature climbs to allow for hours of water-based fun.

The hotel’s 103 rooms are lovely, all decked out in a white and blue nautical theme, with distressed wood and well-appointed bathrooms being the order of the day. Some rooms even offer direct access to one of the hotel’s three long, rectangular pools.

Dining is also a delight, in any of its three restaurants. The international menu at Olive Tree is best for families, as there’s literally something for everyone. Elsewhere, the Q Lounge – a stunning spot sitting high on the hillside overlooking the sea – offers the best in contemporary Japanese cuisine. Breeze is a more relaxed affair, its whitewashed terrace perched over the sea, serving freshly grilled fish and meat dishes.

The next day saw us take a short transfer car ride to the secluded luxury of the hotel group’s flagship Turkey property – D Maris Bay. It’s hard to do justice to this fabulous place in words and pictures, as it has to be seen to be believed.

It sits on a cliffside above a glorious sandy beach and looks across to the magnificent volcanic coastline of the Bozburun Peninsula. Renovated in 2011 to an impeccable standard, it combines Turkish exoticism with cool minimalism in a perfect marrying of form and function. The secluded nature of the location – surrounded by jagged cliffs and hillsides lush with almond trees on the undeveloped and protected Datça Peninsula – means that the stresses and strains of the outside world simply melt away. Indeed, the only reminder that you’re not in an undisturbed slice of personal heaven is the occasional arrival of a helicopter, dropping guests at the hotel’s landing pad.

Although there are 200 rooms here, the sheer size of the property’s footprint means that it never feels too busy. The extensive facilities include five white-sand beaches (including one which allows neither music, phones nor children under 12), a water ski school, indoor and outdoor pools, four designer boutiques (the Orlebar Brown emporium was a particular favourite) and a hand-made jewellery shop. The Bodyism gym is also a welcome addition, with its helpful and skilled trainers on hand to help us shift some of the ‘holiday weight’ gained by indulging at many of the hotel’s fine restaurants.

There are five of these in total, with the fabulous Japanese Zuma being the pick of the bunch. We dined there several times during our trip, enjoying everything from beautiful black cod with miso to marinated chicken skewers grilled over burning coals.

Also worth a look is Rüya, serving Anatolian dishes and Turkish mezes; Nusr-Et (with a shisha lounge next door), part of the Turkish steak house chain owned by flamboyant chef and internet star Nüsret “Salt Bae” Gökce and Manos, a Greek taverna.

For daytime dining, though, make a beeline to La Guerite (which has sister restaurants in Cannes and St Barts) for seafood specialities served on a beautiful sundeck, with the sound of the waves lapping beneath you. This restaurant also has a daytime DJ playing Balearic classics, giving it a Ibiza-style feel – but thankfully without the raucous party crowds.

A lovely additional touch is that each beach, while accessible by walking along some quiet roads, is better reached by the hotel’s complimentary boat. There’s something rather lovely about arriving by sea for lunch and – even on those days when all we were looking for were some French fries, cheese and good bread for a light snack – the boat trip to our table made the moment feel extra special.

The rooms, too, go the extra mile. All are furnished with beautiful woods, cool marble surfaces, and sophisticated room controls. Each has a private balcony and a bathtub with a view – we loved watching the superyachts sail while we lay in bubbles sipping Champagne – and is stocked with toiletries created exclusively for D Maris Bay by the Italian perfumer and designer of Queen Elizabeth’s signature scent, Laura Tonatto.

A spa session raised my sybarite levels even higher, with a detoxifying massage in the Mytha spa helping to shift some of the bleary-headedness of the previous evening’s wine consumption. A dip in the hotel’s indoor pool followed this, as well as some additional water pummelling in the separate smaller pool with its variety of aqua jets.

And while it’s easy to spend all of your time checking out the many delights of this fabulous hotel, I’d recommend enquiring about a trip on the hotel’s impressive custom-made 100-foot yacht Pasa, available for charter and day tours. This can take you to isolated coves and pristine islands, or even the nearest fishing village, where you can enjoy a taste of traditional Turkish life.

But if you do manage to get out and about, then I take my hat off to you. Because the siren call of the hotel’s many pleasures kept us firmly rooted on-site throughout our stay. When you’re having this much fun then, frankly, why go anywhere else?

For more information about D-Resort Göcek, go to www.dresortgocek.com and for more information about D Maris Bay, go to www.dmarisbay.com.

Escape To The Park Hotel Chennai By Caroline Phillips

Think of a place of dreams that transports the viewer. Imagine its being in the erstwhile location of Gemini Studios, a leading Indian movie studio. Then picture somewhere that has cinematic themes incorporated in its décor. This is the five-star art-concept THE PARK hotel, Chennai (Madras). Its grand atrium is like walking on set, with its ‘stage’ the seating area — as if guests are part of the performance — plus there’s a huge screen onto which movie images are projected silently as dusk falls.

Around the hotel there are film stills on walls, movie posters, and rugs that recall movie spools and the world of celluloid. Even the roof-top is an elaborately designed set with its tented and canopied sun-beds lit by giant arc lights around the pool, and where guests have sunset cocktails and sushi overlooking the cinemascape of the city. Everything in this 214-room hotel situated in the heart of Chennai has been inspired by films, performances and screen sets.

Let’s rewind to the opening sequence. On arrival — after a pre-performance welcome drink of pomegranate juice and a bite-size cheesecake — someone from the reception desk (or is it really a ticket office? And is he actually an usher?) leads me upstairs. The lift has theatre-style curtains against its walls. As for my suite, it has a cantilevered ceiling, polished plasterwork walls, marble floors and….and lights, take one, and action….there are original images of Grahasti (a Hindi family drama) being shot at Gemini Studios and a dramatic four-poster bed fit for a movie star.

Beside the bed, there’s a surprise — the unexpected being a feature of the best screenplays — a test tube containing a gift of seeds: to encourage guests to plant trees. Behind another screen (this one’s made of clear glass) is the bathroom. In it there’s yet another unexpected twist in the plot — a little box of foot-care cream, luscious-lip-red nail enamel, and pure rosewater toner that smells like Ilsa’s (Ingrid Bergman) love for Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca. (Producer’s note: it’s Kama Ayurveda toner.)

Downstairs, at the breakfast buffet, there’s an international film festival of foods: in one area, there are the eats that could be the Tamil blockbusters (local specialities such as green pea paratha [bread], Chennai lentil stew and rice and lentil kedgeree); over there are art house offerings (think fresh watermelon juice alongside Karupati [jaggery coffee] served in South Indian tin cups); then there’s the La La Land breakfast screening (flax seeds, buckwheat and soya milk); and, finally, intermission snacks (of an ice cream bar and ‘wall’ of doughnuts). This is 601 — the hotel’s 24-hour restaurant. (For those who want yet more world cinema, there is also the Lotus for Thai and A2, by the pool, for truffle parmesan fries to tempura).

Back in the lobby, you’ll visit The Box, the hotel’s shop. Does it sell theatre programmes, Maltesers and popcorn? Or screenplays and posters of movie stars? No, it boasts an eclectic and stylish collection of bags to necklaces to pop-up Ganesha cards, mango chutney and Rajisthani cushion covers — like a romance, adventure, drama and fantasy film rolled into one. The hand-painted papier-mâché figurines of a wedding party are a must-buy. My Big Fat Indian Wedding, surely?

Further Information

For further inforamtion, visit www.theparkhotels.com. The Park Chennai is 17 kilometres from the airport (approximately 40 minutes’ drive). Hotel nightly double room Luxury Room rates per night are inclusive of breakfast, usage of swimming pool / fitness centre and complimentary Wifi from £160. Prices mentioned are exclusive of applicable taxes.

Special Offer:
The Romantic Getaway package offers couples a luxurious stay at The Park Chennai inclusive of flowers and a celebratory cake on arrival, a specially curated candle-lit dinner by the poolside, complete with a premium selection of wines. This exclusive room package is priced at £285.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

Sustainable Serenity – Escape To The Tongsai Bay On Koh Samui By The Luxury Channel

Surrounded by 28 acres of lush tropical gardens on a hillside on the north east coast of Koh Samui, the five-star Tongsai Bay resort overlooks a private beach lapped by azure waters. A total re-design of the Tongsai Grand Villas, however, means that guests choosing to stay in the newly re-named Tongsai Pool Villas can keep cool in their own private pool, with views across the beautifully kept grounds to the glittering sea below. Each villa has a terrace as spacious as the villa itself with outdoor bathtubs boasting breath-taking views across the Gulf of Thailand.

The Tongsai Bay is proud to be the first five-star green hotel on Koh Samui, as owner Khun Gob–Thanakorn Hoontrakul explains: “At The Tongsai Bay, trees are not felled, no insecticides or chemical fertilisers are used and humans are kind to animals. In keeping with this respect for nature, when we decided to add new swimming pools to our existing villas, we adapted existing structures so as to cause the least disturbance to the natural environment.”

The family-owned hotel works hard to protect and preserve the environment and while the newly upgraded Pool and Seafront Pool Villas retain the authentic and elegant features the resort is known for, with rich, dark wood complementing crisp, white linen, they also blend in harmoniously with the spectacular surroundings.

The Tongsai Bay used only eco-certified tiles surrounding each pool and bathtub on the villa terraces, with recycled wood used for flooring, doors and walls, and artificial wood to replace the wooden railings on the terrace. In addition, they also feature decorative artwork made from recycled ‘‘Nang Gong’’ wood.

Other eco-conscious elements include using drinking straws made from lemongrass and offering coral-friendly sunscreen – perfect for refreshing drinks around the pool while you sunbathe!

For more information, please visit www.tongsaibay.co.th.

All Aboard Fingal, Scotland’s First Ship Turned Hotel…. By Caroline Phillips

It’s not often that I get to sleep in a floating hotel. Especially not one that HRH the Princess Royal has been out to sea on. Nor one that’s a former Northern Lighthouse ship, once used for maintaining lighthouses and transporting their keepers and equipment through treacherous seas. And particularly not one that’s based adjacent to the former Royal Yacht Britannia. Welcome to Fingal, Scotland’s first ship turned hotel. Where once she was stationed at Oban, she’s now in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh.

My husband, Adrian, and I cross the gangway to board Fingal. She’s 237 ft long — from the golden trident on her prow to her stern and boasting smart livery of navy and red — and 40 ft in breadth. She used to travel at 15.25 knots, but in her new resting place of a working dock amid residential housing, there’s just a slight movement of the water beneath. The ‘ghosts’ of her erstwhile crew of chief engineer, coxswain, seamen, greasers and the like may still be here, but we’re greeted by a smiley receptionist with the Fingal trident on her pin badge sitting at a rippled sycamore desk.

A quick look around reveals that, whilst (to use nautical turns of phrase) Fingal may not be seaworthy, her fabric and equipment are in very good order — courtesy of Steven Flannigan, high-spec interior designer. Her lavish refit cost £5 million and took four years. (170 tons of steel was removed, including cranes; and two new decks were added). There’s a lift by reception that recalls the lantern of a lighthouse: multi-faceted, circular and glass. And everywhere we walk there are beautiful, high-quality surfaces, textures and designs: from caulked reclaimed teak floors to golden-brown iroko doors and cork on the staircase. Every contour, curve, slant, angle and tilt appears carefully considered. The design is all delightfully nautical in a superyacht, top craftsmanship and artistry kind of way.

There’s a grand, sweeping staircase and sycamore panelling in the former hold, now a triple-height ballroom — it even has a removable skylight — which seats 60. The erstwhile bridge room (which contains the Engineer’s Log ’67- ’73, ‘Overhauling fuel injectors….’ reads one entry) is now a private dining-cum-board-room and contains the original ship’s wheel. On the top deck, beyond the thick granite bar, the Art Deco-style restaurant has a glittering, beaten-copper ceiling that looks like water. And then there’s the glass walkway leading to the engine room and the state-of-the-art galley where once there were fuel tanks.

Once the accommodations on Fingal consisted of 40 cramped cabins: single ones for officers and double cabins for crew. The only en-suite was the master’s, who also had a separate dayroom and bedroom. Instead there are now 23 double, en-suite cabins, all named after Stevenson lighthouses (which were designed and built in the 19th century by the eponymous Scottish engineer).

Each cabin has an individual and original, bespoke leather headboard of a seascape — designed by Araminta Campbell, a Leith weaver, about whom more later — with the contours of the marinescape stitched into the leather around the relevant lighthouse: ours the sea contour around Hyskeir. One of Campbell’s plaid throws — also telling the story of land and sea — lies on the bed. A compass is embroidered into the suede above the bed.

The furniture is fixed, with no sharp corners. There’s a replica of a radio operator’s swivel chair (the original was bagged by HRH the Princess Royal). The cabinetry (think leather-faced wardrobe and minibar) is exquisite. Even the bathroom boasts brass light-fittings and wheel-handled taps, the sort of ship’s paraphernalia found in a chandlery.

Enough of the design, brilliant though it is. The real reason we’re here is for a short break in Edinburgh, one of our favourite cities. This starts (for us) with the joy of eating. This is lucky because instead of Fingal being used for relieving light-keepers, servicing of lighthouses and buoys, and landing of cargo, she too has retired to a life of pleasure. Or, at least, to offering a life of pleasure. And so to afternoon tea in the officers’ dining saloon — or is it the messroom? — aka the onboard restaurant. If we’re expecting scones and cream, we’re in for a surprise.

Yes, there are mixed fruit buttermilk scones with fresh clotted cream. But there’s also curried haddock arancini (think Sicily meets Delhi meets North Atlantic Ocean), Stornaway black pudding cartwheels and cream of white bean soup, alongside Earl Grey with Scottish Heather tea. Plus gluten-free millionaire’s shortbread, poppy seed and vanilla macaroons, and sandwiches, including smoked salmon ones. (Tea is £40 per head).

They smoke their own salmon aboard and use local suppliers, including a forager. Later at dinner, the ‘small’ plates are pleasingly big and simple ones, of hot oak salmon (och, aye, more) and a chocolate mousse with gold leaf. Instead of an engineer taking time off from effecting repairs to the deck crane’s hydraulics to have a cuppa, we’re served by a waitress. How times have changed.

Leisure time on board can be spent reading, lolling in whisky and soda scented bath gel-suffused waters (bag a cabin with a tub, some have only a shower) or wandering around the outdoor deck space. When we decide to jump ship, we find ourselves on the unattractive Ocean Drive near the Ocean Terminal Shopping Mall or it’s 10 minutes by taxi to the centre of town.

We visit some of the city’s obvious must-sees: Holyroodhouse, Arthur’s Seat (with its panoramic view), Old Town, the Castle, the National Gallery and (the small but perfectly formed) National Portrait Gallery. Then we hop aboard Britannia (home to Her Maj’s single bed) which is managed as a tourist attraction by Royal Yacht Enterprises, the company that owns Fingal. But there are also lesser-known delights. The Writers’ Museum — which presents the lives of the three foremost Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson — to Water of Leith, a 12-mile riverside walk through the heart of the city.

Soon it’s time for shopping. Araminta Campbell’s waterfront studio (by appointment only) is nanoseconds away from Fingal. Campbell draws her inspiration from the Scottish landscape, and her signature collection comprises one-off artworks, any weaving done on hand looms. She uses undyed British alpaca fleeces from animals whose names she knows. Her pieces are covetable but they’re not bargains — a blanket is £6000 and shawl, £1500. And who can resist a visit to W. E. Scott & Son for sporrans and Highland belts?

So back to the ship. Fingal used to negotiate the tricky tidal narrows beneath the Skye Bridge. At other times, the Chief Officer would con her through the Summer Isles on the approaches to Loch Broom and Ullapool. Or guide her through the waters to examine a beacon off Elie harbour. She also accompanied the Royal Yacht Britannia in Scottish waters during official royal visits. This is all no more. But with entry level cabins at £300 and the Skerryvore Suite at £1500 a night, Fingal provides a boutique (or should that be boatique?) hotel with a difference: one that offers ocean luxury in a dock.

Further Information

For further information and to make a booking, visit www.fingal.co.uk. To arrange car hire, visit www.holidayautos.com.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

A Breath of Fresh Ischia At Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa By Emma Oxley

Scents of jasmine and thyme, sundry blues of sea and sky, the coral tones of the torre basking in the sunlight and a sip of Campari spritz. A snap of the sensual moments at Mezzatorre, on the enchanted isle of Ischia.

Here is health and healing, with a hint of hedonism. Mezzatorre has its own fountainhead of therapeutic thermal water, springing up through volcanic rocks straight into its balneotherapy centre, overlooking the Gulf of Napoli. As of hedonism, it has it in spades.

Respiratory benefits are not the only fresh breath of air. The Pellicano Group has revived and revitalised The Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa, sharing all the Pellicano personality and understated glamour (sister hotels are Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, and the Rome retreat, Posta Vecchia). Ischia’s 50s heyday chic is a perfect fit with Il Pellicano style, the one eagerly captured by photographer Slim Aarons, the other firmly in the lens of film director, Luchino Visconti, who found his nirvana in the Mezzatorre park. His home, La Colombaia, sits just above the hotel’s cottages.

Truman Capote came to write here and found it a ‘‘strangely enchanted place,’’ which it is. As dappled sunlight falls between the pine trees onto the cool paths, and the Ischian sun splashes off the azure seas, you can imagine losing yourself in Mezzatorre.

The hotel is stylish with aristocratic restraint. Just as it is for sister Il Pellicano hotel, the real beauty is outside. Confident of this, the bedrooms are designed with neutral calm, and finished with eye-catching detail. This is typical of the work of the Italian tastemaker, Marie-Louise Sciò, daughter of the Pellicano hotelier family, and their appointed creative director.

Rooms in the tower have giddy views over Mezzatorre’s sparkling private cove. Guest rooms dotted throughout shaded paths in the park are full of the mysterious allure of this seductive isle. As you pass through the park, you can almost hear the laughter and footsteps of the creative spirits on their way between the bay and Visconti’s house.

Before the 50s, and Elizabeth Taylor’s love affair with Richard Burton while filming here, and long before Jude Law scootered through the back streets on his macabre destiny with Mr. Ripley, Ischia had a long and ancient history. The island was the first port of call in Italy for the Greeks, who brought vines, wines, and mythology. Zeus imprisoned the fire-breathing giant Tifeo beneath Ischia where he vents his anger, hence the hot thermal waters. The Romans followed, and built public baths to harness the steaming tears of Tifeo (Tyton, as they called him). Pliny and Virgil both acclaimed the healing waters, and so it has continued for 2000 years as natural spa aficionados seek out Ischia.

At Mezzatorre’s thermal spa, you journey through six heat and hydro experiences. Begin with a soak in thermal waters, that spring from the earth at a warm 38 degrees to ease aches and arthritic ailments. You lie on stone beds submerged in the water, meditating on the blue sea, as torrid bubbles pummel your body. There is a seawater pool which is specifically beneficial for respiratory ailments and tackling cellulite; I imagined this would be the one everyone would jump into, if all it takes is a warm soak to relieve you of a few spare inches! There is of course a sauna and steam room, and you finish with the Kneipp pool, walking over stones through hot and cold water alternately, invigorating your circulation.

Treatments include mud baths and seaweed wraps, and some magical pressure therapy, whereby you put on a pair of techno-trousers that compress and massage, but look alarmingly like Wallace and Gromit’s wrong trousers! The idea is to squeeze out the cellulite without you having to stop eating Mezzatorre’s food, or drinking all that delicious Ischian wine. There is an onsite doctor offering a comprehensive health consultation, prescribing treatments, diets and detoxes – this is a luxurious place to undergo the rigours of serious body therapy.

The food is naturally delicious, the catch of the day is bounteous, pasta is perfected. Chef Guiseppe comes from Ischia, and knowing every farmer on the island, snaps up all the freshest produce. Lucca at front of house is charm personified and a poet of culinary techniques; everything sounds interesting and irresistible. Wine pairings come from all over Italy – begin with Ischia’s Biancolella, redolent with citrus and sage.

Work it all off with a splash across the bay, which is almost a mirror image of Il Pellicano’s chic bay in Porto Ercole. A painted esplanade sits above the rocks where staff tend to your every whim. If you are more tender of nature, the saltwater pool is heated to a comforting 30 degrees. Then it’s back to the spa, this time through a door labelled ‘‘Beauty.’’ I gave myself up to an 80 minute Santa Maria Novella face treatment, praying the Florence pharmacy would take a decade off my features. I emerged, they assured me, more beautiful, but everything is relative. It was a pleasurable experience for sure and you felt you were in the hands of people committed to their profession. The loveliest place for a spa treatment, however, was their ‘‘pensatorre’’ – this is pure scenic rejuvenation, in the sunlight, and below you is the glistening blue San Montano Bay.

Apart from thermal spas, Ischia’s star attraction is the Aragonese Castle, and for some La Mortella garden which is a five minute drive from Mezzatorre. This was the home of English composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian wife, Susana, who was evidently passionate about tropical flowers. They had a glitzy set of friends and you walk along a narrow zig zag of ascending paths in the footsteps of Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Maria Callas. Throughout the summer, La Mortella stages al fresco concerts against the fabulous backdrop of the Forio’s bay.

Staying at Mezzatorre is a sociable affair. Attentive staff set a relaxed atmosphere with their good humour and a familiarity with the property. Many were brought up on Ischia and the Mezzatorre is very much part of the island’s legend. Meanwhile, guests are united by admiration of the view and a knowledge that you have discovered somewhere special, near Naples and Capri, but an entirely other world. It is easy to take a seat on one of their piazzettas, order a refreshment and strike up a conversation with the next table, but of course it can also be private.

Strolling along the paths for an evening rendezvous, I catch the heady scent of jasmine in the shrubs that fringe the steps, then a hint of thyme on my arms from the bathroom lotions. This is the delicious fragrance of Mezzatorre – inhale Ischia!

Escape To The Park In New Delhi By Caroline Phillips

‘Do not spit here’ and ‘Carrying tobacco products is prohibited,’ read the signs. This is the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib temple, New Delhi, India; a peaceful Sikh temple with acres of white marble and a gigantic holy bathing pool. Originally it was a bungalow for an important military leader of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. It’s as close to my hotel as, say, just 100 turbans rolled out end to end: call it half a mile. But let’s rewind. I’m staying in a hotel known for being Anything But Ordinary. There’s coconut juice, candies, comics and Wi-Fi in the hotel transfer car from Delhi airport. A welcome in the lobby by a sari-clad lady — with a dish of red powder on a rose-petal strewn copper tray — who places a marigold garland on me and a decorative Hindu bindi mark on my forehead. A lift with clouds on its walls and mirror on its ceiling: sort of Alice in New Delhi Wonderland.

Then a cool suite with a vibrant burnt-orange rug, pink glass-topped coffee table and original contemporary artwork of a scrap-iron Tree of Life — good taste that’s muted-funky, courtesy of Conran and Partners. Plus there’s a view so lofty that it’s worthy of an Indian deity: it’s of Jantar Mantar, the 18th century astronomical observatory with gigantic equinoctial sundial and other ginormous scientific instruments, in the park below. I’m staying at THE PARK hotel, New Delhi.

After breakfast of Masala Dosa (a South Indian rice and lentil pancake), I feel the urgent call for some jetlag busting: think massage and facial in the hotel’s Aura spa with its trough of floating marigolds, watery green walls, slate and teak….plus views over Lutyens’ Raj-era Delhi. A bare-foot therapist called Baby loosens my stiff joints with warm essential oils of sandalwood, rose and saffron, leaving me as supple as Shiva — the Hindu god who’s, inter alia, the master of dance.

It’s time then for a cram-in-everything-I-can-in–what’s-left-of-my-three-days jaunt: sightseeing, shopping, and eating. There’s no need really to go anywhere, or certainly not far: after all, THE PARK is located at the heart of New Delhi’s business and entertainment district. There is, in fact, no need to roam further than the 5-star hotel’s back garden — where there’s a small, weekly organic market: Delhi’s only farmers’ market. It’s a go-to place for ardent foodies, tourists wanting to pick up unusual gifts and natural-health seekers. Stall-holders chat about the health-giving properties of fermented black carrot and mustard seed, Moringa powder supplements — an antioxidant from the drumstick tree — and the anti-inflammatory, turmeric. It’s also somewhere to hit for food festivals and celebrations of local ingredients. Add to this my discovering a spicy Indian vegetable-pickling recipe there and having the chance to snack on an idlee (rice and lentil cake) whilst shopping, and it’s an experience that no foodie who knows her garam masala from her tikka masala would want to miss.

Next, I decide to venture further afield. Well, just a few steps behind the hotel. Here I visit the Hanuman temple, an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. (He is also known as the Lord of Celibacy and is one of the central characters in the Indian epic, Ramayana). Here, like all visitors, I’m required to take off my socks. Afterwards, an auspicious vermillion dot, Tika, is dabbed on my forehead by a priest. Then I join the barefooted folk in a temple full of incense, pungent jasmine garlands, tinkling temple bells and monkeys frolicking nearby.

Assorted cloths (image courtesy of Annie Spratt)

On a less spiritual note, the hotel is also seconds away from the stalls of Janpath Market with its wooden tribal artefacts, fuchsia saris, embroidered Rajisthani bags and silver trinkets. And moments from Connaught Circus with its colonnaded Georgian-style buildings, vintage cinemas and Oxford Bookstore — the last with its buzzy cha bar and good selection of books, including Indian art and architecture. These sights are all so close to the hotel that it’s tempting not to leave the immediate vicinity. But leave I do. After all, I never miss a trip to Shaw Brothers by Mifi & Mubi (in Defence Colony, about five miles from the hotel) for cashmere and silk shawls and pashminas sold in the colours of several rainbows and more — and costing thousands of pounds down to ones for tens of pounds. I go every time I’m in Delhi to this shop that was established in 1840.

Indian Accent at The Lodhi (image courtesy of Rohit Chawla)

I can’t miss a meal at Indian Accent at The Lodhi either — even though it has branches in London and New York too. This one is ten minutes by car from my hotel. Indian Accent boasts an inventive menu created by chef Manish Mehrotra, using local (often organic) and global ingredients. The six-course tasting menu (circa £40 for a vegetarian or non-veg option; mine’s the former) is the stuff of Indian gastro dreams.

Dal Moradabadi, and Butter Baked Scallops, Saffron Cream Cauliflower and Sago Crisp (images courtesy of Rohit Chawla)

I’m served a sublime dosa amuse bouche, potato chilla — like gratin dauphinoise but subtly infused with fenugreek and ‘painted’ with smoked eggplant curry — and Kashmiri morel with lotus roots scattered on the side like teeny cartwheels (but nothing’s twee or pretentious). Oh, and the anar (pomegranate) and churan (herbal powder) kulfi (sorbet) is a mouth-fizzling, salty/sweet digestive that sends me to paradise. Plus every plate is a pretty as an Indian miniature and as delicious as any Mughal emperor’s feast.

What are the other highlights? My driver negotiating the thicker-than-dense traffic and missing the Kamikaze rickshaw drivers by centimetres (note to self: start believing in reincarnation). There’s my visit to Lutyen’s New Delhi (named after the early 20th century British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who was responsible for much of the architectural design and building during the period of the British Raj, when India was part of the British Empire); driving past the colonnaded buildings of Connaught Place, the circular Parliament House and India Gate (the war memorial arch); and seeing holy cows sitting in the middle of the road.

India Gate (image courtesy of Annie Spratt)

There’s my trip through Old Delhi with the rickshaw driver cycling past the mid 17th century sandstone Red Fort — built by Emperor Shah Jahan — standing majestic and castellated against the blue sky; and the driver then pedalling through the spice market with its mounds of curry, chillies and ginger. “My rickshaw is like BMW with natural air conditioning, no?” he asks, squeezing his vehicle between buses, tooting motors and the human throng. He continues, oblivious of his perilous driving, past dentists and local doctors plying their trade on the pavement. On we venture to the bird market with its twittering merchandise in bamboo cages, and through the Meena Bazaar with its tools and hardware. Next we wend our way to narrow lanes of silversmiths and other alleys where merchants sell ribbons embroidered with gold thread and mirror work. Then on he pedals to yet another alleyway in which vendors are wholesaling fluorescent artificial flower garlands for temples and weddings.

It’s a relief after meeting most of the population of India in the alleyways of Old Delhi to chill again at THE PARK. This time I’m in Fire, its contemporary Indian restaurant with a curved bronze wall, strings of glass bead window dressings and its wall of roaring fire (of LEDs and Perspex) separating the restaurant from the bar. It’s an award-winning modern Indian restaurant that offers food that’s seasonal, diverse and 80 per cent organic. Plus it focuses on environmentally-conscious produce, and on farmers and artisans who practise sustainable methods and traditional food-manufacturing techniques: all the pioneering vision of the hotel group’s chairperson, Priya Paul.

My meal at Fire is like an Indian grandma’s home-cooked food but with a twist. As I eat a traditional thali — little bowls of Indian specialities — my dining partner, Sarah, tells me a little bit about the restaurant. This dish, she says, is methi — a seasonal green — with fenugreek for cleansing the blood; that one is paneer with pickled onions; and the other, a Keralan fish curry made with Bekkti fish. “During the Rice Festival at our farmers’ market,” she says, “the chef worked with 40 different kinds of rice.”

Then Sarah tells me about the cheese. I know about that Italian (Puglian, to be specific) speciality of double-cream mozzarella di bufala and stracciatella, known as burrata. But it has been reimagined here at THE PARK. Who would have thought that one Father Michael, a Catholic priest from Bengaluru (Bangalore), would make their delicious Indian buffalo burrata?

Anything But Ordinary, again, I guess.

Further Information

THE PARK NEW DELHI
For reservations, e-mail: resv.del@theparkhotels.com, or visit www.theparkhotels.com. Suites start at £149 plus 28% taxes per night.

CAROLINE PHILLIPS
Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

What’s On At Henley Festival 2019 By The Luxury Channel

Henley Festival, the UK’s most glamorous festival and winner of Headline Performance of The Year in 2016, returns to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames from 10th-14th July 2019. Many festival-goers arrive at the black-tie event by boat, champagne in hand, while the green lawns of the Festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision and fireworks explode overhead. The Luxury Channel brings you our guide of who we’ll be watching out for this year on Henley Festival’s famous Floating Stage.

Pop icon and mega star Boy George will open Henley Festival 2019 on Wednesday night. Universally recognised as one of the music scene’s most iconic artists, Boy George was recently presented with the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award. To date, he has sold over 100 million singles and in excess of 50 million albums as a performer and songwriter with 80’s super group Culture Club, and as a solo artist in his own right. This new-wave legend will bring his extravagant showmanship to Henley to kick start one of the UK’s most dazzling festivals.

On Thursday night, Henley Festival is delighted to welcome back multi-platinum selling artist Jessie J for the first concert of a three-year retrospective bringing back some of the Festival’s most popular artists. Since her last performance at Henley, Jessie J has cracked the US, written and released her latest album R.O.S.E and completed a hugely successful world tour, selling out shows across the US, Asia and Europe.

On Friday night, the Festival audience are in for a treat as Brit Award and Ivor Novello-winning songwriting sensation Tom Odell takes to the famous Floating Stage. With multiple awards and 1.8 million sales under his belt, the musical prodigy’s 2013 breakthrough smash, Another Love, and debut album, Long Way Down, topped the charts in the UK and in 2014, he made the top ten again with a cover of The Beatles’ Real Love, recorded for the John Lewis Christmas ad campaign.

In a Henley Festival first, Friday night’s performance by Tom Odell will be followed by a DJ set on the Floating Stage by the legendary Jo Whiley! Whether you were living it large in the 90s, wish it was still the 90s, or can’t quite remember the decade….Jo will be playing all the best tracks from the greatest decade for music – think Blur vs Oasis, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, The Verve, The Chemical Brothers, Faithless and a whole lot more. Undoubtedly, the biggest night out you’ll have all year. Hey boy, hey girl, superstar DJ….here we go!

Calling all dancing queens! If you love Mamma Mia! then Saturday night is for you, as Henley Festival welcomes the internationally acclaimed BJÖRN AGAIN show. Designed as a rocked-up, light-hearted, satirical ABBA spoof, the show rapidly achieved world-wide cult status and was acknowledged for singlehandedly initiating the ABBA revival which brought about ABBA Gold, Muriel’s Wedding and Mamma Mia! Hailed as “the closest thing you can get to seeing ABBA” by Benny Anderson himself, this brilliant band will be bringing the party direct to the Floating Stage.

Meanwhile, for those who like their music with a side dose of laughter, Henley Festival presents a stellar comedy line-up for 2019, set to be bigger and better than ever with the likes of Ed Byrne, Julian Clary and Andy Hamilton all billed to perform. The comedy line-up also includes a very special performance by Richard Herring, who will be recording the show for his podcast with Barry Cryer. Brit-pop era gem, performer and poet Murray Lachlan-Young will also present his latest stand-up brilliance at Henley, and after performing with the likes of Dita vo Teese and The Pretenders, his set is not to be missed. In addition, up-and-coming comics including Vikki Stone, Kai Samra and Luke Kempner will also be keeping audiences entertained. We can’t wait!

For more information, and to book tickets to attend this year’s Henley Festival, go to www.henley-festival.co.uk.

Escape To Venice Biennale By Elizabeth Parker

La Serenissima hosts its 2109 Art Biennale from 11th May to 24th November. Our mission was to see as much as we could in three days….

Anicka Yi at the Venice Biennale (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

There are hundreds of exhibitions all over Venice between May and November, but the Venice Biennale comprises the main exhibition, divided between the Giardini and the Arsenale, ninety national pavilions, and parallel events all over the city. Directed by Ralph Rugoff (of the Haywood Gallery in London), the event is called ‘‘May You Live In Interesting Times,’’ a suggestion that we may look on the alarming period in which we live with interest rather than just horror.

“The Shrinking Universe” by Eva Rothschild in the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Armed with sunscreen, umbrellas, and comfortable walking shoes, we set off to visit what is possibly the most prestigious art event in the world. We disembarked at the Giardini, as the crowds gathered in the morning sun. Our gargantuan task was an undertaking considerably enhanced by the illuminating leadership of Paul Hobson, curator and Director of Modern Art Oxford, who walked us through the international pavilion with his trademark humour, sensitivity and knowledge. What emerges as a dominant theme in the myriad installations (80 artists in all) is the Anthropocene – the period of time in which man has significantly impacted on his environment, arguably dating back to the Industrial Revolution – and we were caught up in the civil rights films of LA’s Arthur Jafa, the collage/paintings of Njideka Akunyili Crosby and many, many others, before emerging into a fog, as vapour poured off the pavilion’s roof and engulfed us.

Paul Hobson, Director of Modern Art Oxford (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Next to the national pavilions. Not for the faint of feet, scattered around the Giardini, here are some that caught our eye: Canada paying homage to it native Inuits with powerful video footage, and Brazil’s ‘‘Swinguerra’’ video comprising mesmerising dance routines, expressing the joys of its contemporary popular culture. Then the British Pavilion is a walk through Cathy Wilkes’ world of mysterious tableaux, with sombre figures and commonplace household objects under subdued natural light, offering a moment for contemplation.

Cathy Wilkes in the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

A visit to the Palazzo Fortuny was next. This large gothic palazzo, donated to the city in 1956 by Mariano Fortuny’s widow, has earned itself a reputation as one of the most sympathetic museum spaces in Venice. We were encouraged to take time, sit on a comfy sofa, and admire these beautifully curated interiors, dedicated to celebrating the works of Fortuny, Pere et fils, both masters of design.

“I’ll Be Your Mirror” by Joana Vasconcelos at San Clemente Palace Kempinski Hotel, at the Venice Biennale (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Next, a restorative Bellini in the gardens of the San Clemente Palace Kempinski Hotel, which is hosting some iconic large-scale works by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, including her giant Venetian mask made of mirrors. Accessed by private boat from San Marco, the island’s charming little 12th century church has been recently restored.

The restored church on Isola di San Clemente in Venice (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

The next day, we arrived at Saint Mark’s Basin just before the cannon shot to announce the beginning of the Vogalonga Regatta, in which hundreds of brightly coloured rowing boats of all sizes crowd into the laguna to take part in a 32km race round the island. Then on to the Arsenale, a complex of old shipyards and armouries, housing the second part of the Biennale. Standing alone is the wreck of the fishing boat which sank near Lampedusa in 2015, drowning more than 800 immigrants. Much has been said about this intervention by Christoph Buchel. Art or not art, this is a poignant reminder of the human cost inherent in the problem of migration.

The Grand Canal in Venice (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Weaving through the pavilions, Ghana Freedom is a triumphantly post-colonial collection of installations and paintings, while the Irish Pavilion of Eva Rothschild brings together four sculptural groups, each made of different materials (steel, resin, bronze) interacting with each other.

The interior of the Basilica of San Marco (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

As we paused at Caffe Florian (which opened in 1720!), under the arcades of Saint Mark’s Square, we looked on the splendour that is old Venice; the sumptuous Basilica, with its horses that date back to classical antiquity, and the statue of the Four Tetrarchs, brought from Constantinople in the 13th century.

Jean Arp at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Our last day comprised a trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, overlooking the Grand Canal with its exceptional permanent collection of 20th century art and a special exhibition of the works of Jean Arp, spanning sixty years of this founding father of the Dada movement, with his fluid sculptural forms moving seamlessly between abstraction and representation.

Jannis Kounellis at the Prada Foundation (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Lastly, we made our way to the Prada Foundation, to see a major retrospective bringing together the works of Jannis Kounellis from both private collections and museums. Magnificently set in the 18th century spaces of this historic Palazzo, these eclectic works are not to be missed. Happy and blistered, we returned home, blown away, as always, by the marvel that is Venice.

Sunset from the Lido in Venice (image courtesy of Annabel Yates)

Meanwhile, in London, award-winning artist and designer Es Devlin has been named as the Artistic Director for the third edition of London Design Biennale, taking place from 8th – 27th September 2020. Devlin is known for creating large-scale performative sculptures that fuse technology and poetry. For London Design Festival 2018, her luminous fluorescent red Please Feed The Lions installation roared AI-generated collective poetry to crowds in Trafalgar Square while The Singing Tree, a collective choral installation at the V&A Museum in 2017, merged machine-learning with sound and light. For 2020, Devlin has chosen ‘‘Resonance’’ as the theme, which over 50 countries, cities and territories will respond to in their installations and presentations across the entirety of the site. Devlin’s reasoning behind the theme is that everything we design and everything we produce resonates. We can’t wait to see it!

Mission Blue – The Luxury Channel Meets Marine Biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle By The Luxury Channel

For thousands of years, the world’s oceans have served the human imagination as a source of mystery and wonder. Indeed, it is often said that we know more about the furthest reaches of space than we do about the depths of our own blue planet! More than 96% of the biosphere is held within our oceans, and it is no exaggeration to say that human survival depends on their health. Yet from micro-plastics to over-fishing, the health of our oceans is very much at stake – and it is getting progressively worse.

Ahead of World Oceans Day on 8th June, The Luxury Channel spoke to marine scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle at the Royal Geographic Society in London. The President and Chairman of Mission Blue, Dr. Earle’s mission is to protect the blue heart of the planet. She is often referred to as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General” and is one of the world’s most eminent marine biologists, explorers and lecturers. She has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998 and was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I like living,” she tells us. “But we are doing things to our oceans that is going to make that very difficult – for all of us.” Dr. Earle’s frustration is evident. “We’ve changed the ocean,” she laments, “especially since the introduction of plastics. You see it coming back to shore on beaches all over the world.”

Image courtesy of Dustan Woodhouse

It’s not just plastic pollution that’s causing problems. Over-fishing is also adding to the list of human catastrophes that are contributing to the rapidly declining health of the oceans. “We thought [the ocean] could just keep on giving and giving and giving, so we built bigger boats and developed more sophisticated fishing techniques,” Dr. Earle says. But in explaining the devastating consequence of having done that, she does not mince her words. “We are killing our oceans,” she says simply.

“Can there be sustainable extraction of wildlife from the sea?” she muses. “First, we have to protect what we’ve got, and we’ve seen a decline of 90% of the big fish – tunas, sharks, swordfish. We need to give them a break. Everyone can be a part of the solution by thinking of fish as wildlife, and making choices so that fish are alive instead of on our plates!”

Image courtesy of Johnny Chen

Dr. Earle is, however, hopeful that things can change. “We know what we’re doing is wrong,” she says, “and because of that, we have the ability to get it right – but time is running out and we have to act now.”

Dr. Earle has subsequently founded Mission Blue, which she set up to create a global network of marine protection areas, called “Hope Spots.” These specific areas have been identified as being critical to the health of the ocean. The team at Mission Blue, under Dr. Earle’s direction, subsequently work to garner support and safeguard these areas. As of 2018, Mission Blue had created 94 Hope Spots around the world, and Dr. Earle leads expeditions to them. Past expeditions include Cuba, Belize, the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica and the Central American Dome and the South African Coast.

Gordon Radley, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Fiona Sanderson at the Royal Geographical Society in London

“Every diver, every person who gets in, on, around or under the sea should regard themselves as an ambassador, as a voice for those who have no voice,” Dr. Earle tells us. “Whether you’re a sailor, a surfer and certainly if you’re a diver, use your voice, use your knowledge. Who else is going to do it, if not you and if not now?!”

For more information about Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue, click here. See our reporter Gordon Radley’s video interview with Dr. Sylvia Earle here.

How Many Elephants – The Luxury Channel Meets Conservationist And Adventurer Holly Budge By The Luxury Channel

Holly Budge is the founder of How Many Elephants, an award-winning campaign raising awareness of the plight of elephants in Africa and funds for anti-poaching projects. A passion for fund-raising adventures has seen Holly gain two world records, including being the first woman to skydive Everest and race semi-wild horses 1000 kms across Mongolia in just nine days….

Your campaign, quite originally, seeks not to shock people with gruesome imagery, but rather to confront them with statistics – what prompted your approach, and why do you think conservation is so important?

How Many Elephants uses design to bridge the gap between scientific information and human connection in the field of conservation. My campaign is giving a voice to the critical African elephant crisis. Few people know the extent of the problem; 96 African elephants are poached each day for their ivory. At this astonishing rate, they will be extinct in the wild in the next ten years. I have turned this disheartening statistic into a powerful art installation that presents a physical commentary on the devastating impact of the elephant ivory trade, to raise awareness and funds to support anti-poaching projects. Part of the originality of this exhibition is in my approach to avoid gruesome and shocking imagery to portray the facts, because to actually see this data visually is very impactful. It is not about scaring people or assigning blame; it’s about raising awareness of the enormity of the poaching crisis.

Tell us about your experience working with the Black Mambas, the all-female front line anti-poaching team in South Africa?

I immersed myself with the Black Mambas to intimately learn what drives and motivates these pioneering women to pursue their multi-faceted roles as protectors, educators and beacons of hope. The Black Mambas’ work takes them away from their young families for weeks at a time, challenging the traditional status quo. Armed only with pepper spray and handcuffs, these women patrol hunting grounds of armed poachers who pose an imminent threat to the elephant species. They also strive to change attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond.

You’re quite the adventurer, but what made you first decide to step outside your comfort zone?

I started life as an adventurer at an early age and spent a lot of my childhood in the outdoors. When I was 21, I did my first skydive whilst backpacking round New Zealand and was blown away by the experience and the fact that people were getting paid to jump out of aeroplanes for a living. My career’s advisor at school definitely hadn’t mentioned that as a possible career path! I decided there and then, that was the job I wanted. Six months later, with lots of training, dedication and hard work, I achieved my rather far-fetched goal and became the third woman to work as a free fall camerawoman in Lake Taupo. On reflection, I refer to this as the ‘‘boldness of youth,’’ as when I set myself this goal, I knew nobody in New Zealand, I knew nothing about skydiving and I knew nothing about filming! But none of that mattered – I knew I could learn all the skills I needed to get the job. This gave me immense confidence and self-belief that I can try and achieve whatever I set my mind too. I love the outdoors and the adventures that go with it. Being an adventurer has allowed me to travel to some of the world’s remotest and most inhospitable places. I have met some hugely inspiring individuals on the way and I really love the unknown element of adventure and travel!

You were the first woman ever to skydive Mount Everest, something I didn’t even realise was possible! What made you decide to take on such a challenge?

As a skydiver, I knew skydiving next to the highest mountain in the world was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss out on. On October 6th 2008, I became the first woman to skydive Everest by successfully jumping out of a plane at 29,500ft, looking onto the summit of Mount Everest and getting a bird’s eye view of some of the most breath-taking mountain scenery before landing on the world’s highest drop zone at 12,350ft! It was an incredible experience. Jumping next to Everest – in excess of 140 mph – was a very different experience to any other skydive I had ever done and indeed, different to other high altitude jumps, because of the inhospitable terrain and conditions. The first difference, besides the exit altitude of 29,500ft as opposed to the normal 12-15,000ft, was the temperature. I was jumping in -40 degrees. To help with the biting cold, I wore a full-face neoprene face mask and a special insulated jump suit, so none of my skin was exposed. The second difference was jumping with oxygen. I had never jumped with oxygen before so this felt strange! I had oxygen in the plane for the 45 minute ascent from 12,350ft and then I switched to an oxygen bottle for the free fall. The third difference was the size of my parachute. It was three times the size of my normal chute but landed at the same speed due to the 12,350ft elevation of the landing area and the thinner air at that altitude. The last difference was the landing area. On two sides were 1000ft drop-offs to the valleys below. There were very few, if any, alternative places to land in this treacherous terrain, so it was imperative I made it back to the designated landing area. Thankfully, I made it back in one piece!

What challenges have you had to overcome to get to where you are today and how did you address them?

Listening to the naysayers who told me I lacked direction and purpose. Being an entrepreneur is tough; there is often no road map and sometimes this is hard to convey to others. It can be lonely too. I sometimes felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall and not making any progress but a small voice inside kept whispering, ‘‘keep going.’’ I did keep going and then started picking up momentum. Now I regularly receive public recognition for my work and I’ve learnt to be proud of the life I lead; being entrepreneurial, being an alpha female and living an unconventional life, rich in purpose, experience and passion.

What keeps you motivated when things get tough?

I’m going to answer this question looking through the lens of mountaineering. Life in the mountains is not for the faint-hearted! Everyday is a personal challenge and a reward. Keeping warm and in good health are up there but it’s the little things like feeling constantly grubby, putting grubby clothes back on after you do finally wash, valuing wet-wipes like gold, ridiculously bad hair days, broken nails, trying to accurately pee in a bottle in a tent in darkness, eating hairy spam, the list goes on! A positive mindset and an acceptance that nothing is perfect, normal or even comfortable at times is essential; however, the rewards are huge! The views, the fresh air, the intense sunshine are all spectacular but for me, the reward is knowing you can do it, knowing you can live for long periods of time very simply, without materialistic needs or familiar comforts and pushing yourself in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible before. Learning, growing and experiencing new things is my biggest reward.

What advice would you give to other women who want to have more adventure in their lives?

Think big, dream bigger and go climb your Everest, whatever that might be. Put in the time beforehand to get physically and mentally prepared so you know you can give it your best shot. I describe myself as sort of pretty normal, with a down-to-earth approach to life, and I do not consider myself to have a greater physical or mental advantage than most, so that begs the question – if not you, then who? If not now, then when? Act now!

Where is your favourite destination to escape to?

To the Himalayas. I could lose myself there for a lifetime; wandering, climbing, hiking, day-dreaming, sketching, writing and just being. I have spent a lot of time in the Himalayas already, with some big mountains under my belt, including Ama Dablam and Everest. I love the people, the culture and the energy.

Who inspires you and why?

I’m constantly inspired by people who are following their passions, as this takes courage.

For more information about Holly’s How Many Elephants campaign, go to www.howmanyelephants.co. Holly will be speaking at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 6th June 2019, sharing stories from the frontline of conservation – tickets are available here.

Farzi Cafe – Deliciously Different By Scott Manson

Scott Manson discovers how Farzi Café in London is reinventing our idea of Indian cuisine….

In a city that’s no stranger to experimental dining, a restaurant offering avant-garde interpretations of traditional dishes can often be a hit or miss kind of affair. After visiting London’s Farzi Café – packed to the gills on a wet Tuesday, by the way – I’m happy to report that it’s an outstanding success.

I’d actually attended the launch party – a glitzy affair full of celebs and influencers sampling great canapes while the DJ banged out house music. Fun, certainly, but it was hard to judge then how the restaurant might fare when the opening night buzz faded away.

The good news is that its combination of new gastronomic techniques applied to classic Indian cuisine really works – all housed in a quirky, chic setting. Its upmarket aesthetic brings a welcome dose of class to the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, a place better known for mega-bars and dawdling tourists. There are already several branches of Farzi Café in India itself, as well as Dubai, and the clearly deep-pocketed owners – the London outpost cost £4 million – must be relieved to see that this brand extension has proved popular with critics and customers alike.

And while it’s a beautiful space – although upstairs is definitely where you want to secure a table – the real draw is the food. We sampled what on first glance looked like traditional British fish and chips, but turned out to be Amritsari fish (halibut), a street food of Punjab, served with chips and a pea mash. A signature dish in the making, I’m sure.

The table also filled up with delights such as arancini – traditionally a Sicilian dish of rice balls. But these had been ‘‘farzified,’’ resulting in a far more exciting option of dal chawal arancini, bursting with dal and coriander, and served with aachar and chutney. A juicy wagyu seekh kebab also hit the spot, while more bread and several glasses of water were required after a spicy venison irrachi pepper fry was wolfed down.

Sadly, there was no room for their reimagined version of that Friday night favourite, the chicken tikka masala. However, the table next to ours ordered it and, from the oohing and aahing coming from them, it was clear that Farzi has another instant classic on its hands.

It’s refreshing to see a West End restaurateur mixing it up a bit and refusing to play safe. Farzi Café deserves its success – long may it continue.

For more information, visit www.farzilondon.com.

Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award – Celebrating Women In Business For Nearly Half A Century By The Luxury Channel

The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award has been celebrating exceptional women for the last 47 years (since 1972). With an Business Woman Award evening now held in 23 countries, the Award will open its doors in London on 23rd May 2019 at The Design Museum. Exclusive tickets for the evening will be available through application via Clos19.com for the very first time in the Award’s history.

The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award is the first and longest running international award, curating a network of the
most successful women in all aspects of business, mirroring Madame Clicquot’s own remarkable achievements.

Madame Clicquot, the legacy behind the iconic champagne house, was a businesswoman ahead of her time. An original trailblazer with an enterprising spirit, she demonstrated a unique determination in a time where very few women were at the forefront of business. Madame Clicquot created the first vintage in 1810 – an astonishing milestone in her era – and went on to continue her pioneering work, paving the way for future businesswomen.

Her innovative thinking and spirit encapsulate the meaning behind the Award’s three categories – The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, New Generation Award and Social Purpose Award. These act as the starting point in the search for the best female business talent in the UK, which is curated by a panel of high profile achievers including Cassandra Stavrou, Founder of Propercorn, Vanessa Kingori, Publisher of British Vogue and Moira Benigson, Founder of The MBS Group.

The renowned Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award has previously honoured some of the UK’s most outstanding business women – from Liv Garfield, CEO at Severn Trent and formerly the FTSE 100’s youngest female CEO, to luxury fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch, to the renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid.

Hosted by Veuve Clicquot CEO, Jean-Marc Gallot, this year marks a new format for the iconic event, with the panel of winners hosted through a new ‘‘in conversation’’ format. Guests of Veuve Clicquot will thus have the opportunity to inspire and be inspired on the evening with a line-up and gathering of remarkable business talents.

To apply for tickets to this year’s Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, visit www.clos19.com/VeuveClicquotBWA.

Fashioning Our Future By The Luxury Channel

The recent Fabric of Life Series, designed to highlight people and projects working to save species and ecosystems threatened by the fashion industry, was organised in order to provide a better understanding of the threats that the current fashion supply chain presents to people and nature, and to introduce innovative solutions to address these threats. In this piece, Jessica Sweidan, Founding Trustee of Synchronicity Earth, tells us more….

The Future Fabrics Expo, organised by The Sustainable Angle

What was the rationale for focusing on fashion through the Fabric of Life series?

With Fabric of Life, we wanted to create space, alongside experts, to dive deep, and reflect on how our everyday choices are directly related to nature. In a way, fashion is a brilliant metaphor for our current relationship to nature. On the one hand, it shows how rampant consumerism – our desire for more – has had a profoundly negative impact on the natural world: wetlands polluted, ancient forests levelled, major bodies of water dried up through overuse of chemicals for treatment and dyes, wood pulp for fibres like viscose, and our beloved, but very thirsty, cotton. These impacts – unless brought to the fore – remain in the back of our minds.

On the other hand, there is growing awareness about fashion’s negative impacts, and a desire to change. Designers, retailers, mills – everyone along the supply chain – is having to alter their approach. For me, fashion tugs on many aspects of what needs to change across society – across the globe – if we really want to realign ourselves with nature.

What do you think our relationship with fashion tells us more broadly about our connection to the natural world?

I think it shows us that we take much for granted. Where once our footprints were small by virtue of much simpler lifestyles, now industry, travel, technology and wealth have changed all that. We are operating way beyond our means, often without even knowing it. Over-consumption has become normalised, and our values and identities have changed in the process. We’ve lost sight of the origin of things – of where everything we eat, touch, use, and put on our bodies – comes from. Simple connections have been disrupted, but I think there is a movement towards seeking value. Change is afoot – and it fills me with hope.

When people think of fashion, they don’t necessarily think of forests or freshwater. Do you think there is a general lack of understanding of where our clothes from, or do people just not care?

I think very few take the time to think about where our clothes come from. Systemic, ‘‘join-the-dots’’ thinking is, very sadly, not the norm. Whether that is by choice, or the result of a lack of education, I don’t know. I also think that there is a general, convenient belief that responsibility lies in the hands of business or government – which is true, of course, but it negates individual responsibility. We live in a demand culture. Up until recently, supply has always felt endless but over the past two decades, the combination of rising wealth, rising population and the power of what we might call ‘‘fast fashion’’ driven by social media, has created an exponential increase on the demand side. Now, it’s catching up with us – the pressures on the supply side are wreaking environmental havoc. It’s time to join the dots and re-examine our habits.

The language of hidden costs is really interesting. I find that the moment we take the time to consider the details, to expose the hidden costs – say of cotton’s impact on freshwater – we feel empowered because we have learned something. Creating many more opportunities for that kind of empowerment is how our systems will move. That’s how we shift people to care.

Image courtesy of Becca McHaffie

How does the work done by the Fabric of Life series fit in with the core work that Synchronicity Earth does to address high priority but neglected conservation challenges?

Synchronicity Earth funds the gaps – areas that urgently need our attention, but often do not have our attention. This kind of engagement aims to highlight those areas that need our attention, by showing how the things that we are more engaged with – like fashion and food – are directly linked. Our biggest challenge as an organisation focussed on halting the loss of nature, of biodiversity – the fabric of life – is attention. With all the wonder and beauty that makes up the natural world, one wouldn’t think that holding people’s attention, and getting people to care – and act, and give – would be so difficult. But it is. By ‘‘bringing it home’’ and making it relevant, my hope is that we can start to create a groundswell of support for our work. The more support we receive, the better suited we are to support our partners on the ground, across the world, who without organisations like us, might remain in the gaps.

What kind of influence do you think conservation and environmental organisations can have on such a huge industry – on its stakeholders and its shareholders – and how?

I think the point is that NGOs are having a major influence on industry – fashion and otherwise. I don’t believe that industry leaders and their shareholders are so naïve to not know that certain change is inevitable – it’s more like a matter of when they will have to adapt. NGOs help accelerate adaptation; they play a crucial role. Campaigning organisations like Greenpeace do an enormous amount of in-depth research and investigation before calling out a manufacturer or a well-known brand. By the time they are shouting from the streets, businesses are more than well aware of what’s at stake.

NGOs are like the sand in an oyster – the grit. Without organisations like Fashion Revolution, who would be addressing the human rights abuses in garment factories? Or take our partner in the Fabric of Life Series, Canopy – they are actively engaging with the fashion industry to address environmental threats at every stop along the fashion supply chain and achieving great success. I would only add that we need much more support for quality NGOs, which is of course, one of the primary reasons Synchronicity Earth exists.

Did you have a personal highlight from the series?

That’s a tough question. The curator in me was delighted to be able to deliver incredible expertise across the six months. I also always love watching people learn – and seeing the pennies drop. Hearing the gasps, and the shudders when new knowledge lands, almost shifting people, physically. I am also thrilled that we are forging new alliances with businesses like Kering and having deeper conversations with other major brands about their impact on biodiversity.

As the Fabric of Life series evolved, something became very clear to me: to conserve the natural world, we need to operate on two time-frames – the short and the long term. In the longer term, businesses have to clean up supply chains, and individuals have to change their behaviour. There are tangible signs of long-term change and generational consciousness shifts already in our field of vision. However, there is a significant gap for funding and attention in the short term. It is imperative that we protect intact nature and restore vital ecosystems, now. As Sir David Attenborough said recently “what we do in the next 20 years will determine the future for all life on Earth.”

For more information about Synchronicity Earth, visit www.synchronicityearth.org.

Taking The Green Route: The Best Road Trips For Electric Cars By Gideon Parirenyatwa

With the weather turning for the better, many of us are thinking of taking the top down and hitting the open road. A popular bucket list feature, a road trip is a great way to explore without having to worry about public transport – it also means you get to see the world at your own pace. Road trips have always been the best way to travel cross-country while exploring epic views along the way – but with petrol and diesel cars soon becoming a thing of the past, are these trips under threat?

In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) being sold due to the UK and a number of sustainable countries around the world setting goals to ban all petrol and diesel cars on the road. So, can EVs save the iconic road trip?

As a result of environmental awareness and developing technologies, the road trip of old is evolving into something more fully charged. Comparethemarket.com has put together a list of the best road trips to take in an EV, so you can explore new destinations while keeping your carbon footprint at a minimum.

The Best Road Trips For EVs

Africa – South Africa is known for its cultural diversity and some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Taking a road trip from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth offers stunning sights of Jeffreys Bay, Knysna, and Mossel Bay. Spanning 465 miles, it takes around eight hours to complete, and your EV will need around two charges with ten charging locations available along the route.

Asia – Explore Japan from the comfort of your car, along with the incredible views Osaka and Tokyo have to offer. Taking around six hours to complete, enjoy views of a modern metropolis from neon lights to skyscrapers, and natural wonders such as Mount Asama. There are 250 charging locations along the route, and this road trip only requires one charge.

Europe – With over nine different road trips to take in Europe, Porto to Lisbon will be a vibrant and memorable trip – offering the best sights, food and coasts Portugal has to offer. Enjoy 195 miles of driving through one of Europe’s most charismatic cities, stopping in Coimbra and Alhandra along the way, and takes less than three hours to complete. With 189 charging stations along the route, you’ll have plenty of choice for the one charge needed to complete this trip.

North America – No list is complete without the famous American road trip; the iconic route of Chicago to Los Angeles (known as Route 66) stretches over 2,015 miles. It takes around 30 hours to complete, with over 250 charging points along the route, which takes in iconic views of Iowa, Denver, Colorado, Utah and Las Vegas.

The Best EV Cars

The Tesla Model S 100D Dual Motor AWD was found to be the best EV for the highest range, with the Volkswagen e-Up! and Renault Zoe R110 ZE 40 having the shortest charging speeds. Meanwhile, research reveals the Hyundai Ioniq Electric gives one of the best ranges for cost per mile and charging time.

Powering Ahead – EV World Leaders

Who are the world leaders when it comes to electric vehicles? Well, the United States takes the lead with over 17,680 charging locations and 29,252 charging stations. Also, home to the renowned automotive and electric car brand, Tesla, the country has seen a surge in the number of EV sales – in 2016, there were 157,117 plug-in hybrids and electric cars sold in the USA compared to 2018, when there was 361,307 (an increase of 129%).

Whilst across the pond takes the lead on the number of stations, Europe is actually the world leader for EVs, with eight countries featuring in the top ten overall. Germany has over 11,802 charging locations and 28,967 stations, with the United Kingdom following behind with 6,959 charging locations and 10,553 stations.

For further information about taking a road trip, click here.

Electrifying News – The Vespa Elettrica Is Unplugged In London By The Luxury Channel

Vespa’s first ever electric scooter model is now available to buy in London, exclusively from BMG Scooters….

Of course, Vespa had to get on track and design their first ever electric scooter – it was just a matter of when. With 70 plus years of history, the brand has always been forward-thinking when it comes to creating stylish, design-led motorcycles, and so it’s no surprise that they have released an electric vehicle, which launched in the UK at The Westbury Mayfair Hotel as part of London Craft Week. Increasing consumer demand and an upward trend for electric road models have meant Vespa is at the forefront of the motoring game once again.

The all-new Vespa Elettrica is symbolic of the brand’s positioning and potential for the future. Maintaining the sleek and iconic design profile that Vespa is well- known for, the electrically charged model is a much-anticipated addition to the brand’s current range of scooters.

Since launching in 1946, Vespa has become a pioneer in the transport industry. Their first model, the Vespa 98, was an overnight success and changed the Italian way of travelling on two wheels, forever. Vespa has been manufacturing scooters and bike models for lifestyle and sporting purposes ever since.

The Elettrica allows three different driving power modes, and it can be switched to “extender mode” to run the generator non-stop as needed. These features make the Elettrica a flexible, secure and very convenient ride for every type of motorist, and works around what a rider needs at any given moment, whether it’s taking a leisurely drive to enjoy the open road, or handling the bike through rush hour in town.

The Elettrica can go 5 days without needing a charge and in fact only takes up to 4 hours to fully charge again, meaning it can be left to charge while you pop to the shops, or even be plugged in to charge at a hotel while you’re out exploring the sites on foot. It is also completely silent, but because safety is paramount to the manufacturers at Vespa, the Elettrica makes a courtesy beep as and where required, to ensure that you can be heard and are safe, and to let other motorists know that you are there.

Not just sleek and silent, the Vespa Elettrica is also an ecologically and technologically advanced vehicle – and it’s smart. The many features offered include the multimedia system that connects a smartphone to the vehicle, so it can be managed through an interface incorporating a digital instrument panel with a 4.3 inch colour TFT display.

Connecting the dedicated Vespa App to the vehicle allows you to take full advantage of the capabilities of the TFT display. The system enables riders to use the handlebar buttons to answer calls and use the smartphone’s voice commands to make calls or play music. Of course, the predisposition for connection to the outside world is not limited to the various Infotainment functions. Thanks to the Vespa App, once connected to the Vespa Elettrica, your smartphone becomes an exceptional source of real-time vehicle information, including trip time, distance covered, battery life, statistics on the last 30 trips, and much more besides. Meanwhile, the Elettrica’s remote control key comes with an in-built “Bike Finder” feature (which flashes the turn indicators) and the inside of the back plate compartment contains a USB socket for charging your smartphone on the go.

The Vespa Elettrica costs £6,240 and with the 20% PIMG (Plug In Motorcycle Grant), it costs just £4999. The Elettrica is available in London from BMG Scooters exclusively – visit the showroom at 416 Upper Richmond Road, London SW14 7JX, or call +44 (0) 208 878 8121. For further information, click here for details.

Escape To Saline Reef In St Lucia – A Villa With Wow! By Emma Oxley

Because my husband insisted on navigating with his smartphone, we ricocheted around St Lucia’s high class Cap Estate, rolling into villas that looked less than the luxury we anticipated, until he eventually referred to the easy to follow instructions provided, and we found Saline Reef. Walking through the door all irritation evaporated in a puff of wow! This villa is knockout. Double height white walls open onto vast views of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, at the northern most tip of St Lucia.

All is surrounded by a gorgeously designed garden, brimming with bougainvillea, mimosa and bird of paradise flowers. Tall palms rocket into the sky; ferns and foliage make a lush fringe. A two-tiered pool shimmers in the brilliant sunlight and hummingbirds dance freely.

Two spacious, airy bedrooms have terraces hanging over the cliff top, with one more nicely designed double room. The terraces were my favourite spot – you can lie on deeply cushioned rattan and listen to the waves rush up the rocks 20 metres below, gently fanned by palm fronds around the balustrades. In the morning, sun sploshes on your feet; in the afternoon, it tans your shoulders. In the evening, it makes a spectacular show on the horizon.

The villa is fully staffed; Oliver is the gardener, Alfie the ebullient handyman with a smile as bright as the sun, and Angel is keeper of the house. Luxury accessories include pristine white waffle dressing gowns, guest slippers, rich body lotions, fresh flowers in the bedrooms, plush bathroom towels, pool towels and beach towels. All is deeply, deeply comfortable, like a first class hotel, beds stretched and crisply cornered at some discreet moment, the house immaculate. James Bond posters line the corridors. It really has claim to that style, but with no excessive flash.

Hard decisions were made every day. Where to have sundowners? Maybe in the gardens on the loungers, seated on soft manicured grass. On the verandah in a cushty rocking chair. On a recliner by the stylishly lit pools. Unless you turned your head to a wall, everywhere in the villa had magnificent tropical sea views. Drinks were usually a delicious punch, with Caribbean rum, mixed with a little more fruit juice than rum, a dash of angostura bitters, splash of grenadine, slice of citrus, lashings of crushed ice dispensed from the fridge and stirred.

Most mornings, we made small safaris to nearby beaches along the north west tip. A ten minute walk beneath Saline Reef is the BodyHoliday’s beach; it is a public beach, though prinked and perfected for the upmarket clientele. There is excellent waterskiing and good snorkelling on shallow reefs with plenty of fish to follow. A ten minute drive away is Pigeon Island, where you can pay to go into this park to hear about St Lucia’s history, but we were here for the Vitamin D and sea, so we flaked out on the adjacent stretch of soft white sand.

Our favourite beach was Smugglers Cove, a five minute drive from Saline Reef and 92 steps down to the sand. There was good snorkelling on both sides of this intimate bay, not colourful coral, but plenty of interesting fish. We whizzed down for a morning refresher, then back up for breakfast of fresh fruit, and Lavazza that we’d brought from London. Hummingbirds, Antillean Bullfinch and singing Carib Grackles flitted about, picking up crumbs from the table, or the more bold from our hands.

Angel will shop for you and prepare lunch, laying out salads, hams and cheese. Her rum punches are often noted in the guest book – after one, we had a lie down and all of us lost two hours of our day. Angel will also prepare dinner, leaving it for you to warm up later, perhaps a curry, or she will marinate some fish for the Werber barbecue, caught fresh and delivered by Captain Duke.

The BBQ terrace lit by storm lanterns is deliciously escapist, the vast seas are silvery in the moonlight, and the sound of crashing waves adds vitality. After dinner, sit back for some star gazing.

There are a variety of spots nearby to dine out. The Naked Fisherman on Smugglers Cove is fabulously placed, and we had a sea food dinner with the sand beneath our toes, listening to chilled Caribbean tunes. Above is the more sophisticated restaurant at Cap Maison; take a seat on the terrace and you can see your glamorous home at Saline Reef. Rodney Bay is lively, with streets of eateries. On Friday night, we went to the Gros Islet ‘‘Jump Up,’’ when the streets come alive with pop-up bars, music and barbecues. Their most famous place to eat is at Duke’s by the sea shore – queue up for a box of delicious grilled fish, rice and tossed salad. Or pick up a dish just as good in the next street from somewhere a little less well-known.

Afternoons were spent on one or other of the beaches, or playing backgammon by the pool, legs swishing through the water. My husband raved about the golf lesson at the St Lucia Golf Club next door. We nearly ordered in the villa’s beautician for a pedicure and massage, but really it seemed a shame to squander any spare time sunning and swimming.

Our experience at Saline Reef was all blue sea, sandy beaches, and indolent afternoons but on the trip to and from the airport, we took time to explore St Lucia’s lush green rain forest areas. Driving to Soufriere, we admired the magnificent beauty of the Pitons. These two defunct volcanoes stand in proud outline above the west coast, now a UNESCO site. You can climb Piton Gros, which takes about two hours up and an hour down, while Piton Petit is a much more challenging hike. The road snakes through the rain forest, fringed by impressively large palm fronds. We stopped off at the Fond Doux Estate for a guided walk through the plantation and gardens. The guide showed us their cocoa beans drying on vast tray drawers, cinnamon trees, glorious colourful crab claw plants, nutmeg with red mace laced around the nut and the Sour Sop tree, the leaves of which make tea that apparently sends you off to sleep instantly.

There are bungalows in the gardens and swimming pools, and it looked like a delightful place to stay if you want to immerse yourself in St Lucia’s tropical greenery. On the east coast, we visited the Tree Tops adventure park, where they were charging 85 USD for a zip wire, but a walk through the rain forest bursting with tropical growth was fascinating and free. The renowned Latille Waterfall was a little short of excitement, perhaps just 10 metres high, with a murky pool you’re invited to dip in. We did so briefly, but imagined boa constrictors lurking below! There is also a pool to drop your feet in for a ‘‘piranha pedicure.’’

Time came too soon for our final evening cocktails at Saline Reef. We chose to sit on our turret terrace. I loved this rare situation; it felt like the foredeck of a yacht, sailing off-shore in the wide ocean, the sea so large, the waves hushing below. The horizon seemed to fall away ten miles distant – without knowing better, you could imagine it being the end of the world. The breadth of our view, where the Caribbean merged with the Atlantic Ocean, must have been 30 miles. Fregate birds glided above, white tufts shifted on the inky sea surface. I searched for the flip of a whale’s tail, which have been spotted, and watched yachts race home on a broad reach. As the sun balled up red, it dripped out of the clouds like a pear drop, swelling slightly on the sea and slipped behind the horizon. The sky turned all sorts of colours, and we toasted it with rum cocktails.

My lasting memories are of blue seas, white surf on the rocks below, starry skies, tropical flowers, exquisite hummingbirds, rhythmic songs of crickets and cicadas, fragrant jasmine and a breeze in the palms. Staying at Saline Reef, you feel touched by every element. It is a first class view of St Lucia’s natural beauty in a first class villa.

Book a stay at Saline Reef through www.tropicalvillas.net, or e-mail reservations@tropicalvillas.net.

Diving Into Bahrain’s Past By Ramy Salameh

Bahrain National Museum – Model of Old Dhow Boat

Vintage sepia photographs, part of a permanent display dedicated to the history of pearl diving at the Bahrain National Museum, was an ideal starting point to understand this cultural heritage. Displays give an insight into the design of the timber Dhows, the basic dive equipment used and of course, the men who crewed the boats for months at a time. The few grainy images available, show every muscular sinew visible across the diver’s torso, created from a life below the waves, and based on a diet of fish, dates and rice.

Standing aboard a small motorised yacht, squeezed into dive suits, surrounded by all the modern paraphernalia of seafaring, ready to head out in search of pearls, was some way off the experiences of the original Bahraini Pearl Divers; even if one only stepped back to the early 20th Century, comparatively recent history, for an industry that can be traced back 4,000 years.

However, where our two worlds collided, was the frisson of excitement created, when diving for and ultimately opening an oyster shell in pursuit of this most coveted and lustrous gem, a feeling which cannot have changed across millennia. Similarly, the symbolism of owning a ‘‘natural pearl’’ formed part of the magnetic pull to the oceans, for all those involved.

Ready To Dive

In earlier times, Bahrain served as the centre of the world’s pearling trade, and Bahrainis have been diving for pearls for thousands of years. It was a main industry here, right up until the 1930s when the discovery of oil and the arrival of the ‘‘cultured pearl’’ from Japan, combined to consign this unique tradition to a bygone time.

Today, pearl diving forms a key part of the Island Kingdom’s cultural identity, and a means for visitors to delve into Bahrain’s heritage, both off-shore and along the ‘‘pearling trail;’’ the collection of sites, in the former capital of Muharraq, was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2012. The narrow alleyways of white-washed facades, and heavy-set carved wooden doors, serve as a portal linking this rich heritage with a new cultural future.

Pearling Trail Along The Narrow Alleyways of Muharraq Old Capital of Bahrain

The majestic Dhow boats would have left the coastline to some fanfare, with the crews singing Bahraini folkloric songs led by the chants of the ‘‘Nahkam,’’ following the regular beat of the drum, an instrument still prevalent in the music of Bahrain to this day.

We set out from Bahrain Yacht Club’s marina, following a specific curved channel to avoid the reefs and shallow water, to an area south of the Amwaj Islands. A strong breeze created a lively surf, which crashed into the hull of the boat throwing up salty spray. The name ‘‘Bahrain’’ derives from two Arabic words – thnain Bahr, meaning ‘‘two seas’’ – which refers to the existence of fresh water springs located under the sea bed. This phenomenon is believed to be responsible for the unusual lustre of Bahraini pearls. After a 15-minute journey, covering 8km, our pearl diving guide, Ahmed El Helaly, motioned for the boat engines to be put in neutral, as he peered into the water, before indicating we were at the location. The anchor was dropped, engines switched off and the lapping of the water against the hull was the only audible sound. In former times, Ahmed would have been known as the ‘‘Nokhatha’’ or captain, who earned his position by his expertise at finding the best pearling banks, called ‘‘hayrat.’’

Ahmed El Helaly Explaining How Oyster Pearls Form

With the winds picking up, our Captain quickly put his flippers, tank, mask and weight band on. He slipped a yellow net-bag under his belt before arching back and falling into the water. As we waited for the diver to resurface, thoughts returned to the national museum, showcasing the original equipment used by his predecessors. Dive suits would have been replaced with a cotton sarong-style cloth, the mask with a ‘‘fetatn’’ nose clip, gloves with ‘‘khabat’’ finger mounts, to protect against sharp coral and then stones were tied to the waist. Finally the ‘‘dayyeen,’’ a net basket, strung from the neck, would have signified the diver was prepared and ready to go.

Some minutes later, our Nokhatha appeared from the depths, his net peppered with a handful of oysters. Back on board, he explained how the pearls are created: “natural pearls form when an anti-body, some form of parasite, manages to work its way into the oyster’s hard shell,” he said, holding the freshly collected oyster up to the sunlight. “Like our own bodies, a defence mechanism kicks in and the oyster secretes a fluid that is used to coat the irritant, called ‘nacre;’ the continual layering of this coating gradually forms the orb-like pearl in the shell” he continued.

Entering The Water

With our turn imminent, we all prepared masks, snorkels and weight belts. Gingerly, we entered the water, and our Nokhatha now became our dive guide, leading us to the seabed; in former times, the diver was known as the ‘‘gais,’’ but his life depended on the ‘‘saib,’’ his rope-tender, who was responsible for pulling the diver to the surface at the right moment and quickly enough to prevent drowning. The gais would dive around 8 times in 15 minutes, in depths of 9-12m, from dawn until dusk.

With visibility near to zero and after just two attempts, it was decided to leave our Nokhatha and his breathing apparatus to collect the majority of the molluscs.

Ahmed Returns To Boat With Oysters

The strong current played a game of tug-of-war with our limbs, but once back on board, we traced the location of Ahmed from the bubbles piercing the surface at regular intervals; after 20 minutes below the surface he returned to the boat, with a net full of oysters. “This is where the hard work really starts,” he stated, pouring several kilos of shells onto the deck, before handing each of us our own oyster-opening knife.

“Find the softer, muscular edge of the oyster, wiggle the knife until it enters the shell and then start to prise it open,” Ahmed explained, easily flicking shell after shell open, as we sat around his haul. The process took some time, but gradually the group was in the swing of it. “Make sure you search the shell with knife and fingers; the muscular tissue inside can hide the smaller pearls,” he continued.

Learning To Prise And Search For Pearls

After 40-minutes of prising and searching, no-one had found that illusive pearl, but we had at least followed in the footsteps of the ‘‘ghawwas’’ (divers). Before returning to our hotel, we continued to retrace Bahrain’s famous pearling trail on Muharraq Island. It encompasses 17 listed buildings, including a fortress, residences of wealthy merchants, shops, storehouses and a mosque.

The aptly named Merchant House, the new Campbell-Gray boutique hotel, was our home in the city. The concierge had arranged our dive trip, but as they had intimated our best chance of finding pearls, was moments away from the hotel within the Manama Souk’s warren of alleyways. But for us it was about the journey and our opportunity to dive into a unique Bahraini legacy!

Manama Souk

Further Information

Ramy Salameh stayed at The Merchant House Hotel. Rates start from 119 BHD (approx. £240) per room per night including breakfast. For more information, go to www.campbellgrayhotels.com.

Flights were provided by Gulf Air – for further information, visit www.gulfair.com.

To go on a pearl diving adventure of your own, visit www.scubalife.bh.

For city tours, visit www.tejwalbahrain.com.

Escape To Somatheeram Ayurveda Village In Kerala By Caroline Phillips

There’s a Chinese lady sitting at lunch slavered in a red face pack. Fabric is wound around her crown, like bandages, and she’s wearing a green overall and sipping fresh pineapple juice. Nearby a Russian man wanders around the garden sporting banana, egg white and mango painted on his face. He has also just enjoyed a Thalapothichil treatment, in which the head is covered with herbal paste and topped off with a lotus leaf — a procedure that’s said to be good for depression and stress.

I’m at the Somatheeram Ayurveda Village — India’s first Ayurvedic hospital in a resort setting. Opened 35 years ago, it boasts more awards than I’ve had hot curries (a lot, in other words). It’s situated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, above a golden beach that extends to eternity and beyond — and where groups of fishermen gather to untangle their Himalayan-size fishing nets.

The luxury at Somatheeram comes not from swanky accommodation: the cottages and rooms are simple although there are must-have antiques around the resort, such as stone Indian goddesses and ancient cauldrons once used for mixing Ayurvedic concoctions. The real luxury it offers, though, is its first-rate Ayurvedic hospital, 15 Ayurvedic doctors (mine, Dr. K. Chandrasekharan Nair, is excellent) and 71 experienced therapists in a resort setting.

In other words, it’s for those who like their Ayurveda with a bit of buzz. For people who want more than just yoga, meditation and treatments: who want OM plus something a little more happening. And who don’t want the traditional approach to Ayurveda which discourages strenuous exercise and spending time in the sun during the course of treatments. This means that Somatheeram works as well for families and for those just wanting to chill, as for those wishing simply to focus on treatments.

The retreat is perched on a verdant hill dotted with coconut palms — the sweet, tender fruit from the trees providing post-treatment drinks for guests. It’s a wheelchair ramp or 60 steps from the bottom of the hill (and my cottage) to the hospital’s therapy rooms: a walk that meanders through 15 acres of garden with medicinal herbs and mango, jackfruit and tamarind trees, with the sea breeze on my face, and the sound of hymns coming from the beachside church below and mingling in the balmy air with the caw caw of crows.

Time now to go up to the Ayurvedic hospital. It’s here that therapists wear hairnets and face masks (disposable ones for hygiene purposes, rather than for beautifying their complexions). A lady in a white overall and with a plait to her waist, Dr. Reshma Venu, the ‘medical officer,’ leads me to a consultation room.

She gives me a 17-page booklet to fill in – encompassing questions on my sex life, eating habits to whether I’m happily married and how long I’ve practised yoga. ‘Is your stress related to personal life, marriage or other?’ it asks. ‘Are you an optimist or pessimist?’ ‘Do you speak softly/ normal/ loudly?’ All this helps the doctors identify my dosha, or body type. “A doctor will diagnose a patient’s constitution by everything from the way she walks, talks, her behaviour and by taking her pulse,” Dr. Venu reveals.

The big chief medical doctor, Dr. K. Chandrasekharan Nair, comes in. Age 71, he has been an Ayurvedic doctor for 50 years. A man with a kind face, he wears sapphire and peridot rings. He explains Ayurveda to me. It means, he says, science of life. The theory is that the living and non-living are made of air, space, water, fire and earth — present in the body and mind in Vatha, Pitha and Kapha: the three bio energies.

“Vatha is air and space, and it helps with internal and external movement — from running to the beating of the heart or going to the lavatory,” says Dr. Nair. “Pitha is fire….digestion is its main function, plus hormones and body temperature. Kapha is water and earth….and helps with growth, development and immunity and frame of body and structure. Someone’s constitution or basic nature never changes.” He offers a very detailed and attentive consultation and then decides on my individualised treatment plan to get my doshas into balance.

There are all sorts of treatments available. From Abhyangam — a synchronised medicated oil massage with two therapists, and good for skin and circulation — to Kizhi pouch message with medicinal herbs or rice, and milk or medicated powder, and good for pain and joint stiffness of joints. From Kativasthi — in which the therapists pour warm oil onto the crown in a ring made of black gram powder paste, good for spinal and neck pain, to a Pizhichil medicated oil bath and Sirovasthy in which oil is poured onto the crown through a leather funnel to relax the mind. Not to forget Karnapooram – ear fumigation using anti-bacterial smoke from medicated herbs, and also Akshitarpanam – an eye treatment good for helping vision.

My favourite therapy is the foot massage, a deep tissue massage in which I lie on the floor while Prasanna hangs expertly over me, holding onto a rope and massaging me with a foot so adept it should be playing the piano. The dry powder massage — in which I’m scrubbed and massaged with handfuls of hot herbs like fine sand — is a dead cert for getting rid of cellulite and for sending me to the land of bliss. My all-out fave, though, is Shirodhara – in which warm oil in a pot dangled above my head is gently moved back and forth by the therapist, the oil dribbling hypnotically onto my forehead.

It would be possible to spend a month or two or three doing little other than having great treatments here. (Top tip: bag therapists Prasanna and Swathy D.). But most guests go for a week to 21 days, and reap benefits. Is there anything I don’t like? Hmmm. Nasyam, perhaps, in which oil in dripped into the nostrils with a gokarna pot….but it’s good for the sinuses. And the consultation timings are sometimes a bit off: but this is India, not Switzerland.

And what of the accommodation and facilities? There are 80 thatched Keralan cottages and bedrooms at Somatheeram — built of mud and bricks, with reed ceilings, fans or air-conditioning (the chilliness of air conditioning is not recommended during a course of Ayurveda) and beds swathed with mozzie-net canopies. (Insider tip: book a sea-view cottage).

There’s a swimming pool that overlooks the Arabian Sea. Plus an al fresco performance space for everything from Kathakali classical dance performances — the dance troupe boasting ankle bracelets and adept hand movements — to sitar recitals during dinner.

There’s also a yoga shala with its sides open to the ocean — for asanas (postures) practised to the sound of crashing waves — and another yoga hall atop the hill, this one with pictures of chakras and charts explaining astral bodies and a meditative flame flickering in a brass temple candle holder. It’s here that I join daily group meditation and excellent yoga, and also have private lessons with the super flexible, beautiful and very inspiring Jinu JR, a lady with a smile the size of the sun, clad all in white and able to bend seemingly beyond the body’s limits.

That’s enough of the OM factor then. Let’s talk retail therapy. Well, there are three little shops: jewellery stores flogging yellow topaz, Burmese rubies, diamonds (with certification) and ones selling (real) pashminas of teal, lavender and mustard colours. And a naturopathic pharmacy with everything from ‘hair drop-out cream’ to Masala tea and herbal powder.

When I’m not lying on my back having treatments, mostly I’m eating. There’s a big buffet for every meal — one of those ones that takes around five minutes to walk end-to-end while gawping — with dishes marked according to the dosha for which it’s good; or it’s possible to order individualised dishes a la carte, although that can involve a 30-minute wait. There’s also an Ayurveda dietician sitting in the dining hall to guide guests on what to eat.

Breakfast is everything from bread rolls and omelette to tropical fruits and iddli (fluffy steamed rice cakes), appam (rice hoppers leavened with fermented palm sap and served with vegetable stew). All washed down with Ayurvedic teas or fresh ginger, lime and honey. Lunch or dinner might be a thali (a range of south Indian vegetarian dishes), vegetable soup made of herbal leaves, beetroot soup, onion throran (onion fried with grated coconut), black dal, lemon rice and curries such as pavacka thoran or bitter gourd with coconut sauce.

The food is 90% organic, and there’s no alcohol permitted and no tobacco. There are sometimes naughty Italians to be found standing outside smoking by gate. But who am I to judge while I’m wandering around wearing egg white and sandalwood powder on my face?

Further Information

For further information about treatments, and to make a booking, visit www.somatheeram.in.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

The Fife Arms – A Victorian Gem In The Heart of The Highlands By The Luxury Channel

The Fife Arms has reopened its doors, following a complete restoration project which has brought back the splendour of the former Victorian coaching inn and will once again establish it as a hotel for the Scottish highlands. Within the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, the hotel lies at the heart of the historic village of Braemar. It was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles, accompanied by Camilla, in their roles as Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.

Built in the 19th century, The Fife Arms is a large and highly distinctive part of the streetscape in Braemar. It dominates with its imposing scale and displays many of the traditional architectural characteristics of the area with its timber bargeboards, pink and grey granite, and its multi-gabled principal elevation. The building has retained all of its timber sash and case windows with their distinctive Arts and Crafts multi-paned upper sashes, and a large number of original chimney stacks. The building is evidence of the expansion of the tourist grade in Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits and purchase of Balmoral, and the coming of the railway to the area.

Today, The Fife Arms is owned by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of internationally acclaimed art gallery Hauser & Wirth, and brings together Scottish heritage, craftsmanship and culture with world-class contemporary art and a strong sense of community. The interiors are by Russell Sage (whose famous past projects include The Zetter Townhouse and The Goring) and feature over 12,000 historic objects and artworks that have been collected over three years in order to tell some of the many stories associated with Braemar. The hotel’s 46 suites and bedrooms have all been individually designed with unique furnishings – each one a homage to place, person or event with links to the area, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing his classic novel Treasure Island in Braemar.

The Fife Arms offers several bars and restaurants including: The Clunie Dining Room with a focus on wood-fire cooking; The Flying Stag, the hotel’s re-named but much-loved traditional public bar; the elegant Drawing Room that will serve afternoon tea; and Elsa’s, a chic art-deco cocktail bar that is inspired by legendary fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who visited Braemar.

In keeping with the Wirth’s dedication to contemporary art, The Fife Arms features prominent works specially commissioned for the hotel from internationally renowned artists such as Zhang Enli, Guillermo Kuitca, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher and Richard Jackson. James Prosek has designed the hotel’s striking coat of arms, which includes the Flying Stag after which the public bar is named. The reception, meanwhile, features a special Steinway piano that is a unique collaboration with American artist, Mark Bradford. These contributions are complemented by an outstanding array of (mainly) Scottish artworks collected for the hotel, from important paintings to prints, pamphlets and even a delicate watercolour of a stag’s head painted by HM Queen Victoria. During the hotel’s renovation, a number of other artists were invited to take up residence in Braemar and to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of its surroundings. Among them was Scottish luminary Alec Finlay, who was commissioned to create Gathering, a poetic guide to the Cairngorms. Words taken from this poem have been carved into the custom-made wooden bedheads in many of the guestrooms of The Fife Arms.

Moxon architects, based in Crathie and London, have overseen the refurbishment. Headed up by Ben Addy, who grew up in Aberdeenshire and is a Director of the Cairngorms Trust, Moxon has executed a careful restoration of the listed building. Araminta Campbell, who grew up in Royal Deeside, has designed the house tartan and tweed, used throughout the hotel. Chelsea Flower Show and RHS medallist, Jinny Blom, has remodelled the riverside garden, which overlooks the River Clunie and links the main hotel to the Spa, which will offer treatments inspired by the Scottish landscape.

The Fife Arms will delight and surprise visitors from around the world, while serving as the lively and welcoming home for Braemar locals that it has been for decades. In celebrating the picturesque charms of Scotland, the hotel encourages the writing of new stories – tales of adventure lived by both The Fife Arms’ neighbours and guests, from outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, to those simply seeking a charming and wonderful original place to stay….

For more information, visit www.thefifearms.com.

The Rise And The Spend of The Chinese Millennial Consumer By Hannah Norman

Image courtesy of Sicong Li

The global luxury industry has long relied on China’s wealthy millennials for a boost in sales – they are, after all, the demographic that contributed most to the industry’s growth in 2017. They’re also the fastest-growing demographic in China, and they’re often early adopters of new trends and technology. But a recent tightening by the Chinese government on overseas luxury purchases is forcing designer brands to begin rethinking their strategies, as shoppers look to buy their luxury goods back home. According to a report by Boston-based consultancy Bain & Co, Chinese consumers were responsible for purchasing approximately one third of the world’s luxury goods, but the downside of this (for China, at least) was that 75% was overseas sales, with $115 billion spent during more than 130 million overseas visits in 2017.

With the Chinese government tightening its regulations, consumers are now seeing holidays abroad – typically taken so that they can stock up their wardrobes with the latest luxuries from designer boutiques – as less of a viable option. Undeclared luxury goods brought into China from abroad can now land the buyer with a huge tax bill, or even legal trouble. This also impacts the trade of luxury goods by “daigou” – Chinese traders who travel overseas for luxury products, before selling them on back home for less money than they would cost in the stores.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

It would seem that the situation isn’t being helped by China’s millionaires, who are increasingly moving away from purchasing high-end material goods to investing their money in intangible luxuries – such as travel (with Japan and the Maldives proving the most popular destinations), and healthcare.

That said, Chinese millennials – and the luxury brands fuelling their fashion needs – don’t need to fret just yet. Local shopping malls in China are slowly starting to reap the benefit of the government’s enforcements at border control – to the point that shops in these malls are increasingly being leased to luxury brands looking to expand their physical presence in China. Half of consumers themselves have also said that they’re planning to spend more on luxury goods generally this year, so the potential return on retail investment could be huge. With savvy shoppers on the hunt for brands such as Cartier, Burberry, Bulgari, Valentino and Louis Vuitton, their wish lists are as expensive as they extensive.

Image courtesy of M. Chan, Doan Ti and Paulo Evangelista

Not only that but brands including Hermes and Louis Vuitton are banking on keeping the tills ringing by lowering their product prices in China. This follows the government’s move to reduce import tariffs on certain consumer goods, as part of Beijing’s concerted bid to bolster domestic consumption (Western products sold in China can be typically as much as 20% more expensive than if they were purchased in Europe).

It’s not just well-known luxury labels – for years, the preserve of the affluent consumer – that are realising the impact they can have on the mainland. As growing sophistication in new styles develops, this has led in turn to a new interest in luxury clothes and accessories by Chinese designers. Hong Kong-based market researchers Consumer Search Group recently released a report that showed almost three quarters of affluent Chinese consumers are aware of at least one Chinese designer – and with Chinese names making big waves not just in China but increasingly further afield, it’s not hard to understand why. Angel Chen – for instance – is stocked at 30 retailers worldwide, Samuel Gui Yang presents collections in both Shanghai and London, and Ximon Lee was catapulted into the fashion mainstream spotlight when Kanye West told him he was “killing it, bro!” If Chinese designers are catching Yeezy’s attention, it won’t be long before the rest of the world follows suit and puts Chinese fashion firmly front and centre. That can only be good news for the brands back home hoping to entice consumers through their doors, and good news for the shoppers themselves, as Chinese labels increase in worldwide visibility. Perhaps not such good news for their bank balances….

Luxury Cruising Worldwide By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel reviews a selection of exciting cruises around the world. From an authentic Egyptian dahabieh to a brand new luxurious ship set to sail to Antarctica, these cruising holidays are the perfect way to explore different parts of the world, many of which are difficult to reach and best explored by boat.

Antarctica

Name of Cruise: The Crystal Endeavor
Duration: TBC
Price: Available on request
Book Through: Red Savannah

Pushing the boundaries of luxury global exploration, Crystal Endeavor is the world’s most spacious luxury expedition yacht with luxuries great and small, offering among the largest all-suite accommodations, private butler service, expansive spaces for sharing stories, and helicopters to explore the polar region like no other. This exciting new ship is an incredible addition to the Antarctic portfolio and is set to be the most luxurious expedition vessel with impeccable service in every way. The brand new Crystal Endeavor is set to begin sailing to Antarctica and the Ross Sea from January 2021.

Australia

Name of Cruise: True North Coral Atoll Cruise
Duration: 6 Days
Price: From £3,695 per person
Book Through: Red Savannah

Exploring the magnificent coral and fish life of the Rowley Shoals and Clerke Reef on Western Australia’s beautiful coast, this cruise is accompanied by a marine biologist and naturalists. The coral habitats to be explored include steep walls, lagoons and tidal canyons. Guests can swim in the clear turquoise lagoon of the Clerke Reef, snorkel drifts through the outer reef and fish for yellow-fin tuna, marlin, sailfish and wahoo. There is even the chance of spotting manta rays, humpback whales and sailfish!

Burma

Name of Cruise: Expedition Up The Chindwin
Duration: 12 Days
Price: From £3,230 per person
Book Through: Red Savannah

The towns and villages on the banks of the River Chindwin are still very difficult to reach, and so are best explored by boat. An expedition up this beguiling tributary of the Irrawaddy is an adventure into an Asia of yesteryear, as you pass former colonial outposts where teak and oil were extracted, and sail by hills through which thousands fled the Japanese advance to India in 1942. As well as exploring the ancient capitals of Burma, highlights include visiting the photogenic U-Bein Bridge (the world’s longest wooden bridge), sailing past small fishing villages little changed over the centuries, and going to Mingkin, where traditional wooden houses surround amazing teak monasteries. Guests will have a truly magical time on board this colonial-style river cruiser.

Egypt

Name of Cruise: The Albatros Cruise
Duration: 5 Days
Price: From £880 per person
Book Through: Lazuli Voyages

The Albatros is a brand new dahabieh by Lazuli Voyages, an Egyptian company specialising in small sailing cruises on the Nile. The Dahabiyas boats are sailboats that are specific to Egypt. Historically, travel could only be done by boat as the flooding of the Nile didn’t allow people to establish a true system of roads along the River. With a length of 35 metres, The Albatros can board 12 passengers within its four cabins and two suites with private terraces. The boat has just launched, ready for the 2019 season, and will allow travellers to explore the beauty that is Egypt. Sailing from Luxor to Aswan, guests will be able to see fascinating sights, such as the temple of Karnak, the temple of Philae, the 5000-year old city of El Kaab, and the beautiful Fawaza Island.

Indonesia

Name of Cruise: Cruising Raja Ampat
Duration: 8 Days
Price: From £9,450 per person
Book Through: Red Savannah

Silolona, arguably the best phinisi in the water, is a modern creation based on the traditional Indonesian sailing ship historically used for trade along the spice routes. Today, she has all the trappings of a world class hotel with 5 en-suite cabins, a crew of 17, plus an Expedition Leader, Asian fusion cuisine and water toys including snorkelling equipment, kayaks and paddle boards. The luxury found aboard this ship and the ever-changing scenery makes this trip the best way to explore Indonesia, and the PADI dive centre with top of the range equipment will give guests the ultimate chance to experience the best diving in the world.

Vietnam

Name of Cruise: Halong Bay & The Red River
Duration: 11 Days
Price: From £2,535 per person
Book Through: Red Savannah

This exciting and pioneering itinerary takes guests through the unchartered waters of the Red River in northern Vietnam. Guests of this trip will spend 10 nights enjoying the stunning scenery and peaceful rivers bordering China and Vietnam. You will explore the awe-inspiring Halong Bay and the peaceful Lan Ha Bay, visiting the floating fishing villages and waking to morning mist rise over the limestone karst seascape. From kayaking to the caves of Halong Bay, passing through the beautiful Ba Vi National Park and the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, this is a journey of culture, history and scenery.

Contact

To find out more and to make a booking, contact:

Red Savannah: +44(0) 1242 787 800, or visit www.redsavannah.com

Lazuli Voyages: 0020 1008 777 115, or visit www.lazuli-voyages.com

Vessel At Hudson Yards By Cissy Paul

New Yorkers, it is quite evident, have a love-hate relationship with 21st century architecture. I’m sure when the first NYC skyscraper, The Tower Building, was built in 1899 at eleven stories high, there were probably local residents appalled at its height (The Tower Building, the first NYC building to have a steel skeleton, which classified it as a skyscraper, was demolished in 1913). Can you believe the Fuller Building (now called the Flatiron Building) built in 1903, was considered by many to be a “monstrosity” and “awkward” because of its daring shape? Today, it is beloved and one of the most photographed skyscrapers in the city.

The focal point for the most recent development (the largest and most expensive development in American history ) at Hudson Yards, is VESSEL, built by the ‘‘Pied Piper of Architecture,’’ British architect Thomas Heatherwick – known for his brashness and elements of surprise. Remember his 204 copper petaled Olympic Cauldron, at the 2012 London Olympics? Each petal represented one of the national teams, brought into the stadium by one of its athletes. They were set atop 204 copper pipes, which in turn were fused together.

VESSEL, his massive honeycomb, was inspired by India’s ancient stepwells (monumental wells with zigzagging staircases down their sides, allowing access to deep water). In actuality, Heatherwick turned the stepwell inside out, creating a design that is quite visceral and engaging.

Six years in the making, the $200-million VESSEL stands 150 feet high (sixteen stories), made up of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, totalling 2,500 steps amidst 80 landings. Copper-coated steel lines the staircases. Be aware the funicular-looking elevator is available for only the handicapped (as I was told today by the operator) and there is no available seating. Currently, you must reserve a free ticket at a specific time to ascend, but feel free to navigate soaking in the panoramic vistas for as long as you fancy!

After weeks of waiting with bated breath, I climbed VESSEL today, having followed its construction since it started in April 2017 – it topped out in December 2017 and opened on 15th March 2019. I was there exactly at its opening at noon, quite fascinated with the images through my camera lens, somewhat different than observing with the naked eye. Having a fear of heights, I very tentatively leaned over to capture shots looking straight down at the bright blue light on the ground floor. As I tend to approach most adventures through child-like eyes, it was quite an epic day for this admirer of architecture! Looking forward to returning at day’s end to witness our epic sunsets over New Jersey.

Fascinated by Thomas Heatherwick Studio designs? Then follow his current commissions underway – Google HQ’s in Mountain View, California and London (working with Bjarke Ingels Studio on these), and Pier 55 Floating Park in New York City.

Why Heritage Means Home At Palácio Belmonte By Ramy Salameh

An unassuming, anonymous and heavy-set red door separates a quaint cobbled courtyard from an intimately historic foyer, embracing an almost monastic-like silence. As the door closes behind you, Lisbon’s bright morning sunshine is replaced by softer tones; the sensory contrast is immediate and welcome. This is one of many such contrasts that guests of the exquisite Palácio Belmonte will experience during their stay.

Opposite the entrance, two wooden sculpted figures hang from the wall, ushering guests towards an ancient flight of limestone steps, whose patina is characterised by pockmarks and dints. It represents the thousands of footsteps that have passed before, throughout a long and distinguished history, which served as residence for Figuereido, explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, Marques D’Atalia, Duke of Loulé and Count of Belmonte.

The Palácio is a national monument and one of the world’s most captivating boutique hotels. It has the most exclusive address and location in the city, sitting next door to the entrance of the Sao Jorge castle in the Alfama neighbourhood, sharing the very same elevation, vistas and ancient walls. It integrates a Roman Tower (138 BC) and two Moorish Towers of the 8th Century, which eventually morphed into a residence in 1449, enlarged and completed in 1650 with final decorative touches concluding in 1725.

Today, it is home to intimate suites and spaces filled with contemporary art, ancient artefacts, sculptures, period features, cherished books and furnishings. All owned and selected by Frederic Coustols, a Frenchman, who bought Palácio Belmonte in the early 1990s. He says, “the Palácio is a Portuguese composite, a vernacular construction, which I tried to bring back to its origins, a house. It took me one year to listen, to knock on the walls, to understand. It has always been a home with the same family, just with different titles, for nearly 600 years.”

With a deep love and knowledge of art, vernacular architecture and sustainability, he has restored this iconic and precious historical edifice into a sanctuary of heritage and luxury. From the entrance, the stone staircase leads up towards the “Piano Nobile,” containing the palatial Maria Ursula ballroom, sitting next to the Governors Room, and surrounded by the more intimate White and Red Libraries, where Coustols is often found. The spaces have formed the nucleus of this home for many hundreds of years, where family generations would have dined and entertained.

The sense of home and family, sustainability and of course art, are key components of the hotel’s uniqueness. Maybe most telling is Coustols continuing desire to maintain that residential DNA, as part of the overall conservation and preservation, whilst regularly injecting new pieces of art to the status quo. “Art work contributes to freedom, and freedom is very important in this world. The art collection [at Palácio Belmonte] is very eclectic; it’s my own taste,” Coustols adds. The works range from letters written and signed by the King and Queen, tapestry, sculpture made by a Czech artist and currently, a holographic-like light installation that bounces rainbow colours across the courtyard’s white walls, called “Spectral.”

Beyond the “Piano Nobile” guest spaces, eleven exceptional suites make the most of the historic architectural lineage both inside and out, leaving their mark upon the quirkiest of labyrinthine layouts. This is where heritage, exclusivity and design have all fused together to provide individuality that display the past so eloquently. The suites are named after major figures from Portuguese history: Fernão Magalhães, Egas Moniz, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Gil Vicente, and Bartolomeu de Gusmão, amongst others.

Each suite is so refreshingly different, that the only aspects which have some form of uniformity is the guarantee of elegance and a magnificent view across Lisbon. The Ricardo Reis Suite assimilates a spiralling medieval staircase for patrons to reach their bedroom, which immerses them in 15th century frescoes upon the walls, above 18th century azulejo tile panels by the Master Valentim de Almeida. They burst with colour once the old shuttered windows open and Lisbon’s renowned daylight illuminates both.

In fact, the distinctive blue and white azulejo tiles – depicting music, art and life of the nobility in the 1700s – run like a ribbon across the white-washed walls throughout the Palácio, a constant thread in the hotel and a symbol of the city and Portugal itself. There are around 3,700 tiles across the Belmonte.

The Palácio’s promontory sweeps across a panorama that spans east to west, from the Vasco De Gama Bridge (Vasco da Gama was received at the Palácio upon his triumphant return from India), all the way around to the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge, with every window, veranda and balcony catching an aspect of Lisbon. One’s eye tries to connect both bridges, with the seemingly endless and irregular terracotta-tiled roofs across Alfama and São Vicente de Fora, with the distant river the constant contrast and backdrop.

In 1723, Manuel dos Santos and Valetim de Almeida were commissioned to decorate the Palacio with fifty-nine original azulejo panels, which took two years to complete, “and in celebration of this great work, there was a big party with the King and ministers invited,” Coustols says.

Coustols, and his wife Maria, have weaved contemporary design throughout the Palácio, and maybe the Amadeo de Souza Cardoso Terrace Suite reflects that most. A modern spiral stairway supports a mezzanine platform with king-size Japanese bed, to help fill the voluminous space. From this lofty perch, it is an ideal spot to look down upon angular contemporary furniture, with a certain “Bauhaus” look to it; the library and marble bathroom join the collection of XVIII century azulejo tile panels to provide the opulence.

The Garden Terrace is a haven of south European charm, another corner to look down towards the ebb and flow of Lisbon life. Under the dappled shade created by over-arching branches of pine trees, guests can sit and take in the changing colours and sounds emanating from Alfama’s cobbled streets, catching a glimpse of the yellow vintage trams scuttling up and down the hills in between tightly packed residences. There is the constant trickle of water, from the black marble infinity pool, another accompaniment to enjoy within the walled oasis, as is the chime of the church bells from Sé Cathedral.

The ever-changing art work, alongside a regular flow of writers, artists and composers who stay at the Belmonte, keeps the spaces fresh and creatively inspiring. It maintains a constant link between old and new, framing the past with the future. Above all, the Palácio is an authentic amalgam of architecture through the ages of Lisbon, just as it remains a home, a hotel, a gallery and a Palácio.

Coustols imparts one more thought: “I have always liked sand and stones; I am a landscape collector, and I love to collect them as they are free” – philosophical but interpretable after a stay at his “home.” Guests should admire, imbibe the atmosphere and add one more footprint upon the ancient steps, before leaving through that anonymous red door.

For more information, go to www.palaciobelmonte.com. Ramy Salameh flew to Lisbon courtesy of Lisboa Convention Bureau – go to www.visitlisboa.com/convention-bureau.

Dogged Commitment – Wilderness Safaris Partners With Painted Dog Conservation By The Luxury Channel

Further demonstrating its commitment to offering life-journeys with purpose, Wilderness Safaris – Africa’s leading sustainable ecotourism operator, specialising in memorable wildlife experiences in some of the continent’s most remote and pristine areas – has partnered with renowned NGO, Painted Dog Conservation, to help drive the conservation of this endangered species in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks. African wild dogs – sometimes called African hunting dogs – are beautiful, unique, and fascinating social animals. They are also one of the most endangered species in Africa; fewer than 7000 painted dogs are left across the entire continent, making it imperative to manage wild dog conservation.

Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) expanded its work into Mana Pools in 2010, with the objective of gaining insight into the demography, ecology and genetic composition of the painted dog population in the Middle Zambezi. The establishment of a new research base at Nyamepi will enable researchers to process various samples on site on a daily basis, including faecal samples, which will help PDC build a picture of the diet base of the dogs in the valley. “This will greatly improve the efficiency of our data collected at Mana,” said Peter Blinston, PDC Executive Director. “We are grateful for the ongoing support from Wilderness Safaris, and really believe that our partnership will make a positive impact to both conservation and community empowerment – ideals that form a strong part of both of our organisational cultures.”

Wilderness Safaris has been committed to driving sustainable ecotourism in Zimbabwe for some two decades, with Conservation forming a vital component of its “4Cs” sustainability ethos (the others being Commerce, Community and Culture). As the leading wild dog conservation NGO in Zimbabwe, PDC already monitors more than six packs of painted dogs on a daily basis across Hwange, and employs 60 people from the local villages to run its conservation, education and community outreach programmes. Guests of Wilderness Safaris can also get involved with the initiative, as part of a “citizen science” project that gives them the opportunity to actively take part in the research being conducted on the ground.

PDC will be giving Wilderness Safaris the ID files of all the wild dog packs in both Hwange and Mana, so that both guides and guests will be able to assist them by taking photos, dates and times of each sighting. “Log stats of sightings provide critical information for us; better still if they are immediately reported, particularly in the case of injured animals. We are also working on image recognition software which, once complete, will give guests open access to uploading their photos and sighting information online,” Peter added.

Wilderness Safaris will be donating the funds to cover a month of PDC’s operating costs at Nyamepi, and will continue to raise awareness about the plight of the wild dogs, to help drive critical conservation efforts going forward.

Further Information

Wilderness Safaris – www.wilderness-safaris.com

Painted Dog Conservation – www.painteddog.org

Escape To Farr Estate In Scotland By Caroline Phillips

Go in spring and you’ll see deer gambolling on the lawns. In summer, the days are long and the light bright for striding across heather-carpeted hills and for lazy days fishing on its loch. In autumn, there’s bracing wild swimming.

Close your eyes and imagine spruce and pine trees dappled in snow. Or walk through the wardrobe and you’ll find a picture-perfect scene of virgin snow-capped hills, ancient monkey-puzzle trees sprinkled with white powder beside icy lakes. Yes, in winter it’s like Narnia or a winter wonderland. Idyllic, no?

This is the Farr Estate, a luxury Highland retreat near Inverness, Scotland (just half an hour’s drive from the airport). The property is hidden away on a beautiful 12,000-acre estate and opened its doors only a year ago to (paying) guests — having previously been used solely by its owners, the Mackenzie family, since 1880.

It is now available for everything from exclusive use (take a party of up to 24) to romantic à-deux getaways or solo forays, using all or some of the three parts of the property: Farr House (8 bed), Loch Nest (one double) and Garden Cottage (sleeps six).

It’s early days but it’s already luring the Mackenzie clansmen from the States searching for their roots, Spaniards who are keen on hind stalking and Greeks who like to shoot. Not to mention Japanese wishing to sip Speyside and Drumguish single malts and shop for cashmere and tartan. (For armchair-in-front-of-a-roaring-peat-fire purchases, there’s the estate’s own Mackenzie tartan and Farr tweed).

A little bit of history now. HRH the Duke of Gloucester (third son of King George V) lived in the original Farr House. Photographs and drawings of it on the walls show a Georgian stately home that was castellated in Victorian times. It was then (purposefully) razed to the ground in the sixties: the upkeep with all that dry rot, damp and massive roof proved too expensive.

Farr House — in its new incarnation — is composed of a former tenants’ hall and chapel from 1891; then there’s the Garden Cottage (erstwhile Victorian home of the estate gardener) and Loch Nest (a self-contained annex converted in 2016).

I’m sitting in the erstwhile chapel turned drawing room of Farr House chatting to Lucy Ogilvie, née Mackenzie. The eldest of five sisters, she runs the property with her husband, Andrew. “Dad said he used to have to kneel there and pray,” says Lucy, pointing to an upholstered armchair. Far from being a chilly chapel, the room is now book-lined, wood-panelled and with a roaring log fire.

There are family books from the 1700s and ones with beautiful plates of game birds, ancient Bibles and swords from the Crimea. “My great great, great grandfather was General Higginson, who fought in the Crimean War,” explains Lucy. The family crest, ‘Always Faithful,’ is etched on the stained glass window.

Lucy’s grandfather was Page of Honour to King George V and the portrait above the fireplace in the drawing room is of him (her granddad) at the Coronation. “All those robes and garments were in our dressing-up box when we were little,” says Lucy, laughing.

We wander round Farr House together, a place so large that our dog needs no further exercise. There are 18th century Mackenzie portraits in the dining room, Lucy’s old Edwardian school desk upstairs, a Victorian washstand with a marble top and bowl sink, and an antique portrait of a railway engineer, William Mackenzie, who lived in the mid-1800s. In an upstairs corridor, every clan of Scotland is represented in Victorian prints. (Tip: bag the ground floor powder-blue room with its chandelier and en-suite with a claw-foot bath).

There’s also some contemporary dash in the décor with glass-bowl bathroom basins, funky tiles and squishy sofas and armchairs, plus seating for 18 on tartan dining chairs so welcoming you won’t want to get up.

So what of the activities? You can go fishing on Farr Loch at the end of the driveway. Or go on off-road Land Rover tours and have a lunch of game terrines and homemade fruitcakes in their off-the-beaten-track moorland bothy, in which Lucy lights a fire.

It’s a nature lover’s paradise. Red squirrels scamper across the lawn and you’ll open your curtains to roe deer running across the snow. At other times, stags will be roaring and rutting on the hills. You may even spy golden eagles and ospreys over the loch. There are Peregrine falcons, red kites and sparrow hawks too. Not to mention loads of mountain hares that change colour to white in the winter.

The estate is part of the ancient Caledonian forest with its white fossilised trees — that are thousands of years old — poking out of the peat. And with its pink granite, Ice Age rock formations and sphagnum moss too. There are ancient redwoods and Victorian copper beech.

For those who wish to venture further afield, it’s close to Loch Ness with its boat tours for seeking out Nessie. There’s the organic Black Isle beer distillery nearby. And Culloden battlefield where there was a Jacobite rising and Bonnie Prince Charlie met his end. Or you may prefer to go to Cawdor Castle, where Macbeth was set.

You can dolphin watch on the Moray Firth or go to Findhorn for spiritual sustenance (think angel cards and tarot readings). The Cairngorms National Park, a place of rugged beauty, is just 45 minutes away — for hiking, rock climbing and skiing. It’s hard not to love the area.

When I was at Farr House, however, it was for our daughter’s 21st — it’s the perfect party venue for Edinburgh University students. We managed a short hike and played in the snow. The Ogilvies organised a treasure hunt in the grounds, which caused much mirth.

Our focus, though, was a lazy, foodie weekend. For those who are gastronomically inclined, the Farr Estate is heaven-meets-paradise-with-a-smattering-of-one-of-the-best-days-of-your-gourmet-life gently sautéed with a sprinkling of ‘this can’t get any better.’

There’s flipping fresh brown trout from the loch — after you’ve nipped out in one of the wooden rowing boats to catch it yourself — ready to be tossed in butter and almonds. There’s the best rare-breed piggy you ever did taste — succulent, flavoursome and reared on the estate by housekeeper Wendy, and cooked in a way that puts the ‘oh’ into slow: 24 hours in the bottom of the Aga.

There are partridge waiting for those of careful aim, and salmon from the River Findhorn — for those fishermen among you, this river boasts deep pools and fast runs. They rear quail on the estate — so bag the birds’ teeny eggs for breakfast along with toast slavered with local heather honey. And you’ll find forest floors painted gold with chanterelles that Lucy picks in a flat wicker basket and cooks with venison.

Did I say venison? Homemade venison burgers and sausages are made from meat from the estate. Or imagine the most delicious estate-reared haunch that’s marinated in red wine and cooked with dollops of home-made redcurrant jelly — created by Lucy’s mum — from home-grown, hand-picked fruit. She also makes jams and marmalades. You can buy it in jars complete with the Mackenzie deer’s antler crest.

If field-to-vegan-fork is your thing, they grow lots of vegetables and fruit on the estate – not just blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries but also blaeberries — which are like Scottish blueberries. And then there are mountains of fashionable kale — used formerly for pheasant fodder — plus tasty broad beans to fresher-than-fresh mange tous not just with zero miles but with zero yards.

The estate provide chefs who will cook this home produce for you and serve and clear away or, if you wish, Lucy will oversee the saucepans herself: she knows more delicious ways to cook venison than most have had hot dinners. Or you can enjoy self-catering, as we did — but with Wendy at the ready to magic away all the mess.

There’s just one other thing you need to know. Unlike many old Scottish houses, Farr House is decidedly 21st century. It boasts not just a wind farm, solar panels, and hydro electricity. There’s also a well-equipped kitchen (with mammoth fish kettles to Aga and electric ovens) and there’s also snug under-floor heating plus piping hot water and strong Wi-Fi.

Hardly surprising that we scarcely went outside on this visit, is it?

Further Information

For more information, visit www.farrestate.co.uk, or call +44 (0) 79040 75361 or +44 (0)75355 63565. Prices start from £49.99 for Loch Nest and from £549.99 for Farr House per person per night, based on 16 people staying (Farr House is only let as a whole property).

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

The Luxury Channel Remembers Karl Lagerfeld By Hannah Norman

On the 19th February 2019, the world of fashion – and indeed beyond – was shocked by the news that Karl Lagerfeld, design powerhouse and fashion icon in his own right, had sadly passed away.

A fastidious and multi-talented creator, Lagerfeld’s exhausting schedule saw him designing fifteen collections a year for three labels – Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label. Although he seemed to be seldom trifled by the volume of work he undertook, preferring instead to almost be defined by it. He is quoted as having once famously said, “Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die and it’ll all be finished!”

His career started in 1954, when aged just 21, after winning the coat category of what is now the Woolmark Prize, Lagerfeld began working at Balmain, before moving to Jean Patou in 1958. He then joined Chloe in 1964, turning into the globally recognised label we know today, and a year later, in 1965, he began designing for Fendi. As Vogue rather succinctly put it, “Lagerfeld began designing for Fendi before man walked on the moon.”

Karl Lagerfeld attends the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy (image courtesy of Vittorio Zunino Celotto for Getty Images)

The label for which Lagerfeld is perhaps best known, however, acquired his services in 1982, when Chanel’s then-chairman asked him to design for the house. Adamant that he would rather not simply repeat Coco’s own designs, Lagerfeld updated the ethos of the brand and in so doing, turned the house into arguably the most well-known designer label in the world.

When asked once about his legacy, Lagerfeld was almost aghast that anyone should consider him a celebrity. “Personally, I don’t even think I’m that famous,” he said. “Now Choupette [his beloved Birman cat] really is famous – she has become the most famous cat in the world!”

Watch our exclusive interview with Karl Lagerfeld by – conducted for The Luxury Channel by Imran Amed, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Business of Fashion – where the designer discusses his personal inspirations, the concept of luxury, the influence of the internet – and how he uses an iPad as interior decoration…. Click here to watch.

Starstruck – Terry O’Neill Celebrates His Sixth Decade Behind The Camera By Annabel Yates

The Rolling Stones line up outside the Tin Pan Alley Club in London, 1963. From left to right: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones (1942 – 1969) and Charlie Watts. This image – titled The Rolling Stones at Tin Pan Alley, London, 1963 – courtesy of Terry O’Neill and Iconic Images, exhibited at “Starstruck,” Box Galleries, King’s Road, Chelsea, London

World-renowned photographer to icons of the modern world, Terry O’Neill will be celebrating his sixth decade behind the camera with a retrospective on fame and image, called “Starstruck.” In celebration of his 81st birthday, O’Neill will be exhibiting a collection of 20 iconic images spanning his 60-year career.

Unrivalled in artistic skill, O’Neill has made a significant contribution to the Western art scene, capturing the world’s most loved, most celebrated, most notorious and most sorely mourned celebrities over the past six decades, capturing everyone from Royalty to rock stars. He has immortalised these venerated individuals, from David Bowie and Elton John to Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, the Queen to Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela to Tony Blair, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and every James Bond, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. His iconic portraits hang in museum collections and grace album covers. Such is the uniqueness of his skill that in 2011, he was honoured with The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal in recognition of a sustained and significant contribution to the art of photography.

“Starstruck” will launch a brand new photograph from O’Neill’s vast archive of famous faces that has never been seen before – a portrait of Frank Sinatra, titled: Frank Sinatra, Miami Beach, 1968 (colour). Historically, O’Neill has cited Sinatra as the perfect sitter, and his relationship with the star has afforded him an encapsulating origin story:

“He was truly a great man. He was a one-off; a great musician. He allowed me to go wherever I wanted – backstage, on-stage, on-set to get the perfect shot,” O’Neill says. “The first shot I got…[Sinatra] came right up to me, because I was snapping away, and I nervously handed [him] a letter. I was friendly with Ava Gardner…I told her, ‘listen, I’m going to be working with your ex.’ And she went and wrote a letter and sealed it, and told me to give it to Frank. So I did. He opened that letter, read it, looked at me and smiled. He said, ‘Boys, he’s okay; he’s with us now.’ And that was the start.”

Singer and actor Frank Sinatra with his minders and his stand-in (who is wearing an identical outfit to him), arriving at Miami Beach while filming, “The Lady in Cement”, 1968. This image -titled Frank Sinatra, Miami Beach, 1968 (colour) – courtesy of Terry O’Neill and Iconic Images, exhibited at “Starstruck,” Box Galleries, King’s Road, Chelsea, London

The name of the exhibition itself is juxtaposing, as O’Neill claims to have never experienced the lepidopteran, tongue-twisting, giggling awe of what it is to be starstruck. Instead, “Starstruck” denotes the provoked response in O’Neill’s viewers, who are able to – through his unique photographic perspective – get up close and personal with the stars of their time.

O’Neill demonstrates a sense of unflappable detachment in the company of the biggest names in show business, allowing him to achieve a level of intimacy with his ephemeral artistic subjects. O’Neill’s trustworthy magnetism saw the celebrities he spent so much time with seek his friendship, resulting in photographs that express the true personalities of these greats.

O’Neill learned from a young age that his role was to blend into the background and capture the essences of the famous, the wealthy and the beautiful. A professional photojournalist to the stars, O’Neill remains a background commentator, a Nick Carraway to the Jay Gatsbys of the stage and screen. Of this position within the lavish lifestyles of filmstars to rockstars, O’Neill says, “I worked with Sinatra for decades, and during this time he taught me the most valuable lesson – stay out of the way. He taught me that a top photographer should be ever-present, but never caught up in the lifestyle of their subjects.”

Even in this exhibition, O’Neill remains hidden. While the photographs showcase the icons of modern history, the name of the show comments on the condition of the audience. O’Neill remains obscured behind the flash of the camera, documenting the lives of the admired and their continued reception in the public domain.

Further Information

“Starstruck” will be held at Box Galleries, 402 King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ, from 7th – 31st March. Admission is free. For further information, visit www.boxgalleries.com.

London Fashion Week – Celebrating Creativity And Innovation By The Luxury Channel

It’s that time of year when for five days, London fills with the fashion lines for the forthcoming season from the nation’s top designers. This season, the British Fashion Council is putting a focus on a move towards more sustainable practices and their Positive Fashion initiative through a partnership with BBC Earth and designer Amy Powney of Mother of Pearl. The collaboration will explore the impact the fashion industry has on the planet, while highlighting the positive tangible opportunity for sustainable fashion choices by businesses and mindful consumer behaviour.

February 2019 will also mark the second London Fashion Week that the catwalks and designer showrooms at the event will be fur free. A recent survey by the British Fashion Council focussing on the use of fur continues to reflect what is seen as a cultural change, with more designer businesses and international brands choosing not to show fur as part of their collections, and increasingly moving to being completely fur free businesses.

The London Fashion Week Show Schedule features over 100 catwalk shows, presentations and events. This season, there are 52 designers on the Show Schedule, 31 presentations, 17 events, over 60 designers exhibiting in the Designer Showrooms and 7 NEWGEN designers in the NEWGEN Designer Pop-up.

Meanwhile, figures released by the British Fashion Council reveal consumer spending on womenswear rose 5.5% to £30.9 billion in 2018. Womenswear now accounts for 51% of the total clothing market, whilst menswear accounts for 26%. Consumer spending on clothing is forecast to rise 25% to £76 billion in the next five years to 2023. A further boost to the economy comes from the news that the fashion industry now employs almost as many people as the financial sector with 890,000 jobs.

This season, Dame Vivienne Westwood, winner of the Swarovski Award for Positive Change at The Fashion Awards 2018, returns to London, as does Victoria Beckham, and following last season’s much anticipated first collection under new Chief Creative Officer Riccardo Tisci, Burberry will be hosting a catwalk show. London’s New Establishment continue to be a key draw with shows including Christopher Kane, Emilia Wickstead, Erdem, JW Anderson, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, Roksanda and Simone Rocha.

Other internationally celebrated designers include Amanda Wakeley, Ashish, Ashley Williams, Aspinal of London, Bora Aksu, David Koma, Fashion East, Fyodor Golan, House of Holland, Huishan Zhang, International Woolmark Prize, Jasper Conran, Jenny Packham, Johnstons of Elgin, Margaret Howell, Markus Lupfer, Mother of Pearl, Pam Hogg, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Pringle of Scotland, Rixo London, Roland Mouret, Ryan Lo, Shrimps, Tara Lilly and Zandra Rhodes, who are on schedule to showcase their latest collections.

London Fashion Week 2018 In Numbers

32,000 miles driven between shows by a luxurious fleet of fuel-efficient chauffeured Mercedes-Benz cars
20,000 cups of espresso served and 200kg of Lavazza coffee consumed
9,000 cans of Nivea Black & White Invisible Silky Smooth deodorant sampled
7,014 products by Toni & Guy and label.m used backstage
4,000 LFW Tote Bags produced
3,000 copies of the ES Magazine Fashion Edition handed out at London Fashion Week

Bamford London – Hitting The Big Time By The Luxury Channel

In a world of mass production, a desire to re-discover the lost art of personalisation led to the birth of Bamford Watch Department, a bespoke customisation service that harks back to the boutique craftsmen of the past.

Bamford has since gone from strength to strength, causing something of a sensation in the luxury world with an extensive array of exclusive limited edition designs and exciting high-profile collaborations.

One such partnership – the result of Bamford’s owner George Bamford being a life-long Snoopy fan – sees three special edition watches featuring characters from the hit cartoon series, Peanuts.

The first of the three designs features Snoopy, the famous animated beagle, daydreaming on top of his doghouse. Charlie Brown, the kind-hearted protagonist of the comic, is the muse for the second design, depicted by his iconic dramatic crying face. The third of the limited edition watches features an illustration of Snoopy by Swedish graffiti artist, Andre – better known by his graffiti artist alter-ego, Mr. A – complete with his signature wink and love hearts. The watch also features the wistful quote “life is a dream.”

All three designs are Bamford Mayfair watches. Originally a “service watch,” lent as a replacement to clients while they were having their own watches in for service, it soon became clear that its unique style was attracting quite a fan base. Following increased demand from customers wanting to actually buy the watch, the Bamford Mayfair was born.

Available in a range of eye-popping colours, the Mayfair has been updated ahead of the summer. With an extensive choice of bezel colour, coating and type of strap, wearers can let their personal style shine. For even more individuality, the case-back can also be engraved.

Made using the iconic Miyota quartz 2035 movement, the Bamford Mayfair is both reliable, and waterproof to 10ATM. The perfect piece for accessorising your poolside outfit this summer!

The Bamford London watches are available to pre-order and purchase at www.bamfordlondon.com.

Hemmels – The £1 Million Cars Crafted In Wales By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel finds out how Hemmels rebuild classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles for luxury lovers around the world, including one previously owned by Cardiff-born Dame Shirley Bassey….

It’s not often that “unique” actually means “unique,” but that’s the case with Hemmels in Cardiff, a company that painstakingly and forensically rebuilds some of the most beautiful cars ever produced, for a global audience of the rich and famous.

Hemmels was set up in 2016 and now employs 50 people with both the specialist skills and the affection for restoring classic Mercedes models. The range is limited to the 190 SL, which costs an entry level £250,000; the 280 SL, known affectionately as the “Pagoda” because of its shape; and the 300 SL, whose Gullwing version can achieve a price of £1.4 million, a value appreciated by classic car lovers worldwide. The company turns out no more than 40 vehicles each year.

Cars of up to 60 years old are brought in and completely stripped, before the parts are catalogued, cleaned and restored, albeit mainly replaced, using parts sourced directly from Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart – coincidentally Cardiff’s twin city – along with other luxury items, such as fine quality leather for the cars’ interiors, in a process that can take 52 weeks.

The work demands high levels of craftsmanship and expertise, but as Hemmels’ Head of Marketing, Iain Wood, explains: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the talent we’ve found locally – skilled workers who are making unique, outstanding products. We’ve also had the backing of Welsh Government’s apprenticeship schemes, and currently have seven strong apprentices working with us.”

In August, the team at Hemmels start production of their first electric version, and it is testimony to their relationship with Mercedes-Benz that one of their vehicles, a 1968 280 SL “Pagoda” now has pride of place at Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands, Surrey.

Amongst the owners of the 300 SL over the years are Sophia Loren and Clark Gable, and the smaller, sporty 190 SL has been enjoyed by the likes of Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly. Hemmels is currently restoring a 190 SL, previously owned by Cardiff-born Dame Shirley Bassey, having re-imported the car from the USA.

For more information, go to www.hemmels.com.

Eco Paradise Alphonse Island Now Offers Year-Round Luxury…. By The Luxury Channel

Alphonse Island, part of Blue Safari Seychelles, is a pristine, natural paradise in the Seychelles Archipelago, in the heart of the Indian Ocean. This private island, part of the Alphonse group of atolls, which includes St Francois and Bijoutier, is considered one of the purest natural idylls in the world. Beautiful white beaches line the edges of a lush tropical forest surrounded by miles of unblemished shorelines, lagoons, sea flats and protected coral reefs, which are home to the vast array of wildlife that exist in this ecosystem.

To celebrate opening all year round so that guests can relax and indulge in this luxurious nature lover’s paradise anytime they wish, a special ‘‘stay seven, pay five’’ package will be available from the 1st May until the 30th September 2019. The seven-night package costs USD $5025pp full board, based on two people sharing a Beach Bungalow and also includes a generous array of activities and inter-island transfers. Alphonse Island is a 60-minute flight from Mahé, with flights departing every Saturday.

Alphonse Island features 22 private Beach Bungalows and five Beach Suites, all overlooking the Indian Ocean. Beach Bungalows maximise the stunning surroundings, set amongst lush tropical plantation just metres from the beach. With outdoor showers – and the beach just steps away – the rooms are all focused on the surrounding natural beauty. The five one-bedroom Beach Suites are nestled amongst tropical plants, and are close to the white sandy beach. Discreet and luxurious, Beach Suites offer two bathrooms and a lounge area to give guests more space, as well as private plunge pools. Interiors reference Creole style and local materials, reflecting a sophisticated fresh island style of the 21st Century.

Alphonse offers guests a unique combination of activities exclusive to the island, many of which are included in the package:

· Kayaking

· Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding

· Floodlit Tennis Courts

· Flats Lunch on remote St. François or Bijoutier atolls

· Giant Tortoise Viewing

· Swimming with Spinner Dolphins (extra cost)

· Snorkeling with a Marine Biologist (extra)

· Diving Centre with PADI Courses (extra cost)

· Fly Fishing (extra cost)

· Guided Nature Walks (extra cost)

Alphonse Island is also famous for being the best scuba-diving destination in the Seychelles, with 30 dive sites surrounding the island rich with multiple marine species such as green turtles, eagle rays, nurse sharks and rainbow-hued tropical fish. This area is also an internationally renowned fly fishing destination.

Sustainability is the foundation of the Blue Safari Seychelles philosophy and all of the atolls and islands within the Blue Safari Seychelles portfolio are committed to the protection of the environment. Since September 2018, they are proud to be the first commercial Outer Island with a hospitality offering to rely on solar power and go completely ‘‘off-grid.’’

Designed to allow guests to reconnect with nature while respecting it, the Island Conservation Society (ICS) team offers activities to create an island that is intimately connected to the natural environment. As part of the guided walks and Native Vegetation Restoration project, guests can, for instance, choose to plant an endemic tree. Swimming with – and photographing – manta rays, is a particularly magical ocean experience, which helps capture important data about individual specimens and their movements. These islands also provide important nesting grounds for endemic hawksbill and green turtles; the turtle patrol and tracking project provides important insights into the population numbers and their movement, which helps the team protect them.

Alphonse Island is paradise perfected – and now guests can explore and relax all year round!

Further Information

E-mail – reservations@alphonse-island.com
Telephone – +248 4229705 (GMT + 04:00)
Website – www.alphonse-island.com

Heureka – I’ve Found It! The Height of Luxury (And Water) In Venice…. By Hannah Norman

The last thing I expected to be doing on a luxury break in Venice is wrapping myself up in big black bin bags, held in place by strips of ugly brown parcel tape, with bright blue waders and a pair of (admittedly slightly unnecessary) sunglasses to complete my look. This was not some sponsored “worst dressed” charity fashion event, however, but rather more a concerted bid to beat what I later found out were the fourth worst floods in Venice’s entire history.

But let’s back up a bit. I had been invited to the City of Canals to experience the charm and luxury of the beautiful Hotel Heureka, a newly opened boutique hotel situated in the heart and history of Venice, overlooking the Madonna dell’Orto Canal at the front, and with sweeping views straight across the lagoon at the back. Designed by Plan A Einrichtung, the hotel boasts contemporary design and striking architecture, making it an Instagrammer’s paradise, with unique furnishings, luscious fabrics and fun touches throughout. Consisting of just 10 individually-styled rooms, the hotel has a distinct look that is all its own, and a sympathetic two-year restoration project now sees a neat bridge between the architectural grandeur of the building’s past and the contemporary quirkiness of the interior design. Hallmarked by four-poster beds and coloured tile mosaics, each suite is a haven in which to escape and unwind (and then update your Insta feed).

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the comfort of the bed, then head outside, where Hotel Heureka hides a treasure in the form of a spacious secret garden. A little woodland oasis of tranquillity, by day the garden is the perfect place to relax under the leafy canopy of the trees. As night descends, it is an enchanting spot in which to while away an evening under a blanket of stars.

Image courtesy of Venice Quality Transfers

The best way to arrive at this private palace is by private transfer, and the best way of doing that is through Venice Quality Transfers. Helmed by the lovely Trisha Perolari, this private water taxi transfer business was set up with an aim to break even after 15 months. That in fact happened after only three and the rest, as they say, is history. Trisha and her team – which has grown with the business – will meet you at the transport hub of your choice, whether that’s on the platform at Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, or the more common pick-up point of Venice Marco Polo Airport’s arrivals hall. A swift glide across the lagoon from the airport to the hotel can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

In my case, this was just as well, as I had been invited to an evening of prosecco and cicheti by the maverick founder of London’s Polpo restaurants, Russell Norman (no relation – or at least, we don’t think we’re related). With the help of fellow Kent girl Anna Gilchrist cooking up a storm in the kitchen, the evening was designed to showcase Russell’s flair and passion for using local Venetian ingredients (think pickled vegetables from the nearby island of Sant Erasmo, and fish fresh from the lagoon), in the beautiful setting of one of the city’s newest boutique hotels. The endless platters of flavoursome, almost rustic, food were obligingly served with bubbling glasses of delicious prosecco from the Bisol vineyard.

The following day, while the tourists headed off to Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, I stuck to exploring Cannaregio, the quiet siestiere that Hotel Heureka calls home, to uncover the “undiscovered” side of Venice. First of all, a visit to Battiloro, a family business that sees beaten gold transformed into wafer-thin sheets for use in the art, food, building and beauty industries. The applications for the many hues of gold and silver that the company produces from its tiny workshop are as varied as they are international (think tiles, temporary tattoos and gold leaf as edible food decoration).

Images courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni

One such use of this most precious of metals is the gold face mask treatment offered at The Merchant of Venice Spa at San Clemente Palace Kempinski. The effects of the acqua alta – the famous Venetian high tide – and the resulting poor weather scuppered my chances of making it across the lagoon to try it out, so I decided to brave the tourist crowds and head to The Merchant of Venice’s flagship boutique on Campo San Fantin instead, right by both Teatro La Fenice and the Rialto Bridge. The beautiful store, originally a pharmacy, is now a treasure trove of perfumes and colourful bottles. I was initially swayed by the fresh scent of Blue Tea, the newest of The Merchant of Venice’s perfumes, but in the end, it was the rich, woody and seductive Venezia Essenza that made its way into my basket.

By now, the water had come cascading down the street in a fast-flowing torrent, and an escape to sustenance (read: a bottle of bubbles) was most certainly in order. A couple of hours enjoying pasta and prosecco meant delaying the inevitable and eventually, I had to accept that the only way I was going to make it back to the hotel was to wade through the flood waters of the swollen canals. Now above knee-height, this therefore meant employing the slightly unconventional tactic of binding myself in bin bags and hoping that the water wasn’t so deep that the streets were entirely off-limits! After a slightly soggy trudge from one end of Venice to the other, the hotel was a very welcome sight indeed, particularly when the staff came to greet me at the door bearing towels and slippers.

Image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni

Up early the next morning, and you’d never have guessed at the sheer extent of the floods the day before. A clear blue sky promised a day of adventure, and so it was that I ventured away from the mainland to the island of Burano, with its gorgeous candy-coloured houses lining the edge of the canals. It is well worth the “island hop” to come here and admire the quaint painted colour splashes of this charming neighbourhood (and did somebody say Instagram?).

Image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni

As the day drew to its close and the sun retreated into the depths of the lagoon, I headed back to Venice proper, taking one last look up at Hotel Heureka, before the team at Venice Quality Transfers arrived to whisk me back over the waves to the airport. This was one city break that I certainly shan’t be forgetting in a hurry!

Hotel Heureka has flung open its doors and is ready to offer guests a warm welcome – and a “heureka!” moment of their own….

Further Information

Hotel Heurekawww.hotel-heureka.com

Venice Quality Transferswww.venicequalitytransfers.com


Battilorowww.berta-battiloro.com

Nexa Eventiwww.nexave.org

Perfumes by The Merchant of Venice are available in the UK from Harrods, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser.

Escape To Rustic Elegance At Castello Del Nero By Coral Manson

From truffle hunts to Michelin-starred dinners, Coral Manson discovers why Tuscany’s Castello Del Nero hotel is one of Italy’s hidden gems….

It’s sometimes said that the journey can be as important as the destination and, in the case of the drive to Castello Del Nero Hotel & Spa, this adage is spot on. Situated in the Chianti area of Tuscany, and surrounded by its own 750-acre estate, I wind my way up to the hotel through beautiful countryside filled with wild boar, pheasants and deer. As an introduction to a weekend of pampering, feasting and long wildlife walks, it couldn’t be more perfect.

In truth, it’s the perfect place for outwards-bound types as the hotel’s owners have crafted miles of trails for cycling, walking and running. Rather than my usual routine of pounding London’s streets, I was looking forward to taking a run through some of the more remote spots in the area.

However, even the most committed keep-fit enthusiast will find it hard to wrench themselves from the comforting embrace of this beautiful property. It’s been faithfully restored, and inspected and approved by the Italian department of cultural heritage, resulting in somewhere that is less a hotel and more a grand country house. From the perfect Tuscan background of olive trees, vines and cypresses to the traditional terracotta and chestnut wood of the property itself, this is a place to fall in love with.

And while it has rustic elegance in spades, Castello Del Nero also offers the best in modern amenities, such as a spa veranda featuring a heated pool with all the massage jets your muscles could wish for, plus a steam room, sauna, treatments rooms and a good gym.

The 50 bedrooms are also lovely, with some offering original frescoes and all impeccably decorated. The design was overseen by Alain Mertens, an interior designer to Sting and Madonna, and have an aesthetic that effortlessly combines homely with stylish.

The room of choice is the Royal Galway Suite, named for the flautist James Galway, a friend of the hotel’s owner, which includes a terrace that offers a stunning view and can easily hold 40 people. Frankly, it has ‘‘big birthday blowout party’’ written all over it, although I’m not sure that kind of raucous affair is entirely in-keeping with the relaxed vibe of this place.

I spent the day truffle hunting in the forest with my guide, Jacopo, and his dogs, Pia and Oofo. After digging up a few nuggets of ‘‘white gold,’’ I headed back to cook them in the hotel kitchens – an experience which is the epitome of ‘‘field to fork.’’

Later that evening, dinner was taken in La Torre, the hotel’s elegant Michelin-starred restaurant, housed in the former stables. The food is as impressive as the space itself, with the menu offering seasonal Tuscan classics such as wild boar ravioli, suckling pig, pigeon two ways and roast turbot. The red shrimp-filled pasta seemed to be a particular hit, getting oohs and ahs from those who’d ordered it. Of course, given where we were, the wine – particularly the red – was phenomenal and even the olive oil was so extraordinary that I bought several bottles of it for dressing salads at home.

And while I didn’t venture much further than the truffle-treasure woods nearby, there is a local town that’s worth a visit. San Gimignano, a quick 20-minute ride away, is a charming little place with narrow, winding streets, handsome plazas, and enough small boutiques to keep even the keenest shopper happy.

My advice, though, is to make the most of your time at the hotel – because this gem of a place is the last word in refined relaxation.

For more information, visit www.castellodelnero.com.

Escape To Luxury In Amsterdam At Hotel TwentySeven By Teresa Levonian Cole

As Amsterdam prepares to mark the 350th anniversary of the death of Rembrandt in 2019, the city also celebrates a new hotel, quite unlike any other. The creation of award-wining hotelier, Eric Toren, with designers Wim van de Oudeweetering and Cris van Amterdam, this small, sixteen-suite paean to luxury – unassumingly named Hotel TwentySeven – is the latest winner of the Boutique Hotel Awards’ coveted Most Inspired Design Hotel category. 2018 saw a flurry of awards for the hotel, as it was also awarded the title of Best Small Luxury Hotel of Europe at the International Property Awards, and it won “Best Wow Effect” of Luxury Hotels, an accolade awarded by Hospitality ON, the organisation behind the World Wide Hospitality Awards.

First, its location: in central Dam Square, above the celebrated Gassan diamond store, and an influential business club, TwentySeven occupies the 3rd to 6th floors of a 1913 building. “It was a total mess when we acquired it,” says Toren, who immediately set about the meticulous recreation of the central light-well and staircases, replicating the original 1920s tile-work, terrazzo floors, and marquetry of the elevator doors to restore their original splendour. Structural restoration aside, the interiors are a sumptuous evocation of the city’s Golden Age; a theatrical blend of classical – in the form of plush velvets and oodles of Rubelli fabrics dressing windows and upholstery – with bespoke furniture, lighting, and changing selection of art, the latter curated by Cobra Gallery.

The lift door opens on the third floor, to heady wafts of eastern promise – the signature fragrance, evocative of Amsterdam’s erstwhile role in the spice trade. Contemporary glass orbs hang from the light-well like celestial bodies, diffusing atmospheric changes of colour. This is the floor where you eat, drink and make merry. All around, drama lies in contrast: in Bougainville restaurant, for example, gothic black tasseled lamps and gold silk brocade seating are strikingly juxtaposed with oversized photographs of icons of the Big Screen. This is the intimate stage for Executive Chef Tim Goldsteijn, whose artistry has recently seen the restaurant awarded its first Michelin star, while “Dutch Sommelier Champion 2018” Lendl Mijnhijmer oversees a list of deliciously unfamiliar wines. The 7-course menu (with optional wine pairing), is the ideal solution for those faced with the delectable agony of à la carte indecision.

The lounge bar, meantime – a popular meeting place, and heart of the hotel – is not to be outdone in the championship stakes. The domain of the “World’s Best Bartender,” Eric van Beek conjures up his award-winning Cariňo – a creamy blend of rum, vanilla, lemon and yoghurt – from behind his backlit onyx bar. Here it is that autumnal tones dominate: plush amber velvet seating, a central artwork in the form of a horizontal ceiling light of polished tangled copper sheets, and copper thread adding shimmer to the silk walls. The copper, in fact, created unforeseen problems. “It played havoc with the WiFi,” says Toren, “so we had to find a way around that….”

Adjoining the bar, cigar-lovers will be delighted to find an elegant smoking room at their disposal, overlooking Rokin – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of the ‘public’ rooms. No spas, gyms, or superfluous gestures here. The suites themselves are the focus of no-expense-spared comfort, ranging from a cosy 40 sq.m. to the palatial 245 sq.m. of the Imperial Terrace Suite. Somewhere in between come the romantic, Rapunzel-esque Tower Dream Suite with its “floating-candle” lighting beneath the copper dome, and the aptly-named Rooftop Stage Suite, with its huge round bed and unexpected crannies.

Perhaps the most atmospheric are the top floor rooms: fantasy dens with high triangular ceilings, snugs and oriole windows. But each suite, though unique in design and detail, displays the same exuberant interplay of textures in warm metallic tones: handcrafted bespoke Ebru silk carpets which introduce a touch of Islamic geometry over oak floors of Versailles design, custom-made furniture, satin cushions, silk brocades and devoré velvets, Pierre Frey-clad walls – every vertical and horizontal surface dressed to the nines. It is a campness which, by some sprinkling of magic dust, avoids tipping into vulgarity. Contemporary hand-picked artworks and whacky lighting provide the finishing touches, along with satisfyingly heavy crystal glasses for the well-stocked in-room bars, fresh flower arrangements, bathrooms – with jacuzzi and steam chambers – of marbled-inlay design, and a host of shower features the mastery of which might well require the assistance of your butler.

Service – which includes everything from personal shopper to private guided tours – is, of course, as you would expect of a hotel which has been referred to as ‘six-star,’ as is the touch-of-a-button technology and high-speed internet. Light sleepers will be glad of the luxury of silence, insulated from the tourist hubbub without. Rooms are totally sound-proofed, with 10cm-thick, triple-insulated wooden doors – each of which, Toren notes wryly, “was hand-made, and cost more than a car.”’ But of his overall expenditure on this hotel, Toren remains coy. “All I will say, is that it went €5 million over-budget,” he grins. “I won’t be retiring any time soon!”

Further Information

Hotel TwentySeven
Dam 27, 1012 JS Amsterdam
+31 20-21 82 180
www.hoteltwentyseven.com
Suites start from £445

House of Today Biennale – Top Ten Design Highlights By Elizabeth Parker

House of Today has called upon talented Lebanese designers and creatives to elevate accepted design norms, using their own unique aesthetic to create tables that not only serve a function or purpose, but that trigger emotions through a journey of sensorial experience. The selected designers are presented as part of an exhibition called ‘‘Elevate – The Quest For Heightened Senses,’’ running until December 28th, 2018.

1.DAVID/NICOLAS – DELUSIONAL

David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem are Beirut-based designers. Their unique way of blending retro, contemporary and futuristic elements gives their work a timeless aesthetic that translates to a wide range of projects, from furniture design, to high-end bespoke interiors. The duo studied together at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts and the Scuola Politecnica Di Design in Milan, going on to found their own studio, david/nicolas, in Beirut in 2011. Since then, david/nicolas has staged several exhibitions and collaborated with established international brands. In 2014, The New York Times selected david/nicolas as one of the three breakout stars of Milan Design Week, where they launched the bespoke “Artichoke” safe with Agresti for Wallpaper* Handmade, as well as their collection “Dualita” for Nina Yashar’s Nilufar Gallery.

2.TAMARA BARRAGE – BODILY TABLES

Tamara Barrage is a Lebanese designer based in Beirut. After earning a master’s degree in Product Design from ALBA (Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts) in 2011, she pursued a second master’s degree from Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands specializing in Contextual Design. Upon her return to her hometown in 2014, Tamara engaged in exploring the tactile and sensorial characteristics of various materials. Using an array of experimental techniques, Tamara aspires to better articulate how forms and textures provoke senses, manipulate emotions and articulate memories. Her interest in materiality takes the form of multiple explorations into shapes that become materials, or materials that turn into shapes. Often threatening while revealing an overwhelming sense of fragility, her creations are creatures of another realm, somehow unfamiliar, somehow – if one looks closely enough – all too familiar.

3. STEPHANIE MOUSSALLEM – SCRIPT

The Beirut born and based Lebanese designer Stéphanie Moussallem undertook her studies in interior architecture, graduating in July 2011 with a Master’s in product design. She soon came to the attention of the owner of one of the most prestigious design and production companies in the Middle East, and subsequently worked there for 4 years before setting up Stéphanie Moussallem Design Studio. The Studio brings distinct high-end collectible furniture from Beirut to the world, and Stéphanie’s work has been exhibited at various design shows in Paris, Milan and Beirut.

4. CHARLES KALPAKIAN – FAROS

Charles Kalpakian was born in Beirut in 1982. After collaborating with prestigious agencies including Christophe Pillet in 2011, he launched his own design studio and has since been developing projects and collaborations with numerous French and Italian manufacturers. The influences of his work take shape through the reinterpretation of motifs derived from the decorative arts. Ranging from product to interior design, Charles’ ventures always highlight the richness of his origins, combined with elements of Western modernity.

5. ROULA SALAMOUN – ANATOMY

Roula Salamoun is an architect and founder of EXTRAGROUND, a Beirut-based studio developing multidisciplinary projects. She earned her Bachelor of Architecture with distinction from the American University of Beirut in 2007, and continued her graduate research in New York City at Columbia University, where she was awarded the William Kinne fellowship. She has collaborated with Columbia University on a number of regional projects and worked with Bernard Khoury / DW5 for over six years as a Project Manager and Architecture Manager, before establishing her practice in 2017.

6. SALIM AL-KADI – FARADAY CAGE

Salim Al-Kadi is an architect from Beirut. Since 2014, Salim has also been involved in SIGIL, a collective involving Khaled Malas, Alfred Tarazi and Jana Traboulsi. Together, they have completed multiple projects including: “Excavating The Sky: A Project On Syria,” commissioned by and exhibited at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale; “Current Power In Syria,” exhibited at the 2016 Marrakech Art Biennale; and “Electric Resistance – Monument To A Destroyed Windmill,” exhibited at the 2017 Sharjah Biennale in the Sursock Museum in Beirut. In 2016, Salim founded the Beirut Architecture Office. A practicing architect, Salim believes that the responsibility of the architect is not to build confidence in the built environment, but rather disrupt the apparent stasis by introducing necessary hesitation.

7. SIBYLLE TARAZI – SHIFTING TIMES

Raised in Beirut, Paris and Rome, designer Sibylle Tarazi graduated in Graphic Design and Fine Arts from the American University of Beirut in 2002 and with a Master’s degree in Accessories Design with a specialism in Jewellery from Milan’s Domus Academy in 2007. Born to a family of archaeologists, designers and craftsmen specialising in Middle Eastern art, Sibylle was inevitably immersed into a stimulating historical and contemporary art milieu, which clearly stands out in her artwork. Conscious that fulfilling a role in tune with her background could play for or against her own artistic aspirations, she has spent much of her life working towards distinguishing herself and developing her own unique style.

8. MARIE-LYNE SAMAHA AND ANTHONY DAHER – DOILY

Marie-Lyne and Anthony Daher founded their architecture and design firm in 2012. Its focus is creating sustainable and ecological designs, while maintaining key elements of Lebanese heritage. Since its establishment in Amchit, the Studio has carried out various construction, landscape and interior design projects, aimed at promoting the integration of classic Lebanese character and contemporary concepts.

9. NADINE HAJJAR – LOU

Nadine Hajjar is a Lebanese designer and wood artist based in Montreal, Canada. Trained in Beirut as an interior architect at the Lebanese American University, she decided to specialise in furniture and industrial design by enrolling in, and obtaining, a Master’s degree at the Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. To further satisfy her thirst for creation, and more crucially for production, she decided she wanted to be closer to the material itself: wood. She subsequently studied cabinet-making in Montreal for 3 years, at the École d’Ébénisterie d’Art de Montréal. Nadine founded Nadine Hajjar Studio in 2014, and since then, she has been developing her own collection of furniture, lighting and objects. It is only through carving wood and witnessing how objects take shape by her own hands that she feels complete as a designer and a sculptor.

10. JANA ARIDI – INGRID

Jana Aridi is a Lebanese architect and designer. She received her degree in Architecture from the American University of Beirut in 2013 and in 2017, she completed her Master’s in Product Design from Domus Academy in Milan. Jana has always been fascinated with the handmade, the customised, and the personal. Her designs, much like her architecture, are thoughtful, straightforward and raw, always true to the material used and the story they want to tell. She uses different forms of expression to give life to her projects from simple watercolours, to paintings in powerful acrylic. Most recently, she immersed herself in the art of hand-carving wooden spoons. Her most recent work is a collaboration with architect Karim Nader at the Art of Dining, an event by AD Middle East, where she showcased a limited edition set of unique hand-carved wooden spoons that each represents a different shape and function.

‘‘Elevate – The Quest For Heightened Senses,’’ curated by House of Today, is open from 10 am – 7 pm until 28th December 2018 (closed on 25th December) at 3BEIRUT in Lebanon. For more information about House of Today, go to www.houseoftoday.com.

Dining For Royalty By The Luxury Channel

Tables d’Exception (image courtesy of Imran Amed)

Just imagine it – you’re sitting at home when you receive a call from the Palace to say that the Queen is popping round. Oh, and she may stay for dinner. You’ve now got to whip together an entire table setting fit for Royalty – but who on earth can you call on to help?! Step forward Hubert de Vinols, the renowned French interior architect and art collector, who has launched his latest project, called Tables d’Exception, offering magnificent table settings for hire. Designed by Vinols using his extensive collection of fine and rare 18th and 19th century tableware, the concept is aimed at affluent individuals and organisations wishing to entertain in a manner that evokes elegance and grandeur (irrespective of whether your guests are members of the Royal household). Vinols’ creative eye and design skills have been honed from his interiors and restoration projects in chateaux and castles across Europe. He now combines his opulent antique porcelain dinner services, fine silver and textured glassware to create his “tablescapes” for up to 100 guests.

Vinols has had a passion for designing grand table settings ever since he inherited a large collection of important 18th and 19th century tableware from his historically interesting family. Over the years, he has steadily added to his collection, acquiring the finest pieces at auction, privately and from antique dealers around the world. He also owns a fascinating collection of his family’s menus, and these serve to inspire him when he creates beautifully hand-written menu cards for his clients.

With fine dining making a steady and welcome return to the London foodie scene, Vinols sees a gap in the UK market. “I wish for Tables d’Exception to enable a return to refined entertaining, where a beautiful setting inspires convivial discourse,” he revealed.

Vinols’ extensive tableware collection comprises the crème-de- la-crème of names in European luxury tableware, including Sèvres, Meissen, Chantilly, Locré, Baccarat, Odiot, Daum and Saint-Louis. These combine with fine embossed silk and table linens, antique silver and silver-gilt candlesticks, menu stands, salt cellars, sugar casters and magnificent ornate centre-pieces. It has rarely been possible to hire antique tableware, let alone have a table setting designed by a renowned collector and authority on the subject. Her Majesty is sure to be impressed….

Tables d’Exception operates in France, Switzerland and the UK, and commissioning fees are calculated on an individual basis. For further information, please visit www.tablesdexception.com.

Iconic Designers To Be Honoured At The Fashion Awards 2018 By The Luxury Channel

The Fashion Awards (image courtesy of Agnese Sanvitop and the British Fashion Council)

The British Fashion Council has announced that two of the fashion industry’s most iconic designers will be honoured at this year’s Fashion Awards, which will be held at the Royal Albert Hall in London in partnership with Swarovski. Miuccia Prada will receive the Outstanding Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the global fashion industry. Meanwhile, Dame Vivienne Westwood will be honoured with the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, in recognition of her incredible contribution to the fashion industry and her continued work to promote and engage with the industry positively in making a global change for the benefit of the environment.

Speaking about The Swarovski Award for Positive Change, Caroline Rush, Chief Executive British Fashion Council, revealed that “Dame Vivienne Westwood has led the way championing humanitarian and environmental issues, and her contributions to British fashion make her one of the most respected designers in the fashion industry, and a great inspiration to us all.” Nadja Swarovski, of the Swarovski Executive Board, is equally impressed by the designer. “Dame Vivienne Westwood has made an indelible mark on global fashion and we are delighted to celebrate her inspirational creativity, lifelong advocacy of environmental causes and promotion of ethical fashion which have had an enduring and profound effect on the industry,” she said.

The Outstanding Achievement Award, meanwhile, celebrates the overwhelming creative contribution of an individual to the fashion industry, who throughout their illustrious career, has constantly shaped and reshaped the fashion world through their innovation and creativity. Previous winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award include Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, Dame Anna Wintour OBE, and Manolo Blahnik CBE, to name only a few. Caroline Rush revealed that Miuccia Prada will be receiving the award “for being an incredible design maverick and for spearheading the evolution of the Prada group from a family business to a global brand.” Nadja Swarovski added that, “Miuccia Prada is unquestionably one of the most influential designers in fashion history. A true visionary, her dedication to fashion as an art form is endlessly inspirational. We are delighted to celebrate her remarkable achievements at this year’s Fashion Awards.”

The Fashion Awards (image courtesy of Zoe Lower and the British Fashion Council)

Miuccia Prada has held the position of Lead Creative Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Italian fashion brand Prada for 40 years. She took over the family business in 1978 and began work with Patrizio Bertelli, who pioneered the introduction of a new business model in the luxury industry, based on direct control of all processes, applying rigorous quality criteria
through all stages of production. A business model that goes hand in hand with Miuccia Prada’s maverick creativity. The family business transformed from a small leather goods house into one of the fashion industry’s powerhouses, initially with an understated industrial black nylon backpack that countered the idea of traditional, conservative luxury and onto a hugely successful ready-to-wear line for women, “a uniform for the slightly disenfranchised.” Through her unconventional observation of society and her maverick ideas, Miuccia defines a product culture based on a creativity that is in a constant state of evolution. Her constant questioning and discussion of how to make a piece immune to “trend for trend’s sake” results in lasting pieces which reflect concepts instead of trends, and aspects of people, personalities and ideas.

Prada debuted their first catwalk in 1988 to critical acclaim and cemented Miuccia as a key fashion player. Since then, the fashion house has showcased womenswear and menswear collections in over 100 catwalk shows. These collections led to iconic campaigns from the Italian house which originated in black and white and evolved to high contrast and colour in the 2000s. They have always featured the biggest models of the moment – Carla Bruni, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell – all photographed by the best photographers including Steven Meisel, Glen Luchford, David Sims and Peter Lindbergh. More recently, Prada released their 365 campaign taking a new direction with several narratives intended to place the high-fashion designs in realistic environments as opposed to a more fantasised setting.

Dame Vivienne Westwood, by contrast, has spent the last 20 years campaigning for several environmental and human rights charities and grass roots NGOs, and has dedicated a number of her shows and collections to raise awareness around these causes. Since 2010, the brand has worked with the International Trade Centre, a joint body of the United Nations, to produce bags through their Ethical Fashion Initiative. The programme currently supports the work of thousands of women from marginalised African communities and empowers informal manufacturers and craftspeople to enter the international value chain – providing an income for some of the poorest people in the world. The collections are created using recycled materials from slums and land fill, and the income helps to stop the need to continue deforestation in the area. Dame Vivienne actively supports efforts to save the rainforest and stop climate change. She is also an ambassador for Greenpeace and in 2013, designed its official “Save the Artic” logo.

Sir David Adjaye OBE with The Fashion Awards 2018 Trophy

This year, the British Fashion Council and Swarovski have commissioned Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, the founder and principal architect of Adjaye Associates, to create the crystal trophies for The Fashion Awards. A study of form and material, optical effects are achieved through geometry which amplify the refraction, distortion and reflection of the Swarovski crystal material used to create each trophy. The six-sided column design tapers upward to create a dynamic form of triangular facets, utilising Swarovski’s innovative Wave Cut technology to achieve multiple concave surfaces. These surfaces, combined with the prismatic geometry, create beautiful and unexpected refractions. Each trophy weighs approximately 1.4kg kg and measures a substantial 24cm in height, and has been handcrafted from crystal by Swarovski’s master cutters at the company’s headquarters in Wattens, in Austria.

Further Information

Prada – www.prada.com
Vivienne Westwood – www.viviennewestwood.com
British Fashion Council – www.britishfashioncouncil.co.uk
Swarovski – www.swarovskigroup.com

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort Unveils $20 Million Renovation By The Luxury Channel

Revealing a sophisticated design aesthetic with a traditional Maldivian feel, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, in the North Malé Atoll, has announced the completion of a $20 million renovation. Designed by boutique multi-disciplinary design practice, Topo Design Studio, the newly-transformed resort now exhibits beautiful Maldivian architecture with a contemporary twist, reflecting the five-star experience guaranteed at the property.

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is situated on the private island of Furanafushi in the Republic of Maldives – just 1km and a 15 minute speedboat ride away from Malé International Airport. The five-star resort offers 176 guest rooms designed to blend into the surrounding turquoise waters, pristine beaches and lush greenery. Also boasting 7 unique restaurants and bars, the Shine Spa for Sheraton (located on its very own island) and 3 outdoor tropical fresh water pools, the resort is the perfect destination for honeymooners, families and solo travellers alike.

Topo Design Studio took their inspiration from the surrounding environment to ensure that all aspects of the resort emulate a traditional Maldivian feel. As a result, all aspects of the resort have been elegantly renovated, from the restyled landscape gardens around the swimming pools, to the rooms and restaurants, ensuring a completely dovetailed style throughout the island.

“As the third eldest resort in the Maldives, dating back to 1937, it is very important to us that we continue to modernise our property to ensure it goes above and beyond the standards expected of a five-star resort, without losing the feel of our surroundings,” General Manager Emilio Fortini said of the reason for the renovation, adding that the entire hotel staff looks forward “to welcoming both new and returning guests to discover [the resort’s] new enhancements, which I have no doubt will only enrich their experience on our unique tropical paradise.”

A tropical paradise indeed, as Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa now boasts 10 different luxury room categories, all spaciously located around the island, including the re-styled Deluxe Cottages, and Water Bungalows with Pools. These spacious cottages all offer the utmost privacy and provide easy access to the heavenly white sandy beach and the lagoon. As part of the renovation, they now feature an outdoor so guests can truly immerse themselves in their luscious green surroundings.

Meanwhile, with a total of 7 bars and restaurants, the resort ensures that a variety of dining options are available to guests, ranging from a casual al fresco treat to a quintessentially Maldivian feast. The newest addition to the completed renovations includes the centrally-located Feast Restaurant, which has been uniquely designed to emulate the local culture and now boasts a cadent coconut roofing and a sophisticated white colour scheme. Feast Restaurant comes to life with chefs creating dishes from around the world from live-cooking stations made from cleanly-cut marble surfaces. Similarly, the Anchorage Bar has been elegantly renovated with a gentle colour palette that does not detract from the panoramic view of the stunning Indian Ocean. This creates a laid back atmosphere and encourages guests to relax on the comfortable day beds, listen to live music from a local band and sip on one of the resort’s signature cocktails.

Further Information

Rates: Nightly rates at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa start from $400/£315 per night based on 2 people sharing a Deluxe Garden View King Room on a B&B basis. For more information, click here.

Address: Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, Furanafushi Island, North Male’ Atoll, Maldives

Tel: +960 664 2010

Stella McCartney Launches UN Charter To Wake Up The World of Fast Fashion By The Luxury Channel

John Cloppenburg, Johanna Klum and Stella McCartney (image courtesy of Frazer Harrison for Getty Images)

As famous as she is for her fluid and feminine fashion, Stella McCartney is perhaps equally as well known for her passion for the environment. She frequently marries the two, such as her well-publicised use of faux fur and the staging of her fashion shoots in locations that allow her to publicise environmental issues. Having bought back her business from Kering this year (the fashion conglomerate previously owned 50% of the brand), McCartney is undeterred from forging ahead with eco-conscious fashion, while putting the causes closest to her heart firmly in the spotlight.

So it’s little surprise that she’s launching a UN Charter for Sustainable Fashion, which she herself collaborated on. The fashion industry remains one of the world’s most environmentally damaging, and so the charter is being put in place to help brands face up to the devastation that they are ultimately wreaking, with 16 commitments to promote change for the better.

“We really don’t have long now, to change things,” McCartney said recently in an interview with The Guardian. “But I honestly believe it’s doable – I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t believe that.” She added that, “The sustainability conversation is really the only one that I am interested in having.” Which, to McCartney’s credit, is something she has always routinely and unapologetically trumpeted. What has become clear in the face of more meaningful and sustained conversations about the increasing threat to the environment from business practices, is that the industry as a whole needs to wake up to the cause and effect of the whole supply chain. “We can only fix this mess if we work together,” McCartney implored.

McCartney advocates that the future of the planet relies on brands getting on board with the charter, revealing that her personal idea of luxury is a wonderfully idyllic vision of having, “clean air to breathe, animals by our side that are happy and healthy, having pure water to drink, having Mother Nature and Planet Earth as the ultimate. I don’t know what else luxury is.” The charter is, at least, a very big step in this direction.

Praveen Moman – The Visionary Conservationist Who Kickstarted Gorilla Tourism By Fiona Sanderson

The Luxury Channel meets Praveen Moman, the founder of Volcanoes Safaris and a pioneer in reviving gorilla and chimpanzee tourism in Rwanda and Uganda for the past 20 years….

Image courtesy of Volcanoes Safaris

A visionary conservationist and named as one of the world’s top twenty-five conservation-philanthropists, Praveen Moman is the founder of Volcanoes Safaris (unique lodges near the great ape parks that are sensitive to local culture and aesthetics), and has helped kickstart gorilla tourism after the Rwanda genocide through the Volcanoes Safaris BLCF Partnership Project. Praveen also aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of local communities, and promotes the conservation of the great apes through his non-profit Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT).

Twenty years ago, Volcanoes Safaris was the first company to set up simple camps in the areas around the gorilla parks in Uganda, first at Mount Gahinga and at Bwindi, and later at Kyambura Gorge. Through a sustained development and investment program, the properties have been gradually improved as the region has opened up, and a major upgrading program throughout 2017 completed their transformation to luxury lodges – each is now a luxurious haven in which to escape following a busy day of gorilla trekking. Today, Volcanoes Safaris is the leading luxury lodge company in Uganda and Rwanda, and it has been at the forefront of reviving gorilla and chimpanzee tourism in the region since 1997.

Image courtesy of Robin François

In 2000, Volcanoes Safaris became the first international safari company to take clients to Rwanda. In 2004, they opened Virunga Lodge, becoming the first international company to build a lodge near the gorilla park after the war. Today, Virunga Lodge is one of Africa’s leading lodges, offering the “luxury gorilla experience.”

The luxury lodges are located at:

• Virunga Lodge – The Luxury Gorilla Experience in Rwanda
• Mount Gahinga – The Batwa Culture & Hiking Lodge in Uganda
• Bwindi – The Jungle Gorilla Lodge in Uganda
• Kyambura Gorge Lodge – The Contemporary Chimpanzee & Wildlife Lodge in Uganda

Over the course of the last twenty years, Volcanoes Safaris has sought to develop lodges that are sensitive to local culture, that connect to the local community, and that seek to use resources responsibly, minimising the environmental impact by using solar power and recycling water wherever possible, and by harvesting rain water whenever they can.

Image courtesy of Volcanoes Safaris

The company also employs over a hundred staff in Rwanda and Uganda, most of whom are based at the lodges. Empowering local staff at all levels of management is a key aspect of the company philosophy and is exceptional among leading lodge companies. Staff from across the region – Rwanda, Uganda, DRC and Burundi – benefit from extensive training programs, meaning that they offer an exceptional level of service to guests at the lodges.

As for founder Praveen, he was born and grew up on safari in Uganda before the expulsion of the Asian community brought his family to Britain when he was a teenager. Having set up Volcanoes Safaris, he now contributes to the rebuilding of the Great Lakes region and divides his time between Africa and London. Praveen’s responsibilities include designing and building Volcanoes’ eco-lodges, the training and empowerment of staff, developing the company’s Eco-tourism Partnership program and taking Volcanoes Safaris forwards as the leading great apes brand in Africa. Praveen regularly lectures in the USA and Europe on the unique great ape eco-tourism model that Volcanoes Safaris has created, and acts as a consultant to governments and non-profit organisations on developing great apes eco-tourism elsewhere in Africa. He shares his thoughts and experiences with us….

Image courtesy of Volcanoes Safaris

Why is visiting gorillas such a unique experience?

It’s a life-changing experience – you can have a dog or a cat but seeing a gorilla is like something of your own past. You arrive in the forest and come across these marooned creatures who are like family, and that’s why it effects people so much. People say it is often the most important moment of their life.

Can you tell us about your work with the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust?

The VSPT was established in 2009, and it is a non-profit organisation that connects Volcanoes’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges to the neighbouring communities and conservation activities. The VSPT aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of local communities, promote the conservation of the great apes, restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict. With international attention on conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas, the Mgahinga part of the Virunga volcanoes in Uganda was turned into a national park in 1991 to provide protection to the wildlife from poaching and habitat encroachment. The creation of the park required the Batwa to be removed from their homes in the mountains and be displaced in a modern world unfamiliar to them. The Batwa ended up squatting in nearby farm land. They earned a living through occasional labour or begging. With limited education, adapting to the modern world has been a difficult journey for them. They do not have resources or land and suffer from acute poverty, malnutrition and poor health. A group of about 18 Batwa families from those displaced live in makeshift shelters on a tiny rocky site at Musasa, about 4 kilometres from the entrance of Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes’ Mount Gahinga Lodge, surviving as best as they can. The VSTP has made considerable progress in creating a permanent settlement for the Gahinga community of Batwa pygmies. A site of about ten acres of land was acquired next to the Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, and the construction of homes for these 18 families (105 adults and children) is well underway.

Image courtesy of Black Bean Productions

How large is the habitat that we are talking about?

It’s a tiny area of 700 square kilometres compared to say, the Serengeti Park which is 30,000 square kilometres. We are talking about the heart of Africa where the borders of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda meet. It is also one of the poorest regions – with most people earning less than $2 per day. Population density is also a big issue. Here, it’s about 600 – 700 people per square kilometre compared to the population of the USA, which is 100 people per square kilometre.

Do you believe that supporting local communities is the way forward, and the only way to ensure the long-term survival of the gorilla?

I would argue that we need to change the paradigm of gorilla tourism and conservation, and make them central to the economic mainstream so communities have a stake in the survival of the gorillas and their habitat. Only by putting bread on the table of local people and giving their children a better future will we ensure that gorilla conservation works. Does this not require a radical rethink by those of us who are privileged, so we support conservation and tourism not for ourselves, but in order to support the local communities who ultimately can save the gorillas? Tourism is one element which brings money, but too much tourism causes stress on the gorillas. Dian Fossey didn’t want tourism at all and thought it would be detrimental to the gorillas. In my opinion, if you had no tourism at all, I don’t think the gorillas would survive.

For further information about Volcanoes Safaris and the work that Praveen Moman and his team are doing, visit www.volcanoessafaris.com.

Celebrating The 25th Anniversary of The Whitley Fund For Nature By The Luxury Channel

As part of their 25th Anniversary goal to raise £1 million in vital funds to support global conservation heroes, the Whitley Fund For Nature held a ‘‘Wild & Wonderful’’ gala dinner at the Natural History Museum in London.

The evening, celebrating the charity’s 25 years, highlighted the achievements of award-winning conservation leaders from Africa, Asia and South America. WFN Trustee, Sir David Attenborough, gave an interview with WFN Ambassador and television presenter Kate Humble on stage, where he praised the Whitley Award winners for having “huge energy, huge passion, and huge knowledge!” He continued by saying, “I believe that these individuals, who have been supported by the Whitley Fund For Nature, will become centres from which to spread the message, and the knowledge, and the zest, and the enthusiasm to create positive change all over their community.”

The Whitley Fund For Nature supports the work of conservationists across the globe, helping to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats. Edward Whitley, founder of the Whitley Fund For Nature, commented that “the absolute root of this charity – the founding idea – is that successful conservation has to come from local leaders. It cannot be exported around the world by well-meaning outsiders. It has to come from within. Our winners are inspirational leaders in their countries and they’re making enormous and lasting impact.”

The Gala evening opened with a unique collaboration between the Whitley Fund For Nature and Fashion For Conservation to highlight that the decisions made by us all on the high street impact wildlife around the world. With fashion ranking as the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, WFN and FFC set out to recognise trailblazing designers leading the revolution to transform the industry.

Central to the evening was the task to fundraise £1 million to support award-winning conservationists beyond their first grant, or “Whitley Award,” which will enable these conservation heroes to deliver long-term solutions for both wildlife and the people living closest to them. The Gala took the Fund to a total of £800,000 with the LA-based Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation making the first pledge.

For this anniversary event, the Whitley Fund For Nature and Fashion For Conservation joined forces with mission-driven music artist, Elle L, who has played a pivotal role in bringing to life FFC’s vision all over the UK and Europe. Elle was an ambassador for this year’s Gala, as she is an active advocate for the environment with a focus to awaken herself and others to our relationship with nature. “If we come together and take action to live and create more consciously, we can protect future generations, ecosystems and wildlife,” Elle said.

For more information about the Whitley Fund For Nature, visit www.whitleyaward.org, and for more information about Fashion For Conservation, visit www.fashionforconservation.com. http://www.fashionforconservation.com/london-hope-gala/

The Luxury Briefing Awards – A Night To Remember! By The Luxury Channel

The 2018 Luxury Briefing Awards took place on 5th November, hosted at The Savoy in London, and was attended by over 350 guests. The ceremony was hosted by the Chair of Luxury Briefing Awards Judging Panel, Charlotte Metcalf, and screenwriter and BBC Four panellist, Kit Hesketh-Harvey.

Hundreds of votes had been cast and counted across 11 specific categories that were then compiled to create a definitive list of nominations before the winners were hand-picked by the judges – a panel of leading industry experts.

An additional four awards were presented by Sir Eric Peacock, Chairman of Luxury Briefing, which were chosen independently of the judging panel by Luxury Briefing’s board of directors and editorial team. The eight judges, all notable thought leaders from across the luxury industry, included Luxury Briefing’s Chairman, Sir Eric Peacock; Arnaud Champenois, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Brand at Belmond; and Michael Wainwright, Managing Director of Boodles.

Top executives from leading luxury brands were present to present the awards, including Rémy Martin’s Brand Manager, Antoine de Labouchere; Creed’s Sales & Marketing Director, Nicky Valentine; Lynn Narraway, Managing Director UK & Ireland of Seabourn Jean-François Ferret, and CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World; and Tom Davies, Founder and CEO of TD by Tom Davies.

The award winners for the 11 categories were:

COMMITMENT TO POSITIVE CHANGE (sponsored by Rémy Martin):
Awarded to AccorHotels: received by Sophie Kilic, Senior Vice President Human Resources UK & Ireland, AccorHotels.

INSPIRATIONAL DIGITAL CONTENT (sponsored by Hero):
Awarded to Gucci>: received by Jonathan Siboni, President of Luxuryinsight on behalf of Gucci.

INNOVATION IN TECHNOLOGY (sponsored by Cence):
Awarded to Harvey Nichols & Hero: received by Deborah Bee, Group Creative & Marketing Director of Harvey Nichols; Paul Finucane, Group Stores & Trading Director of Harvey Nichols; Adam Levene, Co-Founder of Hero; and Maria Rodami-Lyster, Hero’s Partnership Success Manager.

INNOVATION IN BEAUTY (sponsored by Lucia Magnani):
Awarded to Fenty Beauty: received by Kat Fellows, Fenty Beauty Marketing Manager.

EXCELLENCE IN LUXURY LEISURE (sponsored by Attilus):
Awarded to The Carnegie Club: received by Peter Crome, Chairman and Managing Director of The Carnegie Club

EXCELLENCE IN CRAFTSMANSHIP (sponsored by Creed):
Awarded to Theo Fennell: received by Theo Fennell, Founder

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO CHARITY (sponsored by Six Senses Courchevel):
Awarded to Aston Martin Cambridge: received by Simon Lane, Dealer Principle of Aston Martin Cambridge, Jardine Motor Group Ltd.

SUPPORT FOR CULTURE AND ARTS (sponsored by Seabourn):
Awarded to Rolex Mentor and Protége Arts Initiative: received by Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor of 1843 Magazine, The Economist, on behalf of Rolex.

INSPIRING CREATIVE DESIGN (sponsored by Small Luxury Hotels of the World):
Awarded to Louis Vuitton – Virgil Abloh: received by Natalia Damm, Senior Press Manager of Louis Vuitton UK & Ireland.

LUXURY ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR (sponsored by Tom Davies):
Awarded to Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group: received by Jill Kluge, Group Director of Brand Communications and Michael Moszynski, Founder & CEO of London Advertising.

EXCELLENCE IN PRIVATE BANKING (sponsored by Jetfly):
Awarded to Weatherbys Private Bank: received by Roger Weatherby, CEO of Weatherbys Private Bank.

The Luxury Briefing Award winners, chosen independently of the judging panel, presented by Sir Eric Peacock, Chairman of Luxury Briefing, were:

The LUXURY BRIEFING AWARD FOR EMERGING BRAND:
Awarded to Ondine: received by Marie Guerlain, Founder and Creator of Ondine.

THE LUXURY BRIEFING AWARD FOR LUXURY BRAND OF THE YEAR:
Awarded to Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd: received by Simon Sproule, Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd.

THE LUXURY BRIEFING AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT:
Awarded to brothers John and Robert Braithwaite, founders of Sunseeker International: received by John Braithwaite.

THE LUXURY BRIEFING AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL:
Awarded to Nadja Swarovski.

For more information about Luxury Briefing, go to www.luxury-briefing.com.

Why Pink Diamonds Are A Cut Above The Rest By The Luxury Channel

Everything you need to know as the largest ever pink diamond goes to auction….

Christie’s is hoping to make history by auctioning the largest finest pink diamond ever seen in its 251-year history, with a 19ct diamond due to be auctioned in Geneva.

Andrew Brown is the founder of WP Diamonds – a leading purchaser of designer jewellery, diamond jewellery and luxury watches, founded in 2012 and headquartered in New York City, with expert buyers operating across three continents – and he reveals what you need to know about pink diamonds….

Why is the auction in Geneva so important?

Pink diamonds are always a popular choice but when one this beautiful goes to auction, it always attracts more interest. A Fancy Vivid Pink diamond like the one we’ll hopefully see sold [in Geneva] will be viewed as the ultimate prize for collectors. They will bid high in order to attain one of the best coloured diamonds available in the world.

Why choose a pink diamond?

Natural pink diamonds are among the rarest stones, tracking closely behind red and blue as the rarest diamond colour. They are only found in a small number of mines around the world and most come from one mine, Argyle in Australia, which will be closing down in the next few years. This rarity makes a pink diamond an extremely valuable addition to an investment portfolio for diamond buyers. As you can imagine, this comes with a price tag. Pink diamonds are one of the most expensive stones you can buy, so it’s unsurprising that we usually see them on the hands of Royalty or A-list celebrities!

Typically, how much does a pink diamond cost?

A lot! As with most diamonds, the price depends on the carat size. However, colour saturation is a huge factor as well. A 1ct Fancy Pink diamond might retail for around £125,000 – £150,000, while a 1ct Fancy Vivid Pink diamond could easily retail for more than £500,000.

What makes pink diamonds pink?

Truthfully, it’s a mystery! We know that diamonds are coloured through the introduction of a foreign element to the carbon structure of the diamond. Blue diamonds have a trace of boron and green diamonds have been naturally treated at some point in their life by radiation. However, we simply do not know what makes pink diamonds pink. We will one day, but the scientists are still trying to figure that out.

What should we look for in a pink diamond?

It’s all about the colour. The greater the saturation (i.e. the more intense the colour), the better. A coloured diamond is graded in order of its increasing colour strength from Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light and Fancy through to Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Dark and Fancy Deep. A Fancy Vivid colour, such as the one being auctioned [in Geneva] is as good as it gets – extremely rare. To show the scale of stone colour and its price, if you take the ring David Beckham reportedly gifted Victoria with on her 30th birthday, that was a 12ct “pink champagne” colour – probably a fancy brownish pink – which held a value of around £800,000. But nothing compared to this Fancy Vivid Pink diamond being auctioned, which is set to sell for around £38m!

The 37.30 carat Raj Pink, the world’s largest know Fancy Intense Pink diamond (Image courtesy of Tristan Fewings for Getty Images)

Do pink diamonds hold their value more than other diamonds?

Pink diamonds are extremely rare, so hold their value extremely well, as do blue, red, green and purple diamonds. Argyle, the largest diamond producer in the world by volume, is set to close its mine by 2020 after more than 20 years in operation. This means that the rarity and scarcity value of pink diamonds should increase, and for people lucky enough to own a pink diamond, the next couple of years is the time to consider selling. You know the Wall Street moniker: “Sell on the rumour, buy on the news!”

What is your personal preference for pink diamonds in terms of colour?

My personal preference is a purple pink diamond. The purple adds a deeper purple or reddish tint to the pink, as opposed to the generally more favourably viewed straight pink colour.

To find out more about what to look out for when buying or selling diamonds, visit www.wpdiamonds.co.uk/diamonds.

Textured Shadow, Coloured Light – The Luxury Channel Meets Rashid al Khalifa By Fiona Sanderson

We talk to Rashid al Khalifa at the opening of his latest exhibition, “Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light,” which is being held at Saatchi Gallery from 3rd – 21st October 2018. Rashid’s London debut invites us to explore the beauty of textured shadows and light cast through polychromatic metal structures. Aluminium mesh wall works, suspended steel grid mobiles, and a monumental maze form the basis of this immersive exhibition inspired by architectural grids and geometric lattices. In recent years, Rashid has experimented with metal and convex surfaces, creating openings in his aluminium wall works to reveal the intimate space within, which is usually kept out of view. “Penumbra” takes this approach a step further, exploring changes in spatial experience depending on the viewer’s position.

What was the inspiration behind your mobile pieces?

I wanted to have an element of “to see and not to be seen.” You can walk around the pieces and if someone is on the other side, you can see them but not very clearly. Similarly, with my lattice work, you can see out from the inside, but you cannot see in. The light coming from the outside creates light and patterns, adding to a further dimension to the work. Also, using different colours gives you that depth to show the different layers of my work. I wanted to use this technique on a larger structure which was interactive for the visitor, so I created a maze that you could walk through, but you would still have the shutters that open and close, thereby creating different patterns with light and shade. I wanted to have one colour on the outside and more colours on the inside, so I used this type of blue aquamarine which is very popular in our part of the world – it’s reminiscent of the sea – and on the inside, I wanted to use lively strong colours. You will see the walkways inside are very narrow, just like the alleyways that we have in the Middle East. The idea of the different colours represents the different walls and doors in the cities. I was inspired by winding narrow alleyways and traditional architecture. I would like the audience to experience the maze as a conceptual entity – a spiritual journey with no fixed destination.

Tell me about your 3D pieces on the wall – is this the first time that you have created three dimensional artworks?

Yes, it is really. I experimented with 3D structures back in 1982 but I did not pursue it. Back then I was working with timber, but it was too heavy, and it is only more recently that I have started to use lighter materials such as aluminium which gives more flexibility and durability. This work is a culmination of the things that I love: design, interiors and architecture. It was important to create a movement with these pieces so that they give you a different feeling and perspective from whichever way you look at them. You have to move with them. I also added a lattice pattern so that it can project beautiful light and shade through it. They are really based on complex mathematical geometric design, as “parametric sculptures.” I admire the architect Jean Nouvel who has used a similar technique in the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi. It’s beautiful. You will see that I have used a combination of muted colours – pinks and blues – and then I have used some strong coloured pieces in red and green. Colour is so important, and each colour has its own identity and a life that comes from it. Life without colour is very dull.

What would you like visitors to feel when they see your work?

I think you should let the visitor see for themselves and let them find out what it means to them. Sometimes they come up with names or visions that are better than your own. I don’t think that contemporary work should be given a title to summarise the works. With some modern art, they don’t respect that viewers may have their own interpretation of that work. It’s more of a “take or leave it” attitude. I would like them to leave my art having seen something they really appreciate and like, and that will stay in their memories.

Which painters inspired you as a young artist?

I was really taken by Turner because he used all the strong elements of shade, dust, cloud and haze. This really matched our environment of clear skies, dust and sand. The area that I lived in Bahrain had a lot of dust and not far away from where I used to live, there used to be a place where they would crack the boulders and stones and make a huge amount of dust. Then we would have these really blue skies with white clouds. This contrast is something that I have used a lot in my paintings and then seeing it in Turner’s work in real life at the National Gallery really amazed me. Then, of course, the impressionist movement impressed me too.

What role do you think art should play in our lives?

For me, art is a universal language – art is without borders, that everyone accepts and understands. Having this dialogue in this form open doors to friendship without the use of guns and war.

What do you like doing when you have time to yourself?

Whenever I have the opportunity, I love doing drawings and sketching, and I always have my pad with me. This is so important in fine art, architecture and design. Unfortunately, a lot of youngsters don’t concentrate on drawing but I think it is so important that you should be able to draw correctly. By drawing, you see the dimension and the composition. Computers, of course, can do the technical part but not the vision.

What are your future plans in terms of work?

I am planning to create some work for the Venice Biennale next year using sand and the movement of sand – it will be called “The Shifting Sands.” Representative of our region based on social, economic and political levels. These are the three aspects that I will be working around.

Of all the art that you have created in your life, which are the works that you would say really represent you and your work?

From the beginning, there are a couple of traditional landscapes that I want to keep for myself, two or three pieces of figurative work as well as the convex work and a piece from the current work. I like them all really. One work leads to another and gives you more ideas and you are always learning and improving, so I just carry on.

Rashid al Khalifa with HH Sayyida Susan Al Said (on the right) and her friend Elke

About Rashid al Khalifa

Rashid al Khalifa began painting at the age of 16 and had his first exhibition at the Dilmun Hotel, Bahrain in 1970. He travelled to the UK in 1972, where he attended the Brighton & Hastings Art College in Sussex and trained in Arts & Design. Rashid’s artistic practice has evolved over time: from landscapes in the 70s and early 80s, to merging elements of his figurative and abstract work in the late 80s, progression towards abstraction and experimenting with the ‘‘canvas’’ in the 90s, and recent mirror-like chrome and high gloss lacquer pieces. His solo exhibitions include Hybrids at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE (2018); A New Perspective at Bahrain National Museum, Kingdom of Bahrain (2010); Art Department, Shuman Arts Organisation, Jordan (1997); De Caliet Gallery, Milan, Italy and El Kato Kayyel Gallery, Milan, Italy (1996). Biennials include: Bridges, Grenada Pavilion, 57 Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2017); 3rd Mediterranean Biennale: OUT OF PLACE – Sakhnin Valley, Israel (2017); Arab Delegation, TRIO Biennial – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2015); and In The Eye of the Thunderstorm, Collateral Events, 56. la Biennale di Venezia – Venice, Italy (2015). Rashid has also taken part in various group shows, international art fairs, and exhibitions alongside the Bahrain Arts Society.

About Curators Eva McGaw and Tatiana Palinkasev

Eva and Tatiana established “Metamorphosis Art Projects,” where they produce and curate art exhibitions with a special edge. They create extraordinary experiences to motivate artists in developing new forms of expression, helping them to communicate their most inner beliefs and convictions, and to inspire their audiences. Interaction and inspiration is the key element in their exhibitions.

Further Information

For more information about Rashid al Khalifa, go to www.rashidalkhalifa.me.

For more information about “Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light,” go to www.metamorphosis-artprojects.com, or watch our film here.

Escape To Myanmar By Anya Braimer Jones

Picture raucously happy children swaying in a fairground boat ride that’s flying precariously through the air. Below them are women selling longyis (like sarongs) and other kids enjoying tamarind candies and fresh pineapple juice. There’s a dragon ice sculpture that soon turns into a melted serpent in the scorching heat. Novice monks in saffron robes with big smiles. Nearby, a boat race taking place on the Ayeyarwaddy River — the leading boat team sporting Arsenal shirts — and with, seemingly, the whole town as spectators, all waving their hands and scarves in the air. This is the festive scene in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma).

Bagan Ananda (Image ©Cees Rijnen)

Bagan — which Marco Polo described as one of the finest sights in the world — is probably magical every day, all year round. But it’s particularly special at night on an exclusive tour in the moonlight. After watching the sunset from a bridge, we start our night ‘temple safari.’ Candle-lit lantern in hand, we set off by foot to visit some of the 3000 temples spread across the Bagan Plain. Ananda temple —with its shimmering gold, 170-ft high hti (the pinnacale of a stupa) lit by the silver light of the moon is both spooky and enchanting. Afterwards we’re served some ‘temple’ snacks at Minn Oo Chantha pagoda, food that’s normally served during festivals. Items such as rice pancakes and penny wort akyaw (like tempura) off a traditional lacquerware tray. It’s with a spring in our step that we retire to our room at The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate.

Ox cart around Bagan Temple (Image ©JP Klovstad)

We’re in Myanmar on a 21-day bespoke family trip. A vacation that sees us hiking among remote, stupa-topped hills, travelling along red-mud tracks in ox carts and taking local tuk-tuks to visit and eat in village stilt-houses; not to mention clopping along in a horse-drawn carriage to the ancient imperial capital of Ava, and a historic train ride in ‘upper class’ over the dizzyingly high (318 ft.) Gokteik Viaduct.

Our itinerary covers Yangon with its wondrous golden Shwedagon Pagoda; historic Mandalay with Mahamuni Temple’s heaven-high, gold-covered Buddha; a cruise downstream on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River aboard the all-teak Ayeyarwaddy Discovery (the latest addition to the country’s upmarket cruise scene); Bagan with its temples; and, finally, Inle Lake with its floating gardens and Intha fishermen ‘leg-rowing’ their boats on lakes midst purple river hyacinths. But we also follow the Burmese road rarely travelled too — some places only opened up to tourists recently….from seldom-visited Loikaw to far-flung Samkar, about which more later.

Samkar Lake in Shan State (Image ©Cees Rijnen)

After Bagan, we go to Heho, in southern Shan state. We have one of the high points of our trip at Green Hill Valley Elephant Sanctuary, an elephant conservation project located just beyond the colonial hill station of Kalaw. On the reception area wall we discover, much to our surprise, a vintage photograph of my grandfather, Charles, and his mahouts and elephants. (He oversaw timber forests here and then stayed on to fight the Japanese in World War II).

I think I’ve found my spirit animal – these heffalumps chomp away merrily for 20 hours a day, eating up to 200 kilos. Bliss or what? After a ‘light’ snack — just a few kilos of banana stem leaves and golden pumpkins — it’s shower hour i.e. time for a dip in the river. Both my family and the elephant, Hin Sit Wai, seem to be in ellie heaven sploshing around in the fast-flowing water. Scrubbing away with acacia bark (which smells fruity, nutty and woody all in one), I wash Babar. She sits there calmly whilst my sister and I scrub away. Of the many adventures I’ve been privileged to go on, this one goes down in my book as one of the best. Ever.

We go afterwards to colonial Kalaw with its half-timbered buildings and British south-coast vibe. We stay in the Kalaw Heritage Hotel – a Fawlty Towers-esque place, but one that has ceiling fans, plantation chairs, bedrooms the size of small airports and a truly colonial range of gins and whiskies. I can really picture my grandfather staying in this quintessentially British, colonial building with its menu offering a ‘Full English Breakfast’ and ‘Roast Beef with trimmings’ — all in the middle of a remote, military town. Bizarre and wonderful at once.

After a two-hour drive then a short and scenic train ride from Pinlaung (“The train schedule often changes, so we can’t specify an exact time,” says the guide), we are welcomed next day for a Shan lunch in a local family home, not too far from the opium fields. (Spicy soup followed by rice with vegetable curries. Then jackfruit served with avocado: two of my favourite foods, on one plate.) After lunch, we stroll over to the remains of a wooden palace that belonged to the last Sawbwa (prince) of the village Pinlaung, and collapsed due to lack of resources for renovation. “He was sent to prison,” says our guide, Naung Naung, “and his wife slept in a simple hut in the garden of the dilapidated palace, waiting for him to come back.” The princess eventually died a few years ago, still next to the old palace.

It’s another 90 minutes by car to reach Loikaw, way off the beaten track and in the tiny state of Kayah. Here we ready ourselves to go on a so-called trail of the ancestors, to see local tribespeople: the longneck communities who believe in spirits. We trek through Pemsong village and suddenly there they are….the women who wear thick, heavy bronze necklaces which — slowly over time — stretch the neck up to roughly 20cm longer than normal or natural. Strange but strikingly beautiful. Afterwards we enjoy (yet another) delicious lunch at a local village house – chicken curry, sticky rice in banana leaves. Then a bit of retail therapy in the next village, Kasae Kum: doling out Kyats, the local currency, on handmade bronze bracelets and rings, bamboo cups and the like.

Our next stop is Hta Nee La Leh village to meet the Kayan community. There we meet a gentle soul, Daw Soe Mya, 70 years old, with seven children and 30 grandchildren: standard around here. She plays an instrument that resembles a violin-cum-guitar in sound but looks like a small didgeridoo made of bamboo with strings. Afterwards, we take a short — and very, very bumpy — oxcart ride to see spirit houses, totem poles, and a shaman and his chicken bones (used for prediction). I take my (conical bamboo) hat off to the locals who rely on this uncomfortable mode of transport. I cushion my butt at lunch — a Kayah BBQ, served under what looks like Teletubby-meets-Zaha-Hadid bamboo house, resembling an upside-down boat.

Naung Naung takes us next with our boatman in our private longtail boat, which we ride over Pekon Lake to the beautiful and serene hotel, Inle Sanctuary. Put it on your bucket list now. Six contemporary wooden houses balance on stilts on a pier overlooking the calm waters. Fuchsia water lilies float amongst earthy green moss. Children from Phayar Taung Monastery splash about in the water a few hundred yards away: an exciting break after class is over, our guide reveals.

Next day, we make our way up the hill to the Phayar Taung Monastery itself. There we meet with Pongyi, the head monk, over cups of green tea. He is a fascinating man, full of wisdom which he shares whilst smiling and laughing. His eyes are kind yet tell a story and you can tell he is sure to have many tales to share. Naung Naung explains that Pongyi takes responsibility for the accommodation, living expenses and food for over 1,300 children, many of whom are orphans. He receives no support from the government.

Myanmar is a wonderful and multi-layered country. A place of contrasts, colours and smiling people. Of 135 ethnic groups, Buddhists, Animists and Christians. Somewhere boasting stupas, history, wildlife, stunning landscapes and vibrant markets. A place you should go at least once in every lifetime, if you’re lucky enough to have many.

There’s also a slight twist in this story. At the end of the trip, I find myself saying good-bye to my family. Nervous and excited, I’m ready for my next adventure. I’m volunteering for Pongyi at the Phayar Taung Monastery where I will teach English to the children. A holiday so good that I’ve decided not to go home? Now that’s a first.

Further Information

A trip like Anya’s can be organised by Arakan Travel, an organiser of experiences to Myanmar. Based in the country for the last 12 years, they have an intimate knowledge of the people and its places. To start the journey, e-mail myanmar@arakantravel.com or visit www.arakantravel.com.

A special recommendation is to read more about the monastery in Phayar Taung, and to support this charity – visit www.inletrust.org.uk/our-book.

Top Tip: Pack in TUMI luggage – high-end suitcases which they will personalise for you with your initials. If something goes wrong, they’ll fix it. If it breaks, they’ll repair it. If it’s lost, they’ll help you track it down. And they offer a worry-free, one-year warranty: even if your suitcase is run under a bus (or smashed by the airline), TUMI will replace it at no cost. You cannot afford to leave home without their accessories, either. Weigh your luggage first with a TUMI scale (£70, and good for up to 100lbs) with its backlit digital display. Their phone charger — £85, with a 2,600 mAh power bang that holds enough oomph to charge an iPhone 1.5 times and so light it scarcely registers on the scales — will see you through even the longest power cut, airport delay or unforeseen diversion. And their electric adaptor (£70) provides configurations for 150 different countries. They’re so ahead of the curve, they’re on a different track. As for customer service? Yes. The answer is always yes. Visit www.tumi.com.

On The Edge of Wilderness At Nihi Sumba By Fiona Sanderson

Think of giving not as a duty, but a privilege….

This philosophy is very much the heart and soul of Nihi Sumba, a unique (and almost undiscovered) luxury resort on one of Indonesia’s little-known islands.

Today more than ever, luxury travellers are looking for holidays which are more than just beach holidays; they want an experience – access to a new way of life, culture, local food and environment. They want adventure, fulfilment, to learn new skills, and get a sense of purpose. I was looking forward to visiting Nihi Sumba and meeting its owner, Chris Burch, who bought the island in 2012, in partnership with renowned hotelier James McBride, with the single priority of making Nihi Sumba one of the best resorts in the world, operating in sustainable harmony with both the natural environment and the Sumbanese people. The duo has definitely gone on to achieve this, as several publications have since voted Nihi Sumba the best resort in the world.

Sumba is an island the size of Jamaica in the Indonesian archipelago that has been cut off from the rest of the world for so long that its ancient animistic traditions survive to this day. Only now is it slowly being drawn into the present with help of Nihi Sumba and the Sumba Foundation, a charitable foundation that has brought health, vital medicines and education to many of the Sumbanese people. Recent high-profile visitors to Nihi and supporters of the Sumba Foundation include David and Victoria Beckham and their family.

The Beckhams at Nihi Sumba (images from the Sumba Foundation’s Instagram)

For travellers wanting a far-away escape with a unique culture, understated luxury, unrivalled experiences and a chance to “give something back” to the land and people, this is the place to go. I have travelled all over the world, and I still enjoy the feeling when a new place takes my breath away by sheer beauty. Nihi Sumba certainly did this, and fulfilled all my passions for “off the beaten track” understated luxury. Obviously, a travelling companion (in my case, a new husband) helps sets the tone for adventure, and our 5-day itinerary was filled with some truly unique experiences. This – as well as the setting and friendly staff – was key to a memorable stay.

Sumba is around a one-hour flight from Bali. Although twice the size, there is very little development and what hotels there are on the island are limited. Arriving by plane, you see how entirely different the island is to Bali’s mass tourism and populated hotels. After a 70-minute drive, we arrived at Nihi Sumba, which seemed an oasis of calm away from the street life and bumpy roads. We had an immediate view of the two and a half kilometre Nihi Sumba beach with its wild waves, including the famous left-hand break that attracts surfers from all over the world.

Each one of Nihi’s thirty-two villas have been designed and built with Sumbanese culture in mind. With magnificent views over the sea, we had a one-bedroom villa split over two levels, with an outdoor bathroom featuring a stylish copper bath and our own private freshwater pool. The conical roof was thatched with local Alang Alang grass and the interiors included local ceramics and traditional ikat textiles. The natural materials and subtle colours added to the feeling of wild beauty and calm.

The hub of social activity is the main sandy-floored Ombak (meaning “wave front”) open-air restaurant and lounge bar, which comes alive at night, when you can either mix with other guests at the bar or have your own candlelit dinner. (On one of the evenings, a party ensued and there were a few missing guests come breakfast time!) All the meals are included and you can choose from a wide variety of Western and Indonesian food. There are special dining experiences to choose from and as we love Japanese food, we chose the Kaboku Restaurant. Limited to just six people, the sushi chefs prepared a seven-course meal with an assortment of locally caught fish with wine and Saki pairings. All superbly prepared, and the food was as fresh as it was delicious.

Whatever you are interested in, the team at Nihi can create bespoke itineraries to choose from, including yoga, water sports, spear fishing, unique dining experiences, rice island hikes, sunrise spa safaris and horse-riding along the wild stretch of Nihiwatu’s white beach. Nihi Sumba Island has one of the world’s most coveted private waves. Known as “God’s Left,” experienced surfers from around the world come to surf here. However, to keep the surfing experience unique, Nihi limits the waves to ten registered surfers a day. The sea is too rough to swim in however, so we found just lazing by the Nio Beach Club infinity pool was equally as appealing!

One of our favourite experiences was when we took a one and half hour trek down through the jungle of the National Park to Matayangu, known as The Blue Waterfall, which although arduous, was really worth the effort when you first see the breath-taking blue falls. After swimming in the lake, our guide set up an Indonesian picnic above the falls. The trek up, however, took a couple of hours, which was tough and best done if you are a little fitter than we were!

The next day for me can only be described as one of the best spa days that I have ever experienced. My husband was anxious about the idea of another safari trek into the jungle but as it turned out, the 90-minute trek was an easy one across the rolling countryside and rice fields. On arrival at the cliff top spa, a fleet of staff bearing cold towels and fresh coconuts take you to a sheltered creek for a dip in the freshwater pool before breakfast. Overlooking the sea is a private breakfast area, where freshly prepared mango awaits you and a chef is ready take your order for a cooked breakfast. After which, you are shown to your own open-air, bamboo-clad treatment room overlooking the sea, where two spa therapists are ready to treat you with 3 hours of beauty indulgence – think deep massage, body wraps, hair smoothies and organic facials. I was in heaven! After lunch, we drove back through the villages to the resort in open-top vehicles – all part of the Nihi Oka Spa Safari experience.

Feeling utterly pampered, we got back to our villa just in time for a horse ride along the beach. This is a rare chance to have an entire beach to yourself as the sun is setting. We also had the opportunity to be part of a leatherback turtle release down on Nihi beach. The Nihi Sumba Turtle Hatchery was started in 2004 in response to seeing thousands of turtle eggs being sold in the local markets. Indonesia is home to six of the seven remaining turtle species in the world and in Sumba alone, they have found five of those species. This understanding for nature, the environment and the preservation of local culture is integral to Nihi and is part of the work that its owner, Chris Burch, and the Sumba Foundation are doing on the island.

The next day, we had a chance to visit the local school and clinic to learn more about the work of the Sumba Foundation from the General Manager, Kenny Knickerbocker, and the Health Program Director, Dr. Claus Bogh. What they have managed to achieve is impressive. Since the Foundation’s inception, 22 primary schools are now supported with education and food programmes, and they have built a network of health clinics, treating thousands of patients and saving hundreds of children’s lives with critical cases of malnutrition and malaria. Malaria infection was one the biggest concerns on the island and a 70% reduction island-wide is attributed to The Sumba Foundation Malaria Training Center, which was established in 2010.

“One way or another, everyone living in the area is benefiting from the many projects we have initiated over the years,” Kenny Knickerbocker told us. “Since the Foundation started 17 years ago, the communities are prospering, and families have been given an opportunity to rise out of poverty due to the health, education and economic programmes that we have put in place. Our projects have grown to now cover a 176-square kilometre area in West Sumba, but there is much still much to do,” Knickerbocker told us. All this work depends on the generous support the Foundation receives from corporate sponsorship and private donations and of course, from the Nihi guests (in fact, some 25% of the $800,000 annual funding that the Foundation receives comes from Nihi guests). Through support from Chris Burch, owner of Nihi Sumba Resort, all administrative costs of the Sumba Foundation are maintained, allowing 100% of donations to directly fund these meaningful projects.

We had a chance to meet with Chris, who clearly has a deep passion for the island and improving the lives of the Sumbanese. “I have always been a risk taker, and I knew when I first saw Nihi that I was in for the long run. The aim here was to have a positive and lasting impact on consumers’ lives, and to leave the place better than when we found it,” he told us. On our last night, I reflected on Chris’s words and looked back over the last few days of a wonderful stay and recognised that this little bit of paradise on the edge of wilderness, with all the good that Nihi and the Foundation are doing, is not only worthy of its title as one of the best resorts in the world, but also as a leader of responsible tourism, where every guest can feel part of a much bigger picture.

To book your own stay in the edge of wildness, go to www.nihi.com. To find out more about the work of the Sumba Foundation, click here or watch this film.

A Little Lost Love On Board The Ayeyarwaddy Discovery By Caroline Phillips

There are naked children splashing innocently in the water by the river’s edge – why would anyone waste much-needed kyats, the local currency, on swimwear? Others are climbing like mini Tarzans on anchor ropes that run high above the water from a ship to the shore.

My family and I clamber aboard a traditional wooden longtail boat — used locally for transporting custard apples, dragon fruit and piles of mustard leaves as well as for ferrying people. Nearby young men in longyis (like sarongs) stand waist-high in the water washing their hair with acacia bark (a natural shampoo) and scrubbing their bodies. This is the scene at the riverside in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma).

Image ©JP Klovstad

Then we chug, chug our way across the water towards the Ayeyarwaddy Discovery, a traditional Myanmar teak riverboat and the newest addition to Myanmar’s upscale, boutique cruise market. She’s just 115 ft long by 24.4 ft wide.

We’re going on a three-night, two-day cruise to places with poetic names such as Sagaing, Ava and Yandabo then on to Mt Tantgyi and Bagan. Slow travel that will take in thousands of pagodas, temples, glittering stupas and golden Buddhas and jumping ship at remote villages with artisans.

We’re welcomed aboard by a line-up of our crew of 14: a distinctly tiara moment. Two are in white uniforms, the rest in longyis — and everyone barefoot, including the cruise manager, Zaw Min Thein. “Please take off your shoes,” requests this gentle man, highlighting a local custom. Call it Buddhist barefoot luxury, if you will. “Mingalaba (hello in Burmese),” the others say, as they offer us chilled flannels, fresh watermelon juice and huge smiles. We’re the only passengers aboard as we’ve hired it for exclusive use.

Barefoot Zaw shows us around. There’s the top deck with the smiling Captain in his bridge (“Mingalaba,” again), plus a simple dining and bar area, sun lounger mattresses on the stern (eyed greedily by our 21 and 23-year-old daughters), and sun beds nearby (ditto). At water level, there’s a deck with a teeny kitchen and five cabins — one suite and four deluxe — for a maximum of ten passengers.

Since 1998, the Ayeyarwaddy Discovery had been used for cargo, ferrying firewood and clay pots from Bhamo in the north down to Mandalay. Starting from nothing more than an old, used hull, she was renovated in 2014 and entirely Myanmar-built. The décor is modest: teak, yet more teak, simple fabrics and large photographs of stupas and such like; the sort of boat that a Buddhist monk might consider meditating in.

Soon it’s time for dinner. We soon find that home-cooked meals appear miraculously out of that tiny kitchen. Tonight it’s mustard seed soup, carrot salad with peanut and fish sauce, and aubergine curry. “Everything selected from the market this morning,” says Zaw.

We retire afterwards to our master cabin with its characterful sloping teak floor — somehow sleeping as flat as spirit levels, the bed having been set at a different angle to the floor. We awaken only when the engine starts at 6am and, through the port hole, spy golden stupas on the riverbanks. Soon we reach Sagaing, a former royal capital just 15 miles from Mandalay.

We clamber across gangplanks and, like pirates, jump aboard three other cruise boats to reach the shore with its packs of dogs and novice monks, the latter en-route to school. We drive up ‘Frog Mountain’ to Soon U Poonya Shin Pagoda: an acid-trip temple with more colours than can be counted, including tiles of pink, yellow, blue and red. (‘No socks, no shoes, no spaghetti blouses,’ exhorts a nearby sign). Chanting fills the air from the neighbouring nunneries as we gaze over the stupendous vista: flooded plains, pagodas and golden-tipped stupas. A man with betel-nut red teeth bangs a gong each time someone donates to the temple. Nearby another bell tinkles. More donations? “That’s the ice-cream man,” explains Zaw.

Afterwards we go to Ava on a public ferry filled with travellers and motorbikes. We take a horse-cart — one of maybe 200 in the village —to explore this 14th to 19th century former royal dynasty. “It was Shan then Burmese-dominated,” explains Zaw, standing in front of a notice that reads: ‘Do not allow taking photos with Buddha images as well as kicking the Buddha images with feet.’ Then we visit the 19th century Mal Nu Oak Kyaung Brick Monastery. “It’s fine place, no?” asks Zaw. “Poor Queen Mal Nu lived here trying and failing to gain the acceptance of the monks.”

There are more monasteries to come. This time, we bump along the dirt track to the mid 19th-century Bagaya Wooden Monastery. In its beautiful teak building — boasting 267 gigantic teak posts — a monk sits reading, surrounded by books; another is chanting; and one more reads while a novice sits at his feet. An uplifting scene of centuries-old pastimes and contemplation. “Meditation is good for your engine to stop,” explains Zaw.

Image ©Cees Rijnen

Back aboard, we cruise into the late afternoon. The relaxation of being on the boat, the breeze in our faces and the snapshots of river life are what make this trip so special. There are fishermen neck-high in the river with nets suspended between two rods, wooden boats transporting clay pots and hay, and women in longyis and conical hats washing themselves and their clothes on the riverbank. Plus banks with pagodas and golden stupas and exotic foliage: from rain trees and Chinese tamarind to maize and peanuts.

We stop eventually in the middle of nowhere. Travelling on such a small vessel, the Captain can set anchor anywhere — because of the low draft — allowing us to visit places that larger boats cannot reach. The crew puts a plank from the boat to the bank and two of them hold a bamboo culm, our handrail. While the crew take time off — swimming in the river with its very strong current and playing football — we amble with one of them to an off-grid village. He wants to introduce us to his grandmother. “The village has no electricity and they say you’re the first westerners to have visited,” he translates.

Our new village family offers us fried fish and nuts. “Why is it always people who have the least who seem to offer the most?” my husband, Adrian, asks me quietly. Then they talk about football. Which is as popular as rice in Myanmar. “We borrow electricity from the monastery to watch football on television,” explains the man wearing an Arsenal shirt. “Can I give them some money to thank them for their hospitality, or would that cause offence?” enquires Adrian. “They’d prefer a saucepan,” our impromptu guide replies.

Next day, we start cruising before breakfast, downriver to Yandabo: an unprepossessing village, but one where England and Burma signed their treaty in 1826. Nowadays, it’s famous for its handmade clay pots. Oh, and for the two 300lb sows, piglets crawling all over them, that guard the village. “The owner decided not to eat them,” reveals Zaw.

As we enter the village, a woman is tossing heavy urns to a man to load onto a lorry. “She flicks it with her finger as she throws it. If the sound isn’t clear, he chucks it away because it’s cracked,” explains Zaw. In a nearby thatched hut, a young girl kicks her leg back and forth athletically to work the potter’s wheel, whilst another throws clay onto it and expertly shapes it into urns. “They mix clay with river-sand,” explains Zaw. “Then they bake the pots by burning peanut shells, straw and wood.”

I guess you’ll be wanting to hop aboard now, won’t you? You’ll need all the detailed blah, blah then. Well, each cabin has an en-suite shower-room, intermittent WiFi and air-con (not cool enough in the master suite and weirdly, the electricity is turned off between 3am and 6am). Then there’s the lower deck, with the crew’s quarters, although it turns out they prefer to sleep companionably and alfresco in the steamy weather of August.

On the last evening, the crew decides to do a sing-song, sitting on deck with Zaw playing his guitar. “This is our engine man, this is our electrician….” he says, introducing them. They stand wreathed in smiles. Then they sing Burmese songs about young men pining for their lost loves. The candles flicker in their improvised bamboo stem holders. The stars twinkle above, the breeze strokes our faces and we sip fresh pineapple. Our daughters bliss out. Lost love? Even though we’re about to walk into history and the highlight of our trip in Bagan, it’s hard not to feel a little lost love when we end our cruise the next day.

Further Information

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

A trip like Caroline’s can be organised by Arakan Travel, an organiser of experiences to Myanmar. Based in the country for the last 12 years, they have an intimate knowledge of the people and its places. To start the journey, e-mail myanmar@arakantravel.com or visit www.arakantravel.com. For Discovery Cruises Myanmar, visit www.myanmar-discovery-rivercruise.de.

Top Tip 1: Pack in TUMI luggage – high-end suitcases which they will personalise for you with your initials. If something goes wrong, they’ll fix it. If it breaks, they’ll repair it. If it’s lost, they’ll help you track it down. And they offer a worry-free, one-year warranty: even if your suitcase is run under a bus (or smashed by the airline), TUMI will replace it at no cost. You cannot afford to leave home without their accessories, either. Weigh your luggage first with a TUMI scale (£70, and good for up to 100lbs) with its backlit digital display. Their phone charger — £85, with a 2,600 mAh power bang that holds enough oomph to charge an iPhone 1.5 times and so light it scarcely registers on the scales — will see you through even the longest power cut, airport delay or unforeseen diversion. And their electric adaptor (£70) provides configurations for 150 different countries. They’re so ahead of the curve, they’re on a different track. As for customer service? Yes. The answer is always yes. Visit www.tumi.com.

Top Tip 2: Get insured with BUPA Travel Insurance. I’ve never before needed emergency medical assistance on a trip — but I needed it in this case for my husband, who had an accident in an ox cart. Don’t ask. All I can say is that BUPA and the medical department of AIG delivered everything I could ever have wanted, and more. (Yes, I know this sounds like an advertisement. Which it’s not. At least, not a paid one). It was incredibly reassuring getting sound health advice in the middle of the night — it’s available 24/7 — from someone with global medical expertise. Plus AIG acted fast to change our flights, organise wheelchair assistance and to have a taxi waiting for us at Heathrow. And were really sympathetic and supportive too. BUPA offer cover nearly everywhere, including the USA. I wouldn’t say it’s worth having an accident for service like this. But almost. Visit www.bupa.co.uk for further information.

Escape To Four Seasons Jimbaran In Bali For A Honeymoon By The Sea By Fiona Sanderson

Bali, also known as the “Land of the Gods,” is a place that exudes colour and spirituality, and although it is a busy holiday resort, there is still much to see and do in this ancient and holy place.

It is not surprising then, that Bali has all the ingredients for travellers on their honeymoon wanting a luxury resort with exotic culture, majestic beaches, sports activities, excellent food, buzzing nightlife and of course, exceptional service.

For over 20 years, The Four Seasons Jimbaran Resort has secured its position as one of the top luxury resorts in Asia. With a reputation for high quality service and style, I was looking forward to staying overnight and sampling some of the newly-introduced experiences.

The gateway into Bali is by Ngurah Rai International Airport, which can be extremely busy, particularly as this small island now attracts over 5 million tourists a year. However, only 15 minutes away from the airport by car, Four Seasons Jimbaran feels as though you have been flung into an oasis away from the well-developed hustle bustle of Bali’s main town of Denpasar. Smiling staff, walkways of bougainvillea, koi fish ponds and a view out across Jimbaran Bay are very welcoming, especially after a long flight from Europe.

Thirty-five acres of tropical gardens are interwoven among a collection of 147 thatched-roof villas that blend into a hill. Being one of the first resorts on the island, Four Seasons Jimbarah was able to secure the best location with a combination of both cliff and beachfront land, and views across Jimbaran Bay’s fishing village.

The Resort’s most palatial villas have recently been rebuilt after a two-year renovation based on designs by the late Jaya Ibrahim. I stayed in one of the recently renovated Premier Ocean Villas, with its own private pool and an impressive view across the bay.

The villa had a very contemporary take on Balinese design with marble flooring, timber ceilings, new artworks and gorgeous fabrics. I liked the clean lines of the furnishings in mostly neutral tones, which were refreshingly elegant, modern and light. Of course, the full force of an outside shower amongst the bougainvillea and a large luxurious bed with honeymoon flowers, set the tone for a great start to my stay!

I started the evening at cocktail hour at the resort’s Sundara Beach Club Restaurant, an all-day dining and lifestyle destination on the wide curve of Jimbaran, where I enjoyed cocktails and a little soul searching with a James Brown tribute band by the ocean. There was a great vibe with a mix of ages clearly enjoying themselves. The restaurant has a series of food stations, covering Italian, Japanese, Korean and Balinese cuisine. I thoroughly recommend the sushi tuna as a starter and I’m told that the Sunday lunch buffet is a must!

After cocktails, I had dinner at Taman Wantilan restaurant, which is a new interactive dining concept where you create your own culinary journey as a host of specialty chefs cook an extensive variety of Asian and Western cuisine in open show kitchens. It was a difficult choice to know which station to choose, with the sashimi and seafood bar where you can choose a selection from the famous Jimbaran Fish Market, to the station cooking up home-style curries, or the Italian station with an array of pasta dishes or the station serving slow-roasted macadamia-crusted prime ribeye and lamb racks and hamburgers. In the end, I chose the Singaporean chilli crab with a light salad from the wellness station, which was delicious and just light enough if you are planning a day in a bikini by the beach!

The resort prides itself on a host of new destination-inspired experiences and activities to celebrate all that Bali offers, from art and culture to natural landscapes, traditional healing, beauty treatments and adventure sports. You can also sign up for dance classes, heli-surfing, paddle-boarding and water biking adventures.

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay also has a special programme for guests who want to learn traditional Balinese dancing in a very unique way. The hotel will organise groups to visit the School for the Hearing Impaired, and using sign language, they will learn the art of this style of dancing (the resort sponsors the school). Since the students here cannot hear the music, the dancers follow sign language given by a choreographer to match their movements to the music. Just incredible to watch. Balinese dance is so intricate and skilled, but guests are nevertheless invited to get up and learn some of the moves with the dancers. The performance can also be arranged at the resort as part of a welcome dinner or gala event.

I then chose to do a totally new experience – an Anti-Gravity Yoga lesson, which involves a ground-breaking “flying” technique, using hammocks to support your weight. Hanging upside down in a cocoon of silk in various positions can only be described as “bat-like” yoga! I was told by my instructor, Gunta, that the enhanced and inverted postures relieve stress, encourage healthy blood circulation, and do great things for your health and fitness. I certainly felt stretched and reinvigorated. It was fun – particularly seeing the beach from a different perspective from my anti-gravity position upside down. An experience not to be missed!

The following day, I managed to grab the last few hours before departure on a sun lounger at the Beach Club and took a dip in the infinity pool, which feels as though you are part of the sea, with the scent of frangipani flowers drifting across the pool. A spot I simply didn’t want to leave.

Clearly, time and reputation at Jimbaran have only added to the ultimate client satisfaction. I can see why Four Seasons Jimbaran’s extended family of guests will keep returning. The villa had all the comforts that you would hope for in a top resort, but it also has style and understated luxury which is difficult to get right.

One thing that hasn’t changed here, however, is the legendary Four Seasons service. The staff are very much a part of the experience here, as they were all so delightful and helpful wherever I went. Nothing was too difficult or too much trouble. They were always smiling, which really makes a difference when you are looking for a seamless stay on a honeymoon retreat.

Four Seasons may not be the only luxury hotel brand nor the only one with remarkable service, but Four Seasons’ consistency is what gives it an edge. Despite the brand’s rapid expansion and far-flung presence, there is no such thing as an underwhelming experience at a Four Seasons Hotel. Four Seasons at Jimbaran is indeed a very special place, and I am looking forward to coming back one day!

Insider Tip

Tie in a trip to the Four Seasons Sayan, where the Obamas stayed last summer, up in the cool rice valleys of Ubud for a totally different experience – the two make a great combination.

Further Information

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
Jimbaran
Kuta Selatan
Bali, 80361
Indonesia

For resort reservations, call +62 (361) 701010 or contact via the website here.

Rixo – An Award-Winning Fashion Success Story By Karen Kay

Britain is consistently in the global style spotlight, providing a vibrant platform for emerging talent and every season, a new designer or label is hailed as the next big thing at London Fashion Week, feted by the cognoscenti and hailed across the industry for their clever concepts. Over the last few days, the collections for Spring/Summer 2019 have been showcased on catwalks across the capital and at the British Fashion Council’s Designer Showrooms exhibition, with established and exciting new brands jostling for attention and, ultimately, hard-won orders from international store buyers.

With the clothing industry as a whole directly contributing £32.3billion to UK GDP in 2017, representing a 5.4% year-on-year increase and a growth rate 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy, this is big business. Forecasters say it’s only getting bigger: according to Mintel, the womenswear market is currently worth £28.4billion and is predicted to grow by 14% in the next four years to reach £33.5 billion.

The constant challenge facing fashion start-ups is to marry creative vision with commercial sensibilities, and if a business finds that elusive magic formula, they tap into an incredibly lucrative market. Rixo London is one such success story. Founded three years ago by best friends Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey from their London flat, this label is now a fixture on the London Fashion Week roster of runway shows and boasts a seven-figure turnover.

A year ago, the pair won the inaugural DHL Award for Fashion Potential, in partnership with the British Fashion Council, which saw them benefit from industry mentoring and logistics advice, plus a £20,000 award to support their international growth. This enabled the fledgling brand to recruit a digital specialist to facilitate a global e-commerce push and as a result, Rixo has grown exponentially over the last 12 months growing from a team of three to a full-time team of 12. International web sales have grown 350% on the previous year, they now have an impressive roll-call of over 100 global stockists in more than 40 countries, and the business has moved from the girls’ flat to a dedicated new office and studio space.

So, how have they succeeded where so many others failed, growing their self-funded enterprise into a profitable venture loved by Holly Willoughby, Lily James, Kylie Minogue and Sandra Bullock, and selling in prestigious retailers around the world including Net-a-Porter, Liberty, Harrods and Selfridges in London, Saks in the US, Dublin’s Brown Thomas, Le Bon Marché in Paris, Luisa Via Roma in Italy, Australia’s David Jones and Takashimaya in Japan, amongst many, many others?

The pair first met when they enrolled on a four-year Fashion Management degree at the London College of Fashion and quickly become firm friends. “We were just drawn to each other because we were both very down-to-earth and comfortable in our skins, in a sea of people who thought they had to fit some idea of what a fashion student looked like,” recalls Henrietta, now 26. “We were a slightly different breed to many of our uni contemporaries. I grew up in Cheshire, and my dad had his own business as a used car dealer, while Orlagh was raised in rural Northern Ireland, near Derry, where her father had a construction business, so we both came from families with a strong work ethic and an understanding of what it takes to run a company. My four older brothers all set up their own businesses and I just always had the philosophy that it was do-able.”

During their placement year, Henrietta worked in the buying team at ASOS and Orlagh, by now her flatmate and sharer of Sunday morning hangovers spent trawling antique markets, headed off to learn the ropes with the buyers at TK Maxx. Their time spent at the frontline of fast fashion saw the pair plotting their path post-graduation, instinctively sharing a vision for a new brand that married their passion for vintage clothes with a take on contemporary style that was admired by many of their peers.

In February 2015, they registered their business at Companies House and set about building the foundations of their venture. “We weren’t airy fairy designers wafting around with sketchbooks and fancy ideas,” explains Orlagh, now 29. “We understood the complexities of overheads and production costs and the commercial realities of the fashion world, but we hardly had any capital to spend on making the first collection, which had 20 or so pieces in it. Rixo is completely self-funded, so we earned money baby-sitting, and did everything on a shoestring. Everyone said we were too young to start up on our own, but we had no responsibilities, no dependents, no big mortgages, and we were already used to living on very little. I think our naivety helped us. We lived, ate, slept, breathed Rixo and worked 24/7 on it, so we weren’t going out and spending money socially. To launch the business, we only invested in fabric and hiring a freelance pattern-cutter, then pulled in favours from friends, who modelled and photographed the garments for us.”

Featuring luxurious silk crepe de chines printed with flamboyant designs hand-painted by Orlagh and Henrietta in their living room, their debut range was inspired by the silhouettes of some of their favourite vintage garments, made modern with pattern and colour.

By September that year, the pair had built a website, and spent much of their summer cold-calling stylists and editors on magazines and newspapers, getting in touch via social media to introduce themselves and beg for ten minutes of their time so they could show them sample garments from their soon-to-be-launched label.

“We trawled across London with a suitcase full of clothes, going on endless appointments,” says Henrietta. “Everyone was bemused that we didn’t have a PR agent, but we couldn’t afford one. Ultimately, we were passionate about what we were doing and 100 per cent believed women would love it. We knew getting our brand out there was important, and this was the only way we could do it, just by putting in the graft ourselves. Amazingly, we got coverage in the September issues of major magazines, and the orders started to come in to the website. At that point, though, it hadn’t occurred to us to wholesale; we just imagined we’d sell direct to consumers.”

In the early days of the business, the girls would walk to the post office every day, having picked and packed website orders themselves, explains Orlagh. “Eventually, as we staggered along the street under the weight of ever more packages each afternoon, we realised something had to change, and we had that moment of inspiration that changed the business when DHL began to send a driver to our flat every day to collect the day’s web orders. We are naturally control freaks, but that took pressure off us, and allowed us to focus on using our skills to build the business. Knowing our garments were being despatched all around the world, and the brand was accessible from virtually anywhere, was exciting and meant we could market confidently on social media, knowing anyone who wanted to order from us could do so, wherever they lived.”

Within weeks, though, they were having to re-think their business strategy, as word of their enterprise rapidly spread within the ranks of the fashion world. A meeting with Net-a-Porter and the influential e-tailer’s ensuing order saw stock sell out within 24 hours of appearing on the site. Henrietta and Orlagh realised the power of selling through established channels, and began googling independent boutiques around the UK, hoping to secure more wholesale orders and a presence in key fashion retailers alongside well-known labels.

Once again, the twenty-something entrepreneurs found themselves carrying their suitcase of samples across the country, this time knocking on the doors of stores and begging them to buy stock in what was a very difficult retail climate. They were all reluctant to buy into an unknown label.

“We didn’t know any different, so we just got on with it,” the pair say, shrugging their shoulders. “Eventually, because we had such conviction that our garments would sell once customers saw them first-hand, we proposed boutiques took them on a sale-or-return basis, so there was no risk involved for the store. Everyone who agreed to take our collection on that basis called us within a week to say everything had sold, requesting more stock.”

One of the harshest lessons these young entrepreneurs learned along the way was that not all their wholesale customers would pay up. Henrietta’s father nagged her to be strict with those who were slack in settling invoices for their orders. “Even when they’d had the stock on sale-or-return, and every garment had flown off the rails, some stores still didn’t pay, and we got burned. We weren’t very professional and were doing invoices ourselves, without being on top of the cashflow. So, we had to toughen up and change our trading terms.”

Three years on from launching their label, the range has grown to a seasonal collection of 60 or so pieces, still featuring their signature prints, hand-painted in London, now printed on silks in Italy and in China, and made up in China for distribution all over the world.

The pair continue to use social media to increase awareness of Rixo, with 120k followers on Instagram, many of whom actively share images of themselves in the label’s designs. “We often wonder how we would have fared without Instagram. It allows us to talk with customers and press directly and engage with them,” says Henrietta, fresh from launching a new collaboration with influencer Laura Jackson. “It’s really important that our clothes are seen on a variety of women, and people can relate to that. We have customers in their teens right through to women in their eighties, of all different shapes and sizes, wearing our clothes as everyday wear or for special occasions, styling things simply or in a more avant-garde fashion. It gives other women the confidence to try new looks and to believe they can wear styles they might previously only have seen on a size zero model in a fashion magazine.”

“We’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, but we wouldn’t change that for the world because we’ve learned lessons and it’s shaped how we do things now. We don’t want to live beyond our means or expand too fast, but we have big plans for Rixo. We’re often asked when we will raise finance and take outside investment, but we want to stay in control and invest everything back in the business so we can grow. We plan on launching knitwear, accessories and to add to the collection in other ways, with different styles to suit different body shapes and more embellishment, but the silk printed dresses will always be the heart of what we do.”

Watch this space….

For more information about Rixo, click here. For more information about DHL deliveries, click here.

A Portrait of The Tree By Scott Manson

Global influencers including Sir Richard Branson, Jasper Conran and Raymond Blanc share the secrets behind their favourite tree as The New Unit London hosts a new photographic exhibition, A Portrait of the Tree….

Sir Richard Branson’s Favourite Tree

The majestic glory of the longest living organism on the planet is showcased at an extraordinary collection of works, collectively entitled A Portrait of the Tree, that runs at Unit London’s new Hanover Square site from 17th to 28th September.

The images were shot and curated by renowned photographer Adrian Houston, who spent five years roaming the world – taking in Namibia, Madagascar, Ibiza, France, America and the UK – to capture the beauty of trees, chosen by notable names such as Richard Branson, actress Goldie Hawn and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.

Asking people about their favourite tree sparked fascinating stories. Lord Tollemache, former Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, told of the ancient oak in whose hollow trunk Queen Elizabeth II used to shelter during the annual shoot on his estate. Designer Jasper Conran talked about the beech tree outside his bedroom window; the first and last thing he sees each day.

Goldie Hawn’s Favourite Tree

Perhaps most poignant of all is the Cedar of Lebanon, part of the proud history and landscape of the grounds of Le Manoir aux Quat Saison, owned by legendary chef Raymond Blanc. Sadly, this magnificent tree was diseased and had to be cut down. Adrian’s art now ensures it is captured for posterity.

Says Adrian, “I am very excited that we will be among the first to exhibit at Unit London’s new Hanover Square gallery. For the last few years, Unit London has championed the world’s most exciting emerging artists and I was thrilled when co-founders Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt offered to house this most personal of retrospectives.”

The exhibition is styled and dressed to make the entire experience immersive. The doorway leads visitors through an ancient oak into a world of trees and woodland soundscapes.

Alice Temperley’s Favourite Tree

A percentage of all sales will go to two leading charities: Future Trees Trust, a national charity dedicated to improving disease resilience, growth rate, form and adaptability to climate change of broadleaved trees, and Trees For Cities, responsible for planting over 700,000 urban trees in parks, streets, schools and housing estates across the world. A photographic competition will also invite 8-16-year olds to submit photographs of their own favourite trees. The best three images – and stories – will feature in the gallery space.

“A Portrait of the Tree was conceived as a way of illustrating how trees connect us all on a universal level,” says Adrian. “The stories behind the chosen subjects are as important as the images themselves. Together, they offer a powerful tool to help educate people, from children through to adults, about the vital role that trees play in all of our lives. After all, if there were no trees on the planet, we wouldn’t be here either.”

For more information, visit www.adrianhouston.co.uk.

The History And Magic of Amanjiwo By Fiona Sanderson

Escape to Indonesia for our honeymoon special….

Stepping off the plane at Yogyakarta felt a world away from Jakarta, Indonesia’s biggest and most congested city – traffic and pollution were not what we had in mind for our first honeymoon destination! However, an easy flight just over an hour from Jakarta took us into another world. If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul. Central to the island’s artistic and intellectual heritage, this city was the seat of power that produced the magnificent temples of Borobudur and Prambanan in the 8th and 9th century and powerful Mataram kingdom of the 16th and 17th century.

We were greeted at the airport by our Amanjiwo representative who gathered our luggage and swept us to our car for a short ride to the hotel. Arriving at the entrance to Amanjiwo, we felt as though we were being guided up the stairs into a temple. Granite stone and welcoming staff gave us a first glimpse through the pillar entrance of the hotel and beyond to Java’s great temple of Borobudur, the eighth wonder of the Orient and one of the world’s largest and most revered Buddhist temples.

Surrounded by the mist of tropical rainforest and rice terraces, at Amanjiwo you really feel as though you are stepping back in time. Set in two graceful crescents around the central Rotunda, Amanjiwo’s main building is framed by 36 suites. The exotic suites all have 4-pillar beds and feature terrazzo flooring, high ceilings, domed roofs and a thatched pavilion with relaxing day beds on which to sit and soak in the reverence of the surrounding temples and history. I particularly liked the open-air bathroom with its walled gardens and pavilion. If you are lucky enough to have one of the small private pools in your suite as we had, you will wake up to the haunting sounds of early morning prayers across the valley and see the reflections of the hills and volcanoes in the green limestone of your pool. I didn’t feel disturbed by the calls to prayer, echoed by the numerous mosques in the area during the day. I thought the calls were quite beautiful, especially in the evening when they gradually blended with the crickets chirping. In fact, there is a romance and stillness about Amanjiwo that is hard to find. In its lushly forested setting, Amanjiwo is the epitome of peace, with an elegant limestone 40m infinity pool flanked by rows of cream parasols and wooden loungers, where you can lie back and admire sweeping views of the surrounding rice fields and volcanic peaks.

It’s the little extras that count, and the Aman hotels are always very spoiling in this regard. Each night we were given different gifts in our room, such as a Batik handkerchief, a bookmark made from Bodhi Ead, raffia hats and fresh fruit. There were roses and candles in the bath and around the bed, all of which served to make us feel very special.

Breakfast was a peaceful affair with the cool of the fans, the sunlight shining through the pillars and the sound of the call of prayers from beyond the warmth of the paddy fields. Various breakfast options were available but my favourite early morning pick-me-up was made using white turmeric to cleanse and soothe, followed by smashed avocados and poached eggs.

If you like spicy food, Indonesian cuisine is delicious (the Indonesian archipelago was once known as the “Spice Islands,” and it was from here that Portuguese and Dutch traders brought pepper, cloves and nutmeg to the West). We loved the dining room with its silver inlayed ceiling and majestic crescent lined with neoclassical columns, and views over the valley and volcanoes. Amanjiwo offers a choice of Indonesian and Western cuisines with a blend of Indonesian spices. We chose the Lumpia spring rolls with prawns and bamboo shoots, Terencam with fresh coconut, cucumber and cabbage, and turmeric and chili salad followed by Indonesian-style grilled fish and spicy chicken satay with mixed veg and red rice. No Michelin stars as yet but very delicious all the same.

The highlight of our stay at Amanjiwo, however, was a sunset tour to Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a guest of Amajiwo, you can enjoy the temple either at sunrise or sunset. In this visit, you will be given more time to explore the temple during the early evening when most of the visitors have departed. You can really only take in the magnificence and complexity of the building when you are up close. Built in the 8th century, it ranks with Pagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia as one of the great archeological sites of Asia, if not the world. The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has one of the largest and most complete ensembles of Buddhist reliefs in the world. These intricately carved temples scattered across the verdant Prambanan Plain are a truly breath-taking sight to behold. Once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction. Borobudur remains popular for pilgrimages, so do avoid coming in mid-May because of this.

Other things to do include guided treks, archaeological tours, art gallery visits, shopping and massage treatments. We went to Spa Heaven, where the therapist, Tari, gave us a very strong deep tissue massage. I left feeling utterly relaxed and my calf muscles in particular felt very well stretched.

Amanjiwo is pure unadulterated luxury. Although children are allowed, there were none on our visit, which was ideal as there was no noise. Maybe leave the kids at home if you are planning on coming here, as the resort is ideal for couples either on honeymoon or celebrating something special. Whatever your excuse, you will be truly pampered. The slow pace of life is blissful and so it is certainly a honeymoon haven.

After our stay at Amanjiwo, we flew to Bali, Indonesia’s best-known and most-visited island, located just off Java’s southeastern coast. Bali is small – about 100 miles wide and 70 miles north to south – and, unlike the rest of Indonesia, its 3.9 million residents are mostly Hindu, not Muslim.

We stopped for lunch in Ubud at Amandari, one of three Aman hotels in Bali, which looks out over cascading rice paddies and ornate Hindu shrines. It feels as though Amandari has been there for thousands of years, as the culture and architecture both celebrate the natural surroundings. The villas are incredibly beautiful and are designed similarly to traditional Balinese homes, with beautifully lush flora and fauna decorating each room. The restaurant here is open to both guests and non-residents, offering delicious and distinctive Indonesian cuisine made with locally grown ingredients. Gamelan players perform here every evening, their songs joined by the dusk chorus of the birds who fly over the valley.

The Aman experience, offered at all the group’s hotels, is a way of life and makes their resorts luxury destinations of choice. It is “no expense spared” pricing but it is your honeymoon after all! There is a genuine authenticity (both culturally and in terms of the sincerity of the hospitality) to the experience. Among the hotels in which I have stayed, Aman remains in my top list of favourites! There really is only one thing left for me to say – Terima Kasih (“thank-you” in Indonesian).

For more information and to make a booking at Amanjiwo, click here. For more information and to make a booking at Amandari, click here.

Café Wolseley At Bicester Village By Fiona Sanderson

It’s a quiet Tuesday in the middle of August, but Bicester Village – a designer outlet shopping centre in the heart of Oxfordshire – is positively bustling. Clearly a preferential place to shop away from the hustle and hurry of Harrods and Bond Street, Bicester has become a successful go-to shopping destination in its own right. It’s artificial “street” of shops is the same length as London’s Oxford Street, and it is now more popular than other more traditional British tourist attractions, such as the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London. In 2016 alone, a reported 6.4 million shoppers flocked to Bicester’s prettily landscaped site in order to spend, spend and spend a bit more.

How fitting then, that one of the most “must be seen at” restaurants in London has opened here. Café Wolseley At Bicester Village is the latest venture by parent company Corbin & King, and the group’s first outside London. It’s also the home of the first Wolseley Shop, which offers such delights as candles, crystal glassware, antique silver, chocolate truffles, fine wine and champagne.

The style and features of this new site will be immediately recognisable to anyone familiar with Corbin & King’s West End flagship, The Wolseley, and on our visit, we were glad to see more than just ladies that shop – it’s clearly also a place where businessmen can chill in the black and white cool of the room, with its black and white tiles and black chairs. With good-sized table space, this was a welcome retreat with the busy buzz of the shoppers in Dolce & Gabbana opposite. Bicester always seems to be heaving at midday, so it’s best to come early in the morning and spend a couple of hours before relaxing at lunchtime. Certainly, by 3 pm, the restaurant was completely full and continued to be for the rest of the afternoon.

Café Wolseley is not just a place for lunch, however. Open from 8.30 am, it’s also ideal for breakfast. Come the afternoon, it serves afternoon tea too. For the more time-pressed among you, there is The Counter – a take-away counter to grab coffee and cake on the go.

We were in no rush to run off anywhere, however, and settled in to enjoy a hearty lunch. We had the fresh smoked salmon – which was delicious – followed by paillard of chicken with salad – the perfect choice for a lunchtime bite. We also tried their classic wiener schnitzel (also available with chicken) served with lingonberry compote, which is a classic Wolseley dish with a hint of summer. We then followed up with two generous glasses of zesty pinot grigio!

There’s perhaps not as much on offer as you’d find on the London menu but when you are at Bicester to find that perfect outfit, you don’t want too many choices! The prices of the Bicester Village menu are very reasonable too, and reflect the out-of-town location.

Café Wolseley is well worth visiting if you come to Bicester. A wonderful place to rest and revive before continuing with your shopping, it’s a welcome addition to the centre’s foodie scene. Book in advance to avoid disappointment!

For more information about Cafe Wolseley at Bicester Village, click here.

Escape To Kampala By Anya Braimer Jones

Kampala, Uganda. I am sitting in Sparkles Salon, in the Game Mall, sixty minutes into what I’m told will be a marathon four-hour hair-braiding session. Not your usual tourist activity, perhaps. But this isn’t an obvious tourist city. In fact, most visitors give Kampala a miss and rush instead to see the gorillas and big four (for five, the rhino, you need to go to the zoo). But Kampala should be a compulsory stop, a must-see for anyone who likes food, art and African life. About which, more later.

But back to my hair. God only knows how, but I’ve managed to persuade my dear companion kindly to sit with me in the salon whilst two women attempt – with finger-work faster than a cheetah on the run – to turn me into more ‘gap year Afrikaaan’ than my usual English white gal look. And whilst they’ve said it’ll take four hours, this is Africa – where time keeping is as flexible as a baked plantain – so it will likely be closer to six or seven. (Our African guide teaches us that the only way to get anything done fast is to say, “I’m on the way to the airport.” But it’s not worth trying that for my tresses. They might plait me to the chair).

Let’s wind back. We arrive in Kampala after a tough and gruelling week of trekking in beautiful Mount Elgon (a little-visited extinct volcano in the East with tropical rainforests and a Jurassic Park-style caldera), doing wild camping (think water only from the stream and light just from the stars) and living like cavewomen. So when we arrive in Kampala and more specifically at the Sheraton….oh boy, am I excited!

This five-star hotel – built in the ‘60s and towering at 14 storeys – boasts an ice-cream parlour in the lobby, strong WiFi throughout the hotel, a 24-hour fitness suite and a pool big enough to drown a whale. Or a whole school of them or whatever the collective noun is for a bunch of whales. In our room, a complimentary basket of fruit awaits us – miniature bananas, mangos and T-tomato fruit (like sweet ’n’ sour tomatoes). Plus two generous servings of chocolate cake – the like of which we cavewomen haven’t seen for 120 hours and seven minutes.

Best of all….there’s a bath, shower and mirrors. Plus enough toiletries to open an outpost of Space NK. I never thought – in my 22 years on Earth thus far – that I would consider a bath, shower and seven different toiletries to be the ne plus ultra of luxury. Frankly, the whole shebang would earn the ‘luxury’ tag for any well seasoned, smart living traveller – not just cave women.

After our past five days of living ‘Bear Grylls’ style, the finer things of life offered by this hotel come as a particularly welcome surprise. I’m delighted by everything from their vast menu of room service options (and portions to feed a small army of whales) to their complimentary shoe-shining service (that returns my Timberland hiking boots clean enough to take back to the shop for a credit note) and oh, let me mention again the generous array of toiletries. You see, they offer more toiletries than I’ve ever seen in a five star hotel.

Alas, my companion insists that it’s time to explore the city. We’re joined by Emma (a man; apparently it’s short for Emmanuel), a guide. There’s Kabaka’s Palace with its chilling reminder of Idi Amin’s reign of terror: this is where he built his underground torture and execution chambers. And yes, yes, of course there are churches, mosques, cathedrals, tombs and the likes which you can read about in any guidebook.

But we’re cavewomen in search of retail therapy and hence lose ourselves shopping for African hand-printed fabrics; in craft markets — searching for wicker baskets, beaded walking sticks and cow horn cups — and wandering through endless lanes and alleyways: there’s one for hardware, one for stationery, another for computers, one for fake designer trainers, you get the gist.

Everything here is chaotic and manic, but in an exciting way. Cross the road and you’re risking your life between boda-boda motorcycle taxis and matatu taxi vans piled high with people. Emma takes us to The Old Taxi Park – the Victoria Coach Station of Kampala, but for taxi vans. Two thousand of them squeezed into less than ten acres and all plying for trade as 100 more arrive each hour. A woman – balancing a wicker basket of plantain on her head with her newborn snoozing in a kikoy sling on her back – rushes past us to sell the (delicious) green fruit to the vehicle that has just pulled up in front of us.

We wander on, squeezing between cars, vans, bikes, people, dogs and live chickens en route to market. Boys are hastening to school, whilst buttoning up their yellow shirts. A man shouts, “Mzungu” (a friendly word which translates as ‘white person’ in every East African language) and asks us if we would like a mani-pedi. At the side of the road, as it happens. Next to the beggars, stressed businessmen marching to their meetings and chaos that makes up this wonderful city. I think I will pass mate, but thanks for the offer.

This brings me to my next point: the ‘Mzungu’ issue….if one more person shouts this at me, I am going to flip! Or fry my face to match my dark braids. My companion has taken it upon herself to answer back: “Eeeeh Mafrica” each time someone calls her ‘white person.’ Apparently, ‘Mafrica’ means “hey black person.” Or so she thinks. This fills me with dread as I’m not sure whether her greeting will receive a smile, a laugh or perhaps result in a punch-up. Luckily, a huge grin is the regular response.

I get called ‘Mzungu’ at least ten times in the market. Ah, the market. This is a two-acre open air area space dedicated to fresh foods – and open every day from 6am until 10pm. You can’t get much fresher than a live chicken in a cage, throttled to order. Or the delicacy of just-caught grasshoppers ready to fry. There are also sacks filled to the brim with coriander, cumin seeds, star anise and cinnamon sticks the size of small oak trees. For any foodie, this is an unmissable experience.

From there, we go to another street that is solely for the tailors of the capital; a place where young girls sit with wrinkled men, all working away at their vintage Singer sewing machines. No factories with nasty man-made fabrics here. Just good, proper, old-school work, as my grandfather would say. In Kiyembe Lane in downtown Kampala, each little fabric store is bursting with materials piled floor to ceiling: splashes of colour, strong ethnic prints, waxed cotton and local handcrafted materials for sale by the yard (for a mere £2).

Next, we go to some of the art and artefact galleries. Kampala has a burgeoning contemporary African art scene. My favourite is the Afriart Gallery. It boasts a temporary exhibition of acrylics daubed on bark cloth. And my top choice for African crafts is Banana Boat (a real er, Mzungu haunt), where they sell hand-sewn and beaded dog collars, purposefully misshapen rustic brass hoop earrings, cow hide drums, paper bead jewellery made out of recycled cereal packets and magazines, and hand-blown coloured glass fashioned from old wine bottles.

After a full-on and chaotic day in the city, it’s back to the Sheraton to have a Ugandan massage. Uganda isn’t famous for its massages – it’s not part of their culture. People don’t ask, “Are you going to spa in Thailand or Uganda?”, do they? But wow, wow, wow! I am impressed. My companion, a spa junkie and reviewer, is blown away too. My lovely massage therapist really knows what she’s doing. First, she applies a body scrub of bananas, avocado, ground coffee beans and salt – most of the contents of the fridge, detractors might say – but to me, this is heaven. After leaving it to soak into the skin, I shower until I’m gleaming clean. Then she gives me a great massage kneading my tired muscles with lemongrass oil.

Afterwards, we love the meal at the Sheraton’s Seven Seas restaurant, its (mostly) Italian eaterie. Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed the rice and beans we have had almost daily since arriving and trekking in Africa….but fresh fish and grilled vegetables send me to another planet. Their Serbian chef, Aleksander Pavlovic, cooks using mostly Ugandan ingredients (but also Italian and Serbian….we’re talking truly international here) and serves dishes packed with flavour and colour, and presented prettily.

We have the creamiest avocado and tomato salad known to mankind: Ugandan avocados are, hands down, the best in the world; a sweet but tangy and crunchy mango and raw vegetable salad; flipping fresh Nile Perch baked in a banana leaf; and Talapia (a fish found in Ugandan lakes) with black bean sauce and gonja (another form of plantain). I opt for lots of plantain, of course, because after eating my weight in the stuff since arriving in Africa, no meal would be complete without it.

All too soon it is time to leave. Cue for tears of sadness. It’s just ninety minutes by car from Kampala to Entebbe, then just over an hour’s flight by Kenya Airways from Entebbe to Nairobi. In the latter, we’re welcomed to the airline’s Simba Lounge. It has a wide selection of international newspapers from Le Monde to the New York Times; a VIP room; Halal breakfast options (think sour brown porridge); the best macadamia nuts I have ever tried; and fluorescent fruit juice. Plus comfy chairs and deliciously fierce air-conditioning.

Once on board, I’m delighted to be welcomed with a wash bag that even today, even at over two decades of age, the highlight of my flights is seeing what’s inside that bag. In this case, a cosy pair of yellow socks with paw prints for grip on the sole is the winner. The seats are comfortable too and adjust perfectly into flatbeds. Even the menu is impressive – at least for a flight — and the food is good. Think beetroot carpaccio and lamb biryani.

As we soar above the clouds, I think of the city we’ve left behind. I reckon it would be safe to say that Kampala is not for the faint hearted. It is crazy, yes, but it is also an authentic and life-enhancing experience – a welcome break from the sometimes hamster-wheel existence of London and other cities. Oh, and I forgot to say….my hair-braiding took six hours. That’s Africa for you. But did I tell you how many toiletries they give you in the Sheraton?

Further Information

Mahlatini Luxury Travel (02890 736 050; www.mahlatini.com) offers a 2- night stay at the Sheraton Kampala (www.sheratonkampala.com) from £320 per person sharing on a Bed & Breakfast basis, which includes road transfers from Entebbe International Airport. Fares from London Heathrow to Uganda (via Nairobi) from GBP390 including tax – visit www.kenya-airways.com for more information.

Le Parc du Cap – Le Nec Plus Ultra By Harriet O'Grady

There’s no doubt about it, the Cote d’Azur still remains one of the most beautiful and exciting stretches of coastline in the world. Its soft Mediterranean light, its Alpine backdrop, its clear waters, its corniches, creeks and beaches still dazzle. There are many lovely places but the Cote d’Azur has the edge and always will have because it attracts, and no doubt will continue to attract, the very rich and famous. With them comes that special veneer of pure glamour we find so alluring. Their excesses are so monumental in the form of giant superyachts and palatial villas, that we don’t feel envy but are happy to walk in their lofty footsteps allowing ourselves to believe, even temporarily, that we are part of their magical court, trailing in wanderlust touched by the imaginary gold dust they leave in their wake.

But if the super-wealthy come here, it is not par hasard, as the French would say. They come because la Cote d’Azur is French, and what does that mean? Well, that the French – because of their long tradition of art de vivre and savoir faire – are unequalled when it comes to chic, sophistication, and pure luxury. The rest of the world thinks it can do it as well as them, but it doesn’t really. It still looks to France as the ultimate reference point, whether it is for gastronomy, clothes, luxury goods, wine, or impeccable service. The super rich know this. That’s why they return year after year – they too are caught up in the glamorous reality of what France represents at its very best.

I have come to Cap d’Antibes, one of the most exclusive locations on the Cote, and am staying in a 4 bedroom penthouse apartment with private pool at Le Parc du Cap, a complex of new 1, 2 and 3 bedroom and penthouse apartments set in landscaped gardens between the old town of Antibes and Juan les Pins. The Cap d’Antibes peninsula, which juts out into the Mediterranean between Cannes and Nice, is steeped in romantic, cultural, artistic and literary history. This is after all the place where in the 20s, the American socialites Gerald and Sara Murphy persuaded the owner of Hotel du Cap (now the mythical Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc) to stay open for the summer months, thus making the Cote a summer destination rather than the winter one it had previously been in Victorian times. This is where Scott Fitzgerald wrote Tender Is The Night, with that memorable description in the opening chapter of the beach close to the fictional Gausse’s hotel directly inspired by Hotel du Cap. This is where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor purchased Château de la Croé set in 6 acres of parkland at the tip of the Cap, now owned by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovitch. At Château de la Croé, the Windsors entertained such illustrious figures as the Aga Khan and Churchill, who vacationed regularly at nearby Château de l’Horizon. In the 60s, Juan les Pins became home to the world famous jazz festival which this year hosted the rock star Lenny Kravitz, whom I watched striking perfect notes on his electric guitar whilst he sang to an adoring crowd under tall dark pines in the warm Mediterranean night.

Sitting on the wrap-around terrace of the penthouse in Le Parc du Cap with views stretching to old Antibes on one side and the open sea on the other, it is interesting to note that these most comfortable and peaceful surroundings built by the Caudwell Collection in a modern, contemporary style have a story behind them. The head of the Caudwell Collection, businessman John Caudwell, billionaire founder of Phones4U, had come ashore from his yacht to cycle. Here he was struck by the vast vacant structure of Le Provençal Hotel, an Art Deco “palace hotel” described as “the place where you had to be to meet the jet set,” which had fallen into disrepair after it was shut down by its owner in the 1970s for reasons that still remain a mystery today – French strikes were given as a cause but it seems these weren’t the reason. John Caudwell was able to acquire this grand hotel, which had hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Collins. Today, the company is in the process of renovating Le Provençal with the intention of bringing it back to its former glory in the form of over 30 luxury apartments. With the hotel came 2 plots, one of which is the site of Le Parc du Cap. The fact that John Caudwell is the sole investor and that he has surrounded himself with a dynamic and highly professional team led by Matthew Murisson means that great personal attention has been given to every detail, and only the best materials have been used to make Le Parc du Cap a development of world class standard. It even has a personalised concierge service that will help meet all organisational needs.

The air is balmy on this July evening, the temperature just right. I know that, should I so wish in the morning, I can walk down to the old town of Antibes just 20 minutes away with its narrow streets and covered market much loved by the locals, visit the famous Picasso Museum and beyond watch the hundreds of sailing boats moored in the port of Antibes, the largest yachting harbour in Europe, or else I might choose to walk the old customs route that hugs the coast past the great villas set in their massive grounds at the southern end of the peninsula. I might take a picnic and, like Scott Fitzgerald, sunbathe and swim in shallow waters in one of the many creeks, or else I might choose to remain in the 21st century and go down to the ultra modern spa facilities in the complex and have a massage. Which is, in fact, what I do decide to do. Marie, the masseuse, used jojoba oil macerated with “Rose de Mai,” the rose grown at nearby Grasse for the perfume industry. She told me, “I like to use these natural products which come from this area in a place like this, which is refined and luxurious.” Feeling beautifully relaxed, I then lunch at The Grill, the open restaurant overlooking the sea at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.

Owning a flat in Le Parc du Cap allows you to experience the very best of the Cote d’Azur. The practicality of the apartments and the easy access to Nice airport (which is only a half hour drive away) allows you to dip in and out at your will, or stay for longer periods. They are ideal “lock up and go” pads but they are also adapted to long-term living. One thing is certain: their very special location ensures that you are never bored, not for one minute.

Further Information

Prices of the flats as follows:
1 beds from €587,500
2 beds from €864,900
4-bed penthouses from €4,950,000

For further information, go to www.caudwellcollection.com/parcducap.

Esthechoc – The Revolutionary Vegan Chocolate Beauty Supplement By The Luxury Channel

It is “the secret weapon used by celebrities and fashion insiders alike to keep themselves looking fresh-faced and glowing.” So says Harrods, but as The Luxury Channel gets swept up in the hype around Esthechoc, we wanted to try it for ourselves to see whether this luxury chocolate brand really can hit the sweet spot and do you some good….

Music artist and brand ambassador Elle L has launched a new campaign, called Golden, on behalf of Esthechoc, a revolutionary vegan chocolate beauty supplement that, when enjoyed daily over the course of a few weeks, has proven and powerful benefits on skin health. The low-calorie supplement is a luxury chocolate and amalgamates the best of science and nutrition in one delicious bite. It is all-natural, and just 38 kcals per piece!

Esthechoc has come about after ten years of scientific study and research by the team at Cambridge Chocolate Technologies, and is the world’s first clinically proven anti-ageing chocolate. Packed full of powerful antioxidants, industry experts are now dubbing Esthechoc as the holy grail of beauty medicine; a chocolate that is enjoyable, healthy, doesn’t raise insulin levels and helps to regain skin health in just three weeks. Better still, optimal results can be seen when eating the chocolate daily, which is music to the ears of singer and brand ambassador, Elle L.

Elle L has only recently stepped into the spotlight, but her spectrum of creative talents and genre-defying music makes her one of the most promising future pop stars of today. The artist represents a new wave of millennials who sing, write, model and direct, and her produced work on bespoke projects for CNN international, BBC, IFC and Copenhagen Fashion Week bring out her chameleon creativity. Elle L’s passion for the environment puts her identity and energies to good use. As ambassador for Fashion For Conservation, a project founded by Nazazine Afshar (see our article here), Elle L hosted a London Fashion Week preview of their campaign to protect the rainforest with United Nations. She’s also on the committee for Whitley Fund For Nature, whose patron is HRH Princess Royal and Sir David Attenborough is a trustee.

Commenting on her glowing skin, Elle L admitted that she enjoys Esthechoc as a late-night treat, or when she’s with friends. “Esthechoc is a revolutionary way to keep skin glowing,” she revealed. “It really is a dream supplement!”

Elle L recently travelled to Peru on an eco-creative adventure with radio DJ Lara Fraser, where the pair visited the cacao fields of the Las Piedras region of Madre de Dios to see how the plant is grown first-hand. “Not only is the cacao plant in its raw form beautiful and a potent antioxidant, but it also proves to create a sustainable form of living in the rainforest, where there is often illegal destruction of natural habitat and eco-systems for the communities to earn money,” Elle L said. “Foundations such as Hoja Nueva, the eco-retreat we have been staying with, are supporting the locals in ways to ensure effective support is given to bridge the gap from concrete to natural jungles in a mission to protect the environment.”

Elle L also revealed a personal highlight of her trip. “One of the most special moments of the trip is when we gave a local Peruvian girl named Angel a piece of Esthechoc – she had never tasted chocolate in her life, even though her family are cacao farmers! They only consume it in its raw form and it’s then sent away for processing into chocolate. She loved it and her eyes lit up. We got to learn a little from one another, as I wouldn’t have seen the raw ingredient without her family and she might not have tried chocolate so soon. I’ll definitely be giving her more next time I’m there.”

So, the big question – does Esthechoc actually work? The Luxury Channel eagerly put it to the test to find out. We can report that firstly, it tastes delicious – in every square, there’s the initial intensity of smooth dark chocolate but there’s also a sweeter flavour trickling through in the background. At the end of the trial period (you eat one square a day, and each square comes individually wrapped for freshness), we noticed our skin was much brighter and somehow felt lighter; no doubt due to the fact that Esthechoc contains astaxanthin (which comes from algae), reported to be nature’s strongest antioxidant – it’s 6000 times more powerful than Vitamin C and 500 times more powerful than Vitamin E. So next time you get a chocolate craving, try Esthechoc. It tastes good, it does good – but best of all, it’s only 38 kcals a square!

For more information about esthechoc, visit www.esthechoc.com. You can buy esthechoc Golden online here and in store at Harrods, Selfridges and at the Dr Rita Rakus clinic in London.

Highlights From Henley Festival 2018 By The Luxury Channel

The famous Henley fireworks (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

A real highlight of the British Summer Season, Henley Festival kicked off on Wednesday 11th July. The festival screening of the World Cup Semi-Final match between England and Sweden was watched by hundreds of black-tie festival goers sipping champagne. Rita Ora even delayed her opening headline set by an hour to ensure festival goers could enjoy the football. Ora then proceeded to wow the crowed with renditions of her pop hits including For You and Girls, as fireworks exploded overhead (this year, the famous Henley fireworks were put on by Titanium, the firework company behind the 2012 Olympics).

Rita Ora performing (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Victor Frankowski)

On the following night, legendary 70s singer and icon Grace Jones kept the crowds waiting for nearly an hour before appearing on stage wearing white body paint and a gold skull, telling the audience that she couldn’t come out until after the sun went down. Jones went through a total of eight costume changes as she ran through her classic hits La Vie En Rose and Love Is The Drug. She ended her set by coming out into the crowd wearing a huge white wig and riding on the back of a security guard during Pull Up To The Bumper.

Grace Jones (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Victor Frankowski)

Friday night saw Nile Rodgers with his band Chic take to the Floating Stage with some of the biggest hits of the last 50 years. Festival goers took to their feet as they danced the night away to hits including Get Lucky, I’m Coming Out, Le Freak and Lost In Music. Nile then invited members of the festival audience onto the stage to dance with him for We Are Family.

Nile Rodgers points to the crowd (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

On Saturday, festival goers were treated to a night of Frank Sinatra by Ronnie Scott’s Big Band, with American jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers performing some of Sinatra’s biggest songs including Fly Me To The Moon and All That Matters To Me. Stigers was joined onstage by British comedian Rob Brydon who sang Fly Me To The Moon in the voices of famous people including Alan Bennett, Michael Cain, Ronnie Corbett and Roger Moore.

Rob Brydon and Curtis Stigers (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

The Festival came to a triumphant close on Sunday night with the English National Orchestra under the baton of ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins performing operatic favourites Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Madam Butterfly, and Turandot as well as a little Gilbert & Sullivan, with award-winning young Welsh Soloist Natalya Romaniw taking the female solo parts.

The English National Orchestra in full swing (image courtesy of Henley Festival andRob Brydon and Victor Frankowski)

For the first time this year, Henley partnered with BBC Introducing Berkshire who picked five up-and-coming local artists to performing on the Floating Stage ahead of the headline concert each night. Our favourite act was Cecil, who told us that “being on the Floating Stage is quite an experience – Henley is an amazing festival!” Read our full interview with Cecil here.

Cecil (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

The comedy line-up was no less starry, with stellar performances from some of the biggest names in British comedy including Phil Jupitus, Paul Merton, Jon Culshaw, Lee Nelson, Lucy Porter, Mark Watson and Dominic Holland as well as up-and-coming comics Flo & Joan, best known for being on the Nationwide adverts. The girls told us that “Henley is brilliant, and it’s nice to perform to people who are dressed up. Although it’s probably the first time we have played to people in black tie!” Read our full interview here.

Flo & Joan

Some of the biggest names in contemporary art exhibited brand new works at the Festival in the pop-up galleries across the site. The Alex Hammersley Art pop-up gallery in particular was a huge success, showcasing art works from some of Britain’s most talented artists, including Michael Bennett, David Cass, Holly Frean, Nicola Green, Marcus Hodge and Biddy Hodgkinson. Alex Hammersley Art is well-known for sourcing original, contemporary art work for a wide range of clients, from private individuals to corporations. Always on the lookout for interesting and exciting talent, AHA finds artists whose unique works satisfy a range of tastes and styles, and the art on show at their Festival pop-up certainly typified this.

Alex Hammersley (left) with a range of unique art works (image courtesy of Henley Festival and
Alex Hammersley Art)

Scottish sculpture and Turner prize nominee David Mach showcased his monumental Spike sculpture – a leopard made entirely out of coat hangers, alongside photo collages made specially for Henley and brand-new works form his Commando series.

David Mach’s Spike (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

Charlotte Geeves, Henley Festival Director, said “2018 has been a fantastic year for Henley Festival, with the return of the fireworks and classical concerts with Henley Symphony Orchestra on Saturday and the English National Opera on Sunday, as well as electric performances from Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones and Rita Ora. Once again, Henley Festival has lived up to its reputation one of the most glamourous events in the summer calendar. We are thrilled that we had three sell-out nights during the festival and that festival goers have been generously supporting this year’s chosen charities – the Charlie Waller Memorial and The Teenage Wilderness Trust.”

Henley Festival from the air (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Victor Frankowski)

Overall, some 25,000 people attended the Festival over the five days, with 250 people arriving by boat and mooring to the side of the festival site, with an additional 1000 people partying from their boats each night as they glided past the Festival on the river.

For more information about Henley Festival, go to www.henley-festival.co.uk.

The American Bar At The Stafford London – A Journey Through Secret St James’s By Hannah Norman

It’s one of only a handful of original American Bars left in London that retains that name, designed to cater for the first mass influx of travellers from the US in the 1930s. But The American Bar at The Stafford London Hotel is consistently re-inventing itself, and a recent re-imagining of the entire bar area has come complete with an all-new cocktail menu. The Luxury Channel headed into the heart of secret St James’s to check it out….

Inspired by the history of The Stafford’s illustrious surroundings, the majority of the cocktails shaken and served in The American Bar find the roots of their names in the stories and the streets around the hotel. But for every bit of history that could be used for the menu, there are equally as many dark secrets that had to be understandably overlooked. Pickering Place, for instance – the smallest public square in England – was not only previously used for bear baiting in its day, but was also the site of the infamous last dual in England. Although by that time, it had become a place where respectable ladies refused, if not feared, to tread – quite a marked difference from the quaint little square of today!

Who better to take us on a tour through the secret passages and secluded streets of St James’s to unearth every corner of its history than The Stafford’s Executive Head Concierge, Frank Laino? A member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or and voted by Virtuoso as the World’s Best Concierge, Laino is endearingly approachable and refreshingly funny. His re-telling of some of London’s darkest secrets was as impassioned as it was erudite, and we were instantly beguiled by his stories.

We started our tour a mere stone’s throw away from the hotel, at the majestic Spencer House, one of only two private stately residences left in London (the other being Apsley House, former home of the Duke of Wellington at Hyde Park). Owned by the Spencer Family, to whom Princess Diana was related, Spencer House now caters for private functions, and the beauty of the building and its interiors are a true sight to behold if you are ever lucky enough to come here.

A work of art in itself, the house is adorned with fantastic objects – Bacchus, the God of Wine, decorates the doors; a torch that was used in the Olympic relay in 2012 glints in the afternoon sunlight; and a lantern is suspended from the ceiling that, it transpires, once adorned the barge of the Doge of Venice (although, given the incredible size of the lantern, one wonders as to the enormity and subsequent splendour of the barge). The Painted Room is also well worth a look, if not for its original furniture pieces, then for one of the murals on the wall of two rather dour-looking women each flanked by a cherub. The rumour is that these were the two great aunts of the first Lord Spencer, who objected to his marriage to Georgiana Poyntz. He in turn objected to their indignation, and not only went ahead with the marriage but he then instructed James Athenian Stuart – the Painted Room’s designer – to incorporate them unflatteringly into the room’s design. Or so the rumour regarding their identity goes….

Just around the corner from Spencer House in the hustle and bustle of St James’s Road is Lock & Co, the world’s oldest hat shop. The conformateur – a device used for measuring both the size and the shape of your head – was in continual use during our visit, calling in as we did just ahead of Royal Ascot. The head measurements of various famous figures are framed on the walls of the shop, including David Gandy, Gary Oldman and Charlie Chaplain. Oh, and also a letter from Oscar Wilde’s agent enclosing a cheque for the £3.30 Wilde owed but hadn’t paid, because when the bill was sent, the playwright had in fact been serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Reading Prison (the cheque itself was never cashed, and this too can be seen on the wall).

Returning to The American Bar, we could have sat outside in The Stafford’s beautiful cobbled courtyard, a hidden sun trap in central London that is just begging to be enjoyed with a long drink, a fine cigar and the company of good friends. However, we opted to stay inside and see the renovation of The American Bar itself. Helmed by bar manager Benoit Provost – actually only the third head barman in the hotel’s whole history, and who himself has been at the hotel since 1993 – we settled into the plush seating to enjoy delicious canapés prepared by the hotel’s Culinary Director, Ben Tish. Oh my, do you have to try the pea croquettes! A moreish burst of vibrant green, these little breaded bundles of yum were the perfect bar snack to devour whilst waiting for our drinks order to arrive.

Since we were discovering the secret side of St James’s, it was only appropriate that we discovered a few secrets at The Stafford too. Deep beneath the bowels of the hotel lies the 400 year old wine cellar, overseen by Master Sommelier Gino Nardella, which houses some 10,000 bottles of wine. The cellars also house a very special WWII Museum, containing authentic pieces seemingly left in situ (including ceremonial flags, browning newspaper clippings and eerie-looking gas masks) from the days when American and Canadian soldiers used the cellars during the war. If you want to see this impressive secret space for yourself, you need only ask a member of staff if they can arrange it.

It was then back upstairs to The American Bar for some theatre. That is really the only word I can use to describe the arrival of our drinks. Anyone who orders an Oppenheimer is in for a treat and then some, as this brilliant blue liquid, served in a diamond-shaped glass, is then placed on a rotating black tray to catch the light and sparkle in all its alcoholic glory. Whisky lovers can’t go too far wrong with the coffee-tinged smoothness of Three Dots And A Dash, and the strength of the rum in The Birdcage gave this refreshing cocktail a lovely kick at the end. Those who don’t fancy a hard drink are rewarded with a choice of The Scoop and The Republic mocktails. My personal favourite of all the cocktails, however, is the gin-based White Mouse.

It was named in honour of The American Bar’s most famous patron, Nancy Wake, who actually lived in the hotel for two years towards the end of her life. When she died, the hotel absorbed the majority of the cost of her stay; the reason being that Wake was one of the allies’ greatest assets and most decorated servicewoman of the Second World War. A resourceful resistance fighter, she was nicknamed The White Mouse due to the fact that she was frequently cornered, albeit never captured by the Nazis, and at one point was the Gestapo’s most wanted person with a 5 million franc price on her head. Bar manager Provost remembers her fondly, as do most of the staff who knew this larger than life character, who would take up her usual spot at the bar night after night to hold court. Today, a Karen Newman-sculpted bust honours her position, not just at the bar, but also in history.

We left as The American Bar began to fill up for the evening, as hotel residents joined those seeking a sanctuary to enjoy after-work drinks. The perfect place in which to escape, The American Bar should become your new local in London (yes, even if you don’t live here). Pick “your” perfect spot to sit in the bar, and then work your way through the cocktail menu. There’s a little piece of London’s history waiting to be discussed in every glass.

Contact Information

For further information about The Stafford London Hotel, click here.

For further information about The American Bar, click here.

For further information about Spencer House, click here.

The Luxury Channel Meets Cecil By Fiona Sanderson

Cecil (image courtesy of Henley Festival and Garry Jones)

Cecil is an alternate indie pop artist from Berkshire. She released her debut EP in April 2017 which subsequently received support from BBC Radio 2, BBC Introducing, BBC Berkshire, BBC Oxford and many other regional radio stations. The resulting success saw Cecil take to stages all over the UK and led to her opening the main stage at Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival, where she was the only unsigned artist to play the main stage. She has since performed at BBC’s Carfest for Children In Need and headlined the O2 Academy Islington.

Cecil takes her name from her great uncle Cecil McGivern, who was a broadcasting pioneer for British radio and TV and who wrote several wartime radio plays during World War II for the BBC. He also wrote the original screenplay for the 1946 version of Charles Dickens’ famous novel Great Expectations and was later awarded a CBE.

With lots of exciting things planned for the year ahead (including the release of a new album), The Luxury Channel caught up with Cecil following her performance on the famous Floating Stage at this year’s Henley Festival to talk social media, alter egos and playing at The Royal Albert Hall….

What does Henley and indeed the Festival mean to you?

As a Berkshire girl, it has a special place for me – I was here last year and it’s absolutely amazing. Last year, I was in the Bedouin Tent and it was more of an acoustic set but this year, being on the Floating Stage is quite an experience. Personally, I would come to Henley as a guest and pay because it’s an amazing festival!

Which venue would you ideally like to perform at?

I have always wanted to play at the Albert Hall; I would love that. It’s such a special place, even though I have only been there once, when I went to see the Christmas Orchestra. But what I loved about it was the atmosphere.

One of your pieces that you played tonight, called Ceasefire, has some very meaningful content. Can you tell me about it and what it means to you?

At the moment, I feel like we are living in a very a strange world – I feel there’s a lot of fighting and negativity. I wanted to write something that says stop – ceasefire. We have got to be positive and be happy – that’s where it comes from.

You followed this with Toy Box, with its unique sound that you will be making a video around – can you tell me about it?

I am so excited about this one – I am almost giddy! We have made a human-sized toy box, so it’s huge, and there is a motor inside and I am going to be spinning just like one of those ballerinas. Then we have got these dancers who are going to be crawling out of the box whilst I am spinning and we have actors who will be depicting a range of emotions. It’s going to be really creepy and scary – bringing up all my creative energy.

Where does all this creative energy come from?

Some has come from my great uncle, Cecil McGivern, and some from my mum who plays the drums and was in a local band, so I grew up with music. I was always surrounded by music. Even when my mum was pregnant, she used to blast out music and I would be kicking away. So music has been the love of my life since day one!

Is the persona that you portray on stage the same as off stage?

No, it’s strange really as I feel that the outside personality that you see on stage is different to the person that you see off stage. The way that I write and perform is often quite dark but when I am off stage, I am Sophie, my real name – it’s completely different. I am always laughing and joking, a kid really – that’s a little secret! My alter ego Cecil is who’s on stage.

What do you like to do at home – any passions?

At home, I like to wear jeans and trainers. I love home, and I love dogs. When you see them in dogs homes, I just want to let them out and take them home. I am always talking about them, but I don’t even have one yet! I also love butterflies. I had a special experience once. One day, the winds were crazy loud and I was at home playing piano and I saw this butterfly which was trapped, and so I caught it in my hands and let it out of the window. The next day – no joke – the same black and brown butterfly was back in the house fluttering around me. A happy moment and I will never forget it.

Social media can be used to push positive and negative messages but how important is it to you as a professional and how do you intend to use it to promote yourself?

Social media is not in my DNA so it’s very hard to remind myself that I need to be posting every day and these posts need to be relevant and they need to be interesting and keep people engaged. With social media, it’s very hard to get picked out and get noticed because everyone is doing it. It’s anyone’s game out there – it’s madness. For me, it’s about the music, that one record that’s going to capture everyone and they love it. As much as social media is a great platform to get your music out there, for me it will always be about the music.

For more information about Cecil, go to www.cecilmusic.co.uk.

The Luxury Channel Meets Flo & Joan By Fiona Sanderson

They may not be household names – yet – but anyone who frequently watches UK TV will be familiar with the work of musical comedy sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey (better known as Flo & Joan) from the Nationwide adverts. Following a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and two sell-out stints at London’s Soho Theatre with their critically acclaimed debut show The Kindness of Stranglers, award-winning Flo & Joan – whose hit The 2016 Song, berating the anus horribilis that saw the deaths of icons from Bowie to Prince, received more than 47 million views online – will be returning to the Festival to perform their brand new show Alive On Stage at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar from 1st to 26th August at 4:00pm, before embarking on a UK tour from 19th September 2018 to 12th April 2019. As described by Steve Bennett of Chortle, “If Flanders & Swann and Flight of The Conchords and Garfunkel & Oates had a six-way, time-travelling gang-bang that somehow mixed all their DNA, the offspring might end up sounding something like Flo & Joan.” The Luxury Channel duly caught up with the musical duo following their set at this year’s Henley Festival to talk comedy, Canada and drinking too much….

How was your show at Henley?

Rosie: I think Henley is brilliant – people are dressed up, and it’s nice to perform to people who are dressed up. Although it’s probably the first time we have played to people in black tie. We did a little classic opener, a joke-heavy song, so that people know what we are doing, a little about ourselves, then we had a song about drinking too much which went down well – a bit of an acoustic number, which was great to play in a tent when Grace Jones is behind you! – but it was really fun.

How do you choose your content for different audiences?

Nicola: Most of the time, we know what the environment or age it’s going to be – so with Henley being a mostly mature audience, we did a song about marriage and divorce, whereas if we are playing to younger audiences, we would probably do more topical things.

Why do you think the Nationwide adverts were such a success?

Rosie: I think they were just easy, catchy and friendly family songs which are quite nice – because it’s quite different to what we normally do. They were light and joyful, and not too wacky. People really seemed to enjoy them.

Nicola: Getting to do the Nationwide ads was great and it was one of our first “proper” jobs.

There were some people on social media who were very negative about it – why do you think that was?

Rosie: Of course, everyone has their opinions but we didn’t pay attention to those comments.

In times of uncertainty and political turmoil such as these, what do you think people should be watching?

Nicola: I think it’s important for everyone to engage in those things, but I think it’s also important to have some light relief, such as Tom & Jerry. I understand why people watch reality TV because it takes you completely out of the world to concentrate on someone else, whether it’s good or bad. I watch Love Island because it makes me forget that everything else in the world is not always so great and I don’t have to think about it for an hour or so. Yes, sometimes we do topical things but sometimes we do silly things such as [the songs] Small House, or Lady In The Woods – because it’s fun for us and audiences can relax and don’t feel they have to concentrate – they can just enjoy laughing.

What led you to Canada?

Nicola: There’s a comedy school out there called The Second City and they have one in Chicago also, and it’s the birth place of comedians such as Bill Murray. They teach improv and sketch comedy through improv – we went separately but we both wanted to try improv and learn how to do it properly. We learnt a lot and loved it, and so that’s where we stayed for 3 years.

You are playing at Edinburgh again this year – what is it like to play at the Festival?

Nicola: We moved back to the UK last July and almost immediately went to Edinburgh, and we were lucky to have such a great crowd. We had never really performed in England before for that length of time and it gave us a chance to get the show just right before playing at the Soho Theatre.

What is your favourite luxury, and what does it mean to you both?

Rosie: Time, by ourselves. The best bits are having down time and maybe sitting with a bowl of pasta. At the moment, it’s so pressured getting shows ready. Typically a trip to the theatre is big on our list – indeed, it’s a real luxury for us, particularly in London, as well as exercising whilst listening to music.

As sisters, how different are you?

Rosie: We are very different people but we get along really well and it’s good because when we write, we know what the other is thinking – it helps to know what works and what doesn’t, as we understand each other.

Nicola: We lived together in Toronto and when we came back here, we decided to live separately and give each other our own personal life.

What is the comedy scene like at the moment, particularly for women?

Nicola: As far as I can see, everyone’s got their head down working really hard and it’s all our there if you want to see some extraordinary men and women doing some great work. We don’t think of ourselves as female comedians – we are just comedians, so you just do your job. Some people like musical comedy, some don’t. Same as some like women comedians, some don’t. It’s the same with clowns, or stand-up or physical comics. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer for people to come to you but you know that you are good so it’s fine.

Rosie: In terms of TV, there is so much to see on channels like Amazon and Netflix and we watch a lot of American comedy TV. So whatever budget you are on, you can find something that you like. There’s definitely some cool comedy coming through these channels. I used to love Smack The Pony and Dawn French but I personally feel that mainstream TV is missing a bit of that jolly weird character stuff but if you look for it, you can find it on other channels.

What are your plans for the coming year?

Rosie: We are playing again at Edinburgh Fringe in August and we are doing a live tour which starts in September which we are really excited about, cos we’ve never done one before! We are working on some podcasts and writing some small musicals, which we will hopefully have by the end of the year but we are not big planners, we like to run with the day.

If you could choose a woman from history, who would it be and why?

Rosie: I would choose Mary Anning, the English fossil collector who became know around the world for collecting some amazing fossil in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis.

Nicola: I really liked the Countess of Castiglionie, who married young but she had loads of pictures taken of her and she wore these amazing costumes and art directed every single picture of herself. In every part of her life, she was in control despite other people trying to control her – which I think was really cool, given she lived in the 1800s!

For more information about Flo & Joan and for a full list of their upcoming show dates, go to www.floandjoan.com.

Escape To Atmantan By Caroline Phillips

There are some unique boards by the roadside. ‘A fit and healthy you is the best fashion statement you can make,’ reads one sign. Another says, ‘Be transformed — in the land of prana (life energy), there is no app for this.’ Nearby folk wearing kurta pyjamas raise their hands prayerfully in Namaste greetings. This is the Atmantan wellness resort, the name of which is derived from the Sanskrit words for ‘mind’, ‘body’ and ‘soul.’

Atmantan is a 90-minute drive from Pune in Maharashtra, India. It’s nestled in the Sahyadri mountain range (‘older than the Himalayas,’ boasts the brochure, and also chokka with healing crystals, apparently) and overlooks the twinkling Mulshi Lake. The spa is surrounded by 40 manicured acres with red flame trees, bursts of blue and purple blooms, and a jungle’s worth of orchestral birdsong. Plus, there are decorative driftwood elephants, serene Buddha statues and gardeners sweeping the grass. We’re 2200 feet above sea level, where the air is as clear as eucalyptus, the mornings cool and the evenings pleasant.

Atmantan offers a 360-degree approach to health and fitness — encompassing everything from nutrition to spa therapies and functional fitness: from Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga to naturopathy (natural cures); from Western approaches (blood diagnostics, colonics) to physio (postural assessment and alignment). All under the care of six doctors, a tip-top team of therapists and a crack duo of physios.

There are nine retreat programmes, ranging from yoga to master cleanse, weight loss and restorative physiotherapy. (I’m trying a little of all of them). Most guests are encouraged to get active and there are fitness challenges, hiking, exercise from a vast array of classes, and personal training on offer. (One of the founders, Nikhil Kapur, is an Ironman tri-athlete).

My bedroom is a golf-buggy ride away (the one and only vehicular trip that I take during the week) up the hill. Its decor is contemporary (with a super-high bedhead and bold rug) but there’s no mistaking that I’m somewhere that takes health seriously: there’s a mattress that’s certified by the American Chiropractic Association, with a reinforced centre for spinal support; a pillow menu that includes orthopaedic ones; and a mini-bar only offering options like homemade muesli snacks and a seeds mix. My marble bathroom has chemical-free toiletries, a card indicating that there’s a ‘tongue scraper on request’ and a sunken tub overlooking a picture window. (For the truly spoiling, there are two villas; one of 1500 sq. feet and the other 2500 sq. feet, and each with a private infinity pool, gym, sauna, steam, open-to-the-sky showers, and personal butler).

I make my way to lunch, noting that ‘no bathrobes are permitted in the dining pavilion.’ I pass massive bowls of fresh petal mosaics. There’s a minimalist sweeping stone staircase down to the restaurant, Vistara — which means ‘spectacular view,’ and it is. And three other places to eat, including a tea and juice bar (that looks like a trendy Indian nightclub on a day off), barbeque lounge and ‘outdoor kitchen.’

They’re into locavarian fare (locally grown and seasonal, much of it from their 20-acre organic farm) and offer Mediterranean, Asian and Ayurvedic specialities. The Vistara menu gives calorie counts for the food and the items are also broken down into their nutritional composition. There’s a choice of two dishes in each of the four courses. ‘Green bean soup, 55 cal serving, 2.4g fat, 14.5g carbs’ is one example. And raw okra salad and pan seared pomfret with bell pepper cheese patty and chickpea mash is another. (You do the calorie maths).

The doctors and chefs customise and modify food for guests, and I know this may be my last chance for a grande bouffe. But, despite myself, I take it slowly and moderately, eating mindfully whilst looking at the other guests. They’re mostly Indian — a teeny bit of Bollywood, a large smattering of middle-class locals and one other white face. And what of the meal? The food is fine, the staff slick and professional, and the less said about the piped muzak the better.

Afterwards, I wander around the grounds. Nine months after the spa opened (in April 2016), there are 73 rooms that are operational and soon there will be 106. There’s mini golf, croquet and a sports centre with table tennis and pool tables — a nod to the corporate groups they hope to attract. And a glorious amphitheatre with views over the hills and lake and sun, for doing yoga al fresco.

Then there’s the eff-off spa. Truly. It has 23 treatment rooms, a spinning studio, a high tech gym, aerobic studio, indoor salt-water pool with water features, and yoga studio. Plus infrared sauna (with infrared light waves to induce sweat and the release of toxins, to support cellular health) and a hammam. Plus a water bar with bottles of H20, each infused with different herbs and vegetables.

Next I have an appointment with Dr. Manoj, an excellent naturopath and Ayurvedic consultant with a Masters in psychology: a man who is super well informed about health. Dr. Manoj prescribes a bespoke diet for me that includes chia and cacao smoothies, steamed veg and a daily small bowl of fresh ginger and garlic — the last a foul-tasting anti-inflammatory. After the lean diet, he moves me on to a juice one that I manage for a full….24 hours.

He also introduces me to the encyclopaedic spa menu: everything from a green tea body scrub and firming wrap of grapefruit and frankincense to vibration training with mechanical stimulation to exercise the body parts; from a Vichy shower with nine heads of water to massage the body to acupuncture and moxibustion. The list goes on. And on.

My week is soon filled with an (organic) jam-packed schedule. There’s a visit to Dr. Navita for a detailed and illuminating physio examination and postural assessment. (She gives me exercises and top tips for bunions and ergonomic seating.) Then there’s floating yoga on the swimming pool (good for the core muscles) and Uduwarthanam (deep tissue massage using herbal powders, rather like warm sand being sprinkled on the skin and then being rubbed with fairy sandpaper, to help muscle stiffness and skin tone).

There’s Takradhara (medicated buttermilk) being poured from a copper chatti bowl onto my head (enhances mood), Pranic healing (spiritual healing complete with energising of the chakras), Chi Nei Tsang (Chinese abdominal massage) and Ajna light therapy (a new technique stimulating the pineal gland with light and sounds….good for relaxation or, it’s claimed, for inner eye meditation).

I love it all, particularly the yoga with Seema in the amphitheatre beneath the early morning moon. (I even manage Jal Neti [Ayurvedic nasal cleansing] with her and six other women in a communal bathroom used exclusively for this purpose). And then there’s my hike up the mountain with Hemanta, personal trainer and national kickboxing champion — for muscle tone and stupendous views. And synchronised massages with therapists so good I want to take them home with me. The week passes in a blur of restorative therapies and I would have stayed another week, if I could.

I arrived at Atmantan with what’s known as a ‘corporate hunchback’ i.e. a rounded spine — and depart feeling taller and straighter. My ‘before’ and ‘after’ statistics — such as my fat mass — on my body composition analyser print-out are much improved after just a week. I leave with more muscle, less cellulite and supple as ghee. As I drive away, I notice more roadside signs. ‘Take care of yourself, you are living with you all your life,’ instructs one. ‘Breathe in this mountain air,’ reads another, ‘and boost your immune system.’ And so I will and do.

For further information, go to www.atmantan.com.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites.

Bad Kleinkirchheim Is Good For The Health! By Ramy Salameh

With a passion for its roots, the prestigious Ferienhotel Kolmhof in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, is a family-owned property, which mixes tradition with contemporary Austrian lifestyle. Sitting at the foot of the Nockberge Mountain range and opposite St. Kathrein thermal spa, the hotel was our perfect base for three days of relaxation, rejuvenation and active-adventure.

Bad Kleinkirchheim sits within the region of Carinthia known for a Mediterranean-style climate. Nearby, the borders of both Italy and Slovenia help influence the relaxed nature of locals and the fine regional produce. As the owner of the Kolmhof, Achim Lienert casually remarked “we are on the sunny side of the Alps.”

Having taken over the business from his late father, Lienert has brought an entrepreneurial energy to the hotel, which caters for all ages and tastes, in both summer and winter. Returning guests and new arrivals to the area are greeted by staff in the national dress (Dirndl and Lederhosen) and more often than not by Lienert’s mother, the matriarch of this family-run hotel.

The hotel has a photo wall running along a corridor linking the wood-panelled restaurant with the lobby lounge. Celebrated figures of Austria and beyond are now part of the hotel’s history, ever since it opened back in the 1960s. One face and photo that appears often in Carinthia is that of the legendary skier Franz Klammer, who was born in a village close to Bad Kleinkirchheim. He achieved Olympic gold not so long after the hotel had opened and he remains in the hearts and minds of Austrians to this day.

Even when ascending the summit of the Nockberge Biosphere Park, our gondola passed another in descent, fully wrapped with a golden livery devoted to Klammer, featuring his distinctive silhouette, crouched and on the edge of his skis hurtling towards one of many victories of his career. Nowadays, Klammer is a devotee of golf and cycling, as much as skiing, and helps promote the Alpe Adria golf trail between Carinthia, Italy and Slovenia, playing on some of the finest courses in the Eastern Alps.

Using the hotel’s state-of-the-art e-mountain bikes made the 5km ride up toward the St. Oswald’s cable car station and Biosphere Park in Brunnach, an easy and scenic ride. The verdant panorama is punctuated by the sight of dark-wood farm houses, adorned with geranium-filled balconies and deer antlers mounted under the pitched roofs. Ancient orchards, and farmers scything the long grass in the fields during early summer, completed the chocolate-box setting, attesting to the conservation of the alpine’s natural and cultural landscape.

Atop the Nockberge, the dramatic vistas stretch out to towards rolling rather than jagged peaks, which is a unique geological feature and rare in the Alps. The moving shadows, created by the odd passing cloud, slowly unveiled a mountain hut that offers refreshment to hikers from the many trails that split like veins across the torso of the mountain range. After our own short hike, the upper cable car restaurant provided deck-chairs from which to bask in the sun and enjoy a coffee before we zipped back to the hotel, our own downhill mountain bike race an exhilarating end to our elevated excursion.

Bad Kleinkirchheim has a very long history as a spa town, stretching back to the Middle Ages – more so than as a winter ski or summer resort. The many active adventure pursuits are one way to enjoy the balmy climate in the region; the other is through the thermal waters. The town is book-ended by two major spa facilities, Römerbad and St. Kathrein, sitting at either end of the main thorough-fare. The former is the larger of the two, set across three storeys and 12,000sqm of alpine spa and wellness to help soothe well-hiked muscles, whilst the latter incorporates an 86m waterslide alongside Roman baths and swimming pools.

The Kolmhof, like other hotels in the area, offers its own spa facilities. “We developed and built our own spa area of 1000sqm to reflect the changing nature of what our guests wanted,” stated Lienert. To access the heated hotel pool, one swims from inside to out, with head popping up from the surface of the water into the calm serenity of landscaped gardens and a full sweep of pine-covered mountains.

The Kolmhof also has its own private beach beside Lake Millstätter, the second biggest lake in Carinthia. The vast body of water stretches 12km in length with a depth of just under 150m. The 19th and 20th century villas that rise from the northern shore to the hillside, the cafes and the bathers provide an ‘‘Alpine Riviera’’ feel. The northern shore is also home to a Romanesque Benedictine Abbey whose gardens, arcades and cloisters provide shade to retreat from the summer heat.

Having followed the meandering journey of the clear mountain water, which begins as a trickle of a stream and ends in flowing rivers that finally spill into the lake, we then had to retrace our steps back up towards our evening meal. The Ferienhotel Kolmhof prides itself in serving Austrian and Carinthian specialities using local produce, which like most things in Bad Kleinkirchheim, benefit from a sun-filled climate!

For more information go to www.kolmhof.at.

Luxury And Lalique Through The Prism of Glass By Ramy Salameh

On the 130-year anniversary of Lalique, Ramy Salameh visited Wingen-Sur-Moder in Alsace, to luxuriate in the enduring Lalique legacy and discover the ultimate luxury weekend break….

The light softly and elegantly illuminated bunches of sculpted grapes that wrapped themselves around a Lalique ‘‘Saint-Vincent’’ plaffonier. The ceiling light-shade adorned my grandmother’s North London apartment and was my first and earliest introduction to the work of the great René Lalique. Even as a child, the way the light permeated the sculptural glass was not lost on me. That same sense of amazement and artistry remains in Alsace, weaving its magic through Villa René Lalique, Chateau Hochberg, Musée Lalique and of course the factory, all of which epitomise luxury lifestyle and decorative art.

This year marks the 130 year anniversary of Lalique. Stretching back to 1888, when he registered his initials ‘‘RL’’as a hallmark, through to the present day and the unique collaborations with contemporary artists. These include heavyweight names such as Damian Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein and Terry Rodgers.

Collaboration with the famous perfumier, Francois Coty, proved to be a key turning point in Lalique’s career. In 1907, Lalique was commissioned by Coty, to work on a perfume bottle called ‘‘L’Effleurt.’’ Initially, it was to design the bottle’s plaque, which Lalique made to look like silver, although made entirely of glass, thus showcasing his talent with the medium. Our guide at Musée Lalique impressed upon us that the “L’Effleurt collaboration with Coty really launched René Lalique’s career with glass.”

The encounter with the perfumier was one of several key stages in Lalique’s life that are carefully narrated across the museum’s exhibits. Arguably, one of the most dazzling and emotive collections is that of the original perfume bottles, which give an insight into the mind of René Lalique and his ability to use the effects of transparency, opacity and opalescence inherent in glass to such dramatic effect. They also symbolise the transition from master jeweller of the Art Nouveau period into a master glassmaker of the Art Deco movement.

The museum found its natural home upon the site of the former Hochberg glassworks, part of a glassmaking heritage within the northern Vosges, dating back to late medieval times. The area’s glass-producing natural resources, skilled workforce and railway station, enabled René Lalique to connect his glass art and entrepreneurial ambitions across France and the world. This led to the founding of his factory in Wingen-Sur-Moder in 1921.

The Hochberg glasswork’s historic skeleton was adapted by French architects, Willmotte & Associates, to include a modernist wing of glass galleries incorporating a cloister garden, opened as Museé Lalique in 2011. Sitting directly opposite the museum, Chateau Hochberg – a listed monument built in 1863 by Edouard Teutsch, the then owner of the glassworks – has been turned into a chic four-star luxury hotel by the Lalique Company. The hotel’s solid, grand façade leads to a serene interior of neutral colours. The Windfall Chandelier, whose pendant crystals shower the bar and the Lauriers panels created by Rene Lalique in 1923 to grace the carriages of the Orient Express, bestacnedrug.com immediately caught my attention on entering the lobby. Circular Dahlia motifs pepper the walls, as if directing patrons towards their rooms.

Since 1921, the Lalique Factory has continuously operated in Wingen-Sur-Moder and still produces crystal and glass using the most modern processes and has revived the traditional ‘‘Lost Wax’’ procedure for special designs. Exquisite pieces of varying shapes and sizes flutter, fly and swirl in rapid formations from the production line; the majority still incorporate one of the three key influences that captivated René Lalique: “la femme, la faune et la flore” (Flora, Fauna and the Female Form). The inscribed ‘‘Lalique, France’’ signature is the final stage of a long process that begins in molten form straight from the furnace and is worked in the ‘‘hot and cold’’ sections that retouch, frost and polish. The famous signature is only then applied.

Under the stewardship of owner and CEO Silvio Denz, the continued expansion of the Lalique brand has incorporated luxury lifestyle, to include hotels and restaurants in the portfolio. René Lalique would have understood the need for diversification. His artistry took his interests beyond the vases, statues and perfume bottles, additionally moving into car mascots, decoration for trains and ocean liners, and even religious architecture.

The reincarnation of his former summer Villa, as an elegant and intimate five-star hotel and two-Michelin starred gourmet restaurant would, surely, have met his approval. Primarily, as a showroom of fine pieces, comparable with the boutiques he opened in Paris. But also the reinterpretation and influences of architectural and gastronomic artists, who have combined to create a luxury experience. The restaurant was designed by Mario Botta and like the Musée Lalique, it seamlessly marries old and new. The glass walls of the restaurant brought nature and light to our table, whilst we enjoyed the creations of Chef Jean-Georges Klein, such as the 130th Lalique Anniversary – Goose Foie Gras arranged exquisitely with swallows (Hirondelles) and Seagulls (Mouettes) dancing across the plate and palette. Each dish paired with a fine wine brought up from the cavernous cellar by award-winning Sommelier Romain Iltis. As he poured the wine, the subtle red, white and blue trim on his cuff, is a nod to his expertise and excellence as a former “Meilleur Sommelier de France” in 2012 and “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 2015. Similarly, Chef Klein’s unusual pleated apron added Gallic flair and theatre to a special evening.

Amongst the reclining crystal nudes and swallows swooping and diving across the walls of the Villa, the 130-year anniversary touches follow us out from the restaurant. On display were several limited edition fragrances; one of which was the ‘‘Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelle.’’ Upon the base, “Lalique 130 ans, 1888-2018” is engraved. This small perfume bottle encapsulates and presents the past and evolving present for La Maison Lalique.

More Information

For more information, about Lalique, go to www.lalique.com and for more information about the Musée Lalique, go to www.musee-lalique.com. To book a stay at Villa René Lalique go to www.villarenelalique.com and to book a stay at Château Hochberg, go to www.chateauhochberg.com .

Royal Ascot In Numbers By The Luxury Channel

The countdown to Royal Ascot – one of the most iconic summer events of the British sporting and social calendar – has begun. On Tuesday 19th June, Ascot Racecourse will open its gates for five days of world-class racing, pageantry, high fashion and fine dining. The Racecourse was established at the behest of Queen Anne in 1711. The centrepiece of Ascot’s racing calendar, Royal Ascot is first thought to have taken place at Ascot in 1768 and is now arguably the world’s most famous race meeting. It has been attended by British Monarchs ever since its inception and at 2pm each day, the Royal Procession in which HM The Queen, along with her family and guests, parade up the Straight Mile into the Parade Ring in landaus led by four Windsor greys. Increasingly in recent years, the Royal Meeting attracts some of the best horses from around the globe, with horses from as far as the USA and Australia set to be in the line-up across the 30 races. The Luxury Channel will be in attendance on Gold Cup Day, but ahead of this most famous meeting, we bring you Royal Ascot in numbers….

Galileo Gold, ridden by Frankie Dettori, beats Awtaad (centre) and The Gurkha (right) in The St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on 14th June 2016 (image courtesy of Steven Cargill of
Racing Fotos)

The Races

Royal Ascot will feature 19 Group Races, including eight Group Ones, with total prize money across the 5 days in excess of £7.3m. Around 300,000 guests are expected to attend the Royal Meeting this year to witness the spectacle, with 70,000 racegoers attending Thursday’s Gold Cup Day, all of whom will be greeted by the racecourse’s 163 full-time personnel and 6,500 temporary staff.

The Grounds

Ascot’s dedicated grounds team will cultivate and bed-in more than 13,000 flowers and plants across the 179-acre racecourse especially for the event. Grass is cut to a regulation 4 inches for the Flat Season and 3 miles of bunting is to be installed.

The Food

35,000 guests alone will enjoy fine dining or lunch service in a private box during the event and world-renowned chefs Raymond Blanc OBE, Phil Howard, Simon Rogan, Adam Handling and James Tanner are all involved this year, boasting 5 Michelin stars and 13 AA Rosettes between them. Fine dining has always been an important ingredient of the Royal Ascot experience with 330 chefs covering 12 restaurants, 17 private dining facilities and more than 200 private boxes. During the event, 5000kg of salmon, 5000 Angus steaks and 2400kg of beef sirloin, 7000 rumps of English lamb, 3500 fresh lobsters and 8000 Cornish crabs will be served to guests. Synonymous with Afternoon Tea, the Royal Meeting will also serve 240,000 hand-crafted cakes, 120,000 buttermilk scones, 80,000 cups of tea, 60,000 finger sandwiches, 7,000 punnets of mixed berries and 1,200kg of Cornish clotted cream, served across all enclosures.

Further Information

Tickets are available from £37 to £88. Please note the Village and Windsor Enclosures have now SOLD OUT for Saturday 23rd June.
Please visit www.ascot.co.uk/royalascot, or call +44 (0)344 346 3000.

Henley Festival 2018 – What To Look Forward To By The Luxury Channel

Now in its 36th year, Henley Festival – the UK’s most glamorous boutique festival – is returning to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames from 11th – 15th July 2018.

As the UK’s only black tie boutique festival, Henley Festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin-starred food, award-winning comedians, Turner Prize nominated artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music. Many festival-goers arrive by boat, and the green lawns of the Festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision, as black tie clad revellers spill across the festival site, champagne in hand, while fireworks explode overhead.

The Headliners On The Floating Stage

Following the release of her long-awaited album in Spring 2018, Rita Ora will open Henley Festival 2018 on the Wednesday night. The global pop star, with four No.1 hit songs to her name, will get the Festival off to an explosive start with her 2017 hit singles, Your Song and Anywhere.

A lifelong provocateur, Grace Jones will light up Henley Festival with an energetic headline set that is guaranteed to include a string of costume changes and dance-club hits, including her acclaimed reinvention of Piaf’s classic La Vie En Rose. One of the world’s most iconic women, singers, songwriters, supermodels, actresses and infamous Bond Girl, Grace Jones’ daring and original headline set will surely be one of the highlights of the Festival.

Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is truly exceptional. He amplifies his legacy as a multi-Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist by constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music. As the co-founder of CHIC, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping pop hits like Le Freak, sparked the advent of hip-hop with Good Times, and won CHIC eleven Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominations. More recently, he has worked with Daft Punk, Avicii, Disclosure, and Sam Smith.

Saturday night at Henley Festival will see Curtis Stigers and The Ronnie Scott’s Big Band present Sinatra At The Sands. Internationally acclaimed American jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers will channel the hip, swinging chemistry of Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra for a brilliant night which will fly the Henley audience to the moon. Curtis Stigers and the Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra will also be joined by a very special guest – the actor, writer, comedian and impressionist, Rob Brydon. The star of the memorable BBC drama Gavin & Stacey and chair of BBC’s hit panel game show Would I Lie To You?, Rob will bring his trademark comic style and vocal impressions to Saturday night’s Floating Stage concert.

Henley Festival will close in true style on the Sunday night with one of the UK’s foremost opera companies, the English National Opera, performing with the award-winning young welsh Soloist Natalya Romaniw, full orchestra and chorus, and under the baton of ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins. Their repertoire is taken from many of the greatest operas including Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Madam Butterfly and Turandot, as well as a little Gilbert & Sullivan to top the night off.

The Stellar Comedy Line-up

The 2018 comedy line-up is set to be bigger and better than ever, with the likes of Paul Merton, Lucy Porter, Mark Watson and Dominic Holland among the biggest names of the 25 comedians performing at this year’s Festival. The comedy line-up will also include a very special evening of unscripted, unrehearsed and spontaneous comedy from Dead Ringers’ impressionists Jon Culshaw and legendary comedy producer Bill Dare in their sell-out show, The Great British Take Off. In addition, up-and-coming comics including Suzi Ruffell, Rhys James, Flo & Joan and Adam Rowe will also be keeping audiences entertained, as well as jaw-achingly funny cabaret from Tina C and Vellma Celli.

Folk Music In The Bedouin Tent

Enter The Bedouin Tent for a real taste of folk. Henley will be presenting up-and-coming folk music names including “alt-bluegrass” act The Coal Porters, who demonstrate the foot stomping power of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and doghouse bass when matched with four-part harmonies. Winner of the 2009 BBC Young Folk Awards, Megan Henwood began writing songs in her early teens including her poignant song about relationship abuse, White Lies, from her debut album “Making Waves.” Firmly established in the roots scene, Maz O’Connor is a folk force to be reckoned with, and the simplicity of her music recalls the starkly beautiful Cumbrian landscape of her childhood. Solasta are an outstanding folk ensemble known for their inventive arrangements, unique sound and exhilarating live performances. Comprised of award-winning fiddler Elisabeth Flett, cellist Hannah Thomas and guitarist Jamie Leeming, their dynamic interpretations of Celtic-based material are rooted firmly in tradition. Art Deco Band Le Bistrotet was formed as the result of recordings made for the soundtrack of the Oscar winning movie, The Theory of Everything – expect classic Vaudeville and European café-bar music.

Food By A Michelin Star Chef

A festival for food lovers, Henley caters for all tastes offering a huge number of restaurants and pop-ups from street food to fine dining. For the 2018 festival, Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE will be taking the reins of Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke menu exclusively for Henley, at the Riverside Restaurant. Angela’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. Angela admitted that she is “absolutely delighted to be working closely with the Henley Festival for the first time and to serve the food that I love at such a great and iconic event.”

Dramatic Visual Arts

Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals to showcase artwork from some of Britain’s most talented artists, photographers and galleries. Henley is hugely excited to announce that this year, the Festival will be showcasing work from the Turner Prize nominated artist and Royal Acamadician David Mach; Britain’s father of landscape photographer and founder of the Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards, Charlie Waite; award-winning sculptures by Rosamond Lloyd and will also be collaborating with the contemporary art curator and aboriginal art collector Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi.

Fireworks

Henley Festival is topped off by a jaw-dropping overhead firework display. The display this year will be designed by Titanium Fireworks, the team who have put on some of the UK’s biggest firework shows in the last decade, including the 2012 London Olympics, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the London New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Hogmanay in Edinburgh, as well as pyrotechnics for some of the biggest names in music including Adele, Will Smith, Coldplay and Take That. Henley Festival is currently the only music festival that Titanium works with.

For more information about Henley Festival, click here and to book tickets, click here.

Spinning The Bottle – Ornellaia’s 10th Edition For Vendemmia d’Artista By The Luxury Channel

At a special benefit auction held at the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Ornellaia presented the 10th edition of its Vendemmia d’Artista project on the 30th anniversary of its first vintage, 1985.

The project celebrates the unique character of each new Ornellaia vintage. Every year since the release of Ornellaia 2006 in May 2009, a contemporary artist has created a site-specific work of art and a series of limited edition labels, drawing inspiration from the word chosen by the winemaker to describe the character of the new vintage. The Vendemmia d’Artista project includes a label created by the artist for a single bottle in each wooden case of Ornellaia. As in previous years, the project provides for a limited edition of 111 large-size bottles, 100 Double Magnums, 10 Imperials and 1 Salmanazar, each individually numbered and signed by the artist. Each year, a selection of the custom-created bottles, with their labels designed and signed personally by the artist, is the object of both charity and for-profit auctions conducted by Sotheby’s, and the auction proceeds are donated to art foundations around the world. “Today, as the Vendemmia d’Artista marks its 10th year, it continues to attract funds for the restoration of artworks belonging to our universal heritage,” said Ornellaia’s CEO, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja. “[To date], we have succeeded in donating more two million Euros across the globe; just a small drop perhaps, but there is much more to come.”

Ornellaia’s recent benefit auction at the Victoria & Albert Museum consisted of 9 lots comprising special bottles created by South African artist William Kentridge for the Ornellaia 2015 Il Carisma – Vendemmia d’Artista. The auction raised a total of £123,000, with the money going to the V&A.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Vendemmia d’Artista project, Ornellaia invited Kentridge to interpret the character of “Il Carisma” (Charisma). Kentridge is often referred to as a modern-day da Vinci, and is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, sculptures, animations and performances, which he uses to transmute sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories.

Kentridge created a site-specific masterpiece for Ornellaia, while the drawings on the wine labels were executed on the pages of old Italian cashbooks found in flea markets and second-hand shops in the Tuscan area.

The designs Kentridge has produced for Ornellaia combine so many elements of his work, including his repurposing of old Italian cash books and on-going exploration of human labour and mechanics, which lend themselves so well to the tradition of winemaking, and to the history and impeccable standards of the Ornellaia estate in particular. The labels he has designed for Ornellaia draw on his Shadow Procession series, as seen in the public mural “Triumphs And Laments” on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, and his latest performance work “The Head And The Load,” which premiers in London this summer. “I think it is no underestimation to say Kentridge is one of the most exciting and versatile artists in the world today, as evidenced in this very special project,” revealed Sotheby’s Head of Modern And Contemporary African Art, Hannah O’Leary.

According to the artist himself, “The images on the Ornellaia labels are essentially about the work of making wine, and mainly of the vendemmia, the grape harvest. The secateurs come from a memory of the one occasion I took part in a Tuscan vendemmia, when I spent six months in San Casciano outside Florence with my family. This made me understand the human labour involved in making the wine; though what I remember most strongly is the pleasure of the lunch prepared in the vineyards by the local farmer’s wife. A depth of flavour made by the combination of work and terroir. The aspects of wine-making that combine both manual craft and mechanical processes suggested the transformation of people into machines and machines into workers.”

The centrepiece of the project, of course, is the wine: Ornellaia 2015 Il Carisma. Now in its 30th vintage, the Carisma certainly lives up to its name. The fruit of a particularly well-balanced harvest season, 2015 is without doubt one of the great Ornellaia vintages. The characteristic deep colour announces a wine of great texture and intensity, followed by a fruit-rich nose that is ripe and fresh at the same time, emphasised by classic balsamic and spicy hints. It is rich, dense and full-bodied on the palate, with an exceptional tannic texture. Dense, velvety and refined, this texture extends throughout the palate. The lengthy finish concludes with an impression of firmness and delicate hints of spice.

“Like people of great ‘Carisma’ (Charisma), wines of great vintages know how to impose themselves naturally, without force, their balance allowing them to shine without having to flaunt themselves,” explained Axel Heinz, Winemaker and Estate Director.

For more information, go to www.ornellaia.com. To see the film showcasing all ten projects, click here.

Escape To Gleneagles By Caroline Phillips

If there’s a smart place to take a hound, Gleneagles is it. It hit the headlines in 2005 when it hosted the G8 summit, despite the leaders being minus their pooches. But recently, it has been becoming famous for its excellent hospitality for the four-legged. There’s a rigorous vetting (excuse the pun) procedure prior to my arrival with Poppy, my Boxer. On most counts, she probably shouldn’t be allowed to stay. Show her a fluffy, small, white dog and she thinks: canapé. Oh, and she farts a lot with no compunction about doing so in five-star hotels. And, let’s face it, this all makes me feel nervous.

Any dog wishing to stay at Gleneagles can only be up to the equivalent size of a Labrador. (It’s a no-go if Poppy opts to wear a pair of Jimmy Chews). The dogument — the hotel’s dog reservation form — goes on to explain that they ‘reserve the right to move noisy or disruptive dogs to The Kennels, with additional costs.’ But Poppy is a performer. Boxers are clowns. She likes howling at the moon. Oh, and at the television, the radio, and voices outside the bedroom. I can feel it in my (whisper the word) bones: barking-mad Poppy barking madly and being dragged ignominiously off to the doghouse with additional costs. (There’s already a room charge of £100 per dog, maximum two hounds per room).

My anxiety rating is as high as a Boxer jumping up to lick someone’s face as we motor up the drive to Gleneagles. The owner of another hotel (the Palace, Gstaad, since you ask), told me once how they’d had to turf a bedroom for one of their guests who didn’t want to take her dog out to do its business in the cold. There will obviously be no need for that sort of thing at Gleneagles. It’s a sparklingly bright day and the hotel (which opened in 1924) is set midst an 850-acre estate in Perthshire, just where the Highlands and the palette of green, brown and gold begin. It was built originally to offer country leisure pursuits to Caledonian Railway travellers: a kind of railway resort cum grand hotel. Now it’s more a (somewhat dour externally) palace in a very pretty location midst bracken and yellow gorse, daffodils and hills. There’s a vintage Rolls-Royce in fern green in front of the hotel. So gorgeous and so old, I think, until I clock that it’s my age.

Things continue badly. The lady at the reception desk tells me that we’ve got a meeting shortly with the hotel’s puppy, and I start wondering whether it’s a little, fluffy, white canapé. Then I ask if Poppy can accompany us for a quick late lunch, and I’m told she may. So we go with trepidation and Poppy into the American Bar, which is styled like an iconic 1920s bar. It’s not that Poppy does a whoopsie on the carpet or anything. It’s just that she’s not a guide dog. And it turns out that only helpful dogs like that are actually allowed in there.

So we go and sit instead in the reception area of the lobby and we eat the best pea soup (thick, and sprinkled with crumbs, pea shoots and crispy pancetta), the lightest crab cakes and three different types of salmon smoked respectively with whisky, gin and mulberry, each slice better than the last. And Poppy looks at me with those mournful eyes until I sneak her a bread roll and tell her and my human friend that I think the interior vibe is comfy Arts Deco meets corporate and that it’s lovely. And that the service is excellent: friendly, unstuffy and attentive.

The Gleneagles staff has a marketing mantra — they keep saying that it’s a ‘playground.’ It turns out that it’s a countryside estate that encompasses a 5-star hotel, three champ golf courses, Andrew Fairlie’s 2-star Michelin eaterie, and seven places to eat. Plus an ooh-ah Espa spa (with a blissful signature treatment, The Source, which involves massage, hot poultices, oats and local honey) and heated poolside recliners, a tropical fruit scented shower, and crystal and eucalyptus steam room. There’s also a club with a swimming pool that’s as hot as a bath. And golf, tennis, riding, off-road driving, cycling, archery (with recurve bows), fishing (with ghillies in trout lochs), shooting, falconry and gun-dog classes.

And what of our bedroom? To say that Gleneagles is big is an understatement. You need a SatNav to get to your room. It boasts 232 bedrooms, with both traditional and modern interiors. We’re in a (ugly) modern extension in a special dog-friendly room overlooking the garden and with a sensible wooden floor near the door for wet paws. The interior is all very tasteful, pared down and homely.

The sheets must be a zillion thread count and the bed is so comfortable it can surely only be a ViSpring. There’s an equally luxurious bed for Poppy: an Onyourbed: think of it as the ViSpring of the canine world. They’ve also given her a foam duvet, plastic floor mats, two bowls and a poop scoop set. When we leave the room, there’s a sign hanging on the door, ‘Be careful, dog in room.’ (When we return after dinner, the bed has been turned down and the curtains drawn. A tribute to their staff, given the possible chien méchant in the room).

Next we have our meeting with Colin Farndon, director of leisure, and Henry, the hotel’s puppy. My heart goes into my mouth when I note that he is small, white (well, golden) and fluffy. (Henry, not Colin.) He’s a mini Lab. The sweetest puppy you ever did see. A sort of one-mouthful job for the Boxers of this world.

But it soon becomes clear that there’s something about Colin and his calm demeanour, his I’m-the-head-of-the-pack vibe. And suddenly Poppy starts behaving as if she’s been to finishing school. And that’s when it all changes for me. Colin lets her off the leash. She plays hide and seek with Henry. She behaves like a four-pawed angel. Colin tells me that Henry is the therapy dog. Which means that he calms tricky customers. Ones like Poppy.

Colin explains how Gleneagles is a dream for people with Nature Defecit Disorder. (Yes, it’s a thing.) He points out the kennels with its working dogs (unlike Poppy, who’s probably signing on). It has a gun-dog school chokka with highly-trained Labs (not the usual supine and cake-eating kind). They also have state-of-the-art indoor heated kennels for dogs belonging to guests: each kennel kitted out with a king-size dog bed (I won’t mention the V word again or it’ll sound like product placement). Plus outdoors there are behaviour and gun-dog classes.

After dinner in the brasserie and a good night’s kip, all too soon it’s time to go. There are things to do nearby like Grouse tasting — tippling whisky not scoffing birds — and castle viewing, including Stirling Castle, Blair Atholl Estate and Castle, and Scone Palace. We beetle off after a very happy one-night stay. As we drive beside the fern, gorse and bracken, I gaze at the daffodils and the low cloud snuggling on the hilltop. I look back at the hotel standing majestically, as if preparing to take a selfie. My heart glows with pride. And it all gives me paws for thought. Yes, I think: yes, we did it. Poppy had her first sleepover. And she didn’t howl, jump or bite. And she slept like a dog.

Room rates start from £390 per night based on two people sharing on a B&B basis. For more information, go to www.gleneagles.com.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

What To Wear For Your Wedding By Hannah Norman

Wedding fever truly gripped the nation at the end of May, with the Royal nuptials causing frissons of excitement across the nation. It was happy news all round – according to The Guardian, the UK’s economy is forecasted a £80 million boost thanks to the Harry and Meghan effect. Britain’s heritage is already a huge draw in attracting tourists from overseas, but Meghan’s American roots are likely to prove an added plus, with figures from Visit Britain suggesting that as many as 50,000 US tourists were joining the crowds lining the streets in Windsor.

The further good news, of course, is that there was a philanthropic economic benefit resulting from the Royal wedding. Instead of gifts, Harry and Meghan requested donations be made to seven charities whose work they are passionate about. Most of the charities are fairly small, so the high profile occasion allowed a light to be shone on their work that perhaps might not be otherwise.

The British luxury industry is also predicted to see an economic uplift. Just as “the Kate effect” sees dresses worn by the Duchess sell out in hours, Meghan has inspired similar spending patterns. The Strathberry handbag she sported on a public engagement in Edinburgh sold out in just 10 minutes, while the white belted Line The Label coat she wore when the couple first announced their engagement resulted in such high demand that the brand’s website crashed (they have since re-named the coat “the Meghan” as a tribute). Brand valuation consultancy firm Brand Finance has estimated the economic benefit of “the Kate effect” (i.e. the uplift to fashion and other brands that she has worn, used or otherwise endorsed) in 2015 was over £150 million. “The Meghan effect” is likely to be even higher, due to the actress’ popularity not just in the UK, but in the US and Canada as well. According to Walpole, British luxury is still a huge selling point in the States, and a recent member survey revealed 71% of respondents agreed that “Britishness” is more important in the luxury industry than in any other sector. Brands that promote their own take on Britishness are more appealing and, if Brand Finance’s figures are anything to go by, it creates a bigger impact if the brand is worn by a Royal rather than by a “regular” celebrity.

Wedding Dress by Le Spose di Gio

So, on May 19th, while the focus was very much on HRH Prince Harry and his beautiful bride together as a couple, we also had our eyes glued on the bride – and what she was wearing! The rings. The shoes. And most importantly – the dress! With that in mind – and with a wedding of one of our own upcoming at The Luxury Channel – we thought we’d create a definitive go-to list inspired by the Royal Wedding. If nothing else, we hope this serves as inspiration if you’re planning a big day of your own!

THE SHOES

She’s been walking tall in the shoe world for a few years now, so we’re thinking one of the stunning styles from Lucy Choi London. Meghan is a well-known fan of the shoes made by Lucy’s uncle – Jimmy Choo, natch – but we’re thinking it won’t be long before she opts for something designed by his niece. Lucy’s signature styles are classic, comfortable but ultimately add a little bit of fun to the occasion – which is exactly the sort of thing you’ll be seeking for your wedding day.

The Rosewood, Kidd, Ophelia and Davy shoes by Lucy Choi London

THE RINGS

Whilst Meghan’s wedding band was as bespoke as her engagement ring, there are several sparklers that are simply too irresistible to pass over. Boodles have a range of romantically named rings, including the Kiss, Cupid and Harmony suites, which are not only beautiful examples of craftsmanship, but also meaningful tokens of matrimony. The Kiss rings, for instance, comprise a central diamond dramatically overlaid with a row of diamonds, creating a criss-cross effect – symbolic of how newly weds’ arms intertwine around each other. Another of our favourites from Boodles is the Three Stone Ring set, where three spectacular diamonds represent the married couple’s past, present and future together.

The Kiss, Cupid, Harmony and Three Stone rings by Boodles

Boucheron is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year, but it’s a sparkling creation from a little more recently in its history (1968, to be precise) that we’re eyeing up. The captivating designs of the Maison’s Serpent Bohème rings symbolise eternity and have become well-established classics over the last half century, attracting women of character and firing their femininity. Meanwhile, the Quatre Radiant Edition rings, with pavé diamond settings, bring two different bands together – much like the joining of two people in matrimony.

Serpent Bohème and Quatre Radiant rings by Boucheron

Another diamond Maison celebrating an anniversary this year is De Beers, with 130 years of history to their name. The beautiful Aura Princess-cut solitaire ring is one of their latest releases, evoking the inner strength and outward confidence of a woman. The exceptional fancy-cut centre diamond of the ring exemplifies De Beers’ approach to solitaires, with hand-selection techniques ensuring only those diamonds with peerless Fire, Life and Brilliance are chosen. The perfect ring for anyone planning to pop the question this year!

The Aura Princess-cut Solitaire Ring by De Beers

Since she’s joined one of Europe’s oldest and noblest families, perhaps Meghan may be inspired by the creations of Stone Paris; the Parisian founder of which comes from a family of high nobility whose origins date back to the 15th century. One of the brand’s newest collections – the Favorite collection – was inspired by the sumptuous lifestyle of 17th century French Royalty, and is specifically named after King Louis XIV’s history-making mistresses, such as the beautiful Madame de Montespan and the clever Madame de Maintenon. Central characters in the life of the court, the “favorite” had a privileged and envied status, and the Favorite collection of rings is just as enviable.

Favorite rings by Stone Paris

THE DRESS

When it comes to wedding dresses, we love anything designed by Ralph & Russo (especially since the Suits star wore one of their gowns for her official engagement pictures). Opt for something in a similar vein to Tamara Ralph’s SS18 couture bridal gown – created in off-white, the double duchess gown features a draped bodice and oval ruching, accompanied by an off-white tulle veil edged with embellished cord lace. Resonant of traditional Asian decoration, the silk satin duchesse fabric is encrusted with 3000 handcrafted 3D Swarovski jewelled leaves and 40,000 pearls. In total, over 200,000 Swarovski crystals were used for this magnificent creation, which took 30 specialist artisans over 2000 hours to make.

A model walking the runway during the Ralph & Russo Haute Couture SS18 Show as part of
Paris Fashion Week

For an equally modern take on the bridal gown (and for something that could quite conceivably be worn post-wedding), a dress by London-based label Galvan could be a stylish choice. Best known for elegant evening dresses that boast clean lines and sleek fits, the brand has recently branched out into bridal territory in response to the rise in demand for straightforward wedding dresses that eschew the traditional meringue of old. Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill of Blenheim Palace is getting married this year too and rumour has it that Galvan will be the designer of choice for his fiancé.

Wedding Gowns by Galvan

With recent snaps emerging of Meghan on holiday in Italy a month after her first date with Harry, perhaps it won’t be long before she’ll stun the world with a wardrobe comprising a little Italian chic. Le Spose di Gio represents the understated elegance and sophisticated minimalism for which the Italians are so famous. Set up by sisters Giovanna and Marisa De Capitani in 1975, their backgrounds in haute couture and design has seen the company grow in both size and worldwide regard, with ateliers both across Italy, and in London. Their gorgeous gowns enhance that bride without transforming her, with chicly designed dresses available in a palette of colours. This means that Le Spose di Gio can create dresses not just for the bride, but also for her bridesmaids. Perhaps we’ll see Meghan’s closest friends – fashion stylist Jessica Mulroney, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, tennis ace Serena Williams and maybe even the Duchess of Cambridge – in similar floating Italian creations too. Watch this space…

Wedding Dresses by Le Spose di Gio

Curtain Up At Garsington Opera’s World Premiere By Fiona Sanderson

Garsington Opera at Wormsley (Image © Clive Barda / ArenaPAL)

Garsington Opera’s box office is now open for what is anticipated to be a very exciting season of four new productions (Die Zauberflote – Mozart’s last opera, Capriccio by Strauss and Falstaff by Verdi) and its first ever Festival World Premiere, The Skating Rink by leading British composer David Sawer and award-winning librettist Rory Mullarkey. The opera is based on the novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

In a filmed interview (click here to watch in full), The Luxury Channel meets award-winning playwright Rory Mullarkey, to hear how he travelled to the original campsite in Castelledefels in Spain where Bolaño first set his story, so that he could immerse himself in a new structure and narrative that would work for the opera.

Stockport native Rory Mullarkey graduated from Cambridge in 2009, after which he studied at the State Theatrical Arts Academy of St. Petersburg. In 2014, he won the Harold Pinter Playwriting Prize, the George Devine Award (jointly with Alice Birch) and the James Tait Black Prize for Drama for his play Cannibals, published by Methuen Drama.

Hansel und Gretel at Garsington Opera (Image courtesy of Mike Hoban)

“I’m bad at being told what to do,” says Mullarkey with a grin. The playwright, raised in a military family, quickly found that taking orders wasn’t for him when he tried to join the army as a teenager. A few years later, fresh from studying Russian at Cambridge University, his stint at drama school in St Petersburg was similarly short-lived. “My temperament just was not suited to being told what to do for a year.”

The same unruly streak runs through Mullarkey’s plays. Cannibals, the play that made him the youngest writer ever staged in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s main house at 25, contained a whole section written daringly in Russian. His Royal Court debut, The Wolf From The Door, playfully set violent insurrection in the green and pleasant land of rural England, while Pentabus commission Each Slow Dusk deliberately eschewed accepted First World War narratives.

Avoiding or subverting convention, Mullarkey says, has paid off. “I wrote stuff for a while and sent it off to places, but when people really started to take notice of it and put it on was when I’d abandoned all desire to do anything that was what I thought I was supposed to do.”

Intermezzo at Garsington Opera

The acting might not have stuck, but Mullarkey’s fascination with Russia did. He reels off a long list of Russian authors – Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Goncharov, Chekhov, Pushkin, Gogol – whose influence has seeped into his writing. “I read and re-read those guys until they were in my metabolism, because I loved what they said so much; not only their stories, but also the philosophical weight of the feelings they express.” Learning Russian as a teenager at Manchester Grammar School, he fell in love “with the sounds of it, with the way the words move.”

It was Mullarkey’s Russian that got him his first gig out of university. While performing in his own play on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007, word of the show spread to director Lyndsey Turner – Mullarkey’s “number one living inspiration” – who asked to read the script. Discovering that Mullarkey could speak Russian, she quickly set him to work on a series of translations for the Royal Court, offering a crucial foot in the door. It was also a steep learning curve. “Going through 20 plays and every single line, seeing it in one language and making it work as an active line in English – it’s probably the best education I could have asked for in making sure the dialogue I was trying to write was going to be active,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t done that.”

The Cunning Little Vixen by Janacek at Garsington Opera (Image © Clive Barda / ArenaPAL)

The Skating Rink

A beautiful young skating champion, Nuria (Lauren Zolezzi), has a powerful admirer, Enric (Neal Davies), whose obsession drives him to pilfer funds to build her an ice rink in a deserted Spanish mansion. A murder on the ice becomes the centre of this tale of jealousy, political corruption, and passion. Young American baritone Ben Edquist will make his British debut singing the role of Remo and the young British tenor Sam Furness sings Gaspar. Susan Bickley (Carmen), Claire Wild (Caridad), Alan Oke (Rookie), and Louise Winter (Pilar) complete the cast. Garry Walker (The Cunning Little Vixen, 2014) returns to conduct, with director and designer Stewart Laing making his Garsington debut.

Die Zauberflote

Mozart’s final opera celebrates the triumph of love and reason over chaos and evil. Benjamin Hulett sings Tamino and Jonathan McGovern, who sang Pelleas last season, is the bird catcher Papageno. Louise Alder, last seen as Ilia in ldomeneo, makes her role debut as Pamina and James Creswell is Sarastro. The Costa Rican soprano lride Martinez sings Queen of The Night and The Three Ladies will be sung by Katherine Crompton, Marta Fontanals-Simmons and Katie Stevenson, all of whom are alumnae of the Garsington Opera Alvarez Young Artists’ Programme. Conductor Christian Curnyn, who conducted The Return of Ulysses for Royal Opera House and The Roundhouse, and director/designer Netia Jones make their Garsington Opera debuts.

Intermezzo at Garsington Opera

Capriccio

Internationally renowned Swedish soprano Miah Persson makes her debut in the role of the Countess with Gavan Ring as the poet Olivier, and Sam Furness, who performed Baron Lummer in Intermezzo, as the composer Flamand, both of whom vie for her love and the primacy of their art. William Dazeley returns as the Count and baritone Andrew Shore as theatre director La Roche. They are also joined by Hanna Hipp (Clairon) and Graham Clark (Taupe). Artistic Director of Garsington Opera Douglas Boyd will conduct, and international director Tim Albery returns after his 2016 success with ldomeneo. This production is in collaboration with Santa Fe Opera.

Falstaff

Falstaff will feature several role debuts including British baritone Henry Waddington in the title role, American soprano Mary Dunleavy as Alice Ford (last seen as Christine in Intermezzo, 2015), Richard Burkhard as Ford and the young soprano Soraya Mafi, who recently performed Cleopatra in English Touring Opera’s production of Giulio Cesare, as Nannetta. Victoria Simmonds (Meg Page), Yvonne Howard (Mistress Quickly), Oliver Johnston (Fenton), Colin Judson (Dr. Caius), Adrian Thompson (Bardolfo) and Nicholas Crawley (Pistola) complete the ensemble cast. Bruno Ravella, who directed Intermezzo, returns to direct and Richard Farnes, former Music Director of Opera North and winner of The Royal Philharmonic Society 2017 Conductor of The Year Award, will conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in their second year of partnership with Garsington Opera.

Garsington Opera (Image courtesy of Colin Willoughby)

DIARY OF EVENTS AT GARSINGTON OPERA

Die Zauberflote – 31st May, 2nd, 8th, 14th, 17th, 22nd, 24th, 30th June, 11th, 17th, 19th, 21st July 2018

Capriccio – 1st, 3rd, 7th, 9th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, 28th June 2018

Falstaff – 16th, 18th, 21st, 29th June, 4th, 7th, 13th, 15th, 20th, 22nd July 2018

The Skating Rink – 5th, 8th, 10th, 14th, 16th July 2018

BOOKING INFORMATION

Tickets range from £110 – £215, including a suggested but non-obligatory donation of £70.
Book online at www.garsingtonopera.org or telephone +44 (0)1865 361636.

LA’s Ultimate Airport Luxury Touchdown By Ramy Salameh

Aerial shot of LAX (image courtesy of Discover Los Angeles)

Forget the crowded airport thoroughfares and lounges, the queues for immigration to boarding and waiting for baggage. In fact, imagine what it must feel like to be delivered for departure directly to the aircraft steps and to be met on the tarmac on arrival by a chauffeur-driven limousine….does royalty and heads-of-state spring to mind?!

The City of Angels International Airport (LAX) has been running the ultimate pre and post-flight luxury for the last year and is coming up for its first birthday. Premium passengers can expect a one-of-a-kind experience within The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport, the first of its type in the US.

Downtown LA (image courtesy of Matt Marriott for Discover Los Angeles)

Premium customers can literally by-pass the melee of the airport, giving the feeling of travelling solo when arriving at The Private Suite’s exclusive and remote terminal. It is designed for First and Business Class travellers seeking ultimate security, discretion and privacy, whilst serving all commercial airlines.

Within the gated and guarded compound, the new private terminal features ten individual suites, a new facility for private TSA screening, customs processing and direct-to-aircraft transportation across the tarmac.

Pre-flight time can now be spent in an exclusive private suite with its own bathroom, well-stocked kitchenette, double day bed and runway view. A team of eight people are assigned to each and every client.

The Private Suite at LAX

Customers are then personally chauffeured from the suite to their flight in a BMW 7 series, then it is just 70 steps from car seat to plane seat.

LAX ensures its luxury travellers’ pre and post-flight experience is luxurious, comfortable and as smooth as possible, but will of course come at a cost. The service is $3,500 for domestic flights, which covers up to three passengers, and $4,000 for international flights, also covering up to three passengers.

For more information about The Private Suite, go to https://theprivatesuite.com. For more information about LAX, go to https://flylax.com.

Moser – The Royal Connection And The Bridal Collection By The Luxury Channel

HM Elizabeth II, Queen of England, pictured with Moser glassware

For those wanting to follow in royal wedding traditions, Moser – world-leading producers of luxury handmade crystal – have shared insights as to their most popular glassware sets, gifted and used by royal families worldwide, and they reveal which pieces have been selected for the Moser 2018 Bridal Collection. Moser’s luxury beverage sets, decorative objects and master-engravings have always been popular items for royals, dignitaries, celebrities and those that appreciate luxury crystal.

Frantisek Schneider, CEO at Moser, commented that “the most precious gifts are those that are given with love, and create a memory of a special moment in time. We have customers who continue to add to their original bridal collection every wedding anniversary, which is a beautiful tradition. Every piece of Moser crystal is created with passion and care by our master craftsmen – each piece is handmade; individually blown, polished and engraved with exacting care and using techniques going back over 100 years.”

Then-Spanish Crown Prince Felipe (now King Filipe VI of Spain) and Letizie Ortiz’s wedding in 2004

As for current trends in glassware, Schneider reveals that “fashion does play a part when choosing glassware, and over the past few years platinum finishes are becoming more popular for modern bribes, rather than the more traditional 24 carat gold. We are also seeing a trend where brides are selecting a classic Moser design for the stemmed glassware, whereas wedding guests are choosing more contemporary pieces when gifting.”

THE MOSER 2018 BRIDAL COLLECTION

Chloe

The Chloe Goblet is one of the more rare pieces available from Moser, with a limited edition of just 300. Designed in 1895, it is one of the more technical pieces for the master craftsmen, and was designed so it can be used from both ends. It is painted in the finest enamels and gold, in a delicate pattern that reflects both Historicism and Art Nouveau.

The Chloe Goblet by Moser

Copenhagen

The Copenhagen Collection, designed in 1909, is one of Moser’s most popular sets at both Royal and private weddings. It is an elegant demonstration of beautiful shape and decoration, chosen by numerous heads of state from around the world, including then-Spanish Crown Prince Felipe (now King Filipe VI of Spain) and Letizie Ortiz, who used this design for their wedding breakfast in 2004.

The Copenhagen Set by Moser

Heart

The Moser Heart is a beautiful gift to recognise the love between a special couple. This multi-faceted 20.5cm hand-blown and hand-cut heart is often gifted by a groom to his wife on their wedding day, as well as presented to the happy couple as a wedding gift.

The Heart by Moser

Lady Hamilton

Lady Hamilton, designed in 1934 and named after the charming 19th century English actress who was the wife of diplomat William Hamilton (and also said to be Admiral Nelson’s lover), is a design also favoured by royal brides and distinguished celebrities. It is a design that is optically distinct, and has an elegance and beauty within each glass.

The Lady Hamilton Set by Moser

Motylek
The beauty of the butterfly is captured in the Motylek collection of individually hand-blown crystal tumblers. Each of the six colours boasts a different butterfly in motion.

The Motylek Butterfly Set by Moser

Paula
Designed in 1902, this tall and elegant design features an engraved motif of a rose in bloom and bud. Under the rim and along the edge of the foot are engraved – and gilded – two intertwined stems with thorns and leaves, which is symbolic of the joining of a husband and wife.

The Paula Set by Moser

Purity

The Purity Aquamarine and Rose Vase boldly blends two colours into one piece of crystal, just like the marriage of two individuals that fit perfectly together. Only a few master craftsmen can achieve this highly skilled and demanding technique, in order to create such a centrepiece.

The Purity Vase by Moser

Splendid

In 1947, Queen Elizabeth II – then Princess Elizabeth – was presented with Moser’s most-loved “Splendid” crystal stemware as a wedding gift by the then Czechoslovakian President, Edvard Beneš, and she is known to use the glasses for both personal occasions and official dinners. One of Moser’s most famous designs, the Splendid collection was designed in 1911, and remains one of the most popular designs chosen for Royal wedding breakfasts and ceremonial dinners. It is often chosen by British and international brides for their wedding gift list and is most-often selected by kings and queens, including those monarchs and leaders of countries including Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. The handcrafted glasses are available in both 24 carat gold or platinum, and for those wanting something entirely personal, a monogram or personal design can be hand-engraved onto each glass.

The Splendid Set by Moser

MORE INFORMATION

Moser is available from leading UK retailers including Linley, William & Son, Fortnum & Mason and Thomas Goode. Watch the behind-the-scenes film by clicking here.

Escape To Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort By Caroline Phillips

It’s not often that there’s a resort hotel that boasts an unusual welcome ceremony, a Nature Guru who’s a conservationist with a Masters in Environmental Science, and a great Ayurvedic doctor too. I’ll start with the first: a greeting that involves singing, drumming and three Sinhalese ladies in a lobby. That’s the welcome I get at the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. I guess it means, “Hey! You’ve just arrived at a corker of a resort,” or something like that. At any rate, that would be true.

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort — let’s just call it Anantara to save my word count — is on a rocky outcrop along a secluded stretch of Sri Lanka’s southernmost coastline (under three hours’ drive from Colombo), near the town of Tangalle. It’s set in a former coconut plantation and with golden crescent, sun-drenched shores and Indian Ocean views. It’s of a high-end design that pays tribute to the god of Sri Lankan architects, Geoffrey Bawa. It’s also the country’s first full-blown, bells and whistles waterfront resort. It’s only since the 30-year civil war ended in 2009 that tourists and hoteliers have been returning to this tropical island, and Anantara was opened in 2015.

I kick off my Anantara experience with Edi (short for Ediriweera) Anuradha, the resort’s Nature Guru. He takes me around the organic gardens and shows me an interesting thing or two: over there a chameleon agamid lizard camouflaged in the vegetation; and here, a saliva palace made by red ants between leaves — like a bag in which to keep their eggs. “That’s a rain tree,” he adds. “Or it’s called a 5 o’ clock tree because it’s sensitive to light and its leaves close at five.” He points out wild almonds, breadfruit, gardenia and passionflowers. And curry leaves for lowering cholesterol. He picks a leaf and squashes it in his fingers. “Any idea what it is?” he asks. I take a sniff. Cashew, obviously. (No, I didn’t guess really.)

We stop near their paddy field for beli. Yup, this is a resort with its own paddy field. There we sip a herbal drink sweetened with jaggery (local cane sugar) and served in coconut husks. “It’s good for the kidneys,” Edi reveals. The paddy field itself has a yield of 450kg of organic rice which the resort folk give to the local community. They spray the paddy with neem. They’re making breeding stations for dragonflies, the natural predators of mosquitos. They recycle grey water for the garden. At Anantara, they get enough environmental stars to make a firmament, they’re so keen on saving the planet. They don’t even use plastic straws.

They’re also helping the turtles by working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), observing the turtles over 100km of coastland. (Did you know turtles can stay underwater for up to 40 minutes? That they can sleep underwater? And that they can live to over 100? Or that turtles come up to the beach from January to October? Edi tells me all this and more). Guests contribute $1US per room per night to this cause, and Anantara matches that.

“There’s a snake somewhere over there,” Edi says, suddenly. “The birds are warning. It’s a rattlesnake looking for birds’ eggs. If it’s a venomous snake, the birds make that huge sound.”

The mangrove stream is certainly teeming with birdlife: there are a mere 70 different bird types on the property. They’re big on wildlife around here. A notice nearby tells me to look out for otter, the Indian robin, rose-ringed parakeet, land monitors and an Indian flying fox (I’d like to see a fox flying but, annoyingly, it’s otherwise known as the greater Indian fruit bat). I see peacocks, langur monkeys, parakeets and another guest saw a Malabar giant squirrel (it’s rare).

Time to move on to the next interesting feature of the resort. A visit to Anantara wouldn’t be complete without an appointment with Dr Thampi, its spa director cum Ayurvedic doctor from Kerala. We meet in his consultation room in the 5000-square foot spa to discuss the 5000-year old science of Ayurvedic healing. Dr Thampi hails from a family of healers (from his grandfather to his uncles) and says he “grew up in Ayurveda.” He’s charismatic, boasts high energy and is prone to dropping into conversation aphorisms such as, “Living is local, dying is universal” and “Don’t look at what you’re eating, look at what’s eating you.”

We talk about everything from his views on the energetic transfer that occurs when being treated on a wooden Ayurvedic massage table to my Dosha (or humours) and whether I’m big on wind (Sanskrit ‘vāta’), bile (‘pitta’) or phlegm (‘kapha’), and in what balance. (Turns out I’m a fiery pitta with some phlegm chucked in, since you ask.) He also gives me some lifestyle suggestions such as, “After cleansing bowels, take a spoon of coconut oil with a pinch of turmeric added” and the like.

I guess you want to know about the rest of the resort. The amenities and all that stuff. Well, they’re excellent. There’s an ocean-sized infinity pool with sun loungers in the shallow end, to enable you to splash-cool your body with one hand whilst drinking a cocktail with the other. There are 152 rooms, pool villas and beach cabanas. I have a private Garden Pool Villa with its own wine humidor, desk and small plunge pool (there I go boasting) and a view from sliding doors across palm-fringed lawns. The villa comes with a third of a butler — or rather, an entire butler who is shared with three villas. And then there’s that man in the sarong who appears in my garden just by my pool (did I tell you I have a private pool?) to see if I would like a drink: at which he will shin up the tree to pluck down a fresh coconut, juice in its original packaging.

Inside the villa, there’s a king-sized bed and day bed. Fluffy pillows, a Bose sound system, Nespresso coffee machine, loose tea, bagged tea. I could go on. Actually, I will. Think also soaring ceiling and fan, cream walls and sandy and coral-coloured upholstery. And a bathroom that’s the size of a small island, with a free-standing tub and a rainfall shower area and every last detail considered: from four types of soap and after-sun moisturiser to flip flops, two kinds of dressing gown (one cotton, one towel) and books in the loo.

And what of the food? My favourite is the Italian meal we have in Il Mare — handmade pasta, pizza straight from a brick oven, homemade focaccia and fresher-than-fresh grilled lobster. Their beachfront Verele restaurant offers cuisine that’s (loosely based on) Teppanyaki: try the Lagoon prawns. Then there’s Journeys, where it takes me 15 minutes to walk around ogling the ginormous breakfast buffet with its specialities that are Sri Lankan, Arab, British….from waffles to curry, tropical fruits to a gluten-free section and an impressive array of sugars including lemon sugar, cinnamon sugar and jaggery.

Sri Lanka is a fascinating island full of intense history, religion, beautiful scenery, elephant sanctuaries, wildlife parks with leopards. Oh, and tea plantations and pristine beaches and Buddhist temples. Still, there’s not much point in leaving the resort when there’s a therapist, Nandika, in the spa for a massage that sends me to heaven and beyond; friendly and helpful staff; and a charming GM who wanders around chatting to guests. Plus the Nature Guru and the Ayurvedic Doctor. To say I leave Anantara on Cloud 9 would be too low a number. And as I do, guess what? They perform a traditional farewell ceremony.

Nightly rates at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort start from £185 for an Ocean View Room on a bed & breakfast basis. For more information about Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, go to https://tangalle.anantara.com.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

A Roaring Success At Bel & The Dragon By Fiona Sanderson

For those wishing to escape London and enjoy a little piece of old England with a personal fine dining experience, the 15th century Bel & The Dragon coaching inn in Cookham offers upscale country-chic rooms and modern British cuisine, giving you a taste of Old England with cosy roaring log fires and and reasonably priced regular supper clubs. Headed up by Executive Head Chef Ronnie Kimbugwe, they offer a three course menu paired with fine champagne.

Only 29 miles from London, Bel & The Dragon sits on Cookham village’s picture postcard high street which has changed little in appearance over the centuries.

I was invited to join the first Supper Club of 2018 with their partner, the renowned Champagne House Laurent-Perrier. The evening was hosted by Lauren Perrier’s UK Managing Director, David Hesketh, who gave us a fascinating insight into the company’s 200 year old history as well as giving us a taste of their finest champagnes. Remarkable to think that a company founded in 1812, by Monsieur Laurent, are still a family-owned brand and continue to make some of the world’s most elegant champagnes. Along with a daily glass of champagne, David told us that he still feels privileged to be part of a company whose legacy and experience in wine-making continues to thrill people whatever the occasion!

To match the fine champagnes, Executive Head Chef Ronnie, who is a former sous chef of Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, created a really delicious, well-presented three-course menu of Torbay scallops with black pepper, roasted watermelon and pea puree, which was followed by a tender slow-roasted Guinea fowl with spring truffle, new potatoes and watercress. As a finale, he created a warm gooey chocolate fondant with wild raspberry sorbet. A love of chocolate is no doubt shared by the inn’s co-owner, chocolate heir Joel Cadbury, who completely renovated Bel & The Dragon in 2010.

Executive Head Chef Ronnie has been there since the beginning and he told us that he is always trying to create ambienbuy.net menus which are full of twists on an array of classic British dishes, with a focus on local, sustainable and, above all, quality ingredients. “I constantly try to push boundaries in the kitchen, creating dishes using seasonal and local produce. Food is central to Bel & The Dragon, so it’s exciting that I’ve played an instrumental role in developing the brand,” he told us. “I get very involved in all areas of the Inn and hope that the love and passion that I have put into the place really shows.”

After supper, I retired to one of Bel & The Dragon’s recently refurbished bedrooms in The Cottage, which are all named after the paintings of the famous artist Sir Stanley Spence, whose gallery is situated across the road. I liked the little touch of complimentary Sipsmith Sloe Gin & scotch whisky – even though I was not tempted after all our delicious champagnes! The beds were extremely comfortable, perfect for viewing the HD flatscreen TV, and the towels were exquisitely white and fluffy. Although compact, the Farrow & Ball painted room was a welcome luxury after a full fine dining experience.

The following morning, the open log fires were a welcome sight on a very frosty morning. A hearty breakfast and my choice of Poached Duck Egg with Avocado Bacon Chutney & Hollandaise, and Organic & Free Range Scrambled Eggs with Cured Scottish Salmon and Chopped Chives were just too hard to resist.

Homely, with delicious food and comfortable accommodation, I will definitely be returning!

Further Information

Bel & The Dragon is part of a collection of seven country inns situated cross the South of England, in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire, offering exceptional food, fine wine and characterful bedrooms.

The Supper Club offers the opportunity to taste a Three-Course Menu with paired champagne, priced at £60 per person.

Bel & The Dragon is situated at High Street, Cookham, Berkshire SL6 9SQ.

Tel: +44 (0)1628 521263 or visit the website by clicking here.

Kandy Samadhi Centre – For The Luxury of Tranquillity, Beauty And Simplicity By Caroline Phillips

It’s almost possible to touch the white clouds that move slowly across the hilltop in front of my terrace. There’s a hammock hanging between vintage wooden pillars and monkeys swinging in trees watching me watching them. Lying there is great too for listening to the orchestra of birds and crickets. Sweet music conducted by tree frogs, with backing vocals from a singing river and wild boar rustling in the bush. There’s a view of the Knuckles Mountains and of paddy fields, bamboos, forests of mango, jack trees and guava. It’s like waking up in Heaven a few years too early.

This is the Kandy Samadhi Centre: a former tea plantation turned yoga, Ayurveda and switch-off and write, dream and paint retreat. It’s a 50-minute drive north of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It’s the creation of antiques dealer and organic farmer cum self-dubbed ‘21st century hippy,’ Waruna Jayasinghe, an unusual hotelier. He’s wearing an abundant beard, bone and silver jewellery (his own designs) and a sarong. “I’m on a spiritual quest to link humanity,” he says. “People come to Samadhi to work out their karmic issues.”

But let’s rewind. On arrival, I’m given fresh papaya juice and a torch, then shown to my pavilion — led for five minutes along a jungle path by a barefoot man with my suitcase on top of his head. The hotel’s website warns that there may be snakes and spiders. So I stamp my flip flops fiercely and shine my torch menacingly. Reader, I have to tell you something. Over the course of six nights, I run across animals sharp of tooth and claw — known in Sinhalese as a ‘baḷalā’ and a ‘ballā.’ (Respectively a ‘cat’ and a ‘dog’).

My bedroom is Bohemian — with a wall of pebbles, frescos of naked ladies, and lamps fashioned from vintage tea urns. Its guest book bears testimony to many joyful stays: words like ‘spiritual,’ ‘magical,’ and ‘healing’ are sprinkled across its pages. Next morning, I move to another bedroom, still closer to the abode of the gods. It sits atop the hill with the aforementioned magisterial view.

All the rooms boast antiques, and many have vintage showers and freestanding claw-footed bath tubs in bathrooms with sides open to the jungle. In his Kandy antiques shop, Waruna sells everything from museum-quality saris to wicker snake baskets; from Hindi, Buddhist and mother goddess figures to vintage cooking utensils, and old signage and 17th century Sri Lankan exorcist masks. Many such pieces are in the Samadhi bedrooms. “Material accumulation is a headache,” Waruna claims. “My project now is to bring Ayurveda and yoga to the world.”

So far, his reach is 26 pavilions set in 18 acres at Samadhi (accommodating 40 guests). Waruna designed everything, despite having no formal architectural training. “Samadhi is the place to get in touch with your higher consciousness,” he says. “Somewhere to find your purpose in life.” The architecture is, he says, inspired by meditation and temples of tranquillity. After days, I am still finding hidden joys, like the pavilion for reading on the river. And even though my stay is during peak season, there are only four guests: a peaceful number.

So what of the food? At 7:30pm (everything happens early here), I make my way to dinner: the kerosene lamps (like hanging tea pots) are lit all along the stone paths to guide the way to the open-sided dining room. It’s beside the river and with vintage lamps on the tables — their flaming wicks flickering in the inky night. There’s a buffet for all meals, served in rustic terracotta pots warmed over naked flames. It’s simple and organic, home-cooked village fare that’s mostly plucked from Waruna’s garden, and all freshly prepared. Even the rice is home grown.

There are dishes like bean curry, dhal, red rice, mushroom curry and string hoppers (a Sri Lankan staple made of rice flower). And cassava, egg curry, and milk rice. And just occasional chicken, fish and eggs. There’s no alcohol. Just mountain spring water, teas and fresh juices. Dr De Silva, Samadhi’s Ayurvedic doctor, pops up suddenly during dinner. He stands waiting patiently beside a guest, an artist from London who’s supping on a fluorescent green, liquid herbal Ayurvedic concoction with added ghee (clarified butter). “Eat all your soup,” counsels the good doctor. “It’s good for bowel movement.”

I fall quickly into the rhythm of Samadhi. I rise daily with the sun to do group yoga in the open-sided Meditation Pavilion. Waruna’s wife, Yumi, has taught since 2005, and offers her own eclectic practice with “everything that has worked for me, and a lot of emphasis on the upper back. Westerners are all hunched when they come here.” Originally a cartoonist in Tokyo turned Buddhist and yoga teacher, she takes us through a fast-moving class that does indeed tackle my journalist’s hunchback.

After a consultation with Dr De Silva — who trained in Colombo for seven years, hails from a traditional healing family and specialises in Panchakarma cleansing cures — I visit Samadhi’s Ayurveda Spa daily. They offer an authentic experience including wooden Ayurvedic massage tables (albeit with added cushions for over-indulged Westerners) and coconut husks as mugs for drinking medicinal brews. Instead of relaxation muzak, there’s the sound of the gurgling river.

The treatments range from Shirodhara (warm nutty oil dripping on the forehead to stop those pesky thoughts) to full body massages and a detoxing sweat with Ayurvedic herb leaves in a coffin-style ‘Nardy’ steamer. For wannabe Cleopatras, there’s a bath in asses’ (in reality cows’) milk — well, two therapists actually pour the warm milk over me from brass teapots — which makes me smell like yoghurt but leaves my skin soft as Indian silk.

I go on one river walk through verdant tropical vegetation to waterfalls where palm-size butterflies flit in the air, and I sit on my own in contemplative silence. I take a dip in the chilly waterfall, its cascading waters cleansing the air. I don’t do much else during my stay. I don’t want to.

I slow down, and start savouring the moment. It’s hard to get a mobile signal, there’s no Wifi in the bedrooms and — even close to the router, which is way down one of the many paths that meander through the jungle — the signal is patchy. So I surrender and go with the flow. Yes, there are local sights like the Udawela cave temple, Hantana tea museum, a tour of Kandy, a trip to watch elephant bathing, or an outing to the Dambulla cave temples. Or a Sinhala cookery lesson at Samadhi. But they can wait until next time. I do almost nothing. Simply think, dream and lie in a hammock.

“A breatharian came to Samadhi and didn’t eat for a year,” claims Waruna. “Another woman came and discovered her inner child and her past incarnations.” Who knows? Certainly it’s a quirky place beloved of dreamers and eccentrics, writers and artists. Where Westerners have a chance to escape cities to savour old-style village life, get back to nature, peace and to be creative. Where the luxury it offers is tranquillity, beauty and a simple pace of life. And somewhere with soul and magic, where life in the slow lane seems too fast.

Further Information

A week at Kandy Samadhi Centre starts from $1250 for two including full board and seven yoga sessions each. From $300US (single or $450 double) for a 2-night yoga package (which includes room, full board, and two daily yoga sessions), from $320 for an Ayuruvedha package or from $380 for two nights yoga and Ayurvedha. Visit www.thekandysamadhicentre.com for more about the Centre, and www.warunaantique.com for more about the antiques gallery.

Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.

Fashion For Conservation – The Campaign To Save The Amazon Rainforest By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel was in conversation with Ava Holmes, one of the Founders of Fashion For Conservation….

Fashion For Conservation was founded by three women determined to make a positive impact on the world through conservation-inspired couture: Nazanine Afshar (Art Director at British Vogue), Dr. Samantha Zwicker (Wildlife Conservationist at Hoja Nueva) and Ava Holmes (Fashion Week Event Producer and TEDx Speaker). By combing their talents and passions to create dynamic fashion campaigns, they hope to educate consumers on animals and ecosystems, while donating funds to wildlife groups.

Their partner is the Whitley Fund For Nature (whose trustee is Sir David Attenborough, and their patron is HRH Princess Royal). At this year’s London Fashion Week AW18, Fashion For Conservation was on a mission to protect the Amazon by engaging influential members of the fashion community to become advocates for grassroots work around the world and to protect threatened habitats on which both wildlife and people depend for food, water and ultimately, life.

A preview event put a media spotlight on the Amazon rainforest, the largest biodiversity hotspot on the planet, home to over 50% of all the world’s biodiversity yet covering only 2% of the earth’s surface. The preview event included keynotes from conservation leaders including United Nations UK Director Steve Fletcher, award-winning actress and Whitley Fund For Nature ambassador Miranda Richardson, and Stacy Flynn, who is Founder and CEO at Evrnu and a Stella McCartney textile partner.

The Rainforest Runway at London Fashion Week featured two designers’ interpretation of the Amazonian rainforest. Jatin Patel, guest designer at Kalikas Armour, opened with his fantastical recycled rainforest inspired collection, “Magestic Mystics”. This was followed by the zero waste collection “Impermanent Flora,” — by Re:ne(w) by René Garza for Magpies & Peacocks non-profit design house — an avant-garde collection made from end-of-bolt textiles and up-cycled clothing.

We ask Ava Holmes, who was Event Producer, how Fashion For Conservation all began. “We officially started the organisation as a trio,” she says. “Samantha lives in the Amazon year-round, Nazanine goes between sets of the top fashion brands in the industry (most recently, she art directed part of the new 100 Years of Vogue series with Anna Wintour) and myself with one foot in fashion industry and the other in the conservation world. This movement for me was a natural combination of the worlds in which I grew up – my father is a wilderness survival trainer and my mother a globe-trotting artist and film producer. For me, Fashion For Conservation is where these two worlds finally merge, which sort of explains a lot of how it all came about, and why a movement like this is so crucial in the state of our world today.”

So, what are the group’s goals for the coming year? “This year, our goal is to raise an additional one million pounds for conservation through fashion. We are doing this by hosting our fourth annual Rainforest Gala in Seattle in June, and co-hosting the Whitley Fund For Nature Gala in London in November. We are always on a mission to reverse fashion’s impact on the planet through engaging creative communities by being the voice for the voiceless,” Ava tells us.

Finally, we ask Ava what people can do to help reverse fashion’s impact on the planet. “The best way is to actually visit a conservation site on the ground to understand and contribute hands-on. We have many recommendations for amazing ethical tour experiences up close and personal in some of the most wild remaining places on the planet. You could also attend a Fashion For Conservation event that aims to engage and inspire the fashion community while raising awareness and funding for various critical conservation initiatives,” she says. “Another way is by using our consumer power for conservation by buying from brands that give back to nature through a portion of their profits and/or source their materials sustainably. To date, we have worked with over 100 brands in creating nature-inspired collections that re-invest a portion of the proceeds back into conservation.”

For further information, go to www.fashionforconservation.com.

Wild At Heart By The Luxury Channel

Become wild at heart with our round-up of the best (and most beautiful) wildlife products. Nature never looked so good!

Boucheron

Animals have always formed an important part of Boucheron’s repertoire, each one bursting with life, emotion and character, with even the smallest of details perfectly depicted by the brand’s master craftsmen. Animals have been present in Boucheron’s archive since 1888, when on the eve of one of Frederic Boucheron’s voyages, he presented his beloved wife Gabrielle with a serpent necklace believing this would protect her in his absence. From then on, Frederic Boucheron continued to design and create creatures from around the world; the collection continued to grow into what is now – a menagerie of beautiful animals both great and small.

For more information and to see the full Collection of Animals, click here.

Jaeger-LeCoultre

Jaeger-LeCoultre is celebrating the 74th Venice International Film Festival with three limited editions of Rendez-Vous watches. A partner of the festival for over 12 years, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Rendez-Vous collection has always been associated with the world of cinema. The latest masterpieces issued from the Grande Maison’s Métiers Rares “Rare Handcrafts” workshop express three different stages of romantic feelings: seduction, romance, and love, with each one released as a limited edition of eight pieces. The first stage of romance is embodied by the Rendez-Vous Sonatina “Séduction” watch. Two swallows soaring over a lavender field embody this moment, a time of discovery and heightened emotions as lovers get to know one another, a theme often central to major film productions. The Rendez-Vous Sonatina “Romance” watch, meanwhile, depicts a state of endless romantic reverie with a kingfisher perched on the branch of a blossoming cherry tree. The last model of the limited editions, the Rendez-Vous Sonatina “Amour” watch, depicts the enduring bliss of love. Above a patch of peonies, two magpies fly alongside one another, recreated in graduated shades of green shifting from turquoise to sea-green.

For more information, visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com.

Alexander & Pearl

Alexander & Pearl’s side table features a novelty jungle leopard to lend some colourful decoration to any living space.

For more information, visit www.alexanderandpearl.co.uk.

Audenza

Audenza’s vases, jugs and egg cups feature striking hand-painted designs that will fit into most styles of décor. The vases in particular look wonderful with a large colourful bouquet of flowers spilling out!

For more information, visit www.audenza.com.

Sophie Allport

Sophie Allport’s statement knitted cushion features a punchy pink Flamingo design showcasing the pink hues of the flamingo against a chalk grey background. Sophie’s fun illustration highlights both the bird’s elegant long neck and quirky shape.

For more information, visit www.sophieallport.com.

Shades of Grey – Saviours of Black And White Rhino By The Luxury Channel

An award-winning conservancy in Kenya has been so successful in conserving black rhinos, it is now looking for further land to expand into. Part of its success? The local people….

Ol Pejeta is Kenya’s conservation success story and its CEO, Richard Vigne, believes its success, in part, is down to local communities. “Conservation must benefit humans. Land must be productive as well as conserving wildlife populations. Without the support of the people around us, we cannot achieve conservation on any kind of scale,” he says.

At 400km2, Ol Pejeta is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. It is home to 115 rhinos, or 16% of the national population. Black rhino numbers here have grown 100% over 10 years and are now heading towards maximum numbers that the conservancy can support, so the next challenge is to secure more space.

At Ol Pejeta, ecotourism and wildlife conservation are integrated with a profitable and sustainable cattle ranching business. The conservancy employs more than 900 people and is home to 6,000 Boran cattle.

Any profits made are reinvested into the conservancy and the community. “We want to show that conservation can pay its own way, contributing economically, socially and environmentally for the benefit of all,” says Vigne. Since 2004, over US$7m has been raised and given to community programmes and over 50,000 local people benefit each year from the conservancy. Innovative projects such as ICT classes in schools, mobile dental camps that can travel to remote communities, drip irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting systems, solar power, and sustainable grazing techniques are all part of the reason local people believe in conservation.

The community, in turn, provide eyes and ears. Complex issues like livestock overgrazing, local politics and illegal arms are also easier to address if the community is on board with the conservancy. Nevertheless, poaching and habitat loss remain major threats to rhino numbers. In the last 10 In South Africa, the number of rhinos poached increased by 9,246% from 2007-14. Recent figures released from the South African government show that poaching is still at crisis levels. Over 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2017, while a decade of illegal wildlife trafficking means that three rhinos are still being poached every day. This is both unsustainable and unacceptable. “The absolute truth is that if we humans do not urgently change the way we interact with Planet Earth and the way in which we consume, we will be left with a home totally bereft of wild things and wild places and we will be much the poorer for it,” warns Vigne.

On 15th March 2018 in London, Ol Pejeta, in partnership with UK charity Helping Rhinos (whose vision is to lead an innovative approach to conservation that will ensure the long-term survival of rhino and other endangered wildlife in their natural habitat) will be discussing seven factors critical to successfully sustaining rhino populations. The event – called Shades of Grey: Seven Saviours of Black and White Rhino – hopes to raise funds for a mobile veterinary unit to be based on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and will explore the complexities of protecting the iconic rhino in its natural habitat.

Helping Rhinos CEO Simon Jones will introduce the evening and provide an update on the work of the charity and how supporters around the world are making a difference in protecting the rhino, before they keynote speech by Steve Leonard. Steve is a wildlife vet, and is well known from presenting many UK TV programmes, including Operation Wild (BBC1), Nature’s Newborns (ITV1) and Trust Me I’m A Vet (BBC1).

Joining Steve will be Founder of Animals Saving Animals, Daryll Pleasants. Daryll will share his unique tales of training dogs to join the front line anti-poaching teams in locations around the world, including Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, will share the successes and challenges of running East Africa’s most successful black rhino breeding programme and provide an update on the northern white rhinos.

Further Information

Shades of Grey: Seven Saviours of Black and White Rhino will take place at Church House, Westminster, London SW1P 3NZ on Thursday 15th March 2018, from 6:30pm-10:30pm. To attend the event, click here.

Top Destinations For A Royal Honeymoon In 2018 By Bella Shearer

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepare to tie the knot this spring, speculation is already rippling about where the couple of the year might be spending their honeymoon. With that in mind, we bring you a round-up of some of the world’s most romantic spots for a newlywed escape, sure to rival any royal holiday! Whether your dream is to live like north African nobility at the spectacular Royal Mansour in Marrakech – itself owned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco – or to recreate Harry and Meghan’s first African adventures or even to just enjoy a stay in the most romantic city in the world, our selection of options offers something for every couple….

Rustic Romance In An Alpine Cabin

Rustic, cosy and incomparably peaceful, Gstaad Palace’s Shepherd’s or ‘Walig’ Hut – built in 1783 and changed little since – can be hired for an exclusive overnight stay, warmed by candlelight and log burning stoves and complete with a mouth-watering three-course dinner complimented by Swiss wine. With the building sitting proudly at 1,700m above tFionahe Gsteig region, couples can enjoy an inimitably romantic evening gazing over Gstaad and the Saanenland. Pair with a luxurious stay at the fairy-tale Gstaad Palace itself, which offers a dedicated ‘Time For Romance’ experience in the main hotel, in the form of a two-night stay in a specially decorated room, including a bottle of champagne and a two-hour Hammam experience with a massage for two. Guests can also enjoy half board and full access to the hotel spa.

The ‘Alpine Night’ at Walig Hut is available from 1,600CHF (approx. £1,220) in Summer season only. The ‘Time For Romance’ package is on offer on select dates subject to availability, from 1,973CHF (approx. £1,505). Contact info@palace.ch, call +41 33 748 50 00 or visit www.palace.ch.

Ski Across Colorado

Ski stylishly into married life together by exploring the stunning scenery over Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass with two free daily ski passes for every night at the luxurious mountain haven of The Little Nell (based on a minimum three-night stay). The Little Nell is Colorado’s only 5-star ski-in, ski-out hotel and one of the world’s most iconic ski lodges. Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, its location in the heart of downtown makes it perfect for exploring the exclusive shopping, dining, nightlife and galleries that Aspen has to offer. The Little Nell’s 52 guest rooms and suites all feature a contemporary ‘Aspen Aesthetic’ design, some offering breath-taking mountain views. With two restaurants on site – Elements 47 and Ajax Tavern – plus exclusive ski programmes which enable guests to access of Aspen Mountain before the gondola opens and customised adventure programs including fly fishing, snowcat skiing, jeep tours, complimentary bikes and weekly yoga atop Aspen Mountain, The Little Nell caters to every desire for a 5-star mountain break.

The ‘Ski Free’ package is available from $585 (approx. £421) per night, based on a three-night stay in a Town Side Guest Room. To book, visit www.thelittlenell.com and quote promotional code ‘NSKIF.’

Desert Island Romance In The Maldives

Opening in the last quarter of 2018, the sublime new JOALI Maldives, on Muravandhoo Island in Raas Atoll, is a sophisticated and artistic luxury retreat. Celebrating the joy of life, JOALI is a honeymoon hideaway that represents the ultimate romantic desert island dream; with a focus on sustainability, creativity and individual flair, it couldn’t be further from the feeling of a chain resort. Explore the island on bicycles, inspire the imagination with a library of books in each of the 73 elegant beach and water villas, spend time learning to paint in the Art Studio, watch the reef below while enjoying a couples’ massage at JOALI Spa by ESPA or see the sun set over your own private candlelit dinner on a secluded sandbank.

For bookings and further information, visit www.joali.com.

Princess Perfection In Marrakech

The exquisite Royal Mansour in Marrakech – one of the world’s most discreet hotels and owned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco – is designed to regal standards, fit for any princess. This really is the case, as the hotel attracts royalty and dignitaries from around the world. Secret tunnels that have been built beneath the hotel ensure guests have the utmost privacy, with a service that is unrivalled, intuitive and discreet. The rooms are set in 53 individual Riads with exquisite craftsmanship throughout, and the hotel is just a stone’s throw from the medina and a short distance from the recently opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum. It has an exceptional spa which – amongst its myriad relaxing treatments – offers one of the best hammam experiences in the world. Cuisine at Royal Mansour is led by Michelin starred Yannick Alléno, who creates delectable cuisine throughout the hotel across its four restaurants, from the sophisticated La Grande Table Marocaine which serves more-ish Moroccan flavours in its sumptuous setting, to new poolside open-air restaurant Le Jardin whose menu includes light grilled dishes and sublime sushi in relaxed and atmospheric surroundings. Newlyweds looking for a honeymoon fit for royalty will delight in Royal Mansour’s ‘Romance’ package as this includes 3 nights in a Superior 1-bedroom Riad (with a romantic set-up), an upgrade to a Premier 1-bedroom Riad dependent on availability, daily gourmet breakfast at La Table or on the rooftop terrace of their Riad, a romantic dinner at La Grande Table Marocaine, spa treatments in a Private Spa Suite (one hammam experience, followed by a massage per person), fast track service upon arrival & departure at Marrakech Airport, and private airport transfers.

The ‘Romance’ package starts from 3,300 Euros (approx. £2,903) and is based on two people sharing a Riad. Valid until 27 December 2018. To book, visit www.royalmansour.com or call +212 529 808080.

Pampering In Paris

After a day taking in all that the City of Love has to offer, couples can enjoy some romantic R&R time in their own Private Spa Suite at the world-famous Peninsula Paris hotel in France. The three-hour break (which can be extended subject to availability) includes full use of the sumptuous suite – consisting of a double bath, shower and private bathroom – with a two-hour treatment each and time to explore the spa’s full range of facilities. Perfectly situated at 19 Avenue Kléber, just steps from the Arc de Triomphe, The Peninsula sits in the heart of Paris within walking distance of some of the world’s most famous monuments, museums and luxury shopping districts. The gorgeous hotel houses 200 luxurious rooms, including 86 suites. Inspired by Haute Couture, the theme suites at The Peninsula Paris hotel – some of the French capital’s most spacious and the world’s most highly customised – are veritable showcases of French heritage and savoir-faire.

The ‘Spa Experience For Two’ package is available from 880 Euros (approx. £777) based on a three-hour stay. Rooms are available at The Peninsula Person from 765 Euros (approx. £675) per night. For the spa package, contact spappr@peninsula.com for further information, or visit www.paris.peninsula.com.

African Romance In Rwanda

Echo Prince Harry and Meghan’s passion for Africa and sustainable, mindful travel at Volcanoes Safaris in Rwanda, where the pioneers of ecotourism are inviting newlyweds to experience a truly memorable honeymoon with a safari adventure complimented by a host of special traditional treats. Watch the sun rise over the staggering African vistas, spend your day tracking gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural home, and wind down with a special couple’s massage and private meals on request. Enjoy special treatment from staff at your eco-luxury lodge, which will be furnished on arrival with the gorgeous gift of a Rwandan woven basket loaded with two celebrated Kitenge bathrobes, a bottle of sparkling wine, a gorilla ornament carved by local craftspeople, traditional ceremonial marriage ties to wear on your wrists, and a selection of tea, coffee, honey and soap, provided by the group’s VSPT sustainable projects programme.

Rooms are available at Volcanoes Safaris from $210 (approx. £151) per night based on two people sharing a Mount Gahinga Lodge. To book, contact enquiries@volcanoessafaris.com or visit www.volcanoessafaris.com.

Supreme Safari In South Africa

It’s a poignant time for all visitors to South Africa this year, as the country marks the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth – and nowhere is it more so than at The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg where the acclaimed political revolutionary sojourned to write some of the final words of his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom. Add some history to your honeymoon by immersing yourself in local centenary events while enjoying the natural and wildlife highlights of these renowned retreats. Nestled in a peaceful tree-lined corner of Johannesburg’s Sandhurst neighbourhood, The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa is set in 10 acres of lush landscaped grounds that once formed a historic private home. Its prize facilities include six swimming pools, three luxurious dining venues – including the recently launched Luke Dale Roberts X at The Saxon – two bars, and the tranquil Saxon Spa, which blends modern understanding with ancient techniques to balance energies and restore wellbeing. Meanwhile, The Saxon’s sister property, Shambala Private Game Reserve, promises an unforgettably authentic African bushveld experience, boasting 12,000 hectares of wilderness in the Limpopo Province, home to the ‘Big Five’ and set against the backdrop beautiful Waterberg mountain range. Couples staying at its eight luxurious lodges – each constructed in traditional Zulu materials – are invited to forego television and enjoy exclusively organised game drives, guided bush walks, star-gazing, fishing, sundowner cruises and bush picnics, as well as unwinding at the intimate Shambala Spa. Also set in the grounds of Shambala is the historic Nelson Mandela Villa, built especially for the former President as his personal retreat.

Rooms at The Saxon Villas and Spa start from R7,400 (approx. £440) based on two people sharing a luxury suite including breakfast, while stays at Zulu Camp at Shambala Private Game Reserve start from R11,750 (approx. £699) based on two people sharing a chalet, including all meals, sunset cruise, game drives and bush walks. Exclusive hire of The Nelson Mandela Villa starts from R75,000 (approx. £4,443) including all meals, sunset cruise, game drives and bush walks. To book, visit www.saxon.co.za and www.shambalaprivategamereserve.co.za.

La Dolce Vita In Southern Italy

Immerse yourself in Italian authenticity this spring, as Masseria Trapanà in Lecce is welcoming guests to indulge in its brand new wellness space, transforming a former olive pressing room into a fabulous spa, offering restorative treatments using local ingredients. As well as three treatment rooms, couples can make full use of a plunge pool, relaxation area and small cinema room, or take in the hotel’s gorgeous gardens with outdoor yoga classes. Set in sixty hectares of olive groves and with only nine individually designed suites, Masseria Trapanà offers the ultimate peace and seclusion for honeymooners, whether you want to lounge in a pool-side hammock, or stroll around the hotel’s six fragrant gardens, brimming with nineteen varieties of fruit and nut trees.

Rooms are available from 250 Euors (approx. £219) per night, based on a Courtyard Room including breakfast. To book, contact info@trapana.com, call: + 39 0832 1832101 or visit www.trapana.com.

Simply Bliss In Sri Lanka

Celebrate your wedding in storybook style with a four-night stay at Owl And The Pussycat in Galle, Sri Lanka – a sun-drenched, exotic boutique gem. As well as one complimentary night’s stay in an ocean-view suite, this dreamy offer includes one candle-lit dinner for two at the hotel’s poetically themed The Runcible Spoon restaurant, and a sundown cocktail on an evening of your choice. Arrive to an in-room welcome of fresh flowers and a tropical fruit basket, wake up to a delicious and nutritious daily breakfast, and round off each day with a special honeymoon turn-down service. Owl And The Pussycat also offers an alternative three-night romantic getaway package, including a couples full-body massage on the water’s edge, as well as one three-course candle-lit dinner – complete with a bottle of bubbles and chocolates – on an evening of your choice. Sitting on the water’s edge on the south coast of Sri Lanka in the village of Thalpe, near Galle, Owl And The Pussycat boasts contemporary design alongside beautiful craftsmanship from local artisans, with a laid-back atmosphere. Guests can enjoy light, fresh food including Sri Lankan specialties, sip delicately-spiced cocktails at the bar next to the waves, take a dip in the sea-front 17-metre pool and stretch out on the yoga platform. The hotel is also well-located for jungle adventures and cycles through the rice fields.

Stays at Owl And The Pussycat are available from $260 (approx. £187). The ‘Romantic Getaway’ offer can be booked on select dates subject to availability. Contact bookings@otphotel.com, call +94 7772 40077 or visit www.otphotel.com.

Honeymoon Bliss In Venice

Settled on its own private island – called Isola delle Rose – JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa offers a full package of romantic treats for newlyweds. The Honeymoon Bliss package includes a champagne and chocolate-covered-strawberries welcome on arrival and a 50-minute massage for two in the privacy of a GOCO Spa Venice Spa Suite, as well as a free upgrade upon availability and late check-out. Guests can also enjoy a 15% discount on all other spa treatments, as well as daily breakfast served either in room or at the Cucina restaurant. JW Marriott’s flagship complex will open for the 2018 season on 16th March, offering visitors to Venice a peaceful respite just a short boat ride away from the crowded hustle and bustle of the main city. This spring, it will play host for the first time to the Venice Food & Wine Festival, welcoming some of the world’s most esteemed chefs and artisan food producers to the resort. The resort is also home to the Sapori Cooking Academy, where guests can learn to prepare traditional Italian dishes from master chefs, and the Dopolavoro rooftop restaurant, where locals and hotel guests can enjoy a Michelin-star meal while gazing over the Venice skyline.

The ‘Honeymoon Bliss’ package is available from 599 Euros (approx. £530) per night. To book, visit www.jwvenice.com or call +39 041 852 1300 and quote the promotional code ‘HON.’

Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort – The Meaning of Life…. By Anya Braimer Jones

A healthy retreat is just the thing I need. What could be better? I’d like to cleanse and relax — aka ridding my body of my accumulated sins. Think smoking, drinking booze and eating mounds of sugar. I’m also here to tackle the ghastly acne which inconveniently popped up on my face a few months ago. Joy of all joys. Will I be going cold turkey? Is it going to be hardcore? And what is Ayurveda anyway? ??I arrive at Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort, an Ayurvedic health retreat in Talalla, in the deep south of Sri Lanka, greeted with smiling faces and a delicious chilled King Coconut in its original packaging. I like this place already. A quick tour of the property is led by a very smiley lady in a sari. There are simple bedrooms for 50 people —only three with air conditioning —a library, a yoga hall with sides that open onto the garden and two buildings for treatments. The centre focuses on Panchakarma Ayurvedic cleansing cures and has been doing this since 1995. Indeed, it was the first Ayurveda resort in Sri Lanka to cater exclusively for Panchakarma guests.

The resort offers three levels of Ayurveda programmes, allowing you to choose the intensity of the cleanse you wish to do. This is perfect for beginners but also great for your typical yoga-bunny-green-juice-loving-vegan type. Jackpot!

Lunch is under the shade of palm trees. There are buffets for lunch and dinner. It’s all Ayurvedic – not the bland, salt-free green stuff I was expecting but instead, a mixture of flavours, textures, sweet, sour and spicy yumminess. I’m a big foodie and am proud to be able to stomach spicy curries like no other Westerner: a surprise to the locals. Luckily, I manage to find hot and hotter among the endless dishes on offer.

I am also astonished by the variety: chicken curry, mango curry, lentil pancakes, avocado mousse, and date cake. Plus a colourful selection of pumpkin curry, fragrant coconut and ginger soup, saffron stained rice, papaya salad, red mountain rice, and shredded coconut salad.  A very welcome break from the usual rice, dhal, coconut fish curry and curd for pud that I’ve become used to during my travels on the island. I could go on. Before I’ve even had a treatment, the food is what makes Surya Lanka stand out for me – hands down the best grub in Sri Lanka. 

After a leisurely stroll on the beach – a whole 50 yards along a sandy path from my room – I go and sit next to a small medicinal herb garden to wait for my initial consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor. I’ve read that everything from nutmeg to sandalwood, aloe vera and pineapple may be used in this system of medicine. And I am eager to discover how this array of plants might possibly help me. I understand that they’re also going to diagnose my doshas (or humours) —whether I’m big on wind (Sanskrit v?ta), bile (pitta) or phlegm (kapha), and in what balance. (It turns out that I’m a fiery pitta with less of the others, since you ask.)

After a brief chat, the sari-clad doctor checks my pulse, tongue, and heart rate and —lo and behold! — informs me that I am healthy. For a hypochondriac of my calibre, this is confusing news (yet, surprisingly, music to my ears). Luckily she notes one problem, the unmentionables (shhh, spots) on my cheeks. This discovery proves that I’m not 100 per cent a hypochondriac. She starts me on a course of Ayurvedic pills – neither particularly pretty in colour, scent or flavour. But for the sake of scientific research, I am willing to give them a go.

Ayurvedic treatments and medicine have been around for thousands of years, possibly since prehistory. So I don’t see why I should question what they’re doing or compare their approach unfairly to the antibiotics I’ve been taking to date. But I am sceptical. Let’s call it question mark number one. Nonetheless, I do as I’m told.

The following klonopintabs.com day, I lie down on a bed with my face looking towards the ceiling fan in the simple, hospital-style cubicle. The therapist begins my Shirodhara treatment – God knows what it is about, but it involves trickling oil onto my forehead and is supposed to help calm a ‘busy mind.’ Slowly, she begins gently pouring warm oil into my hair, across my temples, gently back and forth – this rocks! I can never shut up my mind – nor my mouth for that matter – but suddenly I feel at peace, at one with nature, and even the crashing sound of the waves outside the window starts slowly to recede. 

My next treatment is a facial. Let’s call this question mark number two. She starts with a gentle exfoliation, then places what feels like gauze over my face and begins painting on a cream. I’m sure that I can smell some sort of curd mixed with a herbal concoction, and I start to laugh. It smells like the leftovers of yesterday’s lunch and is very unlike my usual chemical peels, clay masks and rose-water steams. I ask her what she’s using. “Milk mixed with various herbal powders,” she replies. Right ho…. 

The following day, I’m welcomed back for my ‘HBS.’ Unsure as to what I am about to experience, I lie down gingerly on the couch. The therapist begins by wiping a warm cloth over my face, arms, legs and even my feet. Next a handful of warm, nutty oil is rubbed into my skin: heavenly. The pressure is perfect; the fragrance spot on. The whole experience is 10/10. Incidentally, ‘HBS’ —I discover —stands for ‘head, body, steam.’ 

Half out of it, on cloud nine, I am led afterwards to a room with a closed coffin-shaped wooden casket with a head-sized hole at one end. The therapist opens it and asks me to lie down inside. For someone like me who suffers from claustrophobia —you see, I’m not just a common hypochondriac — this rings alarm bells. But, once again, I do as I’m told. It turns out that this is the ‘steam’ part of HBS. Let me spell it out again: this coffin is a steam bath.

It turns out to be strange, hot, but very relaxing. I lie there with my eyes closed, motionless, my trusty therapist at my side, dabbing my perspiring forehead. As I feel the steam delicately diffusing over my body, the oil sinking into my skin, I think I may have cracked the meaning of life. 

After just three days (a very brief time to sample Ayurveda) my skin is miraculously eighty per cent back to it’s previous dewy, baby soft stage. I am amazed. Who knew that milk — which I’ve avoided for years — could calm down my cheeks and forehead?! 

Yes, I carried around those slight question marks of the Ayurvedic sceptic for a while. But after my first few treatments, I am sold on the Ayurvedic way. Would it be fair to say that I’m a convert? Well, all I can say is that I leave the resort feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and glowing proudly. Oh and the meaning of life that came to me whilst lying in the coffin? Ayurveda at Surya Lanka Ayurvedic Beach Resort, that’s it.

Yoga at Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort, with model pictured wearing Lululemon

Further Information

Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort:

Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort was the first Ayurveda Resort in Sri Lanka to cater exclusively for Ayurveda Panchakarma guests. Established in 1995, Surya Lanka has gained a reputation for providing authentic Ayurveda and Yoga in Sri Lanka. It offers three levels of Ayurveda programs, allowing you to choose the intensity of the program. Prices from £135 a day, including full board accommodation, Ayurveda treatments, Ayurveda massages, yoga, meditation and half day excursions. For more information, visit www.suryalanka.com.

Sri Lankan Airlines:

Sri Lankan Airlines flies daily to Colombo with fares starting from £500 – visit www.srilankan.com for more information.

Best In London – The People Who Really Matter By Caroline Phillips

Caroline Phillips unearths the people who really matter to the people who really matter. The doctors, practitioners, therapists and service providers who celebrities and folk with their finger truly on the pulse have on speed dial. An alphabetical guide to the country’s leaders in everything from psychotherapy to gut health. From who you should visit for semi-permanent make-up to hair removal. Not to mention the super-facialists and who to choose for acupuncture or to accompany you to buy your clothes….

GUDRUN JONSSON – For Gut Health And Emotional Release

Gudrun Jonsson is the hallowed healer of Holland Park. Some call her a modern-day white witch. She has a big following, from a Tibetan monk to actress Sian Phillips. You’ll find her through a shop selling eclectic health tomes, including her own bestselling books — Gut Reaction and Gut Reaction Eating Plan. Hers is a homely consultation room chokka with artefacts, cherubs and rugs. Gudrun combines traditional healing arts, biopathic treatments and the latest scientific advances. She’s versed in everything from acupuncture to Sukshma Marma Therapy — an Ayurvedic emotional release method. But she’s very grounded and commonsensical. She manages patients with a bespoke smorgasbord of treatments, aiming to rebalance the body’s energies and work naturally with the body’s own healing ability. She’s particularly big on gut health and diet tips. And keen on zapping you with positive vibes from her negative ion machine: It’s designed to impact on the body’s electrical charges and have an alkalising effect, thereby boosting the immune system and metabolic performance. (You just lie there relaxing with its infrared light focused on your soles while Gudrun does her own brand of foot massage). She’ll likely suggest life changes or a range of unusual but highly effective natural pills, lotions and potions too — including German homeopathic hormones, concentrated foods and supplements. That Gudrun is 74 and looks 60 is testimony to her methods.

£150 for first 90-minute appointment and thereafter £95 for hourly sessions, +44 (0)20 7603 1926 – www.gudrunjonsson.com .

Gudrun Jonsson

SHERYL CLOSE – For Helping You To Address Your Issues And Heal Trauma

Sheryl Close is a therapist with a waiting list that goes round the block. She’s the person who anyone with addictions wants to see (and that’s most of us). Her approach is also ideal for those who have suffered from an accident, scary experience, physical or mental assault, sexual abuse or loss. All of us, in other words. She’s helpful with everything from depression to insomnia and unexplained physical pains. Her pioneering therapy includes an eclectic mix of psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, massage therapy, addiction counselling and Gestalt therapy. (Sheryl has been practising as a psychotherapist for 20 years and as a Somatic Experiencing practitioner for five.) Somatic Experiencing and Trauma Therapy, did you say? Yes, the focus in her sessions is primarily on Somatic Experiencing — a therapy created in 1997 by Dr Peter Levine (read about it in his book, Waking The Tiger). Well, have you ever wondered why animals in the wild are rarely traumatised, despite routine threats to their lives? Somatic Experiencing therapy draws on observations of these animals and their fight/flight/freeze response — and how they spontaneously discharge this energy with involuntary movements such as shaking, trembling and deep breaths. Back in Close’s South Kensington clinic, you won’t be shaking or reliving the original trauma. You won’t even need to talk about it. But you will be guided to ‘track’ sensations in your body and discharge the frozen energy with movements, sounds and visualisations. Finally.

A one-hour session is £130 in London and £75 at her clinic in Bedfordshire – www.sherylclose.co.uk.

Sheryl Close

DR SHOMIT MITTTER – For Finding Your Inner Genie

Spiritual guru Dr Shomit Mitter is a hypnotherapist who delivers fast-track enlightenment in his homely consulting rooms in Chiswick. ‘He’s a heavy-hitting therapist to change your life,’ according to society Bible, Tatler. (Model Lisa Butcher is a big fan.) Aside from that, he also mentored Booker-prize winner Arundhati Roy; once ran a multi-million pound aviation business; has an M.Phil from Oxford and a PhD from Cambridge; has written two seminal books on theatre; comes from a famous line of yogis; and was inspired too by his mum’s (late) friend, Mother Teresa. Phew! Clearly, Dr Mitter is the ultimate Renaissance man – Leonardo (da Vinci) eat your heart out. He offers yogic hypnotherapy — Dr Mitter, that is – a pioneering therapy and his own creation that’s a combo of Indian meditation techniques and Western hypnotherapy. His methods help with everything from addiction and childhood trauma to helping you build a bigger business, increase your confidence or form lasting relationships. Said to put clients ‘in touch with their inner genies,’ he’s known for helping them create a state of flow in which the world they’d like to inhabit manifests around them effortlessly. For those seeking enlightenment from the comfort of their own armchairs, Mitter has just opened an online shop streaming his Magic of Manifestation videos — which allow viewers access to his magical methods for just £9 a session. You’ll find yourself smiling more than the Mona Lisa.

£140 an hour, +44 (0) 77717 66601 – www.shomitmitter.com.

Dr. Shomit Mitter

KATIE WINTERBOURNE – For Intuitive Guidance And Clarity

A tour guide for your soul. And someone who loves the challenge of a sceptical client. That’s Katie Winterbourne, the professional intuitive who will meet you, a stranger, for the first time, and will then talk about your life with uncanny accuracy and thespian flourish. This model-pretty, one-time pupil of Deepak Chopra reads your unique energy ‘signature’ and uses her intuition to deliver energy healing and to give you a better understanding of your life. All this clarity and guidance happens in person, over the phone or by Skype. (Most opt for virtual consultations. But she’s just started offering appointments in a Marylebone mansion flat after years at Harrods Urban Retreat). She’s clairsentient, clairvoyant and just a little clairaudient. She’s also a Reiki Master (energy healing) and Vortex healer (healing on a soul level to clear Karma), and offers a smattering of talk therapy too. Sometimes all of the above within one session. She probably won’t tell you which shoes to buy or whether to dump your boyfriend. But she doesn’t balk at very specific questions. Plus anything she says can be fact checked afterwards using the download she records of the appointment. Whatever it is that she does, it works. A session will likely help you make shifts in your life – whether that be to do with decision-making, the dynamics of a relationship, a problem with your child or a job issue. It’s not for nothing that her loyal clients dub her a soul healer.

£170 for 30 minutes or £300 for 1 hour. Based in Marylebone every Friday, or via Skype or phone Monday – Thursday. Book online at www.katiewinterbourne.com.

Katie Winterbourne

ANNABEL HODIN – For Personal Styling And Wardrobe Cleansing

She’s the country’s numero uno Look Doctor. The premier Mistress of the Wardrobe. There’s (almost) nothing that personal stylist Annabel Hodin doesn’t know about clothes and how to make clients look better than their best. She handles the sartorial requirements of numerous celebrities — sprucing up their glossy mag and on-screen appearances — and also dresses City whizzes to Mayfair dames. She has an uncanny knack for knowing what works for you psychologically and physically – whether choosing a dress to give you extra confidence or recommending a dressmaker (to tweak that Celine sleeve). As plugged into Selfridges, Harvey Nicks and Harrods as cachet boutiques — from Westbourne Park Road to Marylebone — and the best of the high street, she finds you lasting investments as well as the chiconomies of life. Annabel’s own make-up is subtle and her clothes sophisticated, whether she’s garbed in Cos or Prada. First talent spotted by Anna Wintour, Annabel’s a role model for us all, and quite simply the best for going through your wardrobe, slimming it down and freshening it up.

From £350 for a wardrobe consultation – www.annabelhodin.com.

Annabel Hodin

SOPHIE THORPE – For The Queen of Eyebrows

Sophie Thorpe is the High Priestess of Brows. Others call her London’s Empress of Eyebrows. And Nigella dubs her The Eyebrow Master. Whatever, Sophie is the capital’s specialist in semi-permanent eyebrows. If you’ve ever under or over-plucked your eyebrows, have badly shaped brows or ones with no natural arch, she’s your lady. Or if you’re post chemo or suffering from alopecia. She looks after you from her white-on-white studio in a Knightsbridge townhouse near Brompton Cross. After dabbing on numbing cream, and using a fine needle, Sophie tattoos the semi-permanent mineral pigment hair by painstaking hair onto the skin using feathery strokes and a superfine needle. Between two and four weeks after the treatment, you have a top-up appointment to ensure that the results are parfaito. Your new eyebrows usually last between one and two years, depending on skin type and age. Get your brows done by Sophie and you’ll get an arch more perfect than the Bridge of Sighs and it’ll take years off your appearance. Plus you’ll look more Nigella than Joan Crawford. More George Clooney than George Michael.

From £350 for eyebrow tattoos (micropigmentation), +44 (0)20 7589 5899 – www.sophiethorpe.co.uk.

Sophie Thorpe

ANDREA GROLLET – For Semi-Permanent Make-Up

When it comes to eyes and lips, Andrea Grollet is the Michelangelo of semi-permanent make-up. Have your lips defined or eyeliner drawn (known as micropigmentation to those techies among you) by Andrea and you’ll never again look as if you’ve just fallen out of bed — even if you have. It’s especially great if you tend to do wobbly eyeliner yourself (that’s all of us) or are big on sports. Using a fine needle, the semi-permanent mineral pigment (German, so it’s probably ‘gut’ for you, and of such high quality that you could probably eat it) is tattooed onto the skin by Andrea, a specialist of 15 years. The procedure is a tad uncomfortable (so pop a Paracetamol) but safe. The undisputed doyenne will ‘draw’ top eyeliner, bottom eyeliner, lip-liner or even full lip colour, making you look cover-girl perfect. Your lashes will appear thicker once that top line is applied. Thin, uneven, faint or even asymmetrical lips will be corrected by her sleight of hand. Your make-up-free face will never look unmade-up again — and the excellent results may last well over a year. No wonder there’s a steady stream of le tout fashionable Londres leaving her Knightsbridge rooms. Women with eyelids that are weapons of mass distraction. Very Audrey Hepburn. And lips that leave Julia Roberts’ in the shade.

Prices from £50 for a concept consultation at Neville Hair and Beauty in Knightsbridge – www.andreagrollet.com.

Andrea Grollett

JOANNE EVANS – For Skin Matters

Former nurse Joanne Evans is one of London’s leading medical and beauty specialists. What she doesn’t know about skin isn’t worth knowing. She’s a tip-top facialist and also the Queen of Hair – hair removal, that is. She’ll pop you on a couch with a towel with ‘gratitude’ or ‘kindness’ or ‘love’ embroidered on it, and then deals with all your hirsute bits. She works her laser magic – on the boys with vintage Porsches and the coolest babes of London – in her calm, sage-coloured treatment room in Notting Hill. Sign her up too to make you younger — after all, you’re in the hands of someone who has more qualifications than a professor – think CIBTEC, BTEC, NVQ 3-4, IHBC, IIHHT, IIST, and BABTAC. Then let her and her team battle ageing with nutrition to hormones and cosmetic procedures. She’s a whizz at rejuvenation (micro-needling, anyone?), vein and pigmentation removal. She’ll fix you up with some Bro-tox (for him) and Botox (for her). Unsurprisingly, she has a waiting list that runs the length of Westbourne Grove. But if you can’t get an appointment with her, book one of her crack squad. She has a nurse who does infusions, an eyelash extension specialist, naturopath, and masseur. Afterwards, you can go to the Bodyism café for a low GI, organic, no gluten snack. Little wonder hers is the number on speed dial in all those Vogue employees’ iPhones.

+44 (0) 7710 381 438 – www.skin-matters.co.uk

Joanne Evans

DR TIM BRADSTOCK-SMITH – For A Smile Make-over

Need a smile make-over? Book Dr Tim Bradstock-Smith if you want excellent teeth. No self-respecting red carpet type would get out of bed without a perfect, pearly set. And he’s London’s go-to dentist and the only accredited member of the (world leading) American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry in the UK. He’s at The London Smile Clinic, the UK’s centre of excellence for cosmetic dentistry. Imagine a purpose-built space with glass frontage, leather sofas, and glass partitions….a clinic that boasts the most advanced dental methods and the latest interactive computer imaging and laser techniques. Think tip-top gadgets like a CT scanner cum X-ray machine that does cool 3D X-rays — one of only three such machines in the country — and lots of computer simulation to fine-tune the smile you’re going to get. Plus iPads for you to fill in your medical history, a Nespresso coffee machine to play with while you wait and DVD goggles to watch in-chair movies (but no horror movies to make you jump). Get everything from gum re-shaping and white fillings to closing gaps, reconstructions and replacing missing teeth. From bonding to veneers to teeth straightening. Or a thorough Hygiene Clean and Phillips Zoom Whitening Treatment using LED light activation for optimised results. Catherine Zeta Jones has veneers and Beyonce and Britney Spears have whitened their teeth. Gwen Stefani and Kelly Brook have also used cosmetic dentistry to perfect their smiles. With The London Smile Clinic, you get to join this select club. With results natural-looking enough to make anyone smile. Broadly.

Hygiene Clean and Phillips Zoom Whitening Treatment is £995, +44 (0)207 225 2559 – www.londonsmile.co.uk.

Dr Tim Bradstock-Smith

DANIEL GALVIN JR – For The Snipper Who’ll Give You A Power Lunch

When time is money, the Daniel Galvin Jr. Power Lunch is the only way to go. It’s a double speed, double quality approach to hair and nails. Daniel colours your hair while — working like synchronised swimmers — his right-hand woman, Olivia, also colours your tresses. That way, you get a full head of highlights in half the time. Simultaneously, you eat your kale and pumpkin seed salad, quinoa porridge or buckwheat pancake delivered from Grace Belgravia, and refuel on a detox organic drink. Then you’ll have either a mani or pedi while the dynamic duo finish colouring your hair. Afterwards, they’ll use Daniel’s own award-winning organic products — saving you from carcinogens and other nasties. Then Oli ‘Harry’ Styles will cut your locks and give you what Lady Thatcher termed a ‘blow job.’ While you’re in your chair in the Dior-grey and white Belgravia boutique salon, Daniel (impossibly good looking and wearing his three-piece suit with pocket hanky) may regale with stories of his amateur boxing career. You’ll spy on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie — not to mention Kelly Brook and Carol Vorderman — if they’re in there. Before you know it, your hair and nails will be finito. And boy, will they have made your tresses look good, getting the exact shade of ‘sun-kissed babe’ or ‘Duchess of Cambridge.’ Hair royalty, hair-raiser – Daniel has been called many things. He’s not just a Prince’s Trust Ambassador and fourth generation hairdresser — his great-grandfather snipped tresses in his tailcoat, his father coiffed the Beatles, Princess Diana and Twiggy, and he himself develops HRH’s signature range. More importantly, Daniel sure knows a thing or two about making a special lunch.

Available at the Belgravia salon and Lanesborough Hotel Mayfair salon by appointment only, £1500 for two hours – www.danielgalvinjunior.com.

Daniel Galvin Jr.

Daniel Galvin Jr.

VAISHALY – For The Super Facialist To The Superstars

Vaishaly — like Madonna and Brad, she’s known only by her first name — gives one of the best facials in town at her discreet clinic in Marylebone. She’s a practising Buddhist, who has always had a passion – even a calling – for her work. She’s facialist to the stars – or, rather, super facialist to the superstars. Elle McPherson, Nigella and Gwyneth are all regulars. Vaishaly ‘reads’ your energy and uses the face for diagnosis, much as reflexologists work with the feet. Each client’s facial is tailor-made on the day, factoring in everything from the season to a client’s hormonal state and general wellbeing. Then Vaishaly uses her intuition and magic hands — plus her own-brand organic products — to begin rejuvenating your skin. Her signature facial (which is also given by her excellent team of therapists) includes a facial massage, cranial techniques, Reiki and manual lymphatic drainage. It’s the world’s only facial to include cranial work. During the mask, Vaishaly focuses on your neck, shoulders, scalp and face – lightly releasing tensions and banishing stress. A holistic treatment that takes you to heaven and back several times – without moving from her Marylebone clinic with its flickering candles and serene Buddhas. Your face will look clearer, smoother and naturally radiant. And you’ll want to return within weeks to the clinic with its rose petals and French lemon grove and lavender field scents. Little surprise that she has a three-month waiting list and is known as the Skin Goddess.

The Signature Vaishaly Facial with Vaishaly herself is priced at £200, +44 (0)20 7224 6088 – www.vaishaly.com.