Blog Archives

Escape To An Arctic Bubble Cabin In Swedish Lapland By The Luxury Channel

This winter, why not escape to what is thought to be the world’s first Arctic cabin contained inside a huge, clear igloo bubble! Each cosy cabin is situated on the banks of a frozen Arctic River, and is entirely surrounded by an igloo-inspired bubble.

Called the Ice & Light Village, the bubble cabins can be found near the Arctic Circle on the banks of the Kalix River in Swedish Lapland. The cosy, relaxing cabins have been built to offer the perfect setting from which to experience Arctic nature, as the windows in the walls and roof allow guests to connect with the wilderness around them.

The whole cabin, including an outside area, has been contained inside a huge, heated bubble, keeping guests safe and warm within their very own Arctic “snow globe.” Guests are therefore able to sit comfortably outside their cabin in the midst of the Arctic winter, within the confines of their bubble, while their self-contained cabin includes all the home comforts of a Scandinavian Arctic lodge.

The modern and unique accommodation can be moved to the perfect spot for guests to experience nature in the Arctic. This winter, the bubbles are housed on the banks of the frozen Kalix River, providing the perfect spot for wildlife-watching and seeing the Northern Lights.

A stay in one of the five cabins includes a fridge stocked with local treats for a relaxing breakfast. Local restaurants, including one owned by a former Swedish master chef finalist, allow guests to experience local cuisine at its best.

Each of the five Ice & Light bubble cabins has been decorated with images from local photographer Lennart Åström, who captured the region across different seasons – from snowy scenes of frozen winter, to images of the abundant forests during summer. Each cabin sleeps two people and includes an open-plan sleeping and sitting area, created with an unmistakable Scandinavian design.

The project is the brainchild of Maarit Lindvall, who started development three years ago alongside her nice, Emma Strömberg, an architect from Gothenburg, who designed and built the first ever Ice & Light cabin. “We wanted our guests to not only be able to experience the wilderness, but also to create a stay that was environmentally friendly,” says Maarit. “Not only does the bubble add another layer of protection from the Arctic weather, but each cabin is entirely self-contained, just requiring electricity for heat and light, completely reducing its impact on the local ecosystem.”

A stay at the Ice & Light Village in Kalix is available all year around and this winter will cost from 1690 SEK (approximately £150) for a two-person cabin (with either a twin or double bed), hot water, a private bathroom, breakfast, and use of kick sleds. Rental of ice-fishing equipment, snowshoeing, cross-country skis and additional activities such as husky tours and snow mobile expeditions are available at an additional cost.

It is recommended that guests fly into Luleå Airport, from which it is a 1-hour drive to Kalix and the Ice & Light Village.

For more information about the Ice & Light Village experience, visit www.ice-and-light.com, or to learn more about the region, visit www.swedishlapland.com.

Interior Designer Of The Year Announced At The Design Excellence Awards By The Luxury Channel

The Interior Design Confederation Singapore (IDCS) has announced the winners of the 7th Design Excellence Awards 2020, which celebrate the best interior design projects in Asia Pacific and recognise the best and brightest talents working in the interior design industry today.

Image courtesy of IDCS and Bill Bensley

This latest edition of the prestigious Design Excellence Awards – held virtually this year for the first time – saw 92 awards given out across 32 categories, recognising interior design excellence, innovation and talent throughout Singapore, Asia Pacific and the rest of the world.

Considered an industry seal of excellence, the DEA 2020 saw a marked elevation in both the quality and quantity of submissions, with entries received from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK, USA and Vietnam. The Awards are some of the highest accolades bestowed to the very best of the interior design industry.

Image courtesy of IDCS and Bill Bensley

Interior Designer of the Year

Winner: Bill Bensley

The title of the Interior Designer of the Year 2020 – arguably one of the most anticipated announcements of the evening – went to Bill Bensley, who was voted by 1200 of his peers in the interior design industry from a shortlist of eight nominees chosen by the IDCS Council. As well as Mr. Bensley, the nominees for the award included world-renowned designers Andre Fu, Anouska Hempel, Jean Michel Gathy, Joyce Wang, LTW Designworks, Tony Chi and Yabu Pushelberg.

Bill Bensley describes himself as a jack of all trades…. architect, gardener, interior designer, lover of all things natural, and most of all, a wide-ranging explorer of as many corners of the earth as he can. Raised amidst the orange trees of California, the Harvard Graduate took off for Asia the day after graduation and never looked back. After a few years working in Hong Kong and Singapore, he set up shop in Bangkok in 1989, soon followed by a brand in Bali in 1990. With a team of 150 interior designers, architects, landscape designers, artists and makers of all things beautiful – as well as his other half Jirachai and their five Jack Russells – Bensley has brought to life over 200 resorts, hotels and palaces in 30+ countries, and is on a never-ending quest to create his best work yet.

Image courtesy of IDCS and Bill Bensley

Of his win, Mr. Bensley said, “It is such an honour to have been voted for the Interior Designer of the Year 2020 by designers as they, more than anyone else, understand what we do and all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I never in a million years expected to be shortlisted, let alone win among all the incredible designers out there! I am truly honoured. Thank-you so much. To young designers out there – trust your gut and know there is great merit in not playing it safe!”

The Art of Luxury At Shoreditch’s Andaz Hotel By Scott Manson

Shoreditch’s Andaz hotel combines street art with slick service – and a hidden Masonic temple only adds to the fun – says Scott Manson….

London’s Shoreditch has long been a barometer of what’s cool. Granted, the area that began its fashionable journey as a place where artists could rent cheap spaces to live and work may now be more corporate, but it still has an edge – if you know where to look for it.

We came across some of our favourite bits of Shoreditch while following the trail set by an East London graffiti tour app we’d downloaded. Darting here and there around backstreets that looked very far from gentrification, we discovered some great street art (including a Banksy) – and felt a million miles from the financial towers and smart restaurants that have come to dominate the area.

Our room for the night was at the Andaz hotel – a Grade II-listed Victorian building originally built in 1884 as the Great Eastern Hotel. Fittingly, it combines the best of the old and the new – from the oak-panelled George pub to an atrium that could have been designed by Escher. Fine old fixtures and fittings still dominate, from its marble staircases to mosaic floor tiling and a perfectly preserved Masonic temple featuring a stunning Zodiac-designed ceiling. It’s usually reserved for meetings but ask nicely and one of the staff will let you in for a quick look.

Our suite had a contemporary feel and featured walls decorated with artwork from local street artists. There was a large L-shaped couch that was perfect for lounging and, wonder of wonders, a free minibar. No alcohol in there, mind, but plenty of soft drinks, juices, crisps and chocolate. A separate bedroom offered a supremely comfy king-sized bed, flat screen TV and a great view of the busy streets below. And despite it being a Friday – party night in Shoreditch – we could hear nothing of the bacchanalian roars from below.

Dinner that night was at Rake’s Café Bar, one of seven restaurants and bars in the hotel – from a traditional pub to Miyako, a well-respected Japanese restaurant.

Rake’s is an easy-going affair, with a comprehensive all-day dining menu that covers off plenty of crowd-pleasers (burgers and steak were present and correct), together with a few more eclectic offerings, all served in a buzzing room filled with lush foliage.

A delicate starter of calamari and shrimp – covered in a crispy semolina coating alongside dips of saffron alioli and chilli gremolata – felt like a neat take on fritto misto. It was crunchy, salty and a perfect accompaniment to the spicy bottle of shiraz we’d ordered. Despite seeing some seriously good-looking burgers being ferried past our table, I resisted the urge to order one for my main course – instead going for the coffee crust Welsh rack of lamb, served with truffled mashed potato, lemon garlic asparagus and mint. The medium-rare meat was heavenly, while the truffled mashed potato could be my new favourite side dish. I made a mental note to order some truffle oil pronto.

That relaxed vibe continued throughout our stay, from the complementary glass of prosecco while checking-in, to the offer of a late check-out – some hotels will almost make you beg for this – the Andaz is a slick but convivial affair. And while it might sit next to the shining steel and glass of London’s financial district, it’s clear from our stay that, despite being part of the Hyatt group, this venerable property is no corporate clone. For a day (or big night) out in East London, this is where I’d like to wake up the next morning – a place with a style all of its own.

Further Information

Andaz Staycation Special:
• Right now, the hotel is running a special Staycation offer where guests staying two nights receive £100 of hotel credit for just £1.
• There’s also an extension of the Andaz Wine Hour to the whole day, so all hotel guests can indulge in a complimentary daily glass of wine at their convenience.

For more information and to make a booking, click here.

A Family Affair At Romulo Café & Restaurant By Scott Manson

As Scott Manson finds out, Kensington’s Romulo Café & Restaurant is flying the flag for London’s finest Filipino cuisine….

Well, this is a first. In over a decade of reviewing restaurants, I’ve never tried Filipino cuisine. In fairness, I’m based in London and they’re pretty thin on the ground here. There are a few pop-ups doing their take on fried chicken at various food markets, but not the sort of thing that would sit happily on the pages of this website.

Step forward, then, the wonderful Romulo Café & Restaurant. Something of a well-kept secret – known mostly to those living near its home in the quieter end of Kensington High Street – it’s time for this place to be celebrated as one of the capital’s best little local dining rooms. And don’t be fooled by the name. This is not a café, but a low-key luxe restaurant complete with marble-topped tables, a decent wine list (with many great wines by the glass) and impeccable service.

Although it feels like a cool indie one-off, it’s actually part of a small group of restaurants with branches in the Philippines. It takes its name from the grandfather of one of the owners, General Carlos P. Romulo – former diplomat, statesman, soldier, journalist, publisher, author and one-time president of the UN General Assembly. On the strength of my visit, I’m sure that this distinguished gentleman would be proud of what his granddaughter Rowena has achieved.

On entering, Romulo Café & Restaurant instantly has that warm, fun feel that’s the hallmark of a good neighbourhood restaurant. It may have been my first visit, but it felt like I was a valuable regular customer – the waiter affable and friendly but never over-attentive.

The menu is long, so I’d recommend asking for a few explanations. However, if you want to plough straight ahead than I’d say our order was as near to perfect as can be. Eat the following and you’ll leave full and utterly content. The warm, fluffy Filipino rolls are perfect for soaking up every bit of the spitting-hot chicken sisig – strips of chicken in achiote, ginger, chilli and garlic. Another must-have is the signature dish of Dingley Dell free-range pork belly adobo, slowly simmered and served with a trio of potatoes. There’s rice, of course – we ordered way too much of the fragrant garlic fried rice, but luckily there’s also a doggy bag option for those who can’t quite manage everything.

Oh, and the confit duck leg bao bun plate is fabulous – fluffy bao buns meeting tender duck in a Filipino take on the Chinese crispy duck, with pancakes on a sharing plate. Veggie diners are also in for a treat, with the jackfruit and coconut stew offering spice and fruitiness in equal measures.

It’s a relaxed, homely place, but without feeling twee. Perfect for a date, but also good for a lively night out with friends. And in an area of London dominated by more ‘‘serious’’ temples of gastronomy, Romulo Café’s elbows-on-the-table informality, combined with some sterling cooking, makes it a great ambassador for Filipino food – the unsung hero of Oriental cuisine.

For more information, go to www.romulocafe.co.uk.

A Dream of A Ghost – Introducing The New Ghost By Rolls-Royce By Fiona Sanderson

I think every girl deserves a Cinderella moment once in their lives, especially if they find one that fits like a magic slipper. For me, I was lucky enough to experience this when Rolls-Royce invited me to be one of the first to test drive the New Ghost – a car that felt as though it had been custom-made just for me.

Quite often, when one thinks of the word “luxury,” one invariably conjures up dream-like notions of the best that money can buy, the finest materials, and the very best craftsmanship. With the launch of the New Ghost by Rolls-Royce, the marque is definitely tapping into a dream-like state of mind, because this car is nothing short of a masterclass in how to design the ultimate in automotive luxury.

Driving the New Ghost through the bucolic beauty of the Sussex Downs countryside, I was astonished to feel how light and smooth this car is to drive. Rolls-Royce has definitely captured the sheer simplicity of what being behind the wheel of a car should be all about – just enjoying the drive, enhanced by the pure elegance of the motor itself. If you’re looking for understated but true luxury, the Rolls-Royce New Ghost has it in spades.

For those who know their Rolls, it’s probably worth noting that everything about this car is different from the outgoing model, save the Spirit of Ecstasy sitting proudly on the bonnet, and the umbrella holders in the doors. Apart from those two things, everything else has been completely re-designed from the ground up.

Rolls-Royce says that the New Ghost is its most technically advanced model ever, but what really sets this car apart is its design. It’s easy to understand why it took six years to come to fruition, when you learn the meticulous process that was undertaken in order to achieve the smooth perfection of its lines. Rolls-Royce Designer Henry Cloke explained the process to me. “A car is made by joining the sides of the car to the roof,” he said. “The reason you have no disruption with the New Ghost and that you can read the fluidity from the bottom of the car, all the way over the roof and continuing to the back and beyond the rear lamp, is because when this car is made, it’s four people working simultaneously to weld the roof to the sides – and they’ve actually hand-finished it, which is why you can no longer see any seam at all. There’s that level of craft and that level of work that has to go into it, that means we can’t actually see that seam at all.”

If Rolls-Royce seems to be looking to go the extra mile for their customers with this car, it’s because their customers are the ones who inspired it. “When we were first trying to establish what the character of the car should be, we were looking to answer all the comments and questions we’ve had from our clients,” Cloke tells me. “On this car in particular, it is to have an almost restrained and less opulent way of owning a Rolls-Royce. Our clients wanted something with real substance to it, but not any kind of overt statement.”

Speaking about the New Ghost when compared to the original 2009 Goodwood Ghost, Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said that, “Our clients expressed a desire for something even more refined, even less ostentatious – a car with a minimalist design ethic, simple and distilled – but still, in every respect, a true Rolls-Royce. And so our design team set to work. They removed all unnecessary design embellishments and they erased superfluous detail on both the interior and exterior of New Ghost. Then our engineers completely reconfigured our Rolls-Royce architecture.”

It’s a whole new design aesthetic, but it’s one that works – this car is stunning! “It looks clean and elegant,” Cloke agrees. “The cleanliness of the design was really important to us – so that it doesn’t ever look fussy or complicated. It should look effortless.”

This car does not just look effortless – it is effortless to drive too, surprisingly so when you consider that it is five metres long, and two and a half tonnes of solid machinery! The New Ghost is fuelled by a 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 engine, not that you especially notice when you’re sat inside it. The interior components are tuned to a specific resonant frequency, all creating a sense of serenity. In every single way, the New Ghost is just sublime.

Naturally enough, it is perhaps Müller-Ötvös who best sums up the New Ghost: “In today’s world, where many people are seeking increased simplicity, refinement and restraint, this Rolls-Royce fits perfectly with the zeitgeist of our times. It’s quite simply Ghost – and nothing more.”

For more information about the New Ghost by Rolls-Royce, click here, or click here to see the film. To see our interview with Henry Cloke, the designer of the New Ghost, click here.

Fashion Forward – Escape To The George Hotel By Scott Manson

Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of the Superdry fashion empire, has launched a new hotel in Cheltenham. Scott Manson gets the inside track….

“When things go wrong, it’s just the universe showing you some new options.” This motivational poster-style platitude was uttered by my partner, as we wound our way up from London to Gloucester on the first day of what was supposed to be a weekend touring the Cotswolds. Unfortunately, the weather gods had other ideas and 48 hours of non-stop torrential rain was forecast.

“We were supposed to be going to Bourton-on-the-Water,” she continued brightly. “Looks like it’ll be Bourton-under-the-Water.”

I gripped the wheel tighter and drove on in silence.

We were heading for Cheltenham, with the plan being to make it our base as we pootled around pretty Cotswold villages for a couple of days. Now it looked like we were stuck in the town. There was no horse racing to see and I was pretty sure GCHQ didn’t do facility tours. So what else did Cheltenham have to offer?

As it happens, a whole lot.

For starters, it’s got a wonderful newly refurbished hotel in the form of The George, which is perfectly placed in the centre of this handsome town. It’s the first and flagship hotel of the Cult Hotels group, owned by local-boy-made-good Julian Dunkerton – co-founder of fashion giant Superdry. The guiding principle for this and future hotels is that they’re design-led, with a luxe feel, but at both a price and a guiding ethos that are more in touch with our times.

That means repurposing characterful old buildings, rather than tearing them apart, and employing sensible approaches to hygiene such as an automatic check-in, a help-yourself pantry and stationing hand sanitisers throughout.

The property itself is a beauty. Five stout Grade II-listed Regency townhouses combined into one 46-room hotel, complete with a cosy diner in the basement where breakfast is served. As you’d expect when your founder is a fashion expert, the rooms have an impeccable aesthetic – from the fabulously tiled bathroom with its rainfall shower and Sprekenhaus skincare products to the superking-sized Hypnos bed, complete with 400-thread count sheets, this is the perfect boutique bolthole. The décor is fashionably grey with splashes of colour, and huge windows ensure that the room is flooded with light.

It’s the little touches too, like the superfast Wi-Fi, free parking at the back of the hotel and staff whose friendliness is only matched by their attentiveness. At breakfast, for example, we chatted to our server about a long car journey we had ahead of us that day and, moments later, he reappeared with pastries neatly packaged in a paper takeaway box: “In case you need something to keep you going,” he said with a smile.

Another plus is that, despite this being a town centre hotel, there’s little noise from either The George’s residents or the road outside. Some heavy window drapes no doubt taking care of the latter, while the sonic damping of the hotel’s thick brick walls adding to the feeling that our room is a little haven of peace.

Dinner that night was at the No 131 restaurant, just five minutes walk from the hotel. It’s part of the Lucky Onion group, operator of several fashionable restaurants, pubs and hotels and owned by none other than Julian Dunkerton. Yes, he really is becoming the Rick Stein of the Cotswolds.

Set in another of those stunning white stucco buildings that Cheltenham does so well, the place is fabulous. Chandeliers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Venetian palace, soft leather seating and some great artwork. We were particularly taken with the neon-lit religious cross that provided an amusing counterpoint to some of the sinfully seductive meals that we could see being ferried past our table. Get a window seat if you can, as the view across to the pretty Imperial Gardens is a treat. There’s a lovely mix of diners too, from hip young things clearly making this the first port of a call on a big night out to a family celebrating a daughter’s birthday – No 131 feels special, but not intimidatingly so.

Happily, the food lived up to the surroundings. Kicking off with Isle of Wight heirloom tomatoes, served with mozzarella, avocado and house pesto, this was a simple dish done well, and bursting with flavour. I opted for the zingy yellowfin tuna tartare, with black sesame, soy, avocado, mango and walnut. The clean brightness of the fish was perfectly matched with the sweet fruit and deep umami of the soy sauce.

The standout dish, though, was the hiroko marinated fillet of beef, a tender centre cut marbled chunk, crusted here and there from the fire of the grill, but still beautifully pink inside. It came with crunchy, fluffy fries, aubergine ‘caviar,’ spinach, baby carrots and miso garlic butter, and was so generously portioned that I thought I may not finish it. Unsurprisingly, I did.

Dessert was a simple affair. Since it was a summer’s day, it felt only right to make English strawberries the centrepiece of our meal’s finale, served with meringue, strawberry coulis and whipped cream. Oh, and so hard was it to tear ourselves away from this lovely spot that we added a couple of Amarettos to allow for extra lingering.

Between this meal and our fabulous hotel, the doom and gloom of earlier felt like a distant memory. As we walked out off No 131 for an evening stroll around Cheltenham, the sun emerged. My partner was right – the evening suddenly felt filled with new options.

Contact Details

To make a reservation to stay at The George, visit www.culthotels.com. To make a reservation to dine at No 131, visit www.no131.com.

Conservation Innovation By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel takes a look at the latest conservation innovations from around the world….

Brown Hyaena Density Survey In Skeleton Coast National Park

Wilderness Safaris is supporting Emsie Verwey and the Skeleton Coast Brown Hyaena Project, as she begins the first official density survey for brown hyaenas in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park. Wilderness Safaris’ Sustainability Fund has sponsored the funds required to purchase camera traps, memory cards and batteries, in order for this vital conservation survey to begin in one of the world’s harshest wilderness environments. The Skeleton Coast Brown Hyaena Project will help to close the gap on the scarcity of studies conducted on the brown hyaena of north-western Namibia. In order to further assist the research, Wilderness Safaris is also upgrading the Research Centre at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp to include a laboratory with microscopes, to aid visiting researchers and conservation students alike. The aim is for the Research Centre to become a hub of knowledge, contributing not just to local conservation efforts, but to the whole country’s as well.

For more information about Wilderness Safaris, click here.

Coral Propagation Programme At Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa has teamed up with Reefscapers to offer guest-orientated activities, specifically designed to help save the surrounding coral reefs under threat. The hotel is introducing a programme where coral frames are placed around the resort’s house reef, as a result of El Nino, which took place in 2016 and saw unusually warm waters cause widespread coral bleaching. Weekly interactive frame-building activities led by experts will offer hands-on experience in how to ensure marine wildlife can continue to thrive, whilst reducing your own coral reef footprint. The structures are built locally in Baa Atoll Fulhadhoo, providing an alternative business to the 250 inhabitants whose sole previous source of employment was fishing. As part of this initiative, Sheraton Maldives will also appoint a marine biologist to be stationed at the resort and conduct marine life educational workshops and guided snorkelling tours. It is hoped the coral from these frames will eventually grow onto the natural reef substrate and will improve the coral cover to build the marine habitat, increasing the number of species of fish and sea life.

For more information about Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, click here.

Marine Conservation Work And Eco-Initiatives At Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa

Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa has been accredited with Green Globe certification, one of the highest standards for sustainability worldwide. The hotel has implemented a number of eco-initiatives, including bottling their own water from Mount Dauban and a monthly “Sustainable Day” to get guests involved in their eco-programmes, such as: showering with a sand timer to reduce water consumption, joining in with beach clean-ups and participating in meat-free days. These new initiatives complement the positive work that Hilton’s Marine Conservation Society is having on the surrounding reefs and marine-life through its coral restoration project along the island’s north-west coast. Guests can snorkel along a 650-metre coral trail which highlights the beauty of the reef, and there is also the option to adopt a piece of coral from the coral nursery and track its growth.

For more information about Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, click here.

Local Eco-Initiatives At Victoria Falls

With Victoria Falls at its highest water levels in a decade, serving as a reminder of just how important it is to protect our planet. Leading Zimbabwe hospitality operator, Africa Albida Tourism, is supporting a number of environmental organisations in the local community at Victoria Falls, including: Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (established at their flagship property, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge), Victoria Falls Recycling Plant (currently recycling plastic, paper and – in due course – glass and cans) and Victoria Falls clean-up campaigns. Africa Albida Tourism also prides itself on the eco-initiatives established at its four Victoria Falls hotels. Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was the first hotel in the country to employ an environmental architect and has set up a supplementary feeding site for endangered vultures in the Zambezi National Park. Five-star Victoria Falls Safari Club offers families the chance to try their Ethical Arts Package, with workshops including: a painting trip to a local Elephant Sanctuary; sculpture-making using recycled tin cans; an introduction to animal conservation; and a tour of Victoria Falls.

For more information about Africa Albida Tourism, click here.

Elephant Conservation Efforts At Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Providing a safe and secure habitat for elephants, the main focus of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is to promote human-elephant co-existence, monitoring the movement of herds, as well as ensuring landscape connectivity. Over 30 years of investment and commitment has allowed the team based at the Conservancy to continually record increasingly stable and rising wildlife numbers. In particular, conservation efforts by Lewa to save Africa’s iconic elephants are yielding positive results. Across a five year period, data collected from the Laikipia-Samburu-Marsabit ecosystem – regions surrounding and connecting to Lewa – showed a 12% increase in the elephant populations across the landscape.

For more information about Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, click here.

Escape To Kisawa Sanctuary In Mozambique By The Luxury Channel

Kisawa Sanctuary (image courtesy of The Boundary)

Kisawa Sanctuary, situated on the stunning white sands of Benguerra island just off the coast Mozambique, is a new standard in luxury hospitality. With environmental conservation firmly at the forefront of this ground-breaking project, Kisawa’s ambition is to bring natural wilderness and customer service together, inviting guests to discover their own rhythm of wellbeing in a spectacular natural setting. Kisawa – meaning “unbreakable,” which defines the resort’s overarching commitment to build a bond between people and place, and life and land – seamlessly balances the ease of feeling at home with all the benefits and amenities of an ultra-luxury resort.

Accommodation at the Sanctuary is comprised of 12 one, two and three bedroom bungalows, plus The Kisawa Residence, positioned within a 300-hectare stretch of forest, beach and sand dunes. Each bungalow is uniquely designed within its own one-acre plot, offering maximum privacy and optimum appreciation of the natural environment. Uninterrupted views extend across the beach front, while guests can make full use of a private swimming pool, massage hut and outdoor kitchen.

For those who don’t want to cook for themselves, Kisawa has multiple dining venues across the whole Sanctuary, including two beach “cozinhas.” Other facilities open to guests include the lagoon-style swimming pool, a beach bar and a library. The Sanctuary additionally benefits from a stand-alone spa, specialising in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic offerings, with striking architecture inspired by the island’s thatched village houses. For the more active, there is also a sand clay tennis court and a diving centre.

Kisawa Sanctuary (image courtesy of The Boundary)

Located in part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, this WWF National Marine Park is home to some of the richest and least explored subtropical ecosystems in the Indian Ocean. A dramatic 150 metre high sand dune overlooks the Sanctuary; a place more than 145 bird species – including flamingos – call home. Orca, marlin, manta rays, whale sharks and an assortment of dolphins are either regular visitors or permanent residents. The island’s warm, crystal clear waters are also a globally-significant nursery for mother and calf humpback whales, along with five species of nesting sea turtles.

Kisawa Sanctuary is the brainchild of Creative Director and Founder, Nina Flohr. A name most commonly associated with VistaJet, where she worked as Creative Director for ten years leading on everything from customer experience to brand strategy, Flohr has turned her attentions to the conservation and celebration of this unique part of the world.

“My mission for Kisawa is to create a level of hospitality and design that, to my knowledge, does not exist today,” she says. “We have used design as a tool, not as a style, to ensure Kisawa is integrated, culturally and environmentally, to Mozambique. We have studied the local vernacular, its materials and techniques, making the best use of local craftsmanship and what is available in sustainable supply.”

The interior of a villa at Kisawa Sanctuary (image courtesy of The Boundary)

The design that Kisawa’s architecture incorporates is a patented 3D printing technology, commissioned specifically for this project, created by a mortar comprised of the island’s sand and seawater. This revolutionary eco-friendly building material is used throughout the property. At Kisawa, this innovative technology is merged with Mozambican weaving, thatching, carpentry and textile skills (with patterns and prints inspired by regional traditions), involving artisans from across Benguerra and its neighbouring islands.

In addition to the construction of Kisawa, the 3D printer will also spend time on the other end of the island, printing sand coral reefs and marine habitats for the property’s non-profit organisation, Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, of which Flohr is also the founder. This marine research facility is home to the first long-term African Ocean Observatory, monitoring multiple ecosystems and ongoing climate change across the Western Indian Ocean.

Flohr adds: “We have designed Kisawa with our heads, hands, and hearts to create a sanctuary that brings nature, culture, and service together. In all that we offer, we want to support and enable our guests to do as they wish, when they wish.”

Kisawa Sanctuary (image courtesy of The Boundary)

Further Information

Rates start from 5,000 Euros per night for a 1 bedroom Bungalow, including a dedicated team of staff, private chefs, all food and beverages, access to the spa and other activities such as diving and marine safaris, plus your own electric vehicle and e-bikes to navigate the property. For more information, go to www.kisawasanctuary.com.

Cohorted – The Essentials Edit By The Luxury Channel

Cohorted, the UK’s no.1 premium subscription beauty box provider – as voted for by power houses Vogue, Elle, and The Telegraph, no less – has launched the world’s first PPE beauty box curation. “The Essentials Edit” is designed to provide everything needed for personal protection and beauty aftercare post-lockdown.

“The Essentials Edit” by Cohorted

Face masks are now mandatory on all public transport and in shops, supermarkets, and fast food outlets, with a fine of £100 issued to those who do not comply, following guidance from the World Health Organisation recommending that face masks can act as a barrier to prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others. Whilst we all need personal protection (PPE) to safely recover from the pandemic, the frequent use of PPE can be unkind to our skin. Cohorted’s Essentials Edit contains a month’s supply of essential items and the premium aftercare needed to keep skin glowing and feeling healthy.

“The Essentials Edit” by Cohorted

Inside each box, you will find:
4 x reusable, breathable, dust repellent, non-medical face masks
2 x hydrating face masks to use at home to give your skin a much-needed dose of TLC
2 x hand sanitisers
1 x face moisturiser
1 x hand cream

Every product within the box has been carefully sourced and is cruelty free. The packaging is ultra-responsible; Cohorted uses eco-friendly poly-mailers that are biodegradable and all items within the edit are 100% recyclable.

Music artist Elle L, Cohorted’s Beauty Ambassador (image courtesy of Danny de Marcos)

Music artist and Cohorted Beauty Ambassador, Elle L, is lending her support to the campaign. “I feel I have a responsibility to work with conscious brands that share the same philosophy as I do on progressively working towards creating a positive impact on the planet,” the artist says of her involvement. “I love looking after my skin but I have a busy lifestyle, so I am always trying to find the perfect self-care routine. I wanted to work with a brand in the eco-luxe beauty space that shares values that mean we can work on exciting projects that are inline with a sustainable ethos,” she tells us. “That led me to become Cohorted’s Beauty Ambassador. It’s a partnership that’s constantly evolving and a brand I’m really proud to be aligned with. The people behind Cohorted aren’t afraid to challenge themselves to become more circular and responsible. We have grown together very organically, and not only do we work on projects above the line, such as them being a gifting partner to many of my Fashion For Conservation projects, but we also work behind the scenes to ensure that Cohorted is always moving in a positive direction. Since we started working together, Cohorted have reduced their packaging by over 50%. This has been economically beneficial for them as a brand and has also helped them move closer to becoming more environmentally friendly. This is just one of the achievements that shows an example of their action around being a more sustainable brand.”

Music artist Elle L, Cohorted’s Beauty Ambassador (image courtesy of Danny de Marcos)

Although the RRP of Cohorted’s Essentials Edit is over £40, Cohorted are bringing “The Essentials Edit” PPE box to market for just £9.99 per month’s subscription. Cohorted is committed to giving back to our heroes and through “The Heroes Pledge,” for every new subscriber, an equal value donation of PPE will be made to the NHS. Cohorted is providing a 15% discount to NHS workers on their main line of Responsible Beauty Boxes.

Cohorted is supporting “The Heroes Pledge,” by giving an equal value donation of PPE to the NHS

In conjunction, a special series of interviews, called “Celebrating Our Heroes,” will also launch on Cohorted Cult, hosted by Elle L. Unique insights from life on the frontline will be explored in conversations with fertility specialist, Dr. Larisa Corda (from UK TV’s This Morning) and Nurse Sarah Mulindwa (from E4’s The Sex Clinic). Both have faced the realities of being on the frontline of the NHS during the peak of the pandemic. “There are so many unsung heroes whom we wanted to shine a light on – the work, sacrifices and experiences that people have made and how they have shaped our ongoing recovery from a challenging time globally,” Elle says of the reasons behind starting the interviews.

Presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby are joined by Dr. Larisa Corda and guests on “This Morning” (image courtesy of Ken McKay, ITV, Rex Features and Shutterstock)

The final question that we put to Elle was to ask her what her personal favourite product of The Essentials Edit is. “The Natura Hydrating Face Masks,” she smiles. “They are vegan, biodegradable, calming and nourishing for the skin, which is perfect to reduce the negative impact of PPE, and the ingredients are sourced from highly-potent botanicals.” Elle adds that “….all the products are sent in a postbox-friendly, biodegradable poly-mailer, so this is another favourite element of the box!”

Elle L’s favourite hydrating face masks in the Cohorted “Essentials Edit” contain rose water and lavender oil to nourish skin (images courtesy of Tiffany Chan and Sharon McCutcheon)

The Essentials Edit by Cohorted is available for just £9.99 for a monthly subscription from www.cohorted.co.uk/pages/essentials-box.

Create An At-Home Spa With Esther Cato Wellness By Caroline Phillips

Image courtesy of Dorne Marting

If you want a masseur with magic fingers who’s bookable throughout the year, Esther Cato is your lady. It’s not just that this healer-meets-ultimate-stress-buster-meets-masseur is so available. It’s also that she’s so good. So thank your lucky stars that government restrictions have just lifted, and book to see Esther in your London home for a deep tissue therapeutic massage. Or bag her for a pregnancy massage. Or a Swedish one.

She’ll take all the necessary pandemic precautions by travelling responsibly, doing a super cleanse between treatments and wearing a mask, visor and plastic apron. But somehow she’ll also create an ambience that puts the ‘ahhhhh’ into home spa.

She’ll spritz your room with lavender and light a handmade ginger and neroli candle. And offer you a heated massage couch, classical music or hypnotic recordings of the sea. A sometimes meditation teacher, she may even play a soundtrack to help you imagine that you’re ambling in a forest or slumbering on a beach, as she releases those lockdown-tense muscles.

Image courtesy of Camille Brodard

Esther may have a meditative, mindful manner, which is just what’s needed after those stressy months of near house arrest. But she’s not some airy-fairy, New Age type who learnt her trade on a weekend course. She’s been massaging since 2001 and studied Anatomy, Physiology and has a post grad in Psychology. Plus she’s worked for FTSE companies tending their employees’ tight muscles and has helped hundreds of folk with everything from sciatica to burn-out and sports injuries.

She’ll press your trigger points and muscular knots, releasing them faster than you can say, ‘ouch.’ She’ll use neuromuscular techniques (stretching and pulling to help you find your own range naturally), Myofascial Release therapy (focusing on releasing muscular shortness and tightness) and Manual Lymphatic Drainage (great for losing weight or pre-surgery, and increasingly she’s been treating people after plastic surgery).

If you have hunched shoulders (the bane of those working at computers), she’ll sort them. If all those months of Zoom meetings have left their imprint in muscular tightness and joint stiffness, she’ll deal with it.

You’ll be left stretched, pummelled, relaxed and wafting of sandalwood oil — that grounds you — and rose oil — that nourishes your tired skin. Additionally you’ll notice the gentle waft of fractionated coconut oil (that’s vegan, distilled, pure and organic) on your newly scented body.

Esther may also prescribe her alchemical blend of Epsom salts with ginger, orange and neroli oils for your bath afterwards. That’s if you can stay awake that long. Anyone for home spaaaaaaahhh?

Further Information

Prices start from £80 for a home visit plus travel. Esther is available throughout the year, save for Christmas and New Year’s Day. For further information or to book an appointment, e-mail chamomilecouch@gmail.com or visit www.esthercatowellness.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.

The Luxury of True Vision Without Glasses By Fiona Sanderson

If you’re fed up with spending hours looking for your glasses and or have to switch between pairs of glasses on your head depending on whether you need to read something on the computer or drive along the motorway, then you are in the place I was a year ago. By something akin to a miracle, my life has changed considerably and I can now see without glasses; write articles, read the smallest of print and can “dress to impress” without having to worry if my glasses match my latest Alexander McQueen outfit.

Fiona before receiving treatment at London Vision Clinic

Over the last few years, I have met people who have undergone laser treatments to correct their vision, but it was always something that I was wary of doing and I thought this it was only available for people with short sightedness (no focus in the distance) and not a reading problem, as I thought I had. However, I was persuaded by a girlfriend to have a consultation with Professor Dan Reinstein at the London Vision Clinic, who she assured me was a pioneer in this field. I knew almost immediately that I was in the right hands. Over his 25-year career, Professor Reinstein has built an international reputation as a uniquely experienced and pioneering LASIK surgeon. For over two decades, he has dedicated himself solely to Laser Eye Surgery, and is one of the few Ophthalmic Surgeons in the UK to do so, having delivered over 1000 professional lectures, with 165 published articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals to date. I booked myself in and planned to have the surgery a few weeks later.

Images © John Angerson, London Vision Clinic, Harley Street, London

When it comes to your eyes, safety is probably everyone’s main concern, Professor Reinstein told me. “Most people are ignorant of the facts,” he said. “We have conducted thousands of Laser Eye Surgery operations — in the right hands, it is extremely safe.” This was very reassuring. He told me that for my eyes, which were a mix of long and short sighted, I would need Laser Blended Vision, otherwise known as presbyopia. Presbyopia literally translates as “old eye.” Unfortunately, ageing affects the eye just as it affects every other part of the body — the lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape and “zoom” from distance to near and back. But it’s not all bad news. “We can treat 98% of people — including those with very high prescriptions,” Professor Reinstein told me.

Image © John Angerson, London Vision Clinic, Harley Street, London

First available in the UK at London Vision Clinic, PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision is an innovative treatment for ageing eyes that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate, the need for reading glasses, bifocals, or varifocals for many years. This method of increasing the depth of field of the eye, using a revolutionary Laser Eye Surgery technique, was pioneered over 10 years ago by Professor Reinstein in conjunction with Carl Zeiss Meditec. As well as being significantly less invasive, studies have shown that PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision is suitable for pretty much anyone. After treatment, over 90% of PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision patients say they can read print as small as the type on medicine bottle inserts.

Image © John Angerson, London Vision Clinic, Harley Street, London, UK

A few appointments and tests later, I arrived on the morning of surgery feeling very nervous, but Professor Reinstein was so confident and reassuring that he made me feel I had nothing to worry about — and the end result justified this. I was whisked into a state-of-the-art surgery room to hear the soothing voice of Professor Reinstein whilst I was prepared for this very short surgery. Really, it was only minutes and I didn’t feel a thing as I looked into the abyss of a laser scope window. Laser Eye Surgery is so minimally-invasive that, after receiving the treatment, apart from the new, improved and glasses-free vision, I had little or no signs that it had ever happened. I was told to rest for the next few hours and had some very mild discomfort where my eyes were stinging a little bit, but this was comfortably managed with the eye drops provided.

Image © John Angerson, London Vision Clinic, Harley Street, London

As the months have passed, my vision has become even clearer as my brain has adapted to the new way of seeing. I can honestly say after testing from my follow-up visits that I now have 20/20 vision and nothing is stopping me. This surgery is life-changing, and it’s by far the best investment that I have ever made. It’s helped me in my work life and has improved my social life — in fact, I feel about ten years younger! All the staff at London Vision Clinic were very professional, and I have received excellent service and patient care before, during and after I had the surgery.

If you’d like to book a consultation, or find out more about Laser Eye Surgery for ageing eyes, give London Vision Clinic a call on +44 (0)20 7224 1005, or visit www.londonvisionclinic.com. Go behind the scenes and follow the patient journey by clicking here.

Bucket List Adventures By The Luxury Channel

Award-winning adventure travel specialists, Wild Frontiers, has released their Bucket List Adventures for 2021, featuring some of the most awe-inspiring destinations and experiences around the world. The company has also announced the extension their £25 deposit scheme, meaning that customers can book any group or tailor-made trip before the end of August 2020 and pay a deposit of just £25 (or equivalent) per person. This is applicable for travel trips through to 2022.

Silk Road Adventure

Explore the full length of the Great Silk Road on an epic 48 day adventure….

Discover the full length of the Silk Road from its original starting point in Xian, China, to the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Highlights on this 48-day Silk Road Adventure will include Xian’s Terracotta Warriors, Kashgar Market, the legendary Silk Road city of Samarkand, the mosques and madrasas of Isfahan and Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. The tour will travel 12,000 kilometres mostly overland, crossing six countries and taking in some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, ranging from desert to mountains and grasslands. Guests will see and meet a variety of people from Uighurs to Uzbeks, Persians, Turkmens and Kyrgys, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of the most romantic names in world exploration, such as Marco Polo, Zhang Qian and Ibn Battuta.

This 48 day tour departs on 31st August 2021, costing from £11,395 per person, and includes accommodation, most meals, guided excursions, transfers and the services of a Tour Leader.

Northern Lights Adventure

Marvel at the natural wonder of the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland….

This spectacular five day adventure offers guests the chance to experience some of the most remote landscapes in Finnish Lapland. Beginning in Muonio, at a charming hotel located close to the inspiring scenery of the Pallas-Ylläs National Park, the trip will include two unforgettable days exploring the dramatic Arctic wilderness by dog sled. Managing a team of 4-5 huskies, guests will drive their sled across the amazing snow-covered landscapes of the high Arctic fells, travelling around 25 kilometres each day and overnighting in a secluded wilderness cabin. There will be opportunities to visit a reindeer farm, try out snowshoeing and take a skiing trip around the Arctic lake. Spending the evening indulging in a sumptuous Lappish dinner, guests can later return to their secluded and romantic Aurora Dome to spend the evening marvelling at the magical Northern Lights from the luxury and comfort of their bedroom.

This five day trip costs from £2,275 land-only price, and includes accommodation, most meals, guided excursions, transfers and the services of a Tour Leader.

Oman Desert Adventure

Journey deep into the heart of the Oman Desert to sleep under the stars….

Oman is one of Arabia’s true gems – a land of rugged coastlines and vast deserts where tradition and progress go hand in hand. This wonderful adventure takes travellers from the heart of the country’s picturesque capital, Muscat, deep into mountains and deserts of the Bedu and the old Omani Imamate. Taking in the breathless landscapes of the Hajar Mountains and the shifting sands of Wahiba, guests will explore the old forts of Jabrin and Nizwa and journey into the vast emptiness of the Rub Al Khali, the Empty Quarter. This journey of incredible contrasts gives guests the unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the pioneering explorers of old, taking in some of the richest natural and cultural highlights that Arabia has to offer.

This 11 day tour departs on 21st January 2021, costing from £2,790 per person, and includes accommodation, most meals, guided excursions, transfers and the services of a Tour Leader.

Cambodia Adventure

Experience the mystery and majesty of Cambodia and the Angkor Temples….

This comprehensive tour starts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s riverside capital, and travels lesser known routes out to the jungles of Mondulkiri to spend time at an elephant rescue project, and then on to Kratie on the mighty Mekong River to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. During the trip, guests will take in remote Preah Vihear, off limits for years and easily the most dramatically-located temple in Cambodia, colonial Battambang, and the ruins of Angkor Wat. There will be a number of walking opportunities and lots of chances to interact with the wonderful people of Cambodia, all of whom will have their own unique story to tell about life under the Khmer Rouge. This trip offers the best opportunity to get under the skin of this amazing country and see a wide variety of its landscapes, wildlife and ancient monuments, as well as experience daily life and one of Asia’s most exotic cuisines.

This 14 day tour departs on 21st February 2021, costing from £2,895 per person, and includes accommodation, most meals, guided excursions, transfers and the services of a Tour Leader.

Namibia Desert Adventure

Hike up the famous red sand dunes of the Namib Desert for a sundowner….

Namibia is a land full of incredible geological wonders, spectacular landscapes, diverse game and a whole host of unexplored regions. The country is undoubtedly one of Southern Africa’s most enthralling destinations and a top bucket list contender. This trip focuses on the diversity of this impressive country that has barely changed for thousands of years. From the rolling red sand dunes of the Namib Desert to the boulder-festooned grassy plains of Damaraland, guests will visit spectacular waterfalls and lands rich in wildlife. Travelling from the interior to the river border with Angola makes this an incredible adventure that will stay with you forever.

This 14 day tour departs on the 9th May 2021, costing from £3,295 per person, and includes accommodation, most meals, guided excursions, transfers and the services of a Tour Leader.

For more information, or to book a tour with Wild Frontiers, call +44 (0)208 741 7390 or visit www.wildfrontierstravel.com.

Designing The Next Generation of Superyacht With Jean-Louis Stutzmann Interview by Fiona Sanderson and words by Hannah Norman

The Luxury Channel meets Jean-Louis Stutzmann, Chief Designer of M/Y NJORD, the world’s ultimate private residential superyacht….

Jean-Louis Stutzmann (image courtesy of Fiona Sanderson)

He’s one of the world’s foremost marine designers, but when it comes to discussing his first moves into the industry, Jean-Louis Stutzmann is remarkably candid. “I got into the marine design industry because there was an opening at my local shipbuilding company,” he says. “I started working in the design office of the shipyard but it appeared to be a dying industry back in those days in the UK. However, I stayed in the marine industry for a few years before studying for my engineering degree. My passion took me back to design so I subsequently took my Masters degree in interior design – although as it turned out, my engineering knowledge has been more than useful.”

Stutzmann has been witness to several key changes in the industry over the years, such as “the increased design, sustainability and technological standards of materials and finishes that are available today, which allow for greater creativity and expression. Also, the use of CGI, which lets you see what you may miss on a flat drawing sheet and check on colour balance and harmony.”

Today, Stutzmann is a noted interior designer with an extensive career in ocean liner, superyacht and luxury residential design, and therefore an obvious choice to be involved with the M/Y NJORD project. Described as ‘the next generation of superyacht,’ the designers behind M/Y NJORD are re-writing the rules, by taking design and technology to new heights, combining the ultimate in luxury travel with research and philanthropy. “I have been involved with this project from the beginning,” Stutzmann tells us, adding that the project, understandably, is “….far more involved than one can ever imagine – but it is also one of the most enjoyable and satisfying projects, where every challenge has actually created a better product.”

Jean-Louis Stutzmann

Speaking of challenges, there have been several throughout Stutzmann’s storied career. However, he’s quick to point out that all challenges are surmountable, and most often lead to the work of which he’s most proud. “When I initially worked in the design office of a shipyard, there was a small cargo ship that looked as though it was on its way to becoming an ‘ugly duckling,’” he smiles fondly. “I worked on the development of it – and by the end of the project, everyone liked it.”

Stutzmann is similarly proud of the whole design ethos he has developed for M/Y NJORD. “I have put a lot of thought into the design of this private residential yacht to achieve a functional, efficient layout of the deck plans,” he says. “The whole yacht will be built with a very high standard of materials and I wish to have a considered thread of elegant continuity throughout. There will be no hotel lobby, no cruise ship type atrium, and all residents’ guests will be personally escorted on board. There will always be an elegant and comfortable feel from the moment one steps on board, with a design that is not tiring on the eye – a design that will make you think, ‘I’m home.’”

Working alongside Stutzmann to create this maritime masterpiece is Espen Øino International, the world’s leading superyacht design company. Every detail will be meticulously designed to enhance the residents’ onboard experience. As well as being both spacious and elegantly appointed, each of the 118 private residences will boast a private terrace, floor-to-ceiling picture windows and sea views from every bedroom and living area.

An example of the interior of a private residence aboard M/Y NJORD overlooking Sydney

“The interior produces the exterior profile and the design brief for the residences and outside views, which has eliminated the familiar superyacht image of a high point cascading down to a long hull,” Stutzmann explains. “The silhouette, the bow and the stern aspects could be manipulated, but we needed to add styling lines to the central mass. Discussions with Espen Øino and Paolo Barbuscia were mutually understood, and they created a distinctive dissection of this central mass along with styling lines overall. When you become involved with passenger vessels, the steel comes first, and you have to work around it. It can be quite satisfying to achieve a layout that works well, when at first it appeared complex due to limitations caused by structure, service duct requirements and code compliance, for instance.”

As part of discussions, Stutzmann has placed a huge emphasis on the environmental concerns raised by designing a ship that will make annual circumnavigations of the globe. “With the environment in mind, together with the values behind the M/Y NJORD project, we have followed strict adherence to environmental requirements and integrated different types of fuel including battery power, with an additional budgetary allowance to accommodate further developments than are available at present with electrical power, as this technology increases over the build period.”

Quite aside from the environment, there are also the considerations that Stutzmann and the whole team have made in respect to M/Y NJORD’s crew quarters. In an industry-first, all crew members will have their own, personal room (the industry-wide standard is shared accommodation). Ocean Residences Development – the developers behind M/Y NJORD – have stressed that crew welfare is of utmost importance, seeing as it is their experience that will be relied upon to anticipate each guest’s needs. With a proposed 2:1 guest-to-crew ratio, this is clearly an innovative proposition. “This ensures the best possible service and operations by the crew,” Stutzmann says when explaining the decision for individual crew cabins. “All crew accommodation will be well designed by us.”

Interior rendering of M/Y NJORD (image courtesy of FM Architettura)

Whilst the wider industry doesn’t adopt this practice as standard, Stutzmann is hopeful that other companies will copy M/Y NJORD’s ground-breaking approach. “All shipyards have their own builders’ standards for crew accommodation for merchant shipping, and this has passed down over into cruise shipping,” he explains, “but I hope that what we wish to achieve for crew accommodation aboard M/Y NJORD will be noted by cruise companies to improve their crew conditions and appearance.”

For his own work, Stutzmann draws inspiration from the natural world around him. “Nature is my cathedral,” he enthuses, “and flowers are my greatest luxury. Flowers are all so very different for the same achievement and have so much beauty by many aspects of evolution to attract pollination, as indeed evolution itself is a fascination.”

As a further source of inspiration, Stutzmann holds English interior designer David Hicks in high regard. “I thought David Hicks held a very acute sense of multi-colour balance, all working together,” Stutzmann reveals. “His work helped the further evolution of manufacturers’ fabrics and carpets, even though today there are many neutralised approaches to colour in interior design. Combining colours in both fabrics and carpets – as with mixing colours for artwork – is quite a talent to be really appreciated.”

His appreciation for anything “that has been created by someone that turns out exceptionally well” is evident in the way he describes the things he talks about – from interior design, to architecture, to furniture. “I have been blessed with an ability to work with different mediums for creating artwork and working with wood species to make furniture items. Both require much concentration and focus, which ebbs away all other thoughts. Success in mixing colours and tight exquisite joints in furniture construction gives great satisfaction in the finished piece.”

With a planned delivery date of 2024, all eyes are currently on Stutzmann’s work with M/Y NJORD, and the great satisfaction that the finished piece will give its residents. M/Y NJORD is surely set to be the finest address, everywhere in the world.

For further information, visit www.my-njord.com.

Escape To Fingask Castle – Home of The Fingask Follies By Caroline Phillips

It’s like disappearing down the best of rabbit holes and arriving at a Scottish baronial version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The skew-whiff clipped topiary on the sloping lawn looks as if it’s been cut by a drunken gardener or the March Hare; the 240-acre estate is dotted with water-sprouting mermaids, characters from Robert Burns, Robert Burns himself and Ossian, the mythical Scottish Bard. The Queen of Hearts must have shouted, “Off with their heads” because there are decapitated heads (AKA stone busts) on the garden walls.

Nearby stands a castle with a giant camelia crawling up its walls and white rhododendron on the drive, surrounded by hills cloaked in summer mist. Welcome to Fingask Castle, Perthshire, perched on a rocky and steeply sloping hillside above the Carse of Gowrie and the river Tay. I’m here to snoop around the castle, see the Fingask Follies — drawing room entertainment for the thinking man — and to stay the night.

I’m greeted at the door by Helen Molchanoff: chatelaine, white Russian in a flowing, silk embroidered coat and wife of Andrew Threipland. The castle (founded in 1194, remodelled in the 18th and 19th centuries and then much of it demolished and rebuilt after 1925) has been in the Threipland family for 400 years with the occasional break — once due to the family being Jacobites.

In the hallway, there are Victorian curling stones strewn across the floor, taxidermy, armour, and Mary Queen of Scots’ sundial. There’s also a 19th century Butler’s Daybook — which records said butler buying a new bag for his bagpipes and how, in 1851, the castle’s then owner, Sir Peter, had his portrait painted but so did this butler, the housekeeper, ladies’ maid, coachman and coachman’s horse.

We step into the adjoining family chapel, created from a 15th century kitchen, decorated with Russian icons and with a beautiful painted ceiling: an unexpectedly magical place to find by the front door of a Scottish castle. “We think the huge chimney gives access to the heavens,” explains Helen.

I follow her up the main stone staircase, past the obligatory deer head trophies and 24 gilt-framed portraits of Andrew’s friends and family. Finally, we reach the 20-foot subscription mural, a modern-day Night Watchman, painted on one of the big walls. “It’s the only subscription mural going in Britain, possibly Europe,” says Helen.

Every year for the past 14 years, one or two brave souls volunteer to pay £2,000 to have their faces added to it, to support the Fingask Follies charity; the wall currently features 57 individuals from the Follies’ late patron Sir James Cayzer to Harry Wood the cat — sponsored by author Alexander McCall Smith. Caroline Dawnay, queen of literary agents, peeps out from behind a trompe l’oeuil bookcase. It also features the North wind, nine dogs, and a Bentley.

It’s time, however, for the Fingask Follies (the 2020 performance has been postponed for next year. Its theme is ‘Colours.’ Miss it at your peril.) In times when there’s no pandemic, the performance takes place in the Long Gallery with clouds on its ceiling, 100 comfy chairs, Blüthner grand piano and a small, red-carpeted stage. The Fingask Follies perform at private parties in Great Britain, to the Ballroom in the British Embassy in Paris.

There’s nothing quite like it. Fingask Follies — a professional company of nine, including five performers and a pianist — is like Kit and the Widow with bells (and bagpipes) on. Think proper cabaret-cum-musical revue: rumbustious, rollicking, exuberant and politically incorrect. Slick and witty. And thought provoking, in a Radio 4 political satire-meets-musical sort of way.

It might run its irreverent way from skits such as ones on Ulysses and Odysseus to ones on Boris (that Boris) the buccaneer — to howls of laughter from the audience, some of whom will have travelled hours from remote Scottish islands to attend. It has been known to get an equally upbeat reception at performances in London’s Chelsea Arts Club or at L’Escargot.

There’s an EAT ME and DRINK ME moment afterwards over dinner for seven in the interval, a meal served in a library that’s lined with ancient tomes such as Hayley’s Life of Cowper, and bound volumes of the Illustrated London News 1857. The dinner guests are eclectic and eccentric, although not quite as eminent as previous visitors, who’ve included James VIII, Bonny Prince Charlie and Sir Walter Scott.

The placements — forget handwritten cards, these are wooden discs with the diner’s name imprinted on an island — show that I’m supping with my hosts: the castle owners, Helen and Andrew. He’s an old Etonian and erstwhile debt specialist (at the Financial Times) and artisan cheese manufacturer (in Wales) who’s wearing harlequin’s trousers. These days he oversees events in the castle, including parties and weddings.

‘Lofty’ Buchanan — a former lawyer turned Follies contributor and co-director — sits atop his own Heath Robinson-style invention: a contraption that he’s adapted from a wheelchair so that he’s at the height of a small woman. “I don’t want people to have to bend down to talk to me and feel sorry for me,” he says, raising a glass of wine made from local berries. It’s true to say that everything at Fingask feels happy in a topsy-turvy kind of way.

Afterwards, in my bathroom — with chunky Edwardian towel rail, oil paintings and freestanding bath — I find, slung over a chair, someone’s top hat, red braces and black-tie suit. My bedroom is probably shared with some of the castle’s multiple phantoms — possibly drawn to its four-poster, chaise longue, and make-your-own cuppa with a tin of Fortnum & Mason’s tea. “Someone offered to get rid of our ghosts, but we like them,” explains Helen, later.

In the morning, a cockerel performs its morning musical revue and, through the window, there’s the lifting blue light and the vista of ancient trees. Alexander McCall-Smith said, “Hooray for the Fingask Follies: you add to the sum of human happiness.” What could be better? Well, staying the night too.

Further Information

For further information about Fingask Castle and to book a stay, visit www.fingaskcastle.com. The Follies season is in April and May, and Fingask welcomes visitors throughout the year in self-catering accommodation.

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.

Postcard From Kangaroo Island, South Australia By The Luxury Channel

Images of dolphins swimming in the Southern Ocean, koalas snoozing in trees and mobs of kangaroos bounding through the bush are a common sight on Kangaroo Island, a wildlife lover’s paradise just a 30 minute flight, or a fabulous road trip, from Adelaide in South Australia.

In January 2020, the Western side of the island was hit by devastating bush fires and huge swathes of Flinders Chase National Park were badly burnt. However, this is a landscape which is full of plants that need fire to thrive and the regeneration of the bush is already in full swing.

The resilience of the locals was admired by people around the world, who watched as volunteers from all walks of life helped to fight fires – saving homes, wildlife and people. This resilience sustained them during the immediate aftermath, and when COVID-19 closed borders and shut down the tourism industry (on which it relies heavily) just a month later.

Domestically, South Australians are being encouraged to travel again within the state, and to holiday at popular spots like Kangaroo Island. Islanders are looking forward to welcoming back international visitors, once the wider world opens up again.

Virtual Kangaroo Island

As a local wildlife guide and owner of Exceptional Kangaroo Island tour operators, Craig Wickham has been live streaming Kangaroo Island each Monday morning. He interprets the wildlife and surroundings, providing fascinating insights to audiences tuning in from around the world. Whether you’re planning a trip to Australia in 2021 or just want to experience Oz from your armchair, these videos bring the destination to life and provide some truly memorable moments. Click here for the full series.

In Search of Australia’s Big Five

Kangaroo Island boasts kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, sea-lions and dolphins living in their natural habitats in big numbers. Visitors to the island can enjoy a range of special native wildlife experiences against stunning scenic backdrops.

In Splendid Isolation

Kangaroo Island boasts a range of gorgeous beach houses, glamping wigwams, eco retreats and luxury villas where you can hole up away from other visitors. Enjoy privately guided nature touring, lazy days on the beach and food safaris; before BBQing on the deck as night falls and a million stars appear overhead. A couple of our favourites include the new One Kangaroo Island and Dune House.

Discover The History of Kangaroo Island

In 1802, legendary British explorer Captain Matthew Flinders discovered Kangaroo Island and named it after the kangaroos his starving men devoured on arrival. Credited with discovering huge parts of Australia, and giving the country its name, Flinders is the British explorer many people in the UK have never even heard of! His remains were discovered in London Euston Station as part of the HS2 excavation in 2019.

To plan your South Australian holiday in 2021, visit www.southaustralia.com.

Aston Martin Begins Re-Building The DB5 – The Most Famous Car In The World By The Luxury Channel

Dubbed ‘‘the most famous car in the world’’ and renowned as being among the most desirable and sought-after classic Aston Martin models, the DB5 has become a byword for timeless style and sports car desirability. Fewer than 900 saloon examples were built by the brand between 1963 and 1965, with by far the most famous of the original owners being the world’s best-known secret agent – James Bond – who first drove the car that is today inextricably linked with him in the 1964 film, Goldfinger.

Now, 55 years after the last DB5 rolled off the production line at Aston Martin’s then global manufacturing base in Newport Pagnell, work is once again under way there on a strictly limited number of just 25 new DB5 models. Created in association with the producers of the James Bond films, EON Productions, and featuring a broad suite of working gadgets first seen on screen in the 1964 film, the Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation cars are history in the making.

The latest in Aston Martin’s phenomenally successful Continuation car programme, which began in 2017 with the DB4 GT Continuation, the new DB5 models represent among the most valuable new cars yet brought to market by the British luxury brand. Each DB5 Goldfinger continuation car is priced at £2.75 million plus taxes, and the meticulous construction process takes around 4,500 hours per car.

Each of the 25 new cars is being built to the highest possible quality using a blend of Sir David Brown-era old world craftsmanship, with the sympathetic application of modern engineering advancements and performance enhancements, alongside the integration of cutting-edge working gadgets developed with Chris Corbould OBE, the Oscar-winning special effects supervisor who has worked on more than a dozen Bond films.

The list of Bond-inspired gadgets includes features all too familiar to viewers of the classic 1964 big screen hit, such as revolving number plates at the front and rear (triple plates), simulated twin front machine guns, a simulated tyre slasher, a bullet resistant rear shield, a removable passenger seat roof panel, a telephone in the driver’s door, a gear knob actuator button and a remote control for gadget activation.

All the new cars are meticulously detailed authentic reproductions of the DB5 seen on screen, with some sympathetic modifications and enhancements to ensure the highest levels of build quality and reliability. All the DB5 Goldfinger Continuation cars are being built to one exterior colour specification – Silver Birch paint – just like the original.

The cars feature original DB5 styled aluminium exterior body panels wrapped elegantly around an authentic DB5 mild steel chassis structure. Under the bonnet, there’s a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine with a six-plug head, three SU carburettors and oil cooler, that’s capable of generating in the order of 290 bhp. This is mated to a five-speed ZF manual transmission in the rear-wheel drive DB5, which also features a mechanical limited slip differential.

Paul Spires, President of Aston Martin Works where the original DB5 was built and the new cars are also being created, said: “We are making, perhaps, some of the most desirable ‘toys’ ever built for 25 very lucky buyers worldwide. Creating the DB5 Goldfinger Continuation cars and working with EON Productions and special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould, is something truly unique and a real career highlight for everyone involved here at Aston Martin Works.”

First deliveries of the DB5 Goldfinger Continuation to customers will commence in the second half of 2020. For more information, go to www.astonmartin.com.

Virtual Reality – The Best Virtual Exhibitions To See Now By The Luxury Channel

Living in lockdown means that some of the world’s foremost galleries and museums have had to close their doors to the public in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, thanks to the latest technical innovations, there are several virtual exhibitions you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room, without even stepping out of the door….

Selected Works 1990-2020 by Glen Luchford via Art Partner

A gallery view of “Selected Works 1990 – 2020” by Glen Luchford, available via Art Partner

Glen Luchford is a world-famous portrait photographer who, for the last thirty years, has worked with many leading fashion magazines. His work first caught the public eye in the late 1990s, with his avant-garde fashion campaigns for Prada, which won him the prestigious Best Campaign Award from the British Design & Art Direction organisation, successfully exemplifiying a visual language that had never before been seen in the fashion arena. He has since shot campaigns for clients such as Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Chloe, Prada and Hugo Boss. Most recently, Luchford has gained widespread attention and admiration for his influential work behind the successful re-branding of Italian fashion house, Gucci, under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele.

His thirty year career is being showcased in an online exhibition titled, “Selected Works 1990-2020.” Hosted via Art Partner, the exhibition provides visitors with the opportunity to see Luchford’s works if they are in a real-life gallery. The exhibition features some of the photographer’s most iconic works, such as his recent campaign imagery for Gucci and his photograph of Kate Moss boxing for Harpers Bazaar, alongside lesser-known images from his early years that first broke him into the scene.

“Selected Works 1990-2020” runs on Art Partner until 30th June 2020 – click here.

An Exhibition of Prints And Works On Paper by Dale Chihuly via Sims Reed Gallery

Hot Poppies, Four Gold Coins and Bozeman Venetian II by Dale Chihuly (images courtesy of Chihuly Studio)

Sims Reed Gallery is presenting an exhibition of original works by internationally renowned American artist, Dale Chihuly. While celebrated for his exquisite and pioneering glass installations, drawing has always been integral to Chihuly’s artistic practice, particularly as they became an increasingly important means of communicating his ideas to his team after losing the sight of his left eye in 1976. These works evolved from charcoal and graphite studies into wilder colourful pieces that, according to the artist, remain a crucial part of his creative process.

This exhibition, which is comprised of twenty-nine original prints and ten original works on paper, seeks to reveal the elision of these two disciplines. Some of the prints — a medium the artist has been exploring for almost 30 years — draw on his sculptural series for inspiration, while others are purely imaginative.

Sims Reed Gallery is offering a 3D, virtual walk-through of the show, available by clicking here.

The Museum of The World by The British Museum via Google Cultural Institute

The British Museum (image courtesy of Lee Jeffs)

An interactive experience through time, continents and cultures, The Museum of The World features some of the most fascinating objects in human history, in a partnership between the British Museum and Google Cultural Institute. For the first time ever, objects from the British Museum’s collection from the prehistoric to the present can be discovered using advanced technology. Visitors can jump back in time to explore objects from across diverse cultures and listen to British Museum curators share their insights.

To explore The Museum of The World, click here.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam via Google Arts & Culture

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (image courtesy of Frans Ruiter)

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses the largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh in the world, with the permanent collection including over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and more than 750 letters. The museum also presents exhibitions on various subjects from 19th century art history.

Thanks to a link with Google Arts & Culture, you can explore the museum floor by floor – simply click here and scroll down to the museum views to see the artworks of van Gogh at your leisure.

Il Trittico by The Royal Opera House via YouTube

Contrast is the essence of Giacomo Puccini’s operatic triptych, Il Trittico. The one-act works that form the trilogy – Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi – range from gritty melodrama to life-affirming comedy. While each opera stands alone, the three come together to create a sense of a complete event, rich in textures and musical forms. Director Richard Jones matches the eclectic range of Puccini’s music in a production of great verve and invention, moving from the grimy banks of the Seine to a children’s hospital and from there to a garish apartment in 1950s Italy.

Il Trittico can be streamed on YouTube until 19th June as part of the Royal Opera House #OurHouseToYourHouse series by clicking here.

Live Digital Concert By Henley Festival

Henley Festival has announced that it will be going digital, presenting a 2-hour evening concert, streamed on the Henley Festival website on Sunday 12th July, on what would have been the final day of this year’s festival. Popstar Will Young will perform some of his classic songs, while soul singer Beverley Knight will perform a short 40 minute concert of her top hits. There will also be performances from classical pianist Hao Zi Yoh, and number one jazz musician Joe Stilgoe. Comedy will be provided by Rory Bremner, who will perform some new topical material, and will be interviewed by cricket commentator David Gower.

Festival goers can watch the digital concert on Sunday 12th July from the comfort of their own homes, with tickets starting from £10.10 each and available from www.henley-festival.co.uk.

Curl Up With A Good Book At Henley Literary Festival By The Luxury Channel

Sue Ryan, the founder of Henley Literary Festival, indulges us with a little literary escapism, her dream dinner party guests and all the books you need in your lockdown library right now….

Tell us a little bit about Henley Literary Festival, and why you think it has become so popular?

Henley Literary Festival was launched fourteen years ago without research, proper budgets or anything formal on a wing, a prayer and instinct. Literary festivals work best when they are in places people want to visit, and Henley-on-Thames ticks that box. We also have lovely venues and are close enough to London to make it easy. We treat our authors well, so we quickly became established as one of the top ten.

Can you tell us any funny anecdotes from your speakers at the Festival?

There have been a few! One of the ushers once confused her torch with her microphone (it was very dark in the theatre) and handed a surprised member of the audience a torch to ask her question. One year, Sir Max Hastings was looking over the notes for the talk he was about to give when a gust of wind flew several pages into the fish pond in the Hotel du Vin. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, once missed his connection at Twyford train station, meaning he arrived exactly when he was due on stage. However, as he was entering the venue, he heard children singing in their drama group and decided to pop in to chat to them, until we dragged him out! At her final public event at Phyllis Court, Judith Kerr said the Germans had turned Mog, written as a female, into a tom-cat because he was so clever. So in the next book she made Mog pregnant with kittens and told the Germans to “try and get out of that one!” Last year, the newly-married Melvyn Bragg lost his wedding ring – thankfully, it was found in the gents at Phyllis Court!

What is your most memorable event at the Festival to date, and why?

That’s a hard one. We have had so many good ones. John Mortimer was a great supporter and came every year until he died. He was in such pain during his last interview but kept going like a trouper. I remember getting goose-bumps in our second year when Craig Brown brought Sir Simon Russell Beale and Eleanor Bron to perform extracts from his book. We were such a tiny festival and they were so moving and professional. Baroness Trumpington was a triumph. Baroness Lawrence was humbling, as was Sir Roger Bannister who had done a full day’s medical rounds before he ran his four minute mile. Roddy Doyle was superb. There are also moments of huge emotion. Richard E. Grant welled up when recalling his wife’s still birth, rugby player Gareth Thomas spoke for the first time publicly about coming out as gay and Brian Moore talked about being abused. In all cases, there were long silences when you could hear a pin drop.

Image courtesy of Freestocks

What are your future plans for the Festival, particularly in the wake of coronavirus? Do you have any plans to take the Festival abroad?

We are still hoping to go ahead this year as we think we can follow social distancing rules. We are doing a cruise next April with Good Housekeeping and we have been approached about setting a Festival up in the Caribbean. But it’s still very early days for anything travel-related.

As we’re all spending more time at home, what should we be reading?

It’s a good time to go back to the classics, so you can escape from modern dilemmas – Graham Greene, Henry James, and P.G. Wodehouse are well worth a revisit. Gill Hornby has written a delightful book, Miss Austen, based on the story of Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra. It reads just like an Austen novel so you get the double whammy of being a new book with an old feel. If you haven’t read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce, they are both good, escapist, page-turning stuff. My sister-in-law Jane Gordon’s book, How Not To Get Old, published last week, is very timely. I have not yet read Maggie O’Farrell’s new book, Hamnet, but it has had great reviews.

Who are the writers we should be looking out for at the moment?

James Scudamore’s English Monsters has just come out and he is a rising star. Ariana Neumann’s When Time Stopped is a fascinating memoir of her father’s experiences during the holocaust – his family were sent from Czechoslovakia to concentration camps but he escaped and hid out in Berlin under a false name. For light relief, The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh is a real page-turner.

Sue stayed awake until 4am reading Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You” (image courtesy of Alisa Anton)

What is your favourite book, and why?

I think books are like favourite foreign destinations. Where you want to go and what you want to read depends on your mood, your age, your circumstances at the time. You can’t compare India to Venice. For a book you can’t put down, I found myself reading Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You until 4am. At university, I loved D.H. Lawrence and Brian Patten’s poetry. E.M. Forster’s A Passage To India is a favourite classic. I grew up in India and Paul Scott’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Staying On, had a strong resonance.

With virtual books becoming bigger, in what ways is digital vs. hard copy becoming a very real battle for authors?

Surprisingly, sales of printed books are going up and digital is going down – although I think Audible is increasing sales as it’s something you can do while gardening and cleaning.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I had an idyllic childhood; I went to boarding school in Windermere and went back to India, where my parents lived, for the holidays. When my father retired, they bought a house in East Sussex, where we had ponies and dogs. After university at Bath, I became a journalist on the Thompson training scheme and went from there to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Today, Observer and the Daily Telegraph, where I was initially Head of News, and then became managing editor.

Sue has stayed at Raffles Hotel in Singapore

You still work as a travel writer – what are the most interesting places you have visited?

I love all travel. India is a favourite, and not necessarily the Golden Triangle. I love the sheer energy and madness of Kolkata. East Africa, particularly Lewa Conservancy, is mind-blowing. We take a house on the coast near Malindi with some friends every year – and just managed to do that this year again, before coronavirus hit. Some places are as much about the hotels as the cities – The Gritti Palace in Venice, Hotel du Cap in Nice, George V in Paris, The Taj in Mumbai, Raffles in Singapore. I am lucky to have stayed in so many fabulous hotels – and several times over.

You’re a committee member of Women In Journalism – what does the committee seek to do, and how does it work to ensure that contemporary journalism reflects a female voice as well as the traditional male voice?

We seek to support other women. We have networking parties, mentoring schemes and lots of events on relevant topics. We also undertake research projects to show how newspapers are dominated at the top by men and that most advisers quoted are male. It all helps to act as a pressure group to redress the balance.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party, and why?

Edna O’Brien, Michelle Obama, Judi Dench, Madhur Jaffrey, Jane Austen, Indhira Gandhi, and Katherine Grainger. I like powerful, interesting and amusing women who have realised their ambitions.

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

Normally I would say staying in world class hotels, but it may be a couple of years before I can return to that. But I just bought Caroline Hirons’ Spring Kit of cleansing and moisturising treatments. They are all different makes and she recommends using all six in order every morning and night. It cost £150 but individually the items are worth two or three times that, which is perhaps why they sold out online in about half an hour. That, and because it is so wonderfully pampering.

For more information about Henley Literary Festival, go to www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk.

ISO Luxury – Are Luxury Apps Changing The Way We Shop? By Fiona Sanderson

The Luxury Channel meets Julia Carrick OBE, founder of new app ISO Luxury, to talk current and future trends within the luxury industry, how shopping habits are changing both at home and abroad, and where to find your favourite luxuries for a little less….

What is the current state of the luxury industry generally, and the British luxury industry in particular?

The threat to the luxury industry is very real due to worldwide store closures and consumers holding back on their spending. It makes for a different environment to sell products and create strong relationships with customers. The British luxury industry is worth £48 billion to the UK economy, and research commissioned by the BCG estimates that the sales in the global luxury industry will fall by 30% this year, and the UK market is unlikely to be an exception.

On the whole, luxury CEOs are positive about the times ahead according to results taken from a poll conducted by Mckinsey, with 66% believing this will have a positive impact on their future sales capacity. However, concerns shouldn’t be ignored – 10% have stated that the pandemic has negatively impacted their business already, whereas 24% are uncertain of what the future holds.

Despite these predictions, if we look to China, on the first day of re-opening Hermes generated $2.7 million in sales. Examples such as this demonstrate that the international luxury market might recover quicker than Europe, as the threat of COVID-19 is minimal. In Asian markets, consumers have a passion for e-commerce across all industries.

In the shorter term, with a slow return to travel, many luxury brands are focusing on their domestic customers as they re-open stores. Brands are also firmly placing digital at the epicentre of their brand, as well as concentrating on delivering a familiar and trusted experience locally. The safety of their staff and customers are priorities and this will be challenging for brands with smaller spaces.

John Cullen Lighting (image courtesy of ISO Luxury)

What would you say is the true essence of a luxury brand?

To me, luxury is a product or a human experience that is both beautiful and rare, where artistry and attention to detail meet – the “aura” that is created from a combination of uniqueness, craftsmanship, outstanding design and innovation.

The concept of luxury is changing because our society, cultural norms and expectations are evolving more quickly than in the past. It is a much wider concept and not easy to define. While luxury once meant the most expensive or most well-known product, today it is about creating an experience to remember, focused on quality, value and the theatre of shopping.

The reinvention of luxury doesn’t disregard the values of the past but builds on them. Today’s discerning shoppers want brands that tell a story, are rooted in heritage and are of such genuine quality that they can be passed down to the next generation.

New luxury taps into customer emotions, personal preferences and connections – that emotional connection with the consumer. People want to feel that they are getting something special that not everyone has. A product is luxurious when it’s handmade, tailored for a few and has a clear intrinsic value. The value comes not just from the brand name or logo, but what that product represents – whether that’s heritage, craftsmanship, exclusivity, or authenticity.

Favourbrook (images courtesy of ISO Luxury)

In what ways has the retail market changed in-store?

The digital and e-commerce world has had a significant impact on in-store retail, and for many it is a point of product research. The digital sphere gives the customer access to relevant information, such as product reviews and competitor collections at the click of a button, which in turn enables them to make a well-informed purchase decision.

ISO Luxury believes in the power of the in-store experience. Bricks-and-mortar luxury retailers have a secret weapon, a unique appeal that simply cannot be replicated online at the point of sale – the personal touch. Store presence remains vital for the health of our high streets and community. It’s where a brand can put its best foot forward and a customer can enjoy the experience – with service being the centre point. The interest in experience over the accumulation of goods means that luxury products must become part of the story-telling process and play a significant part in the creation of memories.

COVID-19 has shifted the focus even further away from the high streets and stores; therefore as an industry we must find a collective way to connect our stores with consumers, both in person and digitally. Experiential luxury is the latest development to transform consumer shopping experiences, since the outbreak first began. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been used by major luxury brands in the form of offering virtual shopping tours, VR experiences, events and workshops. By doing this, we can make store visits attractive to a luxury consumer. This is where we are heading.

At ISO Luxury, we are becoming the digital connection point between stores and shoppers, with a lifestyle hub that has all the stores in one place with addresses, a store locator, opening hours, dedicated names at each store, showcasing exclusive and rare products, trending items, promotions and more. Ultimately, customers want to physically experience luxury goods with human interaction. Whilst challenging to replicate in an online world, experiential luxury is where the action will be.

In the coming months, I think we will see a shift in luxury consumer shopping habits, once again. Therefore, in these troubling times, it has never been more important to bring together brands and influential shoppers.

Garrard (images courtesy of ISO Luxury)

How did you come to set up ISO Luxury, and how does it work?

Carrick ISO Luxury is an exclusive lifestyle Members Club and Concierge for discerning acquirers and shoppers of the world’s finest brands.

Ultra-VIP customers wish to experience brands on a bespoke, private and exclusive basis. The right personable approach with a generous discount on the purchase or booking can go a long way. The rising trend towards online shopping and bookings, changing consumer preferences, irregular buying habits and lack of brand loyalties mean that consistent luxury buying and established long-term customer relationships cannot be relied upon. Our concept serves to reach this elusive audience and address these trends.

As a result of these emerging trends and the sharp decline in our high streets’ footfall with shops disappearing, I felt strongly that I needed to do something to help promote British luxury brands and the luxury industry to the consumer. Our mission and importance to the brands is to find new and innovate ways of targeting consumers to drive sales and increase footfall back to the bricks-and-mortar stores.

Jimmy Choo (image courtesy of Alex Holyoake)

Our proposition at ISO Luxury is quite simply to match ultra-luxury brands with ultra-high net worth consumers, to increase sales and customer bases via benefit schemes with unparalleled privileges and rare access. To engage these uber purchasers, we developed the ISO Luxury app that is of perceived high value. Together with my co-founder, Andrea Koday-Vörös, we embarked on our mission to establish this incredible community of brands and luxury buyers with the trust and support of the brand CEOs within three months of conception.

Via the ISO Luxury app, our members have access to unique benefits and services, exclusive events, privileged discounts, exclusive promotions, rare and limited product ranges, first releases, unrivalled in-store bespoke offers. Online soon, Members will have access to VIP appointments and hard-to-find item sourcing, off-market opportunities and concierge services.

We cover everything – fashion, watches, jewellery, sports, motors, property, art, travel, beauty, wellbeing, interiors, hospitality and fine dining. Members can also revel in exhilarating cultural and sporting experiences.

Jimmy Choo (images courtesy of ISO Luxury)

How does an app-based platform replicate the in-store consumer experience?

Currently, the app allows members to browse privileged offers and promotions, receive invitations to special events, liaise with store members and make VIP appointments in the flagship stores of over 130 brands. The bespoke offers are extended to the in-store experience between the member and the brand.

Earlier this year, we held a number of successful member events at Dunhill, Jimmy Choo, Mulberry, Roland Mouret and Tiffany, and all invitations and details were communicated through the app technology. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in-store experiences have not been possible. We have therefore looked for alternative ways to create these luxury shopping experiences from a distance. The response and support from our brands has been overwhelming. Theo Fennell, Trevor Pickett, Kiki McDonough and David Morris have offered our clients one-to-one telephone and video appointments to showcase their product ranges to ISO Luxury members. Similarly, Savile Row’s suit tailors Henry Poole & Co have offered to have video consultations in the physical store to show clients the fabric, style ranges and processes.

The fantastic initiatives of our brands have not gone unnoticed, and we have ensured we share their messages with our members and on social media. Brands including Emma Willis, Turnbull & Asser and Henry Poole & Co have been producing PPE. Our luxury shoe brands, including Jimmy Choo and Emmy London, have launched shoe sketch designs on Instagram. Others have donated their profits to charitable causes, namely Mulberry and Really Wild.

Mulberry and Really Wild (images courtesy of ISO Luxury)

What shopper trends have you noticed over the course of the last few years?

Experience, heritage, and human emotion have never been more important for the luxury consumer. Our members want the true personality of each brand.

We have also seen at ISO Luxury an increase in luxury spending in the millennial generation and therefore we are in the mist of adapting our communication approach across social media, member and brand communications to appeal to this target audience.

Trends vary across cultures, too. If we look to Asian markets, luxury purchasing is related to a high-level trust. Consumers want to know the story behind the brand, product, and design process, digging deep into the heritage and the story of the brand. Quality is highly valued, and the unique styles created by British luxury offer inspiration, and demonstrate integrity and a source of rich cultural diversity.

As for Western cultures, there is a strive towards sustainability, specifically in the younger generations. They desire transparency in the design and manufacturing process of products, and want to know what luxury brands and the industry are doing to incorporate sustainability into their enterprises. The demand for this information fits the luxury industry well, as it isn’t just about the logo or beloved brand name; rather, it is how the product is made, its history and heritage.

Handbags (image courtesy of Krzysztof Hepner)

What are the principal advantages to a consumer shopping in-store over online?

The human connection and storytelling are the high street’s distinct advantage, which consumers cannot experience in a digital world. Customers are taken on a personalised journey through the heritage of the brand, developing a deeper connection with consumers.

If a customer visits the store, they will receive a personalised service, which lies at the heart of the luxury experience and offers privileges for luxury shoppers. Brands are able to tailor the product offered, personally handpick items adhering to customer requirements. The in-store shopping experience is inevitably unmatched. Although the presence of omni-channel is being introduced to some high street stores to combine the virtual and physical shopping experience, meaning consumers can benefit from both.

Derek Rose (images courtesy of ISO Luxury)

Are British brands selling abroad, and how are they faring at the moment?

Currently the luxury stores in London are closed, therefore many have taken the opportunity to look at their e-commerce operations and create an online journey close to an in-store experience. Those selling online are able to sell to overseas clients; however, cities worldwide are beginning to re-open their stores, such as Dubai and Paris.

There can be no doubt a luxury brand with both local and international clients will be more aligned with the global consumer and therefore fare much better in the marketplace. It is predicted that the luxury industry will recover quicker in Asian markets than their European counterparts, as the threat of the virus is minimal. As the stores re-opened, consumers visited the stores to make purchases. Although a lot less in volume, at least for now.

Currently, we only have launched the ISO Luxury app with our London stores. However, the re-opening of the Dubai stores is a great opportunity to connect our brands with retailers in the Middle East and encourage them to list their stores. We have an affluent client base in Dubai and the opportunity to include our brands in the development of a sustainable international consumer market has never been better. We are looking to expand our app internationally to the luxury shopping hubs throughout the world – such as Dubai, Paris and New York.

Fashion Avenue in the Dubai Mall (image courtesy of Iwona Castiello d’Antonio)

Why is British luxury such a big seller internationally?

The increase in demand for British brands abroad has greatly amplified in the last few years, with a surge in sales from international consumers. The manner in which British brands present luxury goods, providing a rich, authentic sense of heritage, alongside our great craftsmanship has led to a worldwide love for British-born products and for Britishness and all that it stands for – integrity, high ethical standards, outstanding service, invention, creativity and a rich cultural diversity.

The British luxury industry is great at keeping products exciting, relevant and all with individual characteristics which represent the personality of the brand, engaging audiences of different nationalities and generations in new, innovative ways on an ongoing basis. Creativity, innovation and craftsmanship have ultimately catapulted the British luxury industry onto a global stage.

Today’s Britain, and especially London, offers global shoppers so much, from world-class hotels, restaurants, theatres, art galleries and museums, to iconic streets and stores. There is so much amazing history and innovation from Lock & Co, who were making hats back in 1676, and Berry Bros & Rudd in St James’s, who opened their doors in 1698, to heritage brands of tomorrow such as Bremont in South Audeley Street, which is rapidly becoming the UK’s most successful watch maker.

Jermyn Street in St James’s, London

Where is the luxury industry heading in the future?

The luxury industry has evolved over time; exclusivity, the customer journey, and experience are needed for future and present audiences. With an ever-changing world and uncertainties, brands will need to be reactive in their design-making processes and presence, be it online or physical.

Big brands have created virtual reality shopping platforms to show their ingenuity during this unprecedented time. However, I strongly believe that shoppers will revert back to the traditional in-store luxury experience.

Luxury will always maintain its high status, and its recognition will evermore remain exclusive. Nevertheless, we have to face that if any brand wants to survive in today’s world, they must adapt to current times. Whether it is an emerging trend, a new wave of consumers, or a challenge within the industry, people want to feel a certain experience and emotion. The luxury industry has always been the leader of creating this sensation and I believe that no other industry can do this better.

Daniel Galvin (image courtesy of ISO Luxury)

Is sustainability a consideration that high street retailers pay particular attention to, and is this a trend you see continuing?

Luxury consumers have become increasingly aware of environmental issues in the 21st century and the demand for transparency has never been greater. Customers want authenticity and appreciate when brands show initiatives around sustainability. I do believe that COVID-19 will exhilarate that aspect even further and fast fashion will be less “in fashion.”

Millennials, including the affluent audiences, are the leading forces striving for sustainability and brand transparency on their manufacturing process and product origins. As this generation will be the biggest luxury spenders, it is important to consider their view and their expectations.

Luxury shoppers actively seek “Made in Britain” as a sign of excellence. All consumers are becoming far more invested in brands that are rooted in heritage. Therefore, it is crucial to strike the right balance between sustainable action and consumer interaction.

Wool samples (image courtesy of Maranda Vandergriff)

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

My favourite luxury right now during lockdown is finding the time for a walk through the British countryside around all my tight deadlines. I am lucky to be based within the Hambleden Valley and I have discovered so many wonderful walks. My next favourite luxury is my Catchpole & Rye bath. This is where I not only relax, but I do most of my big thinking.

For more information and to become a member, go to www.isoluxury.com.

Issho – A Taste of The Far East In The North East By Scott Manson

As Leeds becomes increasingly known as a gastro hub, Scott Manson reveals why Ishho is taking Japanese food to the next level….

At first glance, Issho feels less like a restaurant and more like a private dining club. There’s a tucked-away entrance with a lift that whooshes us up to the third floor, a smartly suited greeter who welcomes us and – once in the bar area – a DJ playing a brilliantly judged selection of deep house and dance classics.

This restaurant has been described as Leeds’ answer to Nobu but, in truth, it feels closer to Soho House. It’s a chic eatery in the city’s newly fashionable Victoria Gate area that’s attracted plaudits since opening for its modern Japanese food, from sushi and tempura to dishes from the robata grill. The skyline views from its outdoor terrace also help add to the member’s club vibe.

We were given a great corner table with a view of the handsome room, all blonde wood, buzzing tables and a big open kitchen. Occasional flashes of flame on the grill would puff out bursts of fragrant smoke from the meats and fish that the chefs kept dancing above the charcoal. I was seriously hungry and smelling this was like an exquisite form of torture.

We enjoyed a couple of glasses of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee as we waited, placing ourselves in the hands of the sommelier when it came to pairing wine to our orders. Some fabulous sashimi kicked things off – pearly, firm scallops and sea-fresh salmon artfully draped over crushed ice. Pillowy bao buns followed, some with crunchy chicken katsu and others with punchy spicy tofu. This was already a heavenly meal, but the delights just kept coming.

We doubled down on crab – from delicate soft-shell crab to chunky California maki packed with crab, avocado and fish roe. Smoked eel made an appearance too, its heady fragrance mixing with a surprising sweetness on the tongue.

Then it was time for the showstoppers: a 200g rib-eye steak cooked robatayaki-style (meaning “fireside grilling”). Served with a smoked shiso béarnaise, umami butter and Issho steak sauce, this was a premium hunk of protein done perfectly. I know, I know, we’re all trying to eat less meat, but surely that means that, when you do, you owe it to yourself to enjoy some of the very best?

The final big hitter came in the form of a handsome hunk of black cod, marinated in miso paste and grilled until beautifully browned. The flakes that fell off it had required no dressing or tricky cheffy techniques – this tangy, buttery creation was a simple affair, and simply delicious.

There was little need for dessert after such a feast, so we retired to the bar instead – emerging three espresso martinis later. Because Issho isn’t just a place to enjoy superb Japanese food, it’s also where the city’s bright young things gather for pre-club cocktails. So as we were departing, their night was just starting and – given the generational difference between us – it felt like the perfect handover.

Leeds’ restaurant scene has become increasingly impressive – and Issho is definitely in the top tier.

For more information, go to www.issho-restaurant.com.

The Blending Of Music And Merlot – A Marvellous Experience During A Challenging Time By Igor Sill

Merlot is a variety that offers a great deal of its own character, its own signature nuance, its own way of expressing itself and I believe when accompanied with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue – known for its integration of jazz rhythms with classical music – a profoundly remarkable pairing of sensations come together in perfect harmony, and the combination can project you into a time of living in another world, thinking in wondrous ways while experiencing the hedonistic sensory attributes of this fine wine. Essentially, music accompanying a wine tasting experience can exert significant influence over the sensory qualities of a fine wine.

Rhapsody in Blue turned 96 this year, yet its accompanying rhythm and harmonious sound liberates our très Merlot with an undeniably profound sense of serenity, calm and tranquility; a truly magical fusion of two great pleasures.

Gershwin’s arrangements are elegantly sensual with the power to put you under a spell. Rhapsody in Blue isn’t just a random jazz piece, rather it’s a journey that dominates the tune with expressive romantic themes, much as exposing the layers of a fine Merlot. A growing body of scientific evidence points to the fact that what people taste when evaluating a wine can be influenced by the music simultaneously playing. The more the music matches the wine, the more we fully savor the tasting experience.

David Williams, former deputy editor of The World of Fine Wine, suggested that we might soon find ‘‘music lists’’ accompanying the wine lists in Michelin-starred restaurants, much like Yountville, California’s famed The French Laundry. As in wine, art, music and life, the simplest of details can bear extraordinary results.

What makes Atlas Peak’s terroir so unique for Merlot? Atlas Peak’s tremendous soil is first of all the rendezvous of winemakers in love with crafting exceptional wines. At 1,600 ft elevation, our almost flat plateau of deep subsoil of volcanic basalt, limestone and clay are high in iron-rich nutrients not found in any other Napa mountain vineyards, except Atlas Peak. This is an exclusive grape-growing area with a concentration of boutique cult wine producers, huddled up in a small mountainous district. These volcanic soils are at least 2.5 million years old to start and our Merlot vines reflect the gnarled stumps that date back to the late 1980s — over 30 years old now. These old vines deliver textural richness and layered flavors that age-improve and it’s a difference you can taste. Young vines, though volume-productive and vigorous, deliver unpredictable quality from year to year. Most enologists agree that somewhere between 25 and 35 years of age, grape production eases off and the economics of farming come into play.

It’s much like the warm, deep rich tones of an old violin versus the brighter tone of new wood. We’re fortunate to be true vintners, focused on growing grapes to craft exceptional wines, so managing our vineyard to a ripe old healthy age is a major priority, foregoing the economics. We have an intimate understanding of the connection between our terroir and specific grape vines that provide the very best expressions of these varietals.

In 2017, Mother Nature provided Atlas Peak with gorgeous spring weather followed by a perfectly dry summer, resulting in good yields and a perfect mid-October harvest. Among the most celebrated and revered wines from our vineyards is our 2017 très Merlot. Of course, the small size of our vineyard limits production with virtually all of our wines quickly being sold out. This is a spectacular wine and was officially released on March 16th 2020 with only 300 bottles produced. I cellared 12 bottles personally, so 288 bottles were then available; today only 251.

Our 2017 très Merlot shows lovely cherry-like aromas with hints of sibling Cabernet’s herbaceousness, and cream-tinged softer tannins over those found in Cabernet Sauvignon. I describe our 2017 très Merlot as magical, gentle, and delicate with silky, lusty tannins, exuding a lush texture and sensual finish. It also tends to be drinkable at an earlier age where it exhibits its unique expression of personality.

Pair our très Merlot with goose, duck or game bird with plum sauce for dinner while listening to your favorite classical scores. C’est magnifique! During these challenging and historic times of isolation, the simplest of pleasures can be unforgettable.

About The Author

Igor Sill farms a volcanic mountain vineyard in Atlas Peak Mountain in Napa, California and is a passionate award-winning winemaker, wine lover, and writer. He is a certified Court of Master Sommelier, a Judge at the International Wine Challenge in London and holds a Masters from Oxford University. For more information, visit www.sillfamilyvineyards.com.

A Unique Moment of Historical Symmetry For Rolls-Royce By The Luxury Channel

May 4th – On This Day….

Rolls-Royce is celebrating the 116th anniversary of the first meeting between its founders, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on 4th May 1904 – an encounter after which the motor car, and the world of luxury, would never be the same again. It is with a fitting sense of historical symmetry that the day also marks the resumption of production at the marque’s Goodwood manufacturing plant, which had been temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Goodwood, the home of Rolls-Royce (image courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

The marque has always risen to every challenge with ingenuity, commitment and solidarity, and so while coronavirus is possibly the biggest test Rolls-Royce has ever faced, it’s certainly not the first.

When they first set up the company, Rolls and Royce shared a vision to make the future of motoring extraordinary. Henry Royce, an engineer, had a desire for perfection and an innate work ethic that later became the pillar of Rolls-Royce’s philosophy: “Take the best that exists and make it better.” Charles Rolls, an aristocrat, was an accomplished motorist, experienced in selling imported foreign motor cars. His business partner, Claude Johnson, stepped into the role of Managing Director of Rolls and Royce’s venture and expanded the fledgling company’s reputation.

Sir Henry Royce and the Hon Charles Rolls (images courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

The company they founded has faced extraordinary challenges and difficulties throughout its 116 year history. Though still in its infancy, Rolls-Royce endured in 1918 when Spanish Flu swept across the world. A decade later, it again stood firm when the Great Depression laid waste to the global economy, and weathered the financial crash of 2008, just 80 years after that. Over the years that followed, Rolls Royce withstood the shocks of economic and political crises both at home and overseas, embodying constancy in an uncertain world.

For the current generation of the Rolls-Royce family, working from home has been a new experience. For Sir Henry Royce, however, it was entirely normal. Indeed, some of his most influential designs were produced in the private studio he maintained at his home – Elmstead – at West Wittering, just eight miles from the present-day manufacturing plant and global head office.

Prince Charles aboard the original Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (image courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

Royce clearly found inspiration and creative energy in the peace, quiet and solitude that working away from the bustle of the office and factory provided. Famously, while one day out walking on the nearby beach, he sketched the initial design for the R-series aero engine in the sand with his walking stick. A later development of that design, the Merlin, would earn everlasting acclaim as the engine which powered the legendary Supermarine Spitfire.

CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös revealed that: “We are living through historic times. In marking this amazing anniversary, we are taking a moment to reflect on what 116 years have taught us. As a company, we can draw strength from the knowledge that although Rolls-Royce has faced uncertainty many times over the years, it has emerged more resilient and confident, with its fundamental principles unaltered. Our present challenges may be unprecedented, but as we look to the future, I am confident there is no company in the world better prepared to overcome them.”

Rolls-Royce Rose Phantom (image courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

For more information, go to www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com.

Be Part of The History at The Westbury Mayfair Hotel By The Luxury Channel

When you stay at the Westbury Mayfair hotel, situated at 37 Conduit Street in London’s West End, you will be stepping into the shoes of one of England’s past kings. The hotel is celebrating its 65th anniversary, following its opening on 1st March 1955, but it’s the history of the site itself that seemingly holds the most intrigue.

Then & Now – The exterior of The Westbury Mayfair

As it transpires, 37 Conduit Street was once the site of a mobile wooden “travelling tabernacle” on wheels, used by King James II in the late 17th century. In time, following the King’s exile and subsequent abdication in 1688, the chapel was kept on Hounslow Heath as a “memorial” to the monarch before being later moved to Conduit Street to serve as a Chapel of Ease for the parishioners of St. Martin’s in the Fields. By 1764 (if indeed not earlier), the wheels had become bricks and mortar, and the officially named Trinity Chapel had been erected near to the site of what is now The Westbury Mayfair. The Royal treatment continues to be offered to every guest who steps inside this 5-star sanctuary.

More recently, prior to the hotel’s 1955 opening, 37 Conduit Street had gone from tabernacle to tailors, being as it was the premises of Kenneth Durward, an outfitters specialising in military, motoring and travelling coats and garments. Along with Burberry and Aquascutum, Kenneth Durward was one of the first to develop a variation of the classic trench coat.

Then & Now – The lobby at The Westbury Mayfair

The year 1955 marked the first time that a hotel had occupied 37 Conduit Street, but the construction of The Westbury Mayfair marked another first – it was the first hotel to be built in the capital for 20 years. The building work commenced the day after the Queen’s Coronation in June 1953, taking 21 months to complete. When the hotel opened, guests arriving into the grandly-named “Entrance Hall” would have had access to a florist’s counter, a ticket office and even a number of telephone boxes – being as it was almost twenty years before the first call was made by mobile phone – and a night’s stay for a single room cost all of just $10.

Then & Now – The POLO Bar at The Westbury Mayfair

Its layout has naturally expanded over the years, but the award-winning POLO Bar has always been a mainstay of the hotel’s overall offering for drinks and all-day dining. In addition to its central London location, the Bar first became famous for having the coldest iced water on tap in the capital, as well as having the largest Martinis. Today, the POLO Bar might not be known for making such bold claims, but a proud tradition of drinks innovation married to a heritage of American originality means that escaping to its cosy confines is always a winning idea – particularly when it involves the menu of dangerously delectable cocktails. Bag yourself a prime spot and settle in for the night, as the bartending team mix their magic behind the bar, pouring some of the slickest serves the city has to offer.

Then & Now – Rooms at The Westbury Mayfair

Since the day it opened, The Westbury Mayfair instantly became a hub of interest, and a go-to for its international clientele, who have been coming back to the hotel for two or three family generations. Its prime location in the heart of fashion, finance and foreign relations attracts numerous celebrities and heads of state, all of whom form part of the rich heritage – and indeed, ongoing history – of the hotel. If the walls of 37 Conduit Street could talk, they’d have some great stories to tell.

Be part of the history – for more information and to make a reservation, go to www.westburymayfair.com.

Beirut with Anouska Hempel 2 minutes 28 seconds

Anouska Hempel Design is an international practice with an unrivalled reputation for architecture, interiors, landscapes, products, furniture and haute-couture, and specialises in creating the world’s best hospitality, residential, lifestyle and retail experiences. Originally known for influential hotel and restaurant design (starting with Blakes Hotel in London), the company’s broad portfolio now includes exclusive private residences, luxury shops, iconic gardens and exquisite yachts. Click here for further information.

Escape To Svart – The World’s First Energy Positive Hotel By The Luxury Channel

Svart Spa & Wellness Clinic (image courtesy of Miris)

The world’s first energy positive hotel – the Svart Spa & Wellness Clinic in Norway – has unveiled its ground-breaking, Nordic-inspired spa and wellness offering. Located within the Arctic Circle and due to open in early 2022, the Clinic is set to pioneer a new age of responsible wellness adventure travel.

Taking individuals on a journey to ‘‘Climatise, Condition and Evolve,’’ bespoke programmes will target the mind, body and skin. Treatments will range from massages and facials using 100% locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients and indigenous Nordic elements, to sound-healing, reflexology, cryotherapy and transformative nutrition coaching incorporating cutting-edge wearable technology.

Upon arrival, guests will have a one-to-one consultation with the expert Spa team and resident health concierge to discuss and select a unique programme of therapies, services and supplements. The treatment plan will be individually tailored to support and enhance the outdoor activities guests wish to pursue during their stay and there will be plenty of exhilarating active experiences to enjoy year-round, from ice climbing on the glacier to practicing yoga in the midnight sun. Home to some of the rarest flora and fauna species in the world, fishing and foraging will also be on offer.

Svart Spa & Wellness Clinic (image courtesy of Snøhetta Plompmozes and Miris)

Each bespoke programme will formulate a three-part conditioning series:

Climatise: The purpose of this stage will be to prepare the skin for the external conditions ahead, to ready the body for the adventure that awaits, and to adjust the individual’s mental state to the current surroundings and environment.

Condition: The second stage will aim to monitor and aid skin changes with additional sustenance, to relieve the body of new tensions resulting from the chosen adventures, and to enhance mental wellbeing.

Evolve: The final stage will focus on energising the skin to boost optimum condition, to reward the body for its exertions, and to encapsulate the mind in the present achievements.

Svart Spa & Wellness Clinic (image courtesy of Snøhetta Plompmozes and Miris)

More than ever before, consumers are predicted to value and seek sustainable travel which incorporates health awareness, mindfulness and wellness, and Svart will aim to offer travellers a new means of conscious escapism. From the cutting-edge spa and adventurous activities offering – which will target both physical and mental wellbeing – to the nutritional-focused dining offering, wellness will flow through every element of the hotel. Svart will also be the world’s first energy positive hotel, meaning that it will produce more energy than it uses. The aim is for it to be fully off-grid, carbon neutral and zero waste within the first five years of operation.

For more information on Svart, please visit www.svart.no.

David Yarrow – A Moment of Reflection By The Luxury Channel

“The Girl On The Hill” by David Yarrow

For over two decades, legendary British photographer David Yarrow has been putting himself in harm’s way to capture some of the world’s most revered and endangered animal species. With his images heightening awareness of endangered species and also raising huge sums for charity and conservation, he is one of the most relevant photographers in the world today. Yarrow offers a balanced retrospective between his spectacular work in the wild and his staged storytelling work that has earned him wide acclaim in the fine art market. Whether it be in the wilds of Alaska or an old saloon bar in Montana, the danger is laced through every photograph – Yarrow has been held at gunpoint in South Sudan, waded through the crocodile-infested Nile, and had to remember the advice of “if you run, you’ll die.” Yarrow uses remote control cameras and enticements to bring polar bears, lions, and tigers to his camera for face-to-face confrontations. Every image is the result of hours of logistical preparation and deep psychological knowledge of his subjects. His love of Africa is evident, and he has donated over $1 million towards conservation.

The current crisis due to COVID-19 has seen Kenya close its borders and all international passenger flights into the country have ceased, resulting in a halt to Africa’s critical tourism industry virtually overnight. The cessation of tourism and global economic fall-out is not only leading to large-scale job losses across Kenya but also wildlife conservancies, such as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, are experiencing an immediate and massive drop in tourism revenue which supports wildlife conservation and vital community programmes. We asked David to tell us, as an artist used to travelling the world, how he feels about these challenging times and what was foremost on his mind:

A MESSAGE FROM DAVID YARROW

“I used to keep a finely tuned diary and knew where I would be every day for the next four or five months. Yet today, I have no plans for the next four or five months. This situation is the same for hundreds of millions of people across the world.

It is a time to stay safe and take stock. As an artist, this is an opportunity to rejuvenate and spend time with the family. When I am away, my opportunity cost is the family and they are the oxygen that gives me creative courage and confidence. Without that supply, I am not well equipped to do what I do.

I hope this will be the last time in my life that I am unable to work for a long period of time and if it is, I must make the most of this period and adapt and find good in a bad situation. And there is indeed so much good to find.

“Africa” by David Yarrow

I am a storyteller who makes pictures rather than necessarily takes them, and this hints at desk-based research and finding prompts from the works of others and indeed the prompts of everyday life. There is no shame in this; after all, Ansel Adams, America’s greatest photographer wrote: ‘You don’t take a photograph with a camera; you bring to the art of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard and the people you have loved.’ What he was instructing us was that photography is about the soul, not the camera, and this is a time for nurturing the soul and forgetting about the camera. Its time will come again.

When I think of the works of others right now, I think of Peter Beard, an iconic artist, who has sadly just passed away. His work in Kenya has always inspired me because he was so much more than a photographer of wildlife. He collaborated as well as anyone on the ground and those partnerships allowed his work to transcend.

Kenya is much in my thoughts, as it has lost its tourist income and with it a huge source of support for organisations such as the Kenya Wildlife Service, who are on the front line in conservation. For those that care about conservation and can afford to go to Kenya, they must please return at the earliest available opportunity.

I don’t know what I am doing for the next four or five months, but what I do know is that the first time I can fly to Kenya, I will. I feel a calling.”

– David Yarrow

For further information about David Yarrow’s work, please visit www.davidyarrow.photography. To find out more about supporting Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, read our article here.

Natural Healing – The Luxury Channel Meets David Harber By Fiona Sanderson

Sculptor David Harber’s eponymous company is renowned for creating exquisite signature sundials and sculptural pieces, combining a visual beauty where art and engineering collide….

Torus by David Harber (image courtesy of David Harber Studio)

What are your thoughts on the idea of nature being able to heal, and in what ways would one of your sculptures aid this theory?

The wounds and scars from this extraordinary event will be deep and slow to heal; however, the enforced slowing down of our frenetic lives encourages and forces us to be aware of our environment. Every element of the natural world reminds us of the reassuring cycle of life and the pleasure we can take in the small things around us, from the shoots of leaves on a tree to the serenity of a garden without the noise and scarred sky from vapour trails. Taking time to enjoy the stillness of a garden is often helped by a focal point, a piece created to harmonise and compliment the garden, such as sundials which have, since early man’s attempts to harness the energy of the sun, helped us to consider the bigger questions.

What would you say should be the predominant focus of a garden, in terms of its aesthetic and purpose?

For me, the predominant focus of a garden should be a place of calm where the pace of nature allows contemplation and reflection. The drama of foliage with its colours and textures creates an ever-changing scene, like theatre, and should be a place that draws your mind and eye.

Torus by David Harber (image courtesy of David Harber Studio and Clive Nichols)

If someone was considering getting a sculpture made by you, what would you suggest that they need to consider?

Commissioning a piece of sculpture is a relationship between the designer and the client, and its intended environment. Is the piece to be a bold dramatic statement, such as the Torus (pictured above), or our latest sculptural work called Orbis, which was inspired by the elliptical orbits of comets and evokes thoughts of planets, as well as the notion of outer space. Or is the piece something more cerebral, like the Armillary Sphere? If we are having a conversation, it’s because the client likes our portfolio of classic designs. Alternatively, the Classic designs can also form the basis for a collaboration between the client and the David Harber studio. This process can be done remotely with the sharing of photographs and all-important conversations or where possible, the conversation can take place during a site visit. This can lead to flights of fantasy where the location, the client’s personality and the designer’s desire to create all come together to fulfil the commission.

Where would you ideally need to position a sculpture in the garden?

A sculpture can be a centrepiece, such as an Armillary in a parterre, something to intellectually and romantically engage and to hold the attention of the on-looker with its oracle-like quotations and ancient time-telling abilities; the alternative being a bold focal point that draws the eye deep into the garden and that becomes a visual and physical destination.

Orbis by David Harber (images courtesy of David Harber Studio)

What is the most ambitious piece you have ever created, and what were the challenges involved?

We have created a giant pendulum for the centre of King Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah and an enormous sundial for ONE°15, a superyacht marina in Singapore, both of which had technical and logistical challenges. We are currently revelling in the difficulties of creating an enormous sail-like sculpture for a municipality in Florida, sufficiently large enough to produce engineering and installation complexities, but the desire to create these pieces always trumps the difficulties that we are presented with.

Finally, what is your favourite luxury?

The Mercedez Benz 300SL that I am currently restoring.

For more information about David Harber, or to commission a piece of your own, go to www.davidharber.co.uk.

The Luxury Channel Meets Iris van Herpen By Hannah Norman

Widely recognised as one of the most talented and forward-thinking designers working in the haute couture fashion industry today, we speak to Iris van Herpen to find out about pushing the links between clothing and technology, the one material she’d really like to work with, and how she started her label without using a sewing machine…

Iris van Herpen

Tell us about what prompted you to become a fashion designer and the early days of your career?

I used to practice classical ballet, and my mother was a dance teacher, so movement, transformation and the female form have been a fascination for me from a very young age. During those years of dance, I learned a lot about the endless shape-making that we all create with our bodies, and about the infinite micro transformations happening within all movements we continuously make. And how strongly our body mobility and our identity-making are interwoven. I see every living person as a continuous evolution of shape, a dance that is being performed life long. These same concepts still provide inspiration for my collections now, and inspire me to think of a ‘‘bio-technological’’ future for fashion, a fashion that is so much more advanced and alive then the static-ness of how we ‘‘make’’ or create today. My background in dance continuously feeds me inspiration to think of new forms of femininity. During my first years of starting my label, I had a very holistic approach to fashion – every piece I designed was made by myself and a needle and thread only. Not even a sewing machine was used! I embraced the opposite of fast fashion, mass production and high consumerism. I embraced fashion as art. The same philosophy is still the heart of Iris van Herpen Haute Couture today.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (image courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Eugene Yeap)

How would you describe your signature style, both in terms of your work and your individual day-to-day dress?

Iris van Herpen stands for an organic, innovative femininity that expresses state-of-the-art couture that embraces individuality powerfully and fearlessly. The Iris van Herpen women is sensual and strong and intellectually driven to look beyond our scripted horizons. Meanwhile, my personal day-to-day dressing embodies a wide range from traditional Japanese embroidered kimonos to all black tight jeans and knitwear for when I walk my dog. And of course, my own designs are in my closet that I wear for special moments and celebrations.

What inspires you day-to-day and where does the inspiration for your designs come from?

Inspiration comes from so many fields, from science to dance, from sculpture to mathematics, from poetry to astronomy, from anatomy to innovation, from nature to philosophy. Fashion is art to me; it is a laboratory of identity. That is why I collaborate with other artists, scientists and architects, to ultimately weave threads from our past identities towards our unknown identities to come. Fashion needs to inspire us to create ourselves, to find ourselves, and to then re-shape ourselves.

SS20 illustrations by Iris van Herpen (courtesy of Iris van Herpen)

How would you say your style has evolved over the years?

When I first started, I was focussed on handwork and craftsmanship only – I didn’t even used a sewing machine. Now my process has become much more collaborative, interacting with architects, scientists, and engineers to create garments that combine experimental technology with traditional craftsmanship. This interdisciplinary research creates a constant dialogue, and new knowledge and challenges for the atelier. Next to that, femininity is playing a bigger role in my work. I have grown into being a women myself and this leads me in my designs today. I have found that femininity and seduction are such powerful tools, and so stigmatised at the same time. I am not afraid to break those old patterns.

What was your “I’ve made it!” moment?

My first runway show in Paris on the invitation of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode was a very special and magic moment. For the first time, I felt part of a very long history of couture craftsmanship. My work was embraced by the couture houses of Chanel and Dior, and they were supporting my innovative approach – that moved me so much. I am still grateful to be able to show my collections in Paris twice a year and to be acknowledged by the Fédération de la Haute Couture. That first show in Paris gave my work a global presence and was the beginning of incredible collaborations and projects with brilliant women like Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton, Cara Delevingne, Scarlett Johansson, Bjork and more.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (images courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Molly Lowe)

Your design aesthetic is a unique one that embraces the future both literally and metaphorically, but to what extent is there still a place for traditional techniques and craftsmanship?

The craftsmanship we can master in my atelier today is thanks to an incredible evolution of innovation throughout the centuries, to all the people before us innovating and refining the skills they had before them. To continue this journey forward, this evolution of craftsmanship, my atelier shares knowledge with other fields, and we collaborate with scientist, material engineers and architects, interweaving the existing couture crafts and techniques with even more refined possibilities. I often look at my designs from a bird’s perspective arial view. When people look back to this century, I hope we (that is, myself, my atelier and everybody we collaborate with) give beauty, elegance and delight to the women we dress, but I also hope we help with shaping fashion more intelligently, empowering women and empowering fashion generally by shaping it with the fields of science, art, architecture, engineering, biology and empowering the art to dress.

We heard you speaking at the Conde Nast Luxury Conference in Florence about 3D printing. What was it that first attracted you to 3D printing as a technique and an art form?

I am often attracted and driven by things that feel impossible – that is how I started to become fascinated by 3D printing. At the time in 2009, 3D printing wasn’t used in fashion but I got to see the technique at the studio of two architects, Benthem & Crouwel, who I was doing a creative project with. They had designed an art museum that looked like a huge bathtub and asked me to design a dress inspired by the museum. I wanted to make a dress out of water, which was obviously impossible to do with fabric. It needed to have the same flow and transparency but I had no idea how to create a kind of ‘‘immateriality’’ to that extend. 3D printing seemed the only way to get close to what I had in mind. But the process was complicated; the file-making needed to be scripted in high detail and it also had to be made to measure. So I started to collaborate with another architect, Daniel Widrig, to create the file. I discovered the incredible amount of high detail that was possible with 3D printing – I could be as precise as the fine-ness of a finger print. A whole new world of design possibilities opened up for me, and still today we embed 3D printing into the process of the traditional couture techniques – in a sense, they have married.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (image courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Eugene Yeap)

At the Conference, you also discussed the idea of counterfeit goods, in so far as someone being able to re-create couture designs through 3D printing, and the technologies (such as unique fibres) that could be employed to prevent this. To what extent are you concerned by counterfeits being available on the market, and how are you countering this?

At the time of the Conference, intellectual property in terms of the 3D files was not commonly protected in the process. Now this is very normal. Today, a 3D printed dress – in terms of its re-creation – is comparable to any other garment. Any normal garment design that is being sent off to a factory (that is done with a pattern and a technical sheet) can be re-made by any other person or factory that can make garments. So all that matters is whether you protect your designs legally. Often, this is not done in the fashion industry as the speed of production and the volumes of ‘‘new’’ designs is so incredibly high, so design copies are very normal. My 3D printed dresses are impossible to copy as the files are protected and most pieces are printed from very specific materials on specific machines. As well as that, after the printing there is a lot of handwork being done and that is an expertise we have grown in our atelier. That technologically-driven handwork is very rare and is not being taught elsewhere. This knowledge and craft are unique to the Iris van Herpen atelier and the creative team we have educated here.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (image courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Philip Beesley)

What is the one material that you’d really like to work with, or explore the possibilities of using?

I’d like to shape a garment from energy only. Immateriality in fashion design is an ongoing impossibility that moves me. It’s perhaps metaphorical, as fashion gives me – and perhaps all of us – so much energy, and so much energy is trapped inside the process of designing and making a material and a garment. How alchemical would it be if that energy itself is felt and visualised, like a ghost of our dreams, without the practicality of a fabric?

What are your thoughts about fast fashion and the disposability of clothes? How do you address this as a designer?

We live in a world that is changing so rapidly – it’s never been seen before. These changes are transforming our landscapes, transforming the way we live, work, communicate, and also transforming our values and our needs. Fashion has grown into an industry that nobody wants (we all know it is the second largest most polluting industry of our world, built upon mass-production, oversupply, disposability, consumerism, toxic materials and dyes, and labour exploitation. Radical new morals, goals and dreams are needed to shape a more beautiful future for fashion, and I am optimistic we will get there all together. The current pandemic we all suffer worldwide is an important moment for the industry, and all brands need to stand still and re-evaluate their future goals and integrity, and implement change of direction. Iris van Herpen, as a label, is only creating Haute Couture, and the beauty within this purity of creation is that the atelier only makes what is being ordered, so there is not a single garment we make that is waste. The materials and techniques that we develop are driven by sustainability and we only do two small collections a year. The women who acquire these dresses, they do that for life, and perhaps even to pass them on to their children. Its kindred to art, it’s created to inspire and to be lived in for centuries. It’s the most sustainable and pure form of creation; that is what I love about it. It’s not about the amount I design and make in a year; it’s about a very few, very exceptional pieces that will last ‘‘forever.’’ So for reshaping fashion as a whole, embracing change and investment in innovation are crucial. Collaboration, and the sharing of expertise among specialists in diverse disciplines, is the future of fashion. This will advance fashion in ways previously unimaginable.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (image courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Eugene Yeap)

Italy and France are both well-known for their high-end fashion, whereas Holland hasn’t – yet – got quite the same pedigree. But what exciting things are happening in the world of fashion back home?

Its very true, Holland isn’t know for high fashion, although the dress for both women and men in the 17th and 18th century was incredible, with voluminous cutting-edge ruff collars, stunning innovative lacework, embroidery and silhouette-making. Today, the street-life dressing is not very exciting. But on the fronts of innovation and sustainability, there are amazing studios here. Designers you should know about are Diana Scherer, Xandra van der Eijk, Jolan van der Wiel, Emma van der Leest and AnneMarie Maes.

You designed Katy Perry’s dress in the video for Never Really Over – how did the collaboration come about and what was she like to work with?

I loved dressing her for that beautiful video! There is such joy and communal creativity radiating from that artistic direction. We made the dress from long, floaty, half-wheel plisse panels that were printed in warm colours to create an airy, gravity-defying feminine movement, to make her feel alive and sensual. I was not there when they filmed it, unfortunately, but this collaboration is very dear to me and a strong women like Katy Perry is a source of energy for all I make.

Katy Perry in her video for Never Really Over (image courtesy of Iris van Herpen and Maavven)

Which other high-profile individuals have you collaborated with, and what were the projects that you worked on?

Another special project was the dress we made for Scarlett Johansson for the movie Lucy, the Luc Besson science fiction movie. Scarlett develops super powers and she acts so magnificently. The layered complexity of her character and the immense power she radiates is what I aimed to translate into the dress, without being too dominant. I also loved making the custom Ludi Naturae dress for Cate Blanchett at the Cannes Film Festival that expressed the ‘‘games in nature’’ very playfully and softly. I also love working with Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Solange, Tilda Swinton, Cara Delevingne, Bjork, Joey King. Each of them are enigmatic and graceful women that created mesmeric memories to design for.

Your incredible Sensory Seas collection was a response to the way in which messages are transmitted by the brain and in nature, but was it also a comment on the way in which information-overload exists in the digital age?

Very true, yes. The Sensory Seas collection holds a microscope over the invisible relationships between the anthropology of a marine organism, and the dendrites and synapses that deliver infinite signals throughout our bodies. An infinite amount of messaging exist in uninterrupted waves, all around us, deep beneath us and inside us. With Sensory Seas, I tried creating a metaphorical maze of sensory waves to express that. Matching the ebb and flow of the immensity of the ocean and the eternal chattering of our senses, I wanted to design with the notion of this overload of our systems.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (images courtesy of Iris van Herpen)

Is ocean ecology and the protection of our oceans something that is close to your heart?

Very, very much so. It’s amazing to realise that we have only explored 5% of our oceans, and most of it we have no idea what is living there. It’s unseen and unexplored.

There seems to be a level of real science incorporated into your work. Have you always been fascinated by science and technology, and what are your thoughts on the rise of “wearable tech?”

Science is indeed a big source of inspiration since I started my label. Both art and science look into how to rediscover the world around us constantly. It’s a search for consciousness and deepening of our understanding of who and why we are. These questions are fundamental to me to grasp upon, as to me they create the ‘‘science of shape’’ in my work. Technology is a great tool in our fight for a more holistic and sustainable way of living on, caring for, and collaborating with our planet. Technology is much less complex and advanced then nature itself, so it is more a tool to me then a source of inspiration. I think wearable tech will become serious in about a decade or so. At this moment, it mostly gets stuck in gadget compressed designs. But it’s a matter of time before the balance of functionality, aesthetics and reasoning of design will be found more profoundly.

Sensory Seas SS20 by Iris van Herpen (image courtesy by Iris van Herpen and Philip Beesley)

What does the future look like for Iris van Herpen – both the label, and you personally?

In the future of Iris van Herpen, I hope we help to shape fashion more intelligently, to empower women and to deepen the reasoning of creating fashion, to shape fashion into the fields of science, art, architecture, engineering, biology and to focus on sustainable collaboration with nature at the core of each design. To ultimately celebrate new beauty through ‘‘the art to dress.’’

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

My ultimate luxury is my creative freedom. Not many designers can design freely what they want, without a commercially driven board above them steering their instincts and dreams. The Iris van Herpen label is independent, and focussed on innovation and quality instead of quantity. This makes my design process very pure and free. Being able to intuitively shape my dreams with my team, to inspire the world around us, that is the rarest and most meaningful form of luxury to me.

For more information about Iris van Herpen, please visit www.irisvanherpen.com.

Escape To Anouska Hempel’s Monsieur George By The Luxury Channel

“When you wander along Rue Washington, you suddenly come across the glorious, gorgeous, sensational, extraordinary Monsieur George. Top hat and tails, feathers from beyond, a twinkling fantasy of a bohemian rhapsody in deepest, darkest green. Coco Chanel resided within this setting. Mata Hari had her heyday here. Gregory Peck left his Brasserie, Les Deux Magots, to sit on Audrey Hepburn’s lap, and Lady Gaga has just moved in – and within this scenario enters Monsieur George….” Anouska Hempel

The Eiffel Tower, Paris (image courtesy of Alexis Minchella)

Monsieur George – the newest hotel in the City of Love and Light – opened under the glowing lights of the Champs-Élysées in March 2020, and as fleetingly as a dream, as we left to return to London, it closed temporarily due to the unfortunate circumstances we are all now in the wake of.

This latest boutique luxury hotel born from the imagination of acclaimed interior designer, Anouksa Hempel, is a decadent retreat from the hustle and bustle of the busy Champs-Élysées and the milieu of Paris’ 8th arrondissement. Its 46 rooms and 3 suites set in Haussmann-style architecture provide travellers with all the style and elegance befitting its historic location, with the intrinsic history of the surrounding districts forming an integral part of the adventure associated with the hotel.

The Windsor Suite at Monsieur George, designed by Anouska Hempel (image courtesy of Gaelle Le Boulicaut)

In acknowledgement of the illustrious first president of the United States – George Washington – Monsieur George is located on the street that was named in his honour, and reflects a degree of the character, charm and personality of this great man who so greatly impacted history.

Beyond the majestic, stony façade of Paris and through the art-deco front door, a warm welcome is extended to each and every guest. An intimate, comfortable ambiance is immediately established, through use of abundant greenery, natural lighting, and gloriously sumptuous materials: marbles, thick piled velvets, and large mirrors. A unique, handmade chandelier greets you with its 18 twinkling candles reflecting all around the lobby – quite a first impression!

The Lobby at Monsieur George, designed by Anouska Hempel (images courtesy of Gaelle Le Boulicaut)

At Monsieur George, every space is designed to ensure that your stay in Paris is wonderfully unique. Everything has been well thought-out to make you feel at home, to experience a very personal, Parisian welcome with a detail-orientated and seamless service.

With classic dormer windows, the rooms are all carefully thought out as beautiful designer retreats set across 6 floors. The white-on-white Benjamin Franklin rooms are on the airy top floor, with views across the Parisian rooftops from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tour, while on the floors below, you’ll find the Windsor and Chequers rooms and suites, each with its own style and ambiance. There is a continuous elegance in every detail – from the bespoke side tables to the handmade taffeta and velvet curtains. Well-designed, understatedly simple and warm, each is a space designed to please the mind, the heart and the soul.

The Benjamin Franklin Suites at Monsieur George, design by Anouska Hempel (images courtesy of Gaelle Le Boulicaut)

The hotel also boasts a bijou little garden, where guests can enjoy the Parisian afternoon sun, or perhaps retreat to for an after-dinner cigar, seated at one of the outside tables and surrounded by lush greenery. The focal point, a decorative green enamel stove, is an intriguing Art Deco artefact that adds a quirky touch to this enchanting outside space.

Gourmands will not be disappointed either, as the hotel’s 24-hour Galanga Restaurant, named after a rare ginger plant, offers a comfortable environment for all-day dining, inviting Parisians and guests alike to enjoy special moments in Paris from hearty breakfasts, to light lunches, afternoon teas, aperitifs, and naturally delicious fusion-style dinners.

Galanga Restaurant at Monsieur George, designed by Anouska Hempel (image courtesy of Gaelle Le Boulicaut)

Menus are constantly evolved by a young, enthusiastic duo: Head Chef Thomas Danigo and Premier Second Chef Simon Pinault. Both are under 30, and together they combine their experience in the business, bringing freshness, creativity, and tradition. They offer a full range of dishes from simple meals to world-renowned cuisine and are committed to delivering an interesting culinary experience.

The hotel’s Bar is again a signature of Anouska’s design style, with elegant green, velvet-covered chairs lined along the bar. The piano-black bar top reflects in the mirrored ceiling, picking up the twinkle and glitter of the three handmade chandeliers – all three a result of months and months of determination to get these made as sketched. If you leave the bar, there is casual seating in amongst the fronds, in green velvet niches created with the clever use of tall glass screens which allow for intimacy.

The Bar at Monsieur George, designed by Anouska Hempel (image courtesy of Gaelle Le Boulicaut)

To top any stay, it’s always a treat to find a Spa, and at Monsieur George, guests can do just that. A short treasure hunt down to the basement takes you to a perfectly formed mini-spa created by Le Tigre (the ultimate benchmark for health and well-being), which offers custom programmes including special yoga courses, fitness sessions, therapeutic massages, and a wide variety of aesthetic services. Go straight from your room to the spa in one of the two swift églisomé glass lifts. Parfait!

Once this current lockdown lifts and it is safe to return to “normal” life, Monsieur George will throw open its elegant doors once again, and we can step back into this dream, all over again.

For more information about Monsieur George, go to www.monsieurgeorge.com, and for more information about Anouska Hempel, go to www.anouskahempeldesign.com.

Ralph & Russo’s Stay At Home Style Guide By The Luxury Channel

Whilst it feels like the world is currently on standby, this period of self-isolation has demonstrated that we are able to come together in different ways to celebrate and treasure relationships with our loved ones and with ourselves. Whether this time is spent with friends via FaceTime, enjoying quality time indoors, or becoming the ultimate work-from-home boss, Ralph & Russo’s style inspiration will infuse positivity and bring some inspiration to beat the isolation blues. This edit also includes Ralph & Russo’s most coveted party pieces, ready for that glamorous celebration when we can all come together again.

Working From Home Chic:

FaceTime House Party:

Mood-Brightening Accessories:

Social Distance & Chill:

Indoor Date Night:

Post-Quarantine Party:

A Message From Ralph & Russo’s Founders

“As the global spread of COVID-19 has come to affect us all, we are reminded of the power of family – of love, support and the instinctive need to care for one another. Today, that need could not be greater, and as we pray for an end to this crisis, our hearts go out not only to those suffering with the disease, but also the heroic care-givers fighting it. Whilst we may take a step back from each other in person today, know that we look forward to holding each other even closer in the future. From our family to yours, please stay safe – we will beat this together.” – Co-founders Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo.

For more information, please visit www.ralphandrusso.com.

Montague Property – A Modern Approach To A Traditional Industry By The Luxury Channel

‘‘Disruption’’ may have become a tired and hackneyed millennial phrase – but as a young CEO from an unconventional background working in a world of old, established money, for Thomas Balashev, it only seemed natural to be doing things a little differently. The Luxury Channel discovered his story….

How did you come to set up your company, Montague Property?

The story really starts when I left school at 16, with no real traditional academic achievements. I subsequently worked as a children’s football coach – which little did I know at the time would hold me in great stead in later life – and in a fashion store until my early 20s. Realising I wanted more from life, and to earn money, I bought an IKEA desk and a computer for my bedroom and started teaching myself about property markets and the global economy. Montague Property (or at least, an early incarnation of it) was subsequently born. Fast forwards a decade, and we are proud to have completed, from our Mayfair headquarters in London, luxury real estate projects in the value of tens of millions of pounds all over the world.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

Getting to where I am hasn’t been easy, but not being born into the traditional circles of the London real estate market (my father is Bulgarian, my mother Scottish) has its advantages; notably, a broader international perspective on the industry and how we can do business. For me, the US real estate industry has always been a source of inspiration. With our British propensity for pleasantries, I’ve heard many in Mayfair brand our US counterparts as unrefined and brash. It is true that our friends across the pond don’t beat around the bush; they aren’t scared to cut to the chase – but I’ve always seen this is a badge of pride rather than a source of shame. Why? Because this positive mentality sees the US place a far greater emphasis on sales skills than in the UK, empowering those within the industry with the confidence to overcome self-doubt and limitation – in turn making them, I would argue, far more effective salespeople. This is something we in the UK could really learn from. As result of this bolder mentality, the individual real estate agents in the US have a far greater presence, personal brand and entrepreneurial spirit than their counterparts in the UK. The reality in the US is that people do business with people; I would argue the US model enables far closer personal relationships and customer interaction – an approach that we in the UK could again learn from to help drive sales.

What other differences are there between the UK and the US?

The US sees every state require estate agents to hold a licence. Yet with no barrier to entry in the UK, the level of professionalism and knowledge is reduced – leading to those well-known negative perceptions of real estate agents within wider society. This damages the reputation of our industry and those working within it on an international scale. It should also be considered that it remains possible in the UK to undertake a multi-million pound real estate deal (or any property deal, for that matter) with a broker or agent who started the job the day before. A deal of this magnitude would never be allowed in the financial services world, so why do we allow it in the real estate market?

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the property industry?

As a real estate CEO from a non-traditional background, I feel passionately about providing greater opportunity for those from a similar background to mine. Young people from non-HNW backgrounds can and will succeed in the luxury sector as long as they are provided with the relevant skills and confidence to do so. In my case, much of Montague Property’s success has been down to people, and much of my approach to man-managing and instilling belief in those around me has been born out of the lessons I learnt during my football coaching days.

What are your plans for your business in the future?

Our dedication to both tradition and modernisation means Montague Property looks forward to three key goals in 2020: firstly, engaging ambitious projects in new target markets – including Miami and Los Angeles, Paris and the Middle East. Secondly, continuing to provide our international HNW clients with the highest level of service available, whilst sourcing and financing some of the world’s finest properties. Thirdly, affording opportunity and development to young people fighting to break into the luxury real estate industry. Achieving all three would be a very good year both for us, and the wider industry.

For more information, go to www.montagueproperty.co.uk.

Peregrine Heathcote Paints Ralph Lauren By Fiona Sanderson

Artist Peregrine Heathcote is known for his exquisite paintings that recall bygone times when travelling was the pinnacle of luxury. Fusing iconic pre-war design with modern conceptions of beauty, Heathcote’s work depicts the glamour and romance of the silver screen-era, set against the backdrop of international jet set culture. It’s little wonder, therefore, that Heathcote has been asked to paint a series of works for Ralph Lauren, to celebrate the label’s SS20 collection. The Luxury Channel duly caught up with the artist to talk fashion, films and sky-diving Sheikhs….

Tell us about the Ralph Lauren campaign and how the commission started?

The commission started from an e-mail enquiry via my website one rainy Saturday evening in October, from one of the creative art directors at Ralph Lauren in charge of conceptual digital design. They came across my work, loved what I did, and asked if I would be available to start working on a first collaboration the following week for a presentation. It didn’t require much time to agree to schedule a call for Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon I had signed a Non Disclosure Agreement.

How much have the stories in your paintings been influenced by your early life?

I have been extremely fortunate to be inspired by a very adventurous family. My parents and I lived in Dubai during the 70s, a time when the country started to point its compass towards a western influence. My father organised some wonderful events for both westerners and Arabs – including the first Sheik to skydive, acrobatic displays over the desert and the first polo matches between western and local teams. My mother, who attended Saint Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martin’s), flew over some models from the UK for a Vogue fashion shoot in the desert – much to the interest of the locals.

Where does your love of vintage cars and planes come from?

Both my grandfathers inspire themes in my work, one of whom was a test pilot and flew for the RAF in the war piloting Wellingtons, Mosquitos, Proctors and Halifaxes. The other ran the Rolls-Royce 20-Ghost Club for many years, driving his Arthur Mulliner 20/25 hp around the world including China, Russia, Turkey and all over Europe.

Do you think we have lost the art of glamorous travel, and how has it changed from the stories in your work?

With the scenes I create, I try and conjure a semi-solitary exclusive experience of travel and adventure. I guess nowadays that is more achieved through boutique travel experiences tailored to families and smaller groups, rather than the mass package holidays.

Where do the ideas for your paintings come from, and how do you work in such detail?

I find travelling so inspiring and visiting new places often inspires new elements in the backgrounds of my work. Last year, I was in Marrakech working for a client and that rubbed off in some of the scenes on show in Scottsdale, Arizona a few months later.

Tell me about the many eminent people you have painted?

I’ve painted some really inspiring and interesting people – Sheikhs, princes, captains of industry, visionaries, collectors and people in love. The world I portray does appeal to a certain type of timeless nostalgia and I love sharing that language and experience with an appreciative collector. I have a really amazing project starting next week for a collector who wants an adaptation of a scene from the film Blade Runner – the 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young.

What are your proudest achievements?

I am happy every time a collector buys a painting. Each painting is a capsule of a moment of imagined reality, and I am proud of every sale. My work in the 2020 spring Ralph Lauren campaign, my artwork as the front-piece for the Battersea Power station redevelopment and some of my larger scale paintings appearing in the press.

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

My imagination!

A MESSAGE FROM PEREGRINE HEATHCOTE

“During these challenging times, it is important to note that COVID-19 is both a cue and a clue. A cue to change our routine for the reward of a more sustainable and wholesome life – being nicer to our neighbours, travelling less and living within a more local neighbourhood. A clue from nature to re-adjust our habits, and a heads-up to change our behaviour. It takes about 21 days to develop a habit. The self-isolation period may be longer than that. We’re in this together and we can emerge from this stronger, and with more consideration for our vulnerability to Mother Nature. We can learn, adjust, take note and change our habits for the improvement of our families, our children, our homes – and our planet. Listen to the birds sing, or your neighbours laugh. Enjoy the scenery. Smile. Be considerate. Appreciate the little things in life – there are so many rewards.” – Peregrine Heathcote.

For more information about Peregrine Heathocote’s work, go to www.peregrineheathcote.com. To see his work for Ralph Lauren SS20, click here.

Travel Inspiration For World Wildlife Day By The Luxury Channel

With World Wildlife Day upon us on 3rd of March, we have put together a round-up of the best destinations to witness incredible wildlife around the world, from a Scottish sea safari to the ultimate adventure in Kenya….

A Scottish Sea Safari

Glenapp Castle is a beautiful baronial hotel tucked away on the breath-taking Ayrshire coast in Scotland. Its extraordinary location makes it the ultimate spot for a magical sealife safari. The clear waters off the coast are teeming with marine life, from thirty-foot-long basking sharks to dolphins, minke whales and seals. Ailsa Craig, the iconic volcanic plug, is now a wildlife sanctuary. Home to over 40,000 birds, including puffins, guillemots, gannets and razorbills, and with a summit at a height of 1,100 feet, it really is the perfect setting to discover the vast array of wildlife that call this spectacular Scottish home. With breath-taking scenery unlike anywhere else, this is a sealife adventure you won’t want to miss. Take a trip up to Scotland for World Wildlife Day, pack a delicious picnic and hop on the Glenapp Castle boat for the ultimate safari.

HOW: Experience half a day’s Sea Safari on the Glenapp Castle boat from £700 (maximum 10 people) and stay at Glenapp Castle from £255 per room per night on a B&B basis. For more information, go to www.glenappcastle.com or call +44 (0)1465 831212.

An Ethical Kenyan Wildlife Experience

Lengishu is an exclusive use family home, nestled in a ridge overlooking the stunning Laikipia plains, right in the heart of the Borana Conservancy in Kenya. Borana is home to the world’s most treasured wildlife, including The Big Five. However, it is also home to a number of species unique to northern Kenya, such as Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx and Somali ostrich. The Conservancy spans 30,000 acres of sustainable wildlife habitat and conservation is a key part of their ethos, with a large team of rangers protecting the rhino and elephant population. All conservation fees, paid by Lengishu’s guests, are invested into conservation, notably endangered black rhino. Guests are also encouraged to take part in some of the work, including rhino tracking, and community-based activities with local schools. There is the opportunity to not only learn how the Borana Conservancy supports the conservation of wildlife and the local community, but also to make a difference.

HOW: Stay at Lengishu from £6,500 per night, based on six people sharing. Conservation fees of £115 per adult and £60 per child per night apply and are non-commissionable. Children under 5 are free of charge. For more information, go to www.lengishu.com.

A Sri Lankan Leopard-Spotting Game Drive

Chena Huts, run by Uga Escapes, is located in the unspoilt and relatively undiscovered south of Sri Lanka. The resort borders the Yala National Park on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. Described as a nature-lover’s paradise, the park is home to some of Sri Lanka’s most outstanding wildlife, ranging from elephants and sloth bears to buffaloes and peacocks. With the highest leopard densities in the world, there is an increased chance of a sighting of the creatures in their most natural habitat. The vast biodiversity within the flora and fauna of Yala’s National Park make it a wildlife enthusiast’s utopia. A stay at Chena Huts offers guests daily game drives with knowledgeable rangers, allowing for truly personalised experiences in Sri Lanka’s safari hotspot. At Chena Huts, the ‘‘huts’’ are in fact luxurious detached private pavilions, offering fine views of the surrounding wilderness and seascape.

HOW: Stay from £813 per night on an all-inclusive basis with daily game drives. For more information, go to www.ugaescapes.com or call +94 11 2331 322.

An Underwater Maldivian Adventure

Set amidst 18 hectares of tropical land on the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort is a haven bordered by exotic marine life. As the only place where divers can spot up to 16 species of shark in the water, the island is a paradise for avid divers and snorkelers. Those looking to venture into the hidden depths of the ocean can expect to encounter hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, tiger, blacktip, nurse and grey reef sharks, not to mention sea turtles and surgeonfish. The array of diverse sea creatures and the beauty of the endless coral reef gives guests a sought-after marine landscape. The exotic wildlife expands beyond the ocean with the island inhabiting vast amounts of lush vegetation, a natural lake and golden beaches. Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort allows guests to be fully submerged in the wildlife, with their new Aqua Villas offering panoramic sea views.

HOW: Stay at Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort during the UK winter months in a Beach Villa from £935 ($1,222) based on two people sharing. Rates include all-inclusive meal plan, inclusive 12% GST, 10% service charge and green tax, excluding transfers from airport to the resort. For more information, go to www.pullmanmaldivesmaamutaa.com.

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Trek To See The Great Apes

This remarkable trip with Wild Frontiers takes guests across some of the most beautiful and emotive landscapes on the African continent, travelling through Rwanda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in search of chimpanzees and eastern gorillas. Guests will then journey across the border into DR Congo and the city of Bukavu, located on the southern shores of Lake Kivu, visiting the eastern gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park with renowned gorilla conservationist and philanthropist, John Kahekwa. Taking inspiration this World Wildlife Day, this trip will give guests the opportunity to spend time in nature and with John, learning all about his conservation work.

HOW: Land-only price from £4,495 for 7 days. For more information, go to www.wildfrontierstravel.com or call +44 (0)20 8741 7390.

Afternoon Tea With A Twist At The Westbury Mayfair By The Luxury Channel

For those who like their afternoon teas with a distinctive twist on the quintessential British classic, you can’t go too far wrong at The Westbury Mayfair. Launched to coincide with the advent of the Year of the Rat and inspired by the beauty and the flavours of Asia, this new afternoon tea features a mouth-watering array of delicious delicacies, all of which showcase the signature culinary flair for which the hotel has become renowned.

In true tradition, guests are welcomed with two mandarin oranges, a symbol of wealth and prosperity for the coming year, before being served a selection of finger sandwiches, bursting with Oriental flavours (the smoked duck breast, hoisin sauce, spring onion and crispy shallot sarnies got our vote), as well as homemade scones with seasonal jam and clotted cream.

Other savoury treats include Tea Quail Eggs made with umami mayonnaise, dill and red shiso, which come beautifully presented in satisfyingly crunchy edible eggcups. Steamed Polo Bao buns are stylishly served with a special char siu (Chinese barbecue pork) filling concealed within.

Sweet treats include Pineapple Tart (consisting of butter pastry and pineapple jam, lovingly cocooned with 20-carat edible gold leaf), Mango Tart (cream cheese marshmallow, tonka pastry cream, mango mousse, yuzu and mango jelly), Mandarin & Chocolate Cake (chocolate rice cake, almond sponge, black tea mousse, mandarin marmalade and mandarin chocolate), and Pandan Puff (Pandan pastry cream, coconut, honeycomb and choux puff).

The crowning glory of the Afternoon Tea is, undoubtedly, the Matcha Mousse – which, believe us, your Insta grid didn’t know it needed! A chocolate Japanese garden is created from Matcha almond sponge, cunningly decorated with Match “moss” and chocolate and hazelnut “soil,” which supports an edible chocolate Bonsai tree. Divine! To cleanse the palate, choose from flutes of Champagne or an authentic Bubble Tea bursting with juicy citrus notes.

The Afternoon Tea Experience is available in The Westbury Mayfair’s Polo Bar from 12pm to 6pm on weekends. For more information, go to www.westburymayfair.com.

Valentine’s Day Demystified – Top Tips For Buying The Perfect Engagement Ring By The Luxury Channel

Image courtesy of Elmwood’s

With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching and the highest percentage of proposals taking place on the day, there comes a dilemma – where to start on choosing and buying the perfect engagement ring? Elmwood’s auctioneers director, Samuel Hill, offers some top tips to ease the process….

“Choosing the perfect engagement ring can be a minefield, especially if you’ve decided to surprise the one you love. Quite often, couples wisely consult on the types of rings their partner might want in advance, in order to not be completely in the dark when they eventually pop the question”, says Hill.

One of the first things to consider is his or her personal style, which will determine what type of stone you choose. 76% of all engagement rings purchased are classic diamond solitaires – however, this is a ring that your partner will wear for a long time and it’s a very personal choice, so it’s vital you get it right. When looking at personal preferences, think about whether they prefer gold to silver, or a more traditional style rather than something contemporary. Bottom line – if in doubt, don’t guess!

Images courtesy of Elmwood’s

It’s become popular recently to look at a partner’s birthstone as an option, which adds a very personal element. And if you do opt for the classic diamond ring, you should consider the 4Cs: Cut (determined by how well the tiny planes or facets have been cut on the diamond’s surface), Colour (the most exclusive diamond colour is called white, which is colourless and graded as a “D” and if the diamond has a strong colour, it is known as ‘‘fancy’’), Clarity (a good rule of thumb is to ensure that the diamond is graded as “IF,” meaning it is internally flawless) and Carat (which is the size and weight of the diamond).

“To safeguard yourself, I would recommend purchasing a certified stone,” says Hill, “which means that the diamond has an accompanying certificate that proves it has been evaluated, graded and coded by an independent gemological laboratory. The most internationally recognised are those issued by the GIA; others include HRD, IGL, EGL and AGS.”

Another very important consideration before you make your purchase is budget. While convention suggests you spend three times your monthly salary, in today’s society, where the divide between the sexes is narrower than ever, it’s about working to a sensible budget that isn’t going to cripple you as a couple, otherwise your surprise may backfire. If size is important but your budget isn’t super-sized, opt for a stone with a slightly larger surface area, but where the stone isn’t as deep. The stone is the most important aspect of the ring, and it can usually be set in whatever metal band you choose. Just remember to ascertain your budget before you buy – and stick to it!

Images courtesy of Elmwood’s

Regarding the choice of metal for your band, the key is to assure quality and durability. Platinum is one of the most popular choices in engagement rings, as it is the most resilient and long-lasting of metals and is also hypoallergenic for those with sensitive skin. However, if gold is preferred you have the choice of white, yellow, rose and even green gold. If recycling is a big concern, a band of combined metals is also an option and has seen a significant rise in demand.

Where you buy is crucial, whether purchasing from a high street retailer, a jeweller in London’s famous Hatton Garden, or an auction house. When parting with a significant amount of money for the long-term, it makes sense to seek out an expert. Hill runs Elmwood’s auction house in West London and as a jewellery expert, offers clients peace of mind that they are buying high-quality, certified pieces complete with a condition report, which presents everything in black and white.

However, wherever you decide to buy, he offers this advice: “Always buy form an established company that has a good reputation. Check whether the staff has sound gemological knowledge – credentials are usually presented on the company’s website. Is the company a member of a trade association working to industry standards; will you receive a gemological certificate stating the source of your stone and any treatment, plus a detailed receipt, warranty and guarantee?” Specialist, knowledgeable staff should always be on hand to guide you and offer transparent advice throughout the buying process.

For further information, visit www.elmwoods.co.uk.

Headlining Henley Festival 2021 By The Luxury Channel

The UK’s most glamorous festival is back! As the UK’s only black-tie festival, Henley Festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin-starred food, award-winning comedy, critically acclaimed artists and the biggest names in music, and the Festival was due to return to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames in July 2020. However, it is with much sadness and regret that the Henley Festival Board of Trustees and CEO Nick Mattingley have agreed to postpone Henley Festival for a full year, meaning that the festival will return on 7th – 11th July 2021. Thus far, the line-up remains unchanged.

Seminal British pop band Madness will open Henley Festival on the Wednesday night. One of the top 20 biggest-selling UK groups of all time, Madness have seven top 10 albums, 22 top 20 hits and over six million album sales to their name. Having celebrated 40 years in the music industry in 2019, Madness will perform much loved classics including Baggy Trousers, House of Fun and It Must Be Love alongside new songs from their first album in five years, titled The Bullingdon Boys. A British group like no other, formed in the heyday of punk, Madness are true originals who mix ska and reggae rhythms with social comment and music hall humour. Their appeal endures to this day, with their concerts having become fun-packed celebrations of one of the best-loved songbooks in British pop.

On Thursday night, Henley Festival is delighted to welcome the multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter James Blunt to headline the Floating Stage. A household name across the UK and beyond, Blunt rose to fame in 2004 with the release of his debut album Back To Bedlam, achieving worldwide acclaim with his hit single You’re Beautiful. The album Back To Bedlam went on to become the best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK, with over 11 million copies sold worldwide. Blunt has received numerous awards, including two Brit Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards, as well as receiving five Grammy Award nominations. He has continued to achieve huge commercial success with his following releases, the latest being his new album Once Upon A Mind.

The Henley Festival audience are in for a treat on Friday night, as singer-songwriter sensation Sophie Ellis-Bextor takes to the Floating Stage. The pop queen released her double-platinum selling debut album Read My Lips in 2001, which reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and produced hit singles including Murder On The Dancefloor and Take Me Home. The album also experienced international success, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide and winning the Edison Award for Best Dance Album in 2003. In 2014, her fifth studio album Wanderlust became her highest charting album since Read My Lips, peaking at number 4 in the UK. Bringing a vibrant mixture of mainstream pop, disco and 1980s electronic sounds to Henley, Ellis Bextor’s headline show is bound to have everybody dancing the night away!

Lovers of disco are in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat on Saturday night, as a collection of the world’s most iconic dancefloor hits are reimagined, reinvented and brought to the Floating Stage by a full 36 piece orchestra, live band, singers and dancers for an amazing performance of Disco Classical, along with the legendary Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge. Formed in 1971, Sister Sledge achieved international success at the height of the disco era and Kathy Sledge will be performing some of their most loved tracks including hits from their breakthrough album We Are Family. Disco Classical and Kathy Sledge will create one of the most memorable live music experiences, filled with fun and captivating light displays.

On Sunday night, classical superstar Myleene Klass will present Classic FM’s Classical Salute, an evening of classical and military music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Stephen Bell. During the evening, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be joined by a string of military musicians including Ceremonial Trumpeters for Verdi’s Grand March from Aida, a band of Military Drummers for Ravel’s Bolero, as well as uniformed pipers for Highland Cathedral by Roever. The orchestra will also be joined by internationally acclaimed soloists for performances of popular greats including Rule Britannia, Bizet’s Carmen and a rousing performance of Goodwin’s 633 Squadron. The evening will end with triumphant fireworks exploding over the river to celebrate the final night of the Festival.

There is a stellar comedy line-up at this year’s Henley Festival, set to be bigger and better than ever with the likes of Al Murray, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi and Rory Bremner among the comedians performing. One of Britain’s favourite comedians, Al Murray’s hard-edged social and political satire is sure to have the audience in fits of laughter, while Milton Jones will be bringing his hilariously clever one-liners to Henley’s comedy line-up, delivering puns in his uniquely deadpan and purposely neurotic style.

Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals in the UK to showcase artworks from some of the UK’s most talented artists. Focusing largely on local talent this year, Henley Festival is delighted to play host to a string of up-and-coming craftsmen, including artisanal jewellers of Studio 35 and Cristo Design’s striking wooden furniture. The Festival will also welcome back Tommy Burr’s urban art that repurposes mundane materials like traffic signs into vibrant pieces of art – not to be missed!

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

The World’s Most Innovative Yachts Awarded At Superyacht Design Festival By The Luxury Channel

Winners of the Boat International Design & Innovation Awards 2020. Image courtesy of Boat International.

This year’s Boat International Superyacht Design Festival – an  annual event bringing together the biggest names in superyacht design and renowned speakers from the wider luxury and design community – kicked off by honouring the world’s most innovative and outstanding superyacht designs at the globally acclaimed Design & Innovation Awards. The awards honour the creative talents behind the most innovative, elegant and inspiring new yacht designs from the boards of the world’s leading yacht design studios. An impressive 151 entries across 14 categories were put to an international jury of industry experts for rigorous judging, whose scoring took into consideration both technical excellence and aesthetic criteria, as well as awarding marks for innovation. Although as superyacht designer and judge Donald Starkey revealed: “This year’s entrants have been so varied, demonstrating the scope of what’s possible in the world of superyachts – but making it a tough task to score and award a single winner for each category!”

The Winners of The Boat International Design & Innovation Awards:

Outstanding Exterior Design Motor Yachts (24m to 49.9m) – Race. Image courtesy of Boat International and Alberto Cocchi.

Outstanding Exterior Design (Motor Yachts 24m to 49.9m) – Race

Riva’s 49.9m flagship Race combines the beauty typical of a Riva yacht with the owner’s demand for an all-encompassing and uninterrupted experience at sea. Exterior stylist Officina Italiana Design used strong horizontal lines and masculine angles to define the decks, unlike the feminine curves of many of Race’s predecessors. The 120 metre-squared sundeck boasts a substantial hardtop for shaded al fresco dining alongside a mix of sunning spaces, including a walkaround bridge deck and forward seating area plus an elegant cockpit at the bow. The built-in exterior furniture is crisp and neat – in keeping with the yacht’s lines – and covered in dark mahogany veneer.

Outstanding Exterior Design (Motor Yachts 50m and above) AND Best Motor Yachts Interior Design (Above 500GT) – Lady S. Image courtesy of Boat International and Edminston.

Outstanding Exterior Design (Motor Yachts 50m and above) AND Best Motor Yachts Interior Design (Above 500GT) – Lady S

Lady S is the result of a lengthy design and build process where perfection was paramount. Outside, Michael Leach Design cleverly conceals the high volume of the Feadship-built superyacht within a contemporary low profile which uses complex shapes and beauty lines to draw upon shadow to break up the surfaces. The striking black glass stretching across the hull is there to undoubtedly emphasise the yacht’s 93m of length. Lady S is the epitome of sleek with no exposed hinges nor opening panels in sight; each one being smartly concealed throughout. The owner’s demand for a feeling of openness and transparency called for plentiful glass inserts to open up the decks and even the gym’s full-beam skylight transitions to opening glass walls. Stepping inside, Reymond Langton Design has created a complex, multi-layered interior that manages to pair extreme elegance with fun and entertainment – most notably being home to the world’s first floating IMAX cinema. The owner’s deck lounge can even transform into a disco with an interactive dance floor. A range of exquisite materials and details, mostly in the purest white, can be seen throughout the flexible living layouts with folding terraces and balconies off cabins.

Outstanding Exterior Design (Sailing Yachts) AND Best Sailing Yachts Interior Design – Liara. Image courtesy of Boat International, Josh Czachur, Thirben Rapp and Breed Media.

Outstanding Exterior Design (Sailing Yachts) AND Best Sailing Yachts Interior Design – Liara

The 34.1m Liara, designed by Malcolm McKeon and built by Baltic Yachts, is not a huge yacht but her owner has big cruising plans. She is designed to take him and his wife on a safe and easy circumnavigation with careful thought on how to keep the cockpit dry and warm but equally shaded from the broiling sun; the answer being a carbon-fibre removable hardtop. Demonstrating impressive innovation and aesthetics, her profile remains striking in both cruising and racing modes.  Inside, the owner wanted to recall the look of the Channel Islands as the backdrop for world cruising. Liara‘s open-plan layout is dressed with weathered-looking oak joinery throughout and textured materials in warm colours soften the finishing look. The dining and coffee table surface finishes mimic ripples – as when a pebble is dropped into a pond. Hanging locker doors are also designed to echo the appearance of water or tree bark, and lighting is carefully positioned to highlight these elements.

Best Motor Yachts Interior Design (Below 500GT) – Calypso. Image courtesy of Boat International and BlueiProd.

Best Motor Yachts Interior Design (Below 500GT) – Calypso

The 36m Calypso boasts a rich and detailed beach-house-styled interior where designer John Vickers cleverly incorporates Mulder Shipyard’s history in design elements and construction techniques throughout.  Her standout interior styling features include an illuminated art wall that hints at a wooden sailing ship and a bar featuring diagonal planking reminiscent of cold-moulded construction techniques. The easy, well-proportioned layout, featuring built-in furniture to direct traffic flow, is appropriate to the relaxed, raised pilothouse form and fits in a generous main-deck master suite and a full-beam VIP below. The layout creates a comfortable, family-centric yacht which is suited to the her long-range cruising capability. The decor relies on pale bleached oak, stainless steel, leather, light fabrics, louvred doors and lots of natural light spilling in through large windows. It is a beachy, barefoot yet elegant look with an upmarket Ibiza vibe.

Best Naval Architecture (Semi-Displacement or Planing Motor Yachts) – Zalanka. Image courtesy of Boat International and Raphaël Belly).

Best Naval Architecture (Semi-Displacement or Planing Motor Yachts) – Zalanka

Dominator’s Illumen 28, Zalanka, the fourth hull in this model series, achieved the best total score for her seaworthiness, hydrodynamics and cruising range. The hull shape uses a combination of methods to increase efficiency and was developed using computational fluid dynamics followed by model testing in a towing tank. The entire naval architecture solution included finite element analysis to pinpoint ways and places to reduce weight aloft for greater cruising economy and passenger comfort.

Best Naval Architecture (Displacement Motor Yachts) – Najiba. Image courtesy of Boat International and Tom van Oossanen).

Best Naval Architecture (Displacement Motor Yachts) – Najiba

The 58m Najiba has a core mission to deliver comfortable long-range cruising. The work of Feadship De Voogt and Philippe Briand is an efficient hull form, a relatively narrow beam at 11m, and a forward-looking approach to naval architecture. In sea trials, Najiba had average fuel consumption of just 11.4 litres per nautical mile at 12 knots and a range of 6,000nm-plus, more than 1,000nm over the estimate.

Best Naval Architecture (Sailing Yachts) – Canova. Image courtesy of Boat International, Eva-Stina Kjellman and Dan-Erik Olsen.

Best Naval Architecture (Sailing Yachts) – Canova

The 43.3m Canova, a fully custom yacht, displayed an exceptional naval architecture profile along with outstanding hydrodynamics thanks to the innovative work of naval architects Farr Yachts Design and builder Baltic Yachts. She is the first large yacht fitted with a DSS foil developed by Infinity Yachts, contributing to the science on this method of enhancing stability.

Best New Series – LeVen 90. Image courtesy of Boat International, Demi Van Loon and Vripack.

Best New Series – LeVen 90

The 28m LeVen 90 recalls the day when boating was an uncomplicated family recreation. Designed for day-trip island-hopping in the Bahamas but with full luxurious overnight accommodations below deck, the yacht combines the best of both worlds, especially considering its balance of quality finishes and attractive price. What’s under the water is equally innovative, with Vripack’s beamy “slide” hull reducing drag and draft, and the first application of Voith’s semi-tunnel linear jet drive in a yacht. With its multi-level living area unobstructed from sports deck to galley, there is nothing quite like it for an easy-living, no-shoes-required lifestyle. The yacht began as a custom one-off but became a prototype when Dutch builder Van der Valk and the creative team convinced the owner to share the design and naval architecture.

Eco Award – Vanadis. Image courtesy of Boat International and Andrè Pucciarelli.

Eco Award – Vanadis

Cerri Cantieri Navali’s Vanadis has the most comprehensive diesel-electric power system yet. She carries the first Hybrid Yacht certification for an Italian-built yacht and is the most advanced seen on a boat of this size. Featuring efficient size power sources, it matches machine to the mission and includes two modes of stabilisation as well as Dynamic Positioning. Ten years ago, the yacht’s owner began conceptualising an environmentally friendly, high-tech project with maximum propulsion efficiency for long-range cruising. Less than two years ago, he took his challenge to Cerri Cantieri Navali, which co-ordinated the build and a large international cast of specialist companies, including Guido de Groot for exterior style and interior design.

Outstanding Lifestyle Feature – Bold. Image courtesy of Boat International and Guillaume Plisson.

Outstanding Lifestyle Feature – Bold

The 85.3m Bold is the latest offering from SilverYachts, a brand known for innovation, where designer Espen Øino puts a new spin on the typical sky lounge or owner’s deck saloon by creating a multi-function, multi-season loft-style winter garden space. On those occasions when a helicopter needs to be housed in the hangar below, a section of the winter garden floor can be raised to accommodate it and appears as a table/room divider. As if the floor-to- ceiling windows surrounding the full beam space weren’t enough, these glass walls are capable of folding, sliding and stacking out of the way, fully or in part, to create an outdoor living space in the same footprint, allowing the owner to entertain guests for indoor or outdoor dinner parties. Glass balustrades on the fixed railing prevent any intrusion into the endless views.

Innovation of the Year – 4-ply complex curve structural glass on board Syzygy 818. Image courtesy of Boat International and Feadship.

Innovation of the Year – 4-ply complex curve structural glass on board Syzygy 818

Syzygy 818, the first superyacht designed by naval architect Jarkko Jämsén, features various frameless curved structural glass bulwarks and walls created at the request of an owner who wanted all of his views to be unbroken by frames or supports. Giant slabs of perfectly clear, unframed glass that are both vertically and horizontally curved display a remarkable feat of engineering and construction. This all-glass envelope is an integral part of his theme, bringing the outdoors into intimate contact with the interior.  The floor-to-ceiling panels are unsupported by frames or mullions with their connections constructed so that the boat flexes around the glass.  Famed glass engineering firm Eckersley O’Callaghan contributed to this remarkable solution.

Limousine Tender of the Year – Solas. Image courtesy of Boat International and Knierim Yachtbau.

Limousine Tender of the Year – Solas

Tenders are an extension of the yacht itself and key to fully enjoying the nautical lifestyle. The 11m Solas, part of a pair custom-built at the Knierim Yachtbau yard in Kiel for a Lürssen, offers something new. It can serve both as the guest tender with comfortable accommodation in a sheltered, air-conditioned interior that will deliver 15 dry guests to shore at speeds up to 30 knots. At this speed, even water-skiing is an option too. The Solas tender can also hold up to 38 people when acting as a rescue boat in an emergency. Along with uncommon features such as a bar with a refrigerator and a comfortable wet room, its design and construction comply with stringent SOLAS rules. It is fire-resistant and can be dropped to launch, plus it is certified to withstand the most rigorous sea conditions. 

Open Tender of the Year – Tender 15. Image courtesy of Boat International and Schaaf Yachtbau.

Open Tender of the Year – Tender 15

The Tender 15, built in carbon composite by German custom boat builder Schaaf Yachtbau, presents a simple design and petite dimensions for ease of use, which make it a good option for smaller yachts. At 4.5m long by 2m of beam, and just 1m high, it is small enough to be stowed on many a yacht’s bathing platform, which means it can be launched and retrieved without the use of expensive equipment or heavy cranes.

Young Designer of the Year – Valentin Weigand with Plato. Images courtesy of Boat International and Valentin Weigand.

Young Designer of the Year – Valentin Weigand with Plato

The aim of the Young Designer of the Year competition is to identify the best trainee designers and encourage them to join the superyacht industry. The task that is set for entrants is, by intention, always difficult. This year it was especially so, as it tested four essential skills of a yacht designer – digital rendering, hand sketching, planning a yacht’s general arrangement, and creating a decorative style for its interior. Competitors were also required to look into the mind of a young client and create a yacht that was both future-proofed and complementary to his lifestyle requirements. Among others, these featured a love for fine dining and good wine, partying, cinema and adventurous sports. The honours eventually went to Valentin Weigand, whose accomplished forward-thinking design fulfilled every aspect of the given task with his forward-thinking and wellbeing-focused concept, Plato.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Martin Francis. Image courtesy of Boat International and Martin Francis.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Martin Francis

Throughout his career from architecture to fine art, Martin Francis has brought to the table innovation and collaboration, enthusiasm for his craft and a profound artistic nature. From his first 14m sailboat, Prototype, to 119m Motor Yacht A, from a Rolling Stones stage set to Swarovski crystal fabrics, and from his work with architect IM Pei on the Louvre’s glass pyramid to inflatable Tour de France event platforms, Martin Francis is a designer who can’t be pigeon-holed into just one field. Born in Britain, Francis started out as a cabinet-maker for private clients in London. He soon began to work with structural engineer Tony Hunt, who introduced him to a rising architect named Norman Foster. They collaborated for two decades. Boats came about by accident, following a family decision to sail around the world in his self-designed, self-built 14m sailboat, Prototype. Racing it locally led to his calling for the 28.2m Diablesse, establishing him in yachting, followed by his first motor yacht project 73m Eco, 59m explorer yacht Senses and one of today’s the most distinctive superyachts in the world, 119m Motor Yacht A.

The winners of the Outstanding Lifestyle Feature Award. Image courtesy of Boat International.

Further Information

To find out more about the 2020 Boat International Superyacht Design Festival, held in association with Riva and Yachting Partners International, click here. For full details of all the 2020 Boat International Design & Innovation Awards winners, click here.

NJORD – A Superyacht With A Purpose By The Luxury Channel

Imagine the ultimate private super-yacht – the largest in the world. A home-from-home from which to experience once-in-a-lifetime adventures shared with a discerning community of like-minded friends and family who have a passion for luxury, adventure, discovery, conservation and philanthropy. Welcome aboard NJORD.

Ownership of one of NJORD’s 118 private residences entitles you to join one of the most exclusive groups in the world, and it will be the only yacht to offer 14 duplex and triplex residences with private elevators.

NJORD is a home, a community and a place for personal enrichment and adventure. It’s not only about exquisite luxury and impeccable service, it’s about living life in an enhancing, intellectual, spiritually nourishing and meaningful way. “It’s a safe environment in which to have fun with family, travel, discover, meet new friends and be energised,” says Renato Chizzola, Head of Resident Relations and Lifestyle. “Imagine…seeing the most awe-inspiring scenery passing by while relaxing on your own private terrace, enjoying your favourite drink. One day watching polar bears on an ice floe; on another, in tropical Papua New Guinea as you anticipate what lies ahead. All from the comfort of your home.”

Named after the Norse god of the wind and seas, NJORD is a fitting name for this majestic super yacht. On-board, the highly personalised services and activities are limitless and rewarding. Ashore, there’s a wealth of experiences to be had as residents are immersed into the culture, history or economics of a region that few people get to explore. The past, present and future are revealed by regional experts: business icons, ex-prime ministers, extreme explorers or leading scientists. Excursions, destinations and encounters with extraordinary people and cultures will fill your day with precious memories. Then it’s a warm welcome back home on board to share and reflect on the day’s discoveries.

Image courtesy of FM Architettura, an Italian design studio with a refined sensibility to people and their spaces, working with superyachts, private residences, and top luxury hotels.

So, what motivated the creation of this exceptional lifestyle? “My vision is to leave a lasting legacy in our wake,” says Kristian Stensby, founder and CEO of Ocean Residences Development, the developer of NJORD, “a luxury yacht with a purpose, which is meticulously designed by icons of the marine world and that takes personalised services to an entirely new level. As residents travel the globe, they are united in a philanthropic purpose, creating positive change where it matters most. They will explore the planet, enjoy it in all its glory, and at the same time, they may want to give something back,” Stensby says. NJORD will be equipped with a professional oceanographic research laboratory containing sophisticated monitoring equipment which will constantly gather vital data. Throughout NJORD’s annual circumnavigation of the globe, scientists and experts will research the changing environment, record sea and air conditions, and scanners will map the ocean floor. All this information will be processed and made available to further humankind’s understanding of our planet’s oceanic secrets.

This unique way of life is made possible by the crew and operators whose passion it is to understand and anticipate their guests’ every need. “Our crew love this life and they cherish their family of residents,” says Alain Gruber, COO of Ocean Residences Development. “An experienced crew in a place like this is a force of nature and anything is possible. On any given day, there are scores of activities to choose from, and it’s our role to anticipate, understand and offer the most appropriate suggestions. This stems from a career in hospitality where every detail counts.”

“The crew are the life and soul of the yacht, and their welfare is of upmost importance,” Gruber adds. “A first in the industry, each crew member will have their own personal cabin. For them, this profession is a rich and rewarding career path, and many will remain with us for years.”

NJORD’s design is the realisation of a talented team of naval architects, engineers and designers who are working together to make the Giorgio Armani of superyachts, led by Jean-Louis Stutzmann, the chief designer and an award-winning interior designer with an extensive career in luxury residential, ocean liner and yacht design. Working alongside him is Espen Øino International, with the world’s leading superyacht designer himself at the drawing board following every detail of this great nautical masterpiece; even a replica model of NJORD will be scrutinised by him. Every inch of this superyacht is meticulously designed to enhance the residents’ experience. The fully fitted apartments are, as one would expect, elegantly appointed, spacious and feature floor-to-ceiling picture windows and sea views from every room.

Facilities onboard include an impressive yacht and dive club with two submarines, jet skis, sailing craft of varying sizes and Riva style limo tenders. The on-board restaurants will have the finest Michelin-standard chefs, or you may choose to take up the offer of 24/7 in-residence dining, enjoying an intimate dinner party prepared in your residence with the assistance of a world-class chef, butler and sommelier. A lecture and movie theatre provides space for a variety of events, while entertainers and musicians will perform in venues around the yacht. There are also professional medical facilities and an extensive wellness centre providing preventative treatments, spa therapies and fitness programmes to suit all.

NJORD is set to be one of the most exclusive residential communities on earth and without doubt the finest address, everywhere in the world.

For further information, visit www.my-njord.com.

On The Waterfront At Lincoln Plaza By Scott Manson

As Scott Manson discovers, Canary Wharf’s Lincoln Plaza hotel is a quality weekend retreat in London’s financial heartland….

Can a business hotel ever really bill itself as “quirky luxe?” That’s the question I pondered as I made my way to Lincoln Plaza, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. Set in the heart of London’s business district, among Canary Wharf’s towers of steel and glass, it represents something a little different for the hotel group. They’ve thought beyond the “trouser press and express check-out” tick-boxes, creating a new-build property that combines industrial chic with an homage to the area’s nautical roots.

For those who only visit Canary Wharf for its impressive shopping options (much more compact than central London, with most of the stores and boutiques you need), it’s easy to forget that it’s an area created by shipping, and was once home to the docks where fruit and vegetables from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands was unloaded.

While the seafaring design touches were present, it never veered towards theme hotel territory. So there were swishes of steel, brass and marble in the lobby and rooms – and a copy of Jackspeak (a dictionary of sailor slang) on the bedside table – but everything was done with taste and panache.

The cocktail bar, also called Jack Speak, is worth a look too. It’s a handsome, comfortable place with Chesterfield sofas that virtually demand that you slouch on them, plus a cocktail menu that does a fine selection of “navy-strength” creations.

The rooms themselves are compact but supremely comfortable, with quality furnishings throughout. There’s a marble bathroom with rainfall shower, decent coffee machine, huge TV and great armchairs. Take a room on one of the higher floors and you’ll enjoy the impressive view of Canary Wharf at night – think New York without the sound of non-stop car horns.

Elsewhere, the hotel’s basement houses a gym, meeting rooms, a sauna and an 18-metre pool. On the ground floor, the best of the two restaurants is Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, with an Indian menu by chef Cyrus Todiwala. Set in a brightly-coloured atrium, with vast windows giving it a lovely sense of space, it’s an immediately welcoming spot. With a view to experiencing the best that the kitchen had to offer, we opted for Mr Todiwala’s Gourmand Tasting Menu. The two-hour culinary excursion included highlights such as beautifully light dosas, four different tikkas (chicken, salmon, duck and beef) and a Goan prawn curry that was generous in its serving and boldly spiced – perfect for the palate of a curry connoisseur.

Lincoln Plaza is something a little different from the identikit hotels that you’ll find in the area, and all the more refreshing for that. And while it may predominantly be used by business people through the week, it’s a solid choice for those looking for a weekend base in an area of London that’s increasingly worth investigating for leisure, too.

For more information or to make a booking, go to www.lincolnplazalondon.co.uk.

High Altitude Hedonism – Why London’s Sky Bar Is The Smart Choice For The NYE Party Crowd By Scott Manson

New Year’s Eve party planning is always fraught with difficulty. The right choice can mean carousing the night away in a temple of Dionysian pleasure. A step wrong can see you wandering around a soulless bar or now-unfashionable restaurant and thinking about when you can reasonably call a cab without being labelled a killjoy.

Thankfully, London has no shortage of fine NYE events on offer, and few will match the decadent delights of the capital’s Sky Bar on 31st December.

Located on the 28th and 29th floor of London’s famous Millbank Tower, offering the best views of London’s Thames Fireworks, the evening will be set across both floors. The 29th – dubbed ‘‘Decadence Defined’’ – comprises unlimited free-flowing bars and waiters serving a gastronomic feast of unlimited food and drinks (including premium champagne) designed exclusively for the evening, as well as incredible DJ sets and live bands.

On the 28th floor, ‘‘Cabaret Extravaganza’’ will unfold with a Moulin Rouge theme, including burlesque showgirls, a cheeky ‘‘boylesque’’ performer, plus DJs, cocktails and food. When the clocks strike midnight, a champagne toast will help you celebrate, while a cabaret-themed photo booth will also make sure you capture the glamorous evening on film.

For those with the stamina, your ticket includes entry to an exclusive after-party. Decadent guests will have the opportunity to feast on a bespoke gourmet champagne breakfast from 4am. For those looking for a more relaxed evening, a private cinema will play classics non-stop, with unlimited fresh popcorn on hand.

So relax, because when it comes to the biggest night of the year, you’re in safe hands with the Sky Bar. London nightlife never looked so good.

Need To Know

When: 6pm – 6am
Where: Millbank Tower, 21 – 24 Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RS
Price: Cabaret Extravaganza is priced at £325 per ticket, and Exclusive VIP Decadence Defined is priced at £650 per ticket
Tickets: www.londonskybar.com

The Kings Arms In Hampton – Fit For A King By Scott Manson

Scott Manson discovers why a newly renovated hotel, close to Hampton Court Palace, is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend….

Hampton is one of those handsome suburban towns that England’s south east does so well. Ideally proportioned, next to a broad sweep of the River Thames and blessed with deer-filled parks and pageantry aplenty, it’s also home to an unusually high number of quality restaurants and gastropubs, serving the many visitors who come to the area to enjoy the delights of Hampton Court Palace, the former home of Henry VIII.

This many-turreted masterpiece serves as the backdrop to one of the area’s loveliest new boutique boltholes – the Kings Arms Hotel. Situated between Bushy Park and the palace, it has a fantastic restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Mark Kempson, which is worth a visit for the food alone. Throw in well-appointed rooms and staff for whom nothing is too much trouble, and you have the ideal place for a weekend break.

Built in 1709, the hotel borders the Palace’s famous maze, and a recent refurb has brought it bang up-to-date with all 14 bedrooms renovated to create a feature of the unique proportions expected with such a mature property. It’s terrifically well thought through, from the colour schemes selected – deep greens, soft pinks – to the choice of fixtures and fittings. Indeed, one of the key features when renovating the hotel and restaurant was championing British and locally sourced materials.

Many of the suppliers are local to the property, including fabrics from the British manufacturer Angel & Boho, and Green Arden – who created the pretty private terrace at the front of the restaurant. Elsewhere, there are handmade mosaic tiles, antique marble tables, period seating and, in the bar area, some lovely stained glass windows, while the cosy restaurant has a refurbished wooden fireplace, which was a welcome sight when we visited on a chilly autumn day.

Our room was cute, quiet and, crucially, had a supremely comfy bed. It was also just a few seconds walk upstairs from the restaurant – The Six – which meant that no matter how many postprandial drinks we enjoyed, our route to a good night’s sleep was still a simple one.

Happily plotted up in a corner booth of the dining room, we settled in for chef Mark Kempson’s crowd-pleasing menu. Mark’s career has spanned over 20 years, beginning in a small Hampshire hotel, moving on to the two Michelin-starred The Vineyard in Berkshire, to eventually head up his own restaurant, Kitchen W8, where he also secured a Michelin star.

The menu at The Six (named in honour of Henry VIII’s wives) takes a ‘‘best of British’’ approach, offering ambitious, but not overly cheffy, options from a kitchen that clearly knows its stuff. To start, we enjoyed a more-ish Sussex ham fritter, served with broccoli and sage puree, plus some punchy Colston Bassett blue cheese. A generous portion of crispy spiced whitebait was also a welcome accompaniment.

For mains, a chunk of line-caught cod, which came with fashionably scorched gem lettuce and smoked bacon, got the seal of approval from my dining partner. My aged Dexter beef sirloin, meanwhile, was a beautiful cut of meat, with a slight caramelised crust giving way to mid-rare tenderness and deep flavour. A side order of truffled mashed potato raised the fine dining feel a notch further, helped along by a bottle of peppery Australian shiraz recommended by the waiter.

Perhaps it was the lovely wine, perhaps it was the double height mattress on our bed, but I had a brilliant night’s sleep at this hotel. So if you’re planning a visit to the grand palace of our former king, make a night of it by staying at the Kings Arms. It may not have a royal warrant, but it certainly gets our seal of approval.

For further information, visit www.kingsarmshamptoncourt.com.

The Legacy of Christian The Lion By Fiona Sanderson

A Lion Called Christian – An Illustrated Legacy (cover image © Derek Cattani)

The Luxury Channel caught up with John Rendall and Derek Cattani to hear the incredible story of Christian the lion, who was bought originally by Rendall and his friend Ace Bourke from Harrods in London in the 1960s for 250 guineas. Christian lived his early life in Chelsea, travelling by Mercedes and eating in the finest restaurants before his eventual release into the wilds of Africa. The film of John and Ace’s reunion in 1971 with Christian the Lion has gone viral with more than 100 million views on You Tube alone. Rendall has continued to keep Christian’s legacy alive and continues to raise awareness of the threat to lions and wildlife. He helped found the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust which today manages Kora National Park in Kenya, and Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, which is recognised as one of the most successful conservation projects in Africa. John is also Patron of Lion Aid. Derek Cattani is an award-winning international photographer, who photographed Christian in his early career, and who went with Rendall and Burke to Africa in 1972, when they returned to find Christian. Here, the two men tell us their remarkable, incredible true story….

“The King of The Jungle Meets The King of The Race Track” – Christian and James Hunt, F1 Champion (image © Derek Cattani)

How did you come to acquire Christian in the first place?

JOHN: Ace and I bought Christian at Harrods when we were living in Chelsea. I’d come from Australia to London because that’s where everyone wanted to be. You know, this was swinging London and everything was happening here – fashion, music and art. One of the things we hadn’t planned to do, however, was buy a lion, but we walked into Harrods and there were these two lion cubs for sale. After some negotiation, we managed to secure the purchase of one of those lions. In those days, Harrods closed at 5:30pm every afternoon, but we were able to go in and play with them after hours. It was then that we realised pretty quickly that two lions would be too much to look after, so we just bought the one lion cub, and we called him Christian. It was shortly after that that Derek came into the picture. He’s an extremely experienced professional photographer who came to a party one night and asked me if he could take pictures of Christian. So, thank heavens we now have this wonderful record of Christian’s life.

DEREK: I was a young freelance Fleet Street photographer and always on the hunt for an interesting picture story. When I heard John and Ace’s story, about buying a lion from Harrods and taking it for walks down the Kings Road, I just knew I had to meet this cub.
He was then a three-month-old cuddly cub with the most amazing eyes and sharp teeth. I realised that I would have to get to know this beautiful little cub if I was to get good photographs so instead of grabbing my camera and shooting away, I just sat on the floor and watched him, and waited. Eventually curiosity overcame him and after a short while, Christian inched his way towards me and then pushed his head onto mine. John explained that this was a sure sign of welcome so over the following weeks, I made regular visits and slowly gained Christian’s trust, and John and Ace’s approval of my patient attitude towards Christian. They saw that I was not just after a snarling one-off picture of him for a newspaper feature, so offered me the job as Christian’s official photographer. He was such a loving animal with such piercing eyes, they could almost look through you. I remember being in the Sophisticat furniture shop [on the Kings Road in Chelsea, where Rendall worked], which was very popular in those days, and John sold this particular table to a lady in Chelsea when Christian ran out, jumped on the table and scratched it all the way down. John was freaking out, saying, “God, what are we going to do?!” So he says to the lady, “I’m terribly sorry, but we can’t deliver this table to you today.” And she said, “why not?” And John said, “Because Christian jumped on it and it’s scratched all the way down the middle!” Despite the scratches, the lady insisted on taking the table and still has it today.

Christian in the Chelsea flat, Kings Road, Chelsea, London (image © Derek Cattani)

What problems did you face day-to-day with Christian?

DEREK: Christian became quite expensive – pieces of meat and big bones which we got from the local butchers’ plus various amounts of high protein mixtures from the pet shop and stuff like that. I said to John, you know, we’ve got to get some money going on here. There was always a quirky thing around Easter time where the newspapers used to try and out-do each other with pictures of pussy cats and rabbits and chickens being hatched. So I said, what about a picture of Christian? I went to my sister’s farm and she got some chicks for me. I rushed back to London where John was waiting for me, and we put Christian up on the table and put the little chicks around him and he didn’t touch one of them. They were all absolutely perfect. Some had actually just hatched as well. I don’t know what the chicks thought of actually seeing a lion for the first time ever, but we were paid very well for the picture. It was published in all but a couple of the national tabloids, but we never pushed Christian to do anything he didn’t naturally want to do.

JOHN: We also did a picture with our friend James Hunt, who at the time was just starting his racing career. We took Christian down to see James and the caption was “The King of The Jungle Meets The King of The Road.” It was a fun thing to do, and a lot of fun with James, and it was a lovely picture to give to the newspapers.

“Easter Surprise” – Christian with Easter chicks, Kings Road, Chelsea, London (image © Derek Cattani)

When did things change for Christian?

JOHN: He was really getting a little bit too big to be living in the shop. When he was smaller, people would come in and say, “Oh, we just want to come and see him!” But when he got to this stage, suddenly people would say “I think I’ll come back tomorrow.” It was at this point when Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers came in, who made Born Free. They came into the shop to buy a table and I said, “Mr. Travers, I think I’ve got something more interesting for you.” They came downstairs to meet Christian and they were quite astounded. You would never know what a tough time they had making Born Free. They were both injured by the lions. They were circus lions and so, behind every shot, there was someone with a whip who could control them. It was a very difficult film to make and they both did an extraordinarily good job to make it look so easy. So they really couldn’t believe that Christian was such an amenable chap. They asked us what we were going to do with him, and at that stage, he was probably going to go to Longleat. They thought about it and contacted George Adamson in Kenya and said “look, we’ve run into a couple of guys. They’ve got this lion that’s a year old, but he’s getting too big for London – what would you suggest?” By extraordinary coincidence, George told them that Boy, who was one of the lions that they used in Born Free, had been injured. So he was happy to rehabilitate Christian, as he needed to build a pride around Boy. He said to Bill, “Well, ask the boys if they would be happy for me to attempt to rehabilitate Christian.” The only thing was that Christian is a fifth-generation domesticated lion, so we had no idea whether he whether he would still have survival instincts. But that’s when the idea first originated in terms of taking him back to Kenya.

DEREK: We didn’t know what Christian’s chances would be in the wild, but we decided we would go for it because after all, George Adamson was the guru of lions. He’d rehabilitated Elsa with great success and we knew he was the top man for the job.

Christian with Ace and John in their Merc out for a drive in the Kings Road, Chelsea, London (image © Derek Cattani)

What happened when Christian went to Kenya?

JOHN: He was 35 pounds when we bought him, but he’d gone up to 145 pounds in a year – that’s how well-fed he was! We had to insure him for a million pounds, in case he did any damage. We arrived from England, and George was there and he just said, “You’re a very hairy lot, aren’t you?!” We took Christian for his first ride in a Land Rover – so no more Mercedes. So that was a bit of a shock for him! And Christian’s first night in Africa was slightly embarrassing – he had his head on a pillow with his paw in my face!

DEREK: Christian was completely happy for me to move him around and put him in the right positions to take pictures. That’s why we got some great photographs. There’s a picture of him first walking in Africa, and of course, he had to toughen his paws up. He’d been running around in Moravian Close in Chelsea on the grass and suddenly, he’s in Africa where the ground is very prickly and tough. So, he had to adapt. At one point, we were looking out over the Tana River, which is a beautiful wide river, but there were crocodiles and hippos swimming around and so he had to be pretty careful. But he was absolutely fascinated by it. Although he wouldn’t let the boys out of his sight. Christian would always be jumping up to make sure that John was there. It was sensational to experience.

JOHN: We had to take him for walks to toughen his feet up. There was a little lion cub called Katania that had been given to George and who was the first lion that Christian had seen since he was in Harrods. She was about the size of Christian when we first got him. In many ways, he was still a baby – he still had his petty spots on him – so it was quite fun. But it was a bit of a shock because Christian always had four meals a day and suddenly he’s out here, he’s eating his meal and this little cub comes and takes it away. What was that all about?! He had never experienced that before.

DEREK: George would take Christian, Katania and Boy, the lion that was used in Born Free, out walking every day. There’s a marvellous story about how Boy would walk first, then the little cub Katania, then Christian and then George behind with a gun, just in case something went astray. So one day they’re walking and see a rhino. Boy takes one look at the rhino and just veers off to the left, well clear of it, and Katania just follows Boy. But Christian’s never seen a rhino and keeps going. George thinks, “Oh my God, Christian, stop, stop, stop!” Rhinos, you know, are very short-sighted, so this one looks up and sees this preposterous cub stalking him. Next thing George saw was a huge amount of dust and Christian flying through the air. He doesn’t know whether it was horned or whether Christian jumped as the rhino charged past, but George was absolutely furious. Then he looked over and there was Boy, and Boy was looking back at Christian, and George said he knew what Boy was saying – it was: “you effing idiot!”

Christian in the Chelsea flat, Kings Road, Chelsea, London (image © Derek Cattani)

What was it like going back to Kenya after a year to see Christian?

JOHN: It was like when you walk into a room where you haven’t seen someone for a year, but you know that they’re pleased to see you there. It was like that, and it was fantastic to see him. We could tell he was fine and that he was pleased to see us from his body language – the only danger was, you know, he’s now over 250 pounds running towards us at 25 miles an hour!

DEREK: The reunion with Christian was fantastic and amazing, I remember that, but there is a really interesting photograph of one of the lionesses he was with. She’d never been touched by humans before and George said it’d be completely impossible for her to create a relationship with other people, as she had been mistreated in the past. So we would need to be persistent, as she never came into camp – she would be outside. But she came down with Christian and somehow, it was as if he could say to her, “listen, this is part of my game.” That is the extraordinary intelligence and power of communication they’ve got. George was so proud.

JOHN: George was building up the pride the whole time. Over the next 18 years, George rehabilitated 23 lions. When we first took Christian out to give to George, Joy Adamson was very cynical about the chances of doing it and she said, “you know, it’s just not going to work – he’s too fat, he’s too old.” In the end, Christian won her over and she couldn’t wait to be photographed with him. A year or so later and he’s now probably 350 pounds and absolutely getting to a point where he’s ready to leave his pride, which is what would happen in the wild. Every so often, he’d come back into camp and George was there, just to reassure him, but it was becoming more and more infrequent. This is exactly what George wanted to see. He would often hear Christian grunting from the bush as if just to say, “I’m over here somewhere.” He was a big boy by then. This is the last photograph we have of him, before he disappeared into the wild. He went upstream, crossing the river to find his own new territory. We know that his genes went on, but he was never seen again. He had a good life, probably up to 14 or 15 years old, as they do live that long. He certainly wasn’t poached because if he’d been poached, he would have been the biggest trophy in the whole area, and someone would have been bragging about it. So we believe that he did survive, and there are lions that turn up occasionally that look like Christian. But unfortunately, we don’t have his DNA.

DEREK: Christian was a good-looking boy, wasn’t he?

JOHN: Yes, although he was not a year-old cub when we rehabilitated him. He was like a two-year-old, because he had never missed a meal so we know his strength and his health was to his advantage. Why didn’t we let him loose in a different area? Well, because that was the only space that George was offered. Kora was a neglected game reserve, which had been underfunded and under-protected, and if it had been worth anything, they wouldn’t have given it to him. But what had happened was by the end, because of George’s work with Christian, the land became upgraded to a national park. So, it’s now called Kora National Park and in George’s biography, Born Again, he says it was all a tribute to a cheeky little lion from London called Christian. So that’s great. You know, I was talking the other night about the Kings Road. I said that you’ve got the history of the Kings Road, and you think of fashion and music and art. But actually, there’s a wildlife element because a former resident of the Kings Road is responsible for a National Park in Africa. It’s a nice little point this, yeah.

Christian Gives John A Welcome Hug

Christian gives John a welcome hug beside the Tana River, Kora Africa (image © Derek Cattani)

FURTHER INFORMATION

Christian The Lion: The Illustrated Legacy by John Rendall and Derek Cattani is published by Bradt Travel Guides, available in paperback for RRP £14.99. Readers of The Luxury Channel are offered a 25% discount. When buying from Bradt Travel Guides, use code: LUXURYCHANNEL25 once you have added the book to your shopping basket.

To purchase official prints of Christian, please visit www.christianthelionprints.com.

For more information and to donate to The George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, please visit www.georgeadamson.org.

Lyra In Africa – Educating Girls In Tanzania By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel meets Maria Spink, the founder of Lyra In Africa, to find out what prompted her to found the charity, and the innovative ways in which education serves as the key out of poverty….

What is Lyra In Africa, and what are the aims of the charity?

Lyra is a grassroots organisation working to educate and empower girls and women in rural Tanzania so they can choose the life they want to lead. Lyra’s tool for reaching this vision is first and foremost education and entrepreneurship training opportunities for girls and women. We are a registered charity in the UK and have a sister charity in Tanzania that implements our program. From a current situation where only 3% of students complete A-levels, Lyra’s vision is economically vibrant, sustainable rural communities where girls can complete secondary education and are allowed equal social and economic opportunities.

What motivated you to set up the charity?

I was working with a tree-planting company in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania , where I met some of our local labourers and heard some shocking stories from girls and women. There were two incidences in particular that will stay with me forever. I realised in talking to the women who worked for our company that in order for them to get work, they had to give sexual services to the foremen – I was shocked and reported this, naturally – but nothing changed. The other incident was when a head teacher asked me to support a bright, young girl of 12 years who was about to start secondary school – but her parents did not have enough money to pay for her school fees. I said I would pay when I came back the following week. When I came back, the parents had decided to sell her as a child bride to an old man in the village. I realised for the first time in my life that I could do something useful and bring about real change for these girls and women. That is why I founded Lyra with the help of two very close friends. As a Finnish woman, it really hit me that I had enjoyed free, high quality education all the way through university, followed by a successful career, never having faced similar situations.

Is it habitually always girls who are more maligned than boys when it comes to education in Tanzania, and why?

Boys and girls all face big challenges when it comes to secondary education. In Tanzania on a whole, less than a third of girls that enter lower-secondary school graduate with O-levels and less than 3% graduate from higher secondary with A-levels. In rural schools, we often find even worse statistics. But rural girls face continual risk of sexual abuse and pregnancy. One reason is the long distances to secondary schools, where girls are exposed to widespread sexual harassment whilst walking to school – adults often ask them for sex in exchange for gifts, rides, or money, on their way to school. Officials do not report cases of sexual abuse to police, and many schools lack a confidential mechanism to report abuse. Most schools force girls to undergo pregnancy testing and they expel girls when they find out they are pregnant. Once out, girls struggle to get back into education because of discrimination and stigma against adolescent mothers, financial challenges, and the absence of a re-admission policy for young mothers of compulsory schooling age. Girls also lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, a particular problem for menstrual hygiene, and often stay away from school during their monthly periods.

Our Lyra hostels provide safe accommodation for girls. Completing secondary education has been shown to strongly benefit the girls’ individual health, employment, and earnings throughout their lives. For example, Tanzanian statistics show that women with no education have on average twice as many children as those who attend secondary school. Given a choice, girls with some secondary education will have smaller, healthier and wealthier families later in life than their uneducated peers and will put their own children through school.

There are many reasons why girls in rural Tanzania are failing to access decent secondary education, but to what extent is this cultural, as opposed to purely financial?

I would say that very little of it is cultural. When I speak to parents, they all want to give their children the best possible education. But with large families and with mainly subsistence farming as their only income, it is impossible to send all their children to school. So poverty is definitely a key factor. Girls have value as brides or are often sent to work as “house maids” to large cities – and come back pregnant. One of Lyra’s entrepreneurship groups I visited in November had 19 female members, of which 18 were single mothers under the age of 25 years and all with similar stories of being sent away to work.

In a country like Tanzania, where nearly half of all girls are either pregnant or mothers by the age of 18, how do you go about creating an environment where you can educate them, not just intellectually, but also to stimulate them with the tools to become more affluent?

The girls and women we encounter are hungry to learn more – be it in school or in their work. They are asking for more training, be it agriculture, business or specific skills. Our entrepreneurship training for rural youth – called Imarika Kijana – specifically puts the focus on the girls to find what opportunities they have in their own villages and what their own assets are. Sometimes it is as simple as introducing them to new business ideas – as an example, we brought a basket weaving company into a village where women weave baskets to store their food in. None of them had ever thought basket weaving could bring them more income. Now these women are being trained to weave for a much larger market than their own kitchens.

How important is the incorporation of a digital element into the girls’ education?

We realised early on that giving the girls a safe space to live and study in was important, just to keep them safe and in school. But then we realised that the failure rates were unbelievably high across the schools, with up to 90% at O-level. We conducted some baseline tests and saw that, for example, the children’s level of maths was the same when they entered secondary education as when they ended 4 years later. Lyra’s digital element is therefore intended to address the quality of secondary education. Most of our partner schools lack enough teachers to cover all subjects, with worrying gaps in mathematics and the sciences. Students sometimes go for months without teachers specialised in these subjects, and must often find alternative ways to learn these subjects or fail their exams as a result. Classes are too large with 60 – 70 students on average. In addition, the schools lack adequate classrooms, learning material, laboratories, and libraries. Add to the mix that there is no electricity or Internet and you understand why few teachers want to stay in the rural areas. Our digital learning program is therefore for the use of the whole school, so teachers and students can use tablets and offline servers that contain world class educational material. It runs off solar power that we have installed in the schools. We have also incorporated a software package that contains the Tanzanian curriculum.

Girls who stay in Lyra’s hostels, however, get a better chance of using digital learning as they have access to the program in the evenings and over weekends. Since the start of the digital learning program, the best academically performing girls have been the girls living in our hostels. Another important aspect is the learning involved in terms of how to actually use a tablet in the first place. We hope to open the minds of this generation to 21st century digitalisation. Some of our students were afraid to touch the tablets for several months when we introduced the program in 2017, as they were told that the tablets would suck their blood or give them diseases. Breaking these taboos and giving them a chance to open their minds to the many opportunities that the Internet and a digitised economy bring are really important stepping stones.

What initiatives have you introduced, and what successes have you had with the project so far?

How much time have I got?! On the hostel side, the successes I am most proud about are that so far, more than 2,400 girls have stayed in our hostels with no reported pregnancies. We have now built 10 and will complete two more in 2020. Over 1000 girls stay in Lyra hostels annually. Academically, in two of our 10 hostels, we have seen girls for the first time ever graduate from lower secondary school and have seen significant decreases in the failure rates. We have created our own sustainable, low carbon hostel design that we have received a lot of praise for from the local government, and the villages we work with all love our design.

The coding clubs that we introduced this year have been so popular that we have not got enough staff to take on more members! Just this week, all of our six coding club partner schools were chosen for the finals of the Tanzanian Girls Entrepreneurship Summit. One of our coding clubs won second prize in the final – which is unprecedented and will serve as a huge boost for all rural schools!

Most of all, though, the highlight is always to meet the individual girls and women and hear their stories of how hard they work and strive for their own or their children’s future. I am humbled and privileged to know them and see their lives improve.

What are your future plans for Lyra?

We now know that our inter-connected, holistic 4-part model works. I believe it is cost-efficient and scalable. I would like to scale this across other rural regions of Tanzania.

What can a “sofa supporter” do to help with the work that Lyra undertakes?

Please donate via our website at www.lyrainafrica.org. I work pro bono and we have no full time employees in the UK. All our donations therefore go straight towards implementing our projects in Tanzania. If you want to talk about any of our projects in greater detail, please contact me directly at mariaspink@lyrainafrica.org. For £50, we can buy a tablet for our digital program, and for £80, we can buy a bed and a mattress for the girls. If you would like to support a girl who cannot afford to stay in a hostel, £160 pays for one year’s food and accommodation in a Lyra hostel. Please also come visit us in Iringa to see more of what we do!

Escape To Sarajevo – Turning Dark Periods Into Light By Ramy Salameh

“Pyjamas,” replied our guide (who lived through the Bosnian War of 1992-1995) when asked what does “peace” mean to you? Her single-word answer encapsulated daily survival amid war; a frightened teenager, who during the four years of conflict, had worn her clothes to bed anticipating the need to escape the bombardments which characterised the siege of Sarajevo. Being able to wear her night clothes represented the end of hostilities. “Peace without fear,” she added, during our visit of the Tunnel Museum located beside the airport and Mt. Igman, one of several mountains surrounding Sarajevo, creating a basin-like topography which helped concentrate the shelling so easily.

The Bosnian war and resulting “Siege of Sarajevo” left a lasting legacy across the city in several war-focused museums, the pockmarked buildings and shell-scarred pavements (some now filled with red resin and known as “Sarajevo Roses” in memoriam). Maybe the most poignant remains The Tunnel of Hope; the museum preserves a 20-metre stretch of an 880-yard underground passage, which citizens hand-dug to create the only route from the besieged city to the outside world where food, medical and war supplies could be burrowed back in, along with much-needed hope and humanity.

Whilst for many, the name “Sarajevo” still conjures up TV images of a war-torn city, reported directly into our living rooms in the 1990s, it also provides other seismic historical markers, such as the spot just beyond the 16th century Latin bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, precipitating the First World War. Or even watching ice-skaters Torvill & Dean win gold at the Sarajevo Olympic Winter Games in 1984, all forming part of the unique narrative that is creating a new wave of interest in Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This interest has been boosted by a new thrice weekly service with FlyBosnia from the UK, representing a new link between the two countries, the first after a decade.

War, of course, is not the only focus of this multi-cultural city. The only “rat-a-tat-tat” you will hear today is from the coppersmiths in Bascarsija, the old town founded by the Ottomans in the 15th century. From the famous symbol of Sarajevo, the Sebilj (a kiosk-shaped fountain), one walks in the shadows of minarets, Orthodox-Christian domes, Catholic church towers and Jewish synagogues propagating their religious rituals simultaneously. Fondly referred to as the “European Jerusalem,” this compact quarter holds many of Sarajevo’s museums, important historical edifices, cafes and restaurants, whose signature aromas of grilled meats, called cevapi, and strong Bosnian coffee, swirl around the bazaar-like labyrinthine streets.

A network of trams loop around the old quarter, running east to west and often in parallel to the Miljacka River, which bisects the city. Trams provide an economically atmospheric way to pass major sites, but to really discover the city’s hidden gems, one can easily explore on foot. Bascarsija gives a real sense of Sarajevo’s Ottoman foundations and former importance as a meeting point for traders and travellers passing through. The Morica Han caravanserai (travellers inn) building still attests to this, as does a stone vaulted bazaar where kilim carpets still drape across the entrances to stalls and copper coffee kettles are still sold, both so important to the culture of daily life for centuries.

The bazaar sits beside Ferhadija Street, where the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian architectural worlds collide; a compass printed on the pavement urges one to swivel between the two styles, pulling the eye in each direction. The bazaar was created by the Ottoman governor Gazi Husrev Bey and part of the Taslihan caravanserai, whose many landmarks pepper the area including his mosque, the most important Islamic place of worship in the country. Amongst the historical, Sarajevo’s modern future is palpable through new and quirky craft beer bars and breweries, contemporary restaurants and regular festivities, headlined by the annual Sarajevo Film Festival shining a light on Southeast European films to a global audience.

This year, Sarajevo hosted the European Youth Olympics, the first time a major sporting event has returned to the city since the winter games in 1984; vestiges of those games appear in unlikely places. Locals and visitors alike can now ascend Mt. Trebevic by gondola since it’s re-opening in 2018, providing the city with adventure sports, clean air and city-wide views and in Trebevic’s case, a glimpse through the dense pine foliage of the old Olympic bobsledding track. Scarred by war and illuminated by graffiti art, it snakes beside a walking trail that leads back down the mountain.

On another hill, on the eastern elevation of the Sarajevo basin is The White Fortress, a national monument built on the site of a medieval fortress from the mid-16th century. Reincarnated with heavy white stone blocks during the Austro-Hungarian period, these and many other lofty perches peer down upon the city, and there is always one building above all others that stands out – the Sarajevo Town Hall, known as “Vijećnica.” Re-opened in 2014 after restoration, having been targeted by incendiary shells in 1992, the building has been returned to the pseudo-Moorish beauty envisioned by architect Alexander Wittek when it first opened in 1896. Meanwhile, a longer weekend stay would allow visits to the historic UNESCO-listed Museum of Woodcarving in Konjic, one of the country’s oldest towns, and then onto Mostar. Travelling either by road or rail will guarantee some dramatic scenery, alongside the turquoise and fast-flowing Neretva River, through rocky gorges and verdant landscapes, where white-water rafters and mountain bikers can be seen making the most of the geography, before Mostar hovers into view. Famed for the centuries-old tradition of diving from the Stari Most, the former 16th century Ottoman bridge, another monument rebuilt having succumbed to the Bosnian conflict, is the star attraction. Viewed from every imaginable nook and cranny, the bridge and its brave divers are best viewed whilst being whizzed across the river by zip-wire, a newly created adventure.

Like much of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a new confidence and future have been gradually rebuilt alongside many heritages over past decades. Now it is time for the country to turn the dark periods to light.

Further Information

For the latest travel information for Sarajevo, go to visitsarajevo.ba.

FlyBosnia offers direct flights to Sarajevo from London Luton on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, with return fares starting from £230 – go to www.flybosnia.ba.

Mwagusi Safari Camp – A True Wilderness In The Heart of The African Bush By Fiona Sanderson

Tucked away in the far north east corner of the Ruaha National Park, I came across the banks of a sweeping bend on the Mwagusi Sand River in southern Tanzania, which is where I found Mwagusi Safari Camp – hidden amongst the baobabs, volcanic rock and sparkling pink quartz. The Park, with its dramatic landscapes, has an abundance of elephants, well-maintained roads and few visitors, making Mwagusi the perfect camp for those wishing to experience a true wilderness safari. Situated far off the beaten track in Tanzania’s largest national park, the Camp is a rare gem on the safari circuit. One of the very few owner-run camps in the area, I arrived at Mwagusi Safari Camp to find a charming, small, exclusive tented camp of 13 bandas, which snake along the sandy banks of the river.

Mwagusi Safari Camp offered me a unique and comfortable tented safari experience, with a hint of understated elegance. Almost all of the camp is built from natural materials such as grass thatch, timber, drift wood, stones and reeds, allowing it to be in perfect balance and harmony with its surroundings. This well-established camp was first started in 1987, I am told, and it is an expression of the unwavering love and passion of its owner, Chris Fox (pictured below right), for the Tanzanian bush, its wildlife and its people.

“This is the Africa you imagine when you shut your eyes,” Chris tells me as we sit around the campfire one evening. “It’s real, rugged, wild savannah. There are moments of great drama, great beauty. The first rains are very dramatic, and there is always different light, or something different happening – huge lion / buffalo confrontations, for example, where you watch a pride of lions take out a buffalo and at the same time, the buffalo is attacking the lions. You really feel like you’re ‘in’ nature. I don’t think there’s any other place I’ve seen where you can get up in the morning and suddenly there’s an elephant walking past.”

Chris was born and raised in Tanzania, and is passionate about Africa in general and Ruaha National Park in particular. His knowledge of Ruaha extends back to long holidays spent camping in this area before it even became a National Park, and his family helped to ensure that the land was gazetted and fully protected in 1964. When he was a boy, he and his family were often the only visitors. As an eight-year-old, he would go hunting on foot with his father in this secret, unheard-of paradise. Apart from schooldays spent in Devon, he has known the Ruaha all his life and his passion for it shines through in everything he says and does. “As children, we were very lucky,” he smiles. “We could camp wherever we wanted and we could do whatever we wanted – life was completely free. But it was a very different life – sometimes, my brother and I would disappear for the whole day!”

Chris is notorious for his profound knowledge and experience with the wildlife, people and the land of Ruaha. He is best known for his deep understanding of animal behaviour, especially with wild African elephants, and has formed astonishing relationships with these incredibly intelligent creatures. “It’s not something that you could do now, but I could put my hand in her mouth and she would lick my hand,” Chris says of one particular pachyderm.

Mwagusi Safari Camp is renowned for its high-calibre of local guides and their in-depth knowledge of the African bush. Local Tanzanians benefit from an in-house guide training programme aiming to provide top-class guides with excellent wildlife and bush knowledge, who have an ability to read animal behaviour – knowing when to sit patiently and watch a natural sequence of events unfold.

It is thought that Tanzania has lost half of its elephant population to ivory poachers since 2007. I am told that at the Selous Game Reserve, the epic herds for which it was once justly famous have been all but decimated. Perhaps as a result of this, Ruaha now holds the record for the largest concentration of elephants in the country, as well as huge herds of buffalo, tracked by a tenth of the world’s lion population. Such abundance is always encouraging, but with it comes the responsibility of protecting it, a difficult task in an under-utilised park of this size.

“We have good, healthy populations of wildlife right now,” Chris tells me, “but things can turn on a sixpence and so it’s a bit unpredictable. Everything is ebbing and flowing, either influenced by man or nature. Here, elephants are given the ability to roam freely. They will destroy a bit of habitat here and move on somewhere else, and the habitat will regenerate after they’ve flattened it – you know, the trees and bushes – and then the grazing animals will come and feed off what the elephants have left behind. So there is a balance. It’s not a balance in the way that we would like to see things, where we count numbers and expect those numbers to stay the same. You will have the crises and you’ll have the droughts and you’ll have things die off. But the more we try to interfere with it, the more we make a mess and we think we know better. But we don’t know better. I’ve spent a long time around elephants and they are highly intelligent, highly interactive and have incredible memories.”

Part of Tanzania National Parks’ plan is to encourage visitors to Ruaha, which will in turn swell the park’s coffers and help pay for anti-poaching efforts. In the past year, the United Nations has helped fund road upgrades (the network, compact as it is, works brilliantly) and also train rangers whose job, other than to occasionally accompany walking-safari guides, is to patrol the park. “We have Tanzanians who are passionate about conserving wildlife in Tanzania,” Chris tells me. “What we need to do is just preserve the land areas as National Park status. I think in the immediate future, wildlife conservancies will play a role where governments are still a bit immature [about this issue]. There comes a point where we as a human race have to say, we are one planet and we’ve got to fund those places whose governments can’t afford to sustain them. Otherwise, we’ll lose the land and the animals, and we will all pay the price.”

To the relatively few who know and love Ruaha, its appeal as a first-class wildlife sanctuary has never been in doubt. By rights, with its diverse ecosystem, healthy wildlife populations and reputation for excellent guiding, it should be rated right up there with the top game parks in Africa. But so far, its safari camps have been mostly pretty basic, and run on tight budgets with nothing in the pot for improvements. With Mwagusi Safari Camp paving the way for attracting the tourists who will, somewhat ironically, be sustaining the future of the Parks (albeit through their wallets), perhaps hope is not lost just yet.

For further information about Mwagusi Safari Camp, go to www.mwagusicamp.com. To donate to the Southern Tanzania Elephant Programme, go to www.stzelephants.org.

Ol Pejeta – The Home of The World’s Last Two Northern White Rhino By Jane Montana

Situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 364sq km wildlife conservancy whose game-to-area ratio tops the Kenyan park and reserve league. With over 10,000 large mammals roaming its beautiful landscapes, it is the only park where the “Big Five” and chimpanzees can be seen. It is also where the fastest growing population of rhino in Africa can be found. There are southern white rhino, more than 130 endangered black rhino and, housed in a special enclosure, are the two last northern white rhino remaining in the world. These last two females are the only northern white rhinos left, and once they die, the species will become extinct, unless there are significant advancements in developing specific IVF techniques. The northern white rhino is genetically distinct from its southern cousin, with smaller ears that feature longer hair.

Revenue generated from tourism supports Ol Pejeta’s conservation and community outreach work – ensuring a sustainable, tangible future for the wildlife and people that make this place so special. As well developing the funding necessary to pay for the wildlife conservation work, Ol Pejeta provides financial assistance to projects that assist the people living within the neighbouring communities. By the end of 2018, for instance, Ol Pejeta Conservancy had raised and dispersed over US$ 10 million in support of its community development programme.

Ol Pejeta is home to nine tented camps, lodges and homestays, each with a unique experience to offer visitors, and something for every taste and every budget. We chose Porini Rhino Camp for its reputation as a particularly eco-friendly camp and because it was situated at the farthest end of the Conservancy. The tented accommodation is very simple but authentic. The Manager, Paul, who was really delightful, told us that everyone at Porini Rhino Camp takes their light environmental footprint very seriously (the camp is one of only eight in Kenya with an Eco-Tourism Kenya Gold Award). Everything is solar-powered and there are genuinely no permanent structures – it is either removable or biodegradable. This means that the whole camp could be dismantled and within a season, the bush would take over and there would be no sign of anything left.

This pioneering camp appeals to keen wildlife enthusiasts who are environmentally aware and enjoy close cultural contacts with the local community. Porini Rhino Camp isn’t high-end luxury, but it is authentic in a beautiful, quiet corner of the Conservancy with a water hole and viewing platform which is exclusive to its guests. For us, the luxury was the experience. The tents are comfortable, and the furnishings are relatively rustic, but if you want to experience the bush and the animals without the likelihood of seeing other vehicles, and if you care particularly about good contacts with the local community, then you will love staying here. It is beyond beautiful, and very quiet, despite the wildlife all around. We saw jackals, giraffes, rhino and impala, all at home in their natural habitat, completely at ease.

As it was November, there was a chill in the air, so our camp staff boiled our water for some hot showers before a dinner of roast chicken and veg and steamed pudding – simple but delicious. Whisky in hand, we all sat by the fire and listened to the rhinos snorting by the water hole. The staff, all local, were genuinely friendly, and nothing was too much trouble. I got into bed snuggled up with hot water bottles and listened to the sounds of Africa around my tent whilst I drifted to sleep.

To really appreciate the wildlife work that Ol Pejeta is doing here, you really need to experience all the activities for yourself, so the next morning, we were up for an early morning game drive where we saw hyenas and their pups, buffalo wallowing in the mud, Thomson’s gazelles, many warthogs, elephants and giraffes, plus the Kori bustard (one of the world’s heaviest flying birds).

“Sudan” by Karen Laurence-Rowe

Everyone here is still recovering from the loss of Sudan, pictured below, the last northern white male rhino, who died in March 2018 surrounded by the world’s press, at the age of 45 (the equivalent of 95 in human years). He was gently put to sleep, the decision having been taken due to his overall deterioration as a result of age-related complications. The two remaining northern white rhino are his daughter (Najin) and granddaughter (Fatu).

We met Zack, who has been looking after the northern white rhinos for 10 years, and whose childhood dream had always been to work with these majestic creatures, after hearing stories from his father, who worked as a fencer at Ol Pejeta. Najin is 30 years old, while Fatu is 19, and Zack points out how they communicate through smelling and snorting. “I would describe such sadness at losing him,” Zack says of Sudan. “I grieved, as we were losing a loved one, but he was feeling lots of pain. It was very stressful for me and all the team when I knew it was the day.” Zack is very aware of the impact that humans have on the rhino and their environment – both good and bad – and is unforgiving when it comes to poaching. “Please, no more poaching anymore,” Zack pleads. “The more money the poachers acquire, the more money they want, and there’s no end. But it’s just paper. You don’t need to kill animals for it.”

All hope for the survival of the northern white rhino now rests on a pioneering project into IVF techniques being conducted at a leading zoo in Germany and a laboratory in Italy, backed by a group of scientists from all over the world. The Conservancy sent eggs there back in August. In September, Ol Pejeta announced that two northern white rhino embryos had been successfully fertilised. This development marks a turning point in the race to save the northern white rhino from extinction – but by no means does that mean that the species is saved.

The next morning, we went to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, established with an agreement between Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Jane Goodall Institute. The aim is to provide lifelong refuge in a semi-natural environment to orphaned and abused chimpanzees from West and Central Africa. Over the last decade, Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary has been compelled to keep accepting chimpanzees rescued from traumatic situations – bringing the total number of chimpanzees in the Sanctuary to 36. Many are confiscated from cramped and unnatural living conditions, and many arrive with horrific injuries sustained from abuse at the hands of humans. Here at Sweetwaters, they get a chance to start over, and it is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen.

We met Dr. Stephen Ngulu, pictured above, who is the head vet for all the animals at Ol Pejeta and whose work is diverse and sometimes dangerous. That said, his unrelenting passion for his work is obvious. He tells me that he loves working with wild animals, as they are highly intelligent but wonderfully unpredictable!

With 24-hour veterinary support and a stimulating quarantine enclosure, chimpanzees arriving at the Sanctuary are carefully nursed back to health. Chimps are, as it turns out, among the most challenging animals to treat because they are sensitive to immobilisation and susceptible to lung disease and pneumonia. When they are ready, they are introduced into one of the two large groups at the Sanctuary, who live in vast natural enclosures separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River. The chimps have set feeding times, and return to their indoor enclosures at night – but other than that, they spend their days exploring, climbing, socialising, and learning to be chimpanzees all over again.

Next, we went to meet the anti-poaching team, headed up by Emilio. His main concern is how big the poaching operations have become. “It’s a huge cartel,” he tells me, “and there’s lots of cattle rustling too, which we help with. But we have created a relationship with the community, and whereas before we had nothing, now we might get some intelligence, so we can warn the KWS, who come in.” The relationship is paying off, and the last poaching incident occurred two years ago. That said, Emilio and his team need more – more vehicles, more night vision goggles, more soldiers, more equipment, more dogs – specifically, springers, bloodhounds and Belgian Malinois. One suspects that they may have won the battle, but it is a long, hard road ahead to win the war.

The last word about my trip is from Ol Pejeta’s Managing Director, Richard Vigne. He follows on from Emilio, “It’s sad that it’s come to this,” he says. “The truth is that people are laying waste to the planet – it is the greatest extinction show that our planet has ever witnessed. We have to find harmony for the health of the planet.” Of Ol Pejeta, he says that “we have developed an integrated approach to land use that is a tool for ensuring productivity whilst securing space for conservation. If we can use the land and be productive, the chances are it will be more successful.” Here’s hoping.

Further Information

For further information about Ol Pejeta Conservancy, go to www.olpejetaconservancy.org.

For further information about Porini Rhino Camp, click here.

If you would like to support Ol Pejeta Conservancy, then you can do so by adopting a northern white rhino – click here for more information.

Ol Pejeta has also launched an appeal in support of the armed rangers – for further information, click here.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – At The Centre of African Rhino Conservation By Fiona Sanderson

Once upon a time, Lewa was a humble cattle ranch. Today, it is a successful wildlife conservancy at the centre of African rhino conservation with a worldwide reputation as a model for wildlife conservation. The Luxury Channel headed to Kenya to uncover the human story at the heart of this fight to save  wildlife, and to see why Prince William chose Lewa as the place to ask Kate Middleton to marry him….

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 65,000 acre ranch and wildlife sanctuary situated within Kenya’s Lewa Downs. Located north of Mount Kenya, dramatic snow-capped peaks dominate the views to the south, while to the north, the terrain drops away with breath-taking views of Samburu and beyond to the Matthews Range. Lewa is one of Africa’s most beautiful game reserves, and is widely considered to be one of East Africa’s premiere conservation organisations with specific expertise in protected area management and community support. It is also, as it just so happens, where Prince William proposed to the Duchess of Cambridge.

Since the 1920s, Lewa has been home to the Craig family, and whilst a distinct passion for wildlife and conservation had been passed down from one generation to the next, it wasn’t until some 60 years later that a real effort to protect the local rhino population was formalised. By the early 1980s, it was uncertain whether any black rhinos would survive in Kenya. Poaching for horn had reduced Kenya’s rhinos from some 20,000 in the mid-1970s to just a few hundred. It was clear that the only way to prevent their complete extinction was to create high security sanctuaries.

In 1983, David and Delia Craig came up with the concept of creating a rhino sanctuary within 5,000 acres of the ranch. Together with conservationist Anna Merz, who provided the funds for the project, they set up a rhino sanctuary at the western end of Lewa Downs, populated initially with black rhinos, but later with white rhinos as well. The focus, always, was on protecting northern Kenya’s last remaining rhinos, particularly those whose survival in the wild was put at little more than a few months at the most.

Within a decade, the sanctuary had expanded to cover the entire ranch, plus the neighbouring Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and Borana Conservancy. Today, it is a key location for spotting Africa’s “Big Five” – namely rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants and buffalo. 14% of all Kenya’s rhinos live on the Lewa/Borana landscape, with 14 rhinos born here in 2017 alone.

It’s not just wildlife that benefits from the work of the Conservancy, however. Half of the annual budget is directed to neighbouring communities, positively impacting over 60,000 people. Lewa helps to educate some 10,000 students, brings accessible water and healthcare to over 50,000 people, contributes to the local economy through a women’s micro-credit program serving almost 2,000 women, and also supports sustainable farming programs.

As well as this, Lewa is noted not just for the way in which it uses world-class anti-poaching operations and cutting-edge technology, but also for how it ensures that the local communities are crucially engaged to support the conservation effort. The Conservancy’s renowned dog tracking unit aids the anti-poaching work, with these remarkable animals able to follow the scents which are left at the crime scenes and lead Lewa’s security team directly to the doors of the poachers involved. It’s been an incredibly successful programme – so much so that there have been no poaching incidents for several years at Lewa.

The eastern corner of the Conservancy is the Craig family home, and where tourists have been entertained in luxury for the past 30 years. There is a total of nine different properties to stay in, located across the Lewa/Borana landscape, each with its own offerings – be that adventure, wildlife or culture.

We wanted wildlife and adventure, so we stayed at Lewa Wilderness; “we” being myself and Karen Laurence Rowe, one of the world’s top wildlife artists. Lewa Wilderness offers an array of safari adventures in true style and comfort. The lodge is comprised of just nine exclusive rooms: six cottages tucked into the hillside overlooking Lewa’s Eastern Marania Valley, plus three garden cottages set amidst the beautiful green lawns.

We were up for adventure, and ticking off the Big Five was top of our list. At Lewa Wilderness, game viewing is not just done by vehicle. Activities on offer include guided bush walks, horseback riding, camel riding, and even a scenic flight in an open-cockpit Waco biplane!
Wildlife, including rhinos and elephants, can also be spotted wandering past the dining area, an open-sided room affording some seriously stunning views, where delicious farmhouse meals are served. The ingredients all come directly from Lewa’s organic farm.

Meanwhile, much of the furniture at the lodge is made in a local workshop, which employs and trains a small group of craftspeople to make some truly beautiful pieces, which can be bought by visitors and shipped anywhere in the world. We particularly enjoyed our visit to the spinnery, run by an inspiring group of women who were producing beautiful crafted rugs made from the wool of local sheep, which we later spied being used in the lodge.

From the moment I arrived, I knew that Lewa was special. It has unbelievable soul, and is as much a home as it is a truly unique safari experience, as it is a pioneering wildlife conservancy. Long may its incredible work continue.

Contact Information

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Isiolo 60300
Kenya

For enquiries, rates and bookings, please e-mail reservations@lewawilderness.com.

For more information, go to www.lewa.org, or watch the film here.

Please support Lewa Wildlife Conservancy by being part of their Big Give Christmas Challenge. Give a gift through the donation page on their website and these funds will play an essential role in enabling Lewa to protect wildlife and addressing one of the biggest challenges we face – the human/wildlife conflict.

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 and I join the barefooted folk in a temple full of incense, pungent jasmine garlands, tinkling temple bells and monkeys frolicking nearby. Then there’s my visit to Swaminarayan Akshardham, a 100-acre cultural complex in New Delhi completed in 2005. Think exotic workmanship, intricate carvings, towering domes and 234 ornate pillars in the Akshardham temple dedicated to the 18th century Bhagwan Swaminarayan. A Guinness World Record holder for size alone, it knocks the socks off London’s traditional Hindu temple in Neasden. (The 148 life-size elephants plinth on which the ginormous sandstone and marble temple rests is a particular winner). Plus there’s an ooh-ah fountains, lasers, underwater flames, sound and light show in Hindi. And a boat ride that whizzes past 10,000 years of India’s civilisation and 800 life-size statues in just 12 minutes. It’s Las Vegas meets Disneyland meets a showcase of India’s art, architecture, culture, values and wisdom.

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 D47 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….

Image courtesy of Shawn Eastman

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.

Image courtesy of Shawn Eastman

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 comple