ultratravel DECEMBER 2012
The Daily Telegraph
WILD WYOMING A GOURMET IN VIRGINIA PUERTO RICO: THE 51ST STATE? LINDSEY VONN’S VAIL
AMERICAN BEAUTY Your guide to luxury in the USA
ÂŠ2012 Brand USA. All Rights Reserved.
Redefine extraordinary in Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
Discover this land, like never before.
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ÂŠ2012 Brand USA. All Rights Reserved.
Exhilarate your senses in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Discover this land, like never before.
Island outpost Cayo Diablo in Puerto Rico, the US territory tipped to become America’s 51st state (page 34)
Features 8 American classics We pick four quintessential experiences for the year ahead: a festival of sport, from baseball in Chicago to the Super Bowl in New Orleans; an art tour of New York; riding coast to coast on a Harley; and flying an L-39 fighter in a remake of Top Gun 16 A state for all seasons From big skies and bison on the high plains in summer to the winter wonderland of Jackson Hole, Wyoming is where the wild things are, says Jeremy Schmidt 25 Vonn on Vail Lindsey Vonn, the greatest female skier of all time, joins other champions in choosing their top US ski resorts 28 The gracious South Douglas Rogers enjoys culinary pleasures aplenty on a road trip from the green hills of Virginia to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee
34 Puerto Rico revival The exotic Caribbean island, a US territory, is reliving the glamour of its past with a new wave of high-end openings
Regulars 41 Ultra intelligence Heli-shopping in New York; small luxury lodges in Alaska; California’s tennis hotel perfects its service; and America’s airport for gourmets 42 Travelling life Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie, based in San Francisco for the
America’s Cup, talks about his favourite travel experiences ashore and afloat
COVER The whirlpool and heated pool at Amangani, the luxury resort in Wyoming. TRUNK ARCHIVE
PAGE 14 HOT SHOTS Download the Blippar app and use your smartphone to step inside the cockpit of an L-39 fighter jet, for the full Top Gun experience
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. Published by TELEGRAPH MEDIA GROUP, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT, and printed by Polestar UK Limited. Colour reproduction by groupfmg.com. Not to be sold separately from The Daily Telegraph. Ultratravel is a registered trademark licensed to The Daily Telegraph by PGP Media Limited
1 FIELDS OF DREAMS f you think the British are obsessed with sport, consider the Americans. They’re nuts about it. In
Cincinnati, Ohio, the first day of the baseball season (pictured) is marked with a parade and a day off work – and the rest of America celebrates, too. No team commands quite the same mystique
as the New York Yankees, with their 27 World Series titles and billion-dollar stadium in the Bronx – unless it is authenticity you crave. Then the atmosphere of Wrigley Field, home to the perennially underperforming Chicago Cubs, is unsurpassed. For American Football fans, the Super Bowl, to be held this season in New Orleans on February 3, is the most glamorous sporting showpiece on the continent: for pageantry, little can beat the spine-tingling rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” or the screaming fly-past of F-16 fighter jets. Even regular games can be captivating, not least those at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium. By contrast, with basketball, unless you have seen a game up close, you can never know the power of LeBron James’s slam-dunks for the Miami Heat, or the timing of Kobe Bryant’s defensive blocks at the Los Angeles Lakers. For hoops at the highest level, head to Miami, and for the most febrile atmosphere, try to catch the Boston Celtics at home. Thomson Sport (0845 805 6762, thomsonsport.com), Sports Events Travel (0845 003 2213, sportseventstravel.co.uk) and Great Atlantic Travel (00 1 800 888 8233, greatatlantictravel.com) can book tailor-made packages to the Major League Baseball, Super Bowl and NBA basketball games.
3 MORE SPORTING CLASSICS SAILING The America’s Cup (americascup.com) takes place in San Francisco from September 7-22, 2013, with the current Cup holder – Oracle Team USA – facing the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup. MOTOR RACING The roaring success of last month’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, has fans of Formula 1 (formula1.com) eagerly awaiting the next one, from November 15-17, 2013. RODEO Las Vegas is home to the national finals (nfrexperience.com) run by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, testing skills from steer-wrestling to bull-riding, from December 6-15, 2013.
the ULTRA ACCESSORY Sony DSC-RX100 £549 (020 3564 4264, sony.co.uk). The world’s best compact camera combines a fast, bright Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with a 20.2mexapixel sensor that’s about four times bigger than those found in traditional compacts. It features Sony’s trademark “Sweep Panorama” function for seamless wide-angle shots, and there is also a 3.6 x zoom for getting closer to the on-field action.
the NEXT BIGU.S. ADVENTURE All-American events, experiences and adrenalin highs in the coming year
Playing the game Patriotic flag-waving and a fly-past on Opening Day at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio
LEGENDARY BRANDS. ABUNDANT SELECTION. REAL SAVINGS. Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Barneys New York, BCBG Max Azria, Chloé, Cole Haan, Diesel, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Elie Tahari, Gucci, Guess, J.Crew, Jimmy Choo, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade New York, Kenneth Cole, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Lucky Brand, Nike, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Samsonite, Theory, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Tumi and more at savings of 25% to 65% every day. Stores vary per center.
VISIT PREMIUMOUTLETS.COM for a complete list of brands and centers worldwide, including: Desert Hills Premium Outlets ® (Los Angeles area), Las Vegas Premium Outlets ® (2 area locations), Orlando Premium Outlets ® (2 area locations), Woodbury Common Premium Outlets ® (New York City area) and Wrentham Village Premium Outlets ® (Boston area) .
the NEXT BIG U.S.ADVENTURE
In the frame Clockwise, from top left: the new Museum of Contemporary Art; Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat; and a suite at The Standard hotel
2 INSIDE NEW YORKâ€™S ART SCENE Tate, with its galleries in London, Liverpool and St Ives, has some of the finest contemporary curators in the world and a network of pre-eminent global art connections. From next year, that expertise can be tapped by British visitors to America, thanks to the holiday offshoot, Tate Travels. Its first art tour of New York, starting on October 31, 2013, will take inspiration from Tate Liverpoolâ€™s Glam! The Performance of Style exhibition, which evaluates international art from the Seventies. It will focus on American artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Laurie Anderson, and their worlds around SoHo. Led by such experts as art lecturer Grace Adam and art historian Harriet Landseer, the trip will combine private tours to galleries such as the Whitney, PS1 and Brooklyn, pre-opening visits to the new Museum of Contemporary Art and the Artists Space gallery, a reception at The Drawing Center, and visits to the studios of Sarah Sze and painter/sculptor/photographer Matthew Barney. Tate Travels (020 3582 9261, tatetravels.co.uk) is offering a five-night art tour, staying at The Standard hotel, beside the new High Line walkway in the hip Meatpacking District, from ÂŁ3,206 per person, based on two sharing and including flights.
the ULTRA ACCESSORY Tumi iPad bag ÂŁ195 (020 7493 4138, tumi.com).
3 MORE ART AND CULTURE TOURS
Large enough to accommodate an iPad, credit
WEST COAST Martin Randall (020 8742 3355, martinrandall.com) has a 12-day architecture trip in September 2013, taking in
card and a few personal possessions, this bag is
Frank Lloyd Wrightâ€™s Taliesin West in Scottsdale and Louis Kahnâ€™s Salk Institute in La Jolla, from ÂŁ4,740 per person with flights.
nevertheless small enough to carry about all
THE OLD SOUTH Audley Travel (01993 838700, audleytravel.com) includes grand plantation mansions along the Mississippi
day, across the body, without developing shoulder
plus jazz and the old French Quarter of New Orleans on an 11-day tour costing from ÂŁ1,695 per person including flights.
strain. In a range of bright spring colours, from
EAST COAST ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055, aceculturaltours.co.uk) has an 11-day guided tour in October 2013, visiting
marigold to raspberry for contemporary
the Frick and the Met in New York, plus a host of lesser-known smaller galleries in New England, from ÂŁ3,640 including flights.
dressers, or racing green for classicists.
the NEXT BIG
3 COAST TO COAST ON A HARLEY Few combinations are as quintessentially American as bikes and blues,
course, included â€“ with Harley-Davidson among the marques on offer.
especially when the name Harley-Davidson is added to the mix. A new
EagleRider (00 1 310 321 3180, eaglerider.com). From Britain, Bon Voyage
exclusive two-week Easy Rider Movie Tour, to be launched next year by the
(0800 316 3012, bon-voyage.co.uk) offers the holiday from ÂŁ4,150 per
motorcyle rental company Eagle Rider, will take bikers through some of the
person (based on two people sharing a room â€“ and bike), including flights.
most awe-inspiring scenery in the United States. The route begins in Los Angeles and finishes in New Orleans, where riders will take in highlights of
3 MORE CLASSIC AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS
the ULTRA ACCESSORY
the music scene. From California, they will travel to Death Valley and on
ROUTE 66 The original, iconic road from Los Angeles to Chicago covered
Les Ateliers Ruby Costume Pavillon helmet
through Arizona, Monument Valley in Utah (pictured, top), New Mexico and
2,448 miles, much of which can be driven still, with all the legendary kicks.
ÂŁ570 (00 33 1 40 28 93 07, ateliersruby.com). The
Texas to Louisiana on a 2,718-mile trip celebrating the 1969 film Easy Rider.
NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY Running from Natchez, Mississippi, almost to
flagship Pavillon model has a chrome trim and
Two of the tour guides were friends of the filmâ€™s director, Dennis Hopper.
Nashville, Tennessee, this pretty 444-mile route was used by early settlers.
nappa lambskin lining, and can be customised
This is a deftly devised holiday, retracing the route in the film and exploring
HIGHWAY 1 On the West Coast, this 660-mile drive skirts beaches, cliffs
using the French companyâ€™s â€œSur-Mesureâ€?
locations where the most compelling scenes were shot. Bike hire is, of
and the pounding Pacific and is at its best between LA and San Francisco.
service â€“ as was this Easy Rider-style design.
A town for grown-ups with no desire to grow up. From exotic ice creams and sky-high roller coasters to pools, magic shows, celebrity chefs, designer and outlet shopping, golfing and spas, thereâ€™s more to Las Vegas than you know.
the NEXT BIG U.S.ADVENTURE
FEEL THE THRILL OF THE TOP GUN EXPERIENCE BLIPPAR HOW IT WORKS 1. Download Blippar for free from the App Store or Google Play. 2. Hold your smartphone or tablet over the image of the jets (above). REUTERS
3. See the pilots engage in aerial combat over the Mojave desert.
4 IN THE SLIPSTREAM OF TOP GUN It was the must-see American film of 1986 â€“ Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise as Pete â€œMaverickâ€? Mitchell, engaging in aerial combat with Nick â€œGooseâ€? Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) in some of the most thrilling aviation scenes ever shot. Now, the generation inspired by the film can feel the adrenalin rush for real, looping over the mountains and deserts of Nevada or California (above) at the controls of an L-39 combat jet and picking their own dogfight with a friend (here turned enemy). Combatants make sorties in separate jets, flying in formation and learning manoeuvres before going full throttle into battle, pitching, climbing steeply and pulling up to 5G. Throughout, moves are recorded on camera by a film production crew of six. Itâ€™s not for the faint-hearted, yet no previous jet-flying experience is required. While rookies do get to work out combat tactics and manoeuvre the aircraft, they are accompanied by a qualified L-39 pilot who also has hands on the controls. Incredible Adventures (00 1 941 346 2603, incredible-adventures.com) offers a range of Top Gun experiences, flying from Los Angeles, San Diego or Las Vegas. The three-flight Dogfight Over Mojave package costs from $15,000 (ÂŁ9,460) for two.
3 MORE AERIAL ADRENALIN RUSHES ZERO GRAVITY Experience weightlessness aboard a modified Boeing 727 as it performs parabolic arcs to create a zero-gravity environment similar to space. The Zero Gravity Corporation (00 1 703 894 2188, gozerog.com) is offering flights from $5,198, departing from Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Austin and Cape Canaveral. ACTIVE VOLCANOES See the extraordinary pyrotechnic drama of Hawaiiâ€™s Kilauea volcano on a two-hour flight by light aircraft from Kapalua. Hawaii Active (00 1 808 871 8884, hawaiiactive.com) is offering trips from $400. STUNT ACROBATICS Experience vertical snaps, hammerheads and inverted flight aboard a two-seat, state-of-the-art Extra 300L aircraft, with a pilot talking about the moves and letting you try the controls. Millionaires Concierge (00 1 954 564 7074, millionairesconcierge.com) offers 45-minute flights from Miami starting at $2,800.
the ULTRA ACCESSORY Ray-Ban RB3025 55 Polar Aviator sunglasses ÂŁ178 (0845 602 1073, houseoffraser.co.uk). Aviator sunglasses were originally developed in 1937 for American pilots, and these frames carry more kudos than most. They are the very ones worn by â€œMaverickâ€? (Tom Cruise) in Top Gun, and they are a practical choice for flyers. The â€œteardropâ€? shape of the polarised lenses helps deflect sun glare, while the gold metal frame makes them hardy as well as iconic.
Call of the WILD From the big skies and extreme weather of the high plains to the alpine crags and lake-spangled valley of Jackson Hole, Wyoming offers drama aplenty â€“ and some stylish places to stay. Jeremy Schmidt, a former park ranger, paints a portrait of the state through the changing seasons ďż˝LCKI8KI8M<Cďż˝
Weather runs through it The Snake River, a popular spot for fly-fishing, meanders through the Grand Teton National Park, with the Teton Range as a backdrop. Inset, opposite: a bison, impervious to the Wyoming winter
Roof of the world A Cessna jet at Jackson Hole Airport; the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park; and an excursion on horseback for guests at Amangani
etting to Wyoming, the only way is up. Up from the coasts, up from Chicago and Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Up from neighbouring states â€“ Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Utah. Colorado might argue the point. They have some higher mountains down there, but even so, driving north from Denver to Wyoming is an uphill trip. That might explain why residents feel a kind of superiority based on geography. Looking down, in the topographic sense, on the rest of the country is like riding a tall horse through a crowd of footsore pedestrians. Getting high feels good. Elevation is good for conversation, too. People in Wyoming endlessly discuss their high-altitude weather. The worse it gets, the better it is for talking. â€œWe got only two seasons here, winter and the last week of July.â€? â€œThatâ€™s wrong. We got four. Nearly winter, winter, more winter, andâ€Ś whoa, that went fast.â€? â€œHow do you know itâ€™s summer? You wear shorts under your parka.â€? True, it can be cold here. Some years it does snow in July, but it can also be scorching hot â€“ and windy. People here are so used to leaning into the howling gale that, when it stops, they all fall down. So they say. Behind the jokes is a fondness for the place. Having lived in north-west Wyoming for 40 years, Iâ€™ve enjoyed all the jokes and come to believe that bad-weather humour is a kind of understatement, a tactic for locals who by their nature are disinclined to boast. Like a grumpy old man with a soft heart, they canâ€™t admit how much they love this sweet, often achingly beautiful part of the world. Spring arrives in April. Summer lasts two or three months. Autumn, a season of golden leaves and indigo skies, might linger into November. Winter outshines them all. Some basic geography: Wyoming is Americaâ€™s tenthlargest state, and the least populated. A straight-sided box measuring 360 by 280 miles, it has roughly 560,000
residents. About half the state is high plains, covered with sagebrush and bounded by mountain ranges with lovely names: Bighorn, Uinta, Wind River, Absaroka, Teton, Gros Ventre, and more. All of them are part of the Rocky Mountains, stretching from Yellowstone National Park to the lesser-known Medicine Bow range on the Colorado border. The Rockies divide the continent. Rivers on one side flow to the Atlantic Ocean, on the other to the Pacific. This applies from the Arctic to the tip of South America. In Wyoming, however, there is a twist. Near the middle of the state, the watershed bifurcates around a huge high-altitude depression called the Great Divide Basin. Water that falls there leaves only by evaporation. Scarcely anyone lives near the basin and even wildlife is sparse, but this is typical of Wyomingâ€™s open plains. Itâ€™s a long way between settlements but donâ€™t call it empty. It is full of open space and dry rock and galaxies spinning in the night sky. It looks tough out there, yet beauty abounds on the high plains, even in winter â€“ perhaps especially in winter, when drifting snow turns vast expanses into a white Sahara. Beautiful, intimidating, potentially dangerous, itâ€™s a bad time and place to run out of petrol. Summer, on the other hand, is the time of sweetness, in part because every living thing has to get its growing done in a hurry before the return of frost. Hereford cattle mingle with bands of pronghorn, the American version of antelope. Rivers wind through broad valleys, clear water tumbles over coloured gravel in the mottled shade of cottonwood trees thirstily crowding the banks. Trout flash in the icy pools. Ranchers draw a portion of the water to irrigate hay fields, rich green and intoxicatingly fragrant. Meadowlarks on fence posts, soft breezes on warm July nights: for many of us, these are the things of paradise. Others say head for the mountains, by which they usually mean the north-west corner of the state, home of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. They are right. There is no over-stating the appeal of these places.
HEMIS.FR; SIMON JOHN OWEN; ALAMY
The Tetons are quintessential alpine crags rising 7,000ft, unencumbered by foothills, above the lake-spangled valley of Jackson Hole. Itâ€™s no wonder people are drawn here, whether driving the family car stuffed with camping gear or joining the gaggle of private jets at the most scenic airport in America, seven miles north of Jackson. The first set heads for campsites with million-dollar views. The second revels in those same views from resorts such as Amangani and Hotel Terra (see Five places to enjoy the wonders of Wyoming), from palatial log houses in the south of the valley, or from the ski slopes. Only three per cent of land in Teton County is privately owned, making this one of the most exclusive property markets in the US. The two tribes come together on hiking trails, or on a boat trip down the Snake River with fly rods, or in
BISON COVERED IN FROST DONâ€™T SHOW UP WELL AGAINST THE SNOW AND THE WHITE HOT-SPRING MIST the town of Jackson, which in spite of its high-end art galleries (do you need a life-size bronze moose?) tries hard to project an image of down-home cowboy tradition: boardwalks, architecture straight out of a Western film, and staged desperado shoot-outs on the town square. There are still cowboys in Jackson, but youâ€™ll have to look beyond the costumes of the wannabes. Wyoming men and women, the ones who live out there under the big arcing sky and actually run cattle for a living, tend towards understatement. Braggadocio is for the spaghetti cowboy, that fellow with a handlebar moustache strutting the boardwalks with spurs clicking and leather chaps flapping. Genuine ranchers leave their country threads at home when they come to town. If they come at all. In winter the mountains pile up snow, billows of it, soft and deep. Itâ€™s real winter, cold enough for the snow to come down as soft as a babyâ€™s breath and stay that way. But hereâ€™s a secret: itâ€™s not so cold. It can be awful, just like the Wyoming jokes. But when the wind is still, as it often is, and the sun is strong, which the thin atmosphere makes possible, the days can be practically balmy. You can visit Yellowstone in January, to prove the point. It will be cold up there, where the elevation averages around 8,000ft. The snow will be deep. And if youâ€™re really lucky, youâ€™ll see it on a morning when the temperature falls well below zero. Thirty below? Forty is possible. Stay at the Snow Lodge in Old Faithful, a good comfortable hotel close to the famous geyser. Bundle up and go out at dawn. Watch for bison covered with frost; they donâ€™t show up well against the snow and the white hot-spring mist that shifts, dreamlike, in the pale light. As the sun rises, the fog banks move like the tide going out to reveal geysers â€“ there are dozens here â€“ billowing atomically upward. Conifers covered in ice stand in silent homage. Ravens croak from high branches. Within minutes, you feel the strength of the sunâ€™s rays warming your shoulders, and understand why people in these parts come to cherish winter enough to joke about it. British Airways (0844 4930787, ba.com) flies from London Heathrow to Dallas Fort Worth, and connects with onward flights to Jackson Hole with American Airlines (americanairlines.com). Return fares cost from ÂŁ740.
Hot and cool The whirlpool and heated pool at Amangani, maintained at 27C for year-round use
5 PLACES TO ENJOY THE WONDERS OF WYOMING AMANGANI, Jackson Hole
Summer activities include
available in the form of fishing,
Perched high in the mountain
riding, hiking and chuckwagon
hiking and biking. Evenings
valley of Jackson Hole, this
dinners (wagon rides to picnic
often revolve around gourmet
stylish property (above) offers
spots), while winter presents
feasts in the dining room
trademark Aman cool and
a variety of outdoor action
in the main lodge.
brings a touch of panache to
from sleigh rides and skiing
Doubles from $461 per night
its wild setting. Public areas,
(downhill, cross country, heli)
(based on a four-night stay).
with their floor-to-ceiling
to winter wildlife safaris in
Bookings: 00 1 307 765 2080,
windows and tall walls of
Yellowstone, from this month.
stone and redwood, exude
Doubles from $195. Bookings:
grandeur while bedrooms are
lobby (above), are quirkily
00 1 307 733 8833,
cosier spaces furnished with
contemporary in their styling.
faux fur and cowhide. This is
Doubles from $573. Bookings:
a place for all seasons, with
00 1 307 732 5000,
THE HIDEOUT LODGE, Shell
lots of snow in winter,
Valley Under the big skies of
a profusion of wildflowers in
north-central Wyoming, this
spring, and, in summer, the
SPRING CREEK RANCH,
113-year-old ranch (below) at
nearby Snake River to explore,
Jackson The views are
the foot of the Big Horn
with fishing rods or kayaks.
spellbinding at this retreat set
Mountains is the real thing â€“
HOTEL TERRA, Teton
Doubles from $870 (ÂŁ547) per
within a wildlife sanctuary at
with no rough edges. Up to 32
Village Chic, urban and
night (rate includes dinner).
the top of East Gros Ventre
guests can be accommodated
eco-friendly, this modern hotel
Bookings: 00 1 307 734 7333,
Butte. Accommodation in
in comfortable log cabins and
(above) in the heart of Teton
rustic wooden buildings
casitas, spending their days
Village is an antidote to alpine
ranges from inn rooms to
on cattle drives or other horse
kitsch. Each of the 132 sleek
rides. Alternative action is
bedrooms is equipped with
FOUR SEASONS JACKSON HOLE, Teton Village The
beauty of the Grand Tetons
while facilities include
can be admired from the
a rooftop hot tub and an
outdoor whirlpools of this
infinity pool overlooking the
mountain resort, which offers
mountains. Concierge staff
Yellowstone National Park (nps.gov/yell). Americaâ€™s first national
ski-in, ski-out access in winter
will arrange outdoor
park, with the worldâ€™s largest collection of geysers. Grand Teton
and some of the best snow
adventures, from downhill
National Park (nps.gov/grte). Mountains, hiking, fly-fishing on the
sport in America. Summer
and Nordic skiing to summer
Snake River. Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins (00 1 866 439
provides outdoor options
riding and paragliding.
7375, yellowstonenationalparklodges.com). From $99 (ÂŁ62) per night.
ranging from fly-fishing to
Doubles from $129. Bookings:
ballooning and wolf-watching.
00 1 307 739 4000,
Interiors, including the hotel
MORE INFORMATION DiscoverAmerica.com
KEY W EST
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All hail Vail The Colorado ski slopes on which Lindsey Vonn (left, and below left) honed her skills
CHOICES OF THE CHAMPIONS With skiing an option in more than 30 states, where should visitors head? Four top skiers pick their favourite US resorts, for thrills on and off the mountain LINDSEY VONN
need for speed, then it has to be Lindseyâ€™s. I was
honoured, and a little shocked to be honest,
Widely regarded as the
when this classic Vail run was named after me in
One of the worldâ€™s
greatest female skier of all
2010. It is definitely the most challenging descent
time, she has won gold at the
on the mountain: icy, fast and rarely groomed.
2010 Winter Olympics, two
But, as I always say to people: if youâ€™re not
Davenport skied all 54 of
World championships, four overall World titles, and
falling, youâ€™re doing something wrong. Skiing isnâ€™t the only thing to do in Vail. The
Coloradoâ€™s 14,000ft peaks in a year, and has also skied Everest.
place is really cosy and quaint, quite close in feel
â€œAs a lifelong skier and a lover of the finer things
to European resorts, from the chalet-style
in life, I see Aspen as a little winter paradise. Itâ€™s
architecture to the traditional aprĂ¨s-ski scene.
a resort where there are endless choices in terms
Favourite places to eat include The Red Lion
of things to do, from mountain activities to visiting
terrain, and variety: you can ski all season and
(00 1 970 476 7676, theredlion.com) and Pazzoâ€™s
the countless restaurants, bars and boutiques.
never do the same run twice. Living in this town
Pizzeria (00 1 970 476 9026), for the best pizza
A perfect 24 hours in Aspen looks like this: if
has helped me to become a good downhill skier.
outside of New York â€“ or, for something a little
itâ€™s a powder day, the question of exactly where to
I was 11 when my parents took the decision to
more upmarket, Larkspur (00 1 970 754 8050,
ski can be a tough one, but I nearly always go for
move to Vail to support my skiing. Iâ€™m eternally
larkspurvail.com) or Centre V at The Arrabelle
Aspen Mountain, which is a sure bet, having
grateful because, back then, they didnâ€™t know
(00 1 970 754 7700, arrabelle.rockresorts.com).
76 runs to choose from. Even if there is no fresh
World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing. â€œIâ€™ve skied at every major resort, and Vail has the best snow, a huge amount of skiable
whether I would be Jo Slow or a future Olympian.
Last year, Vailâ€™s $2-billion (ÂŁ1.25-billion)
snow, you can do some top-to-bottom laps down
renovation was completed, and new boutiques,
the perfect groomers on Spar Gulch, the main
restaurants and hotels have opened, including
highway gully run. After riding the gondola (which
Little Diner (00 1 970 476 4279, thelittlediner.
The Arrabelle (see restaurants, above). I love
is state-of-the-art, with iPod docking stations
com), which does the best bacon and eggs â€“
the dark wood and the design, modelled on a
included), I usually do a Face of Bell run from the
setting me up nicely for a day on the slopes.
European chalet, and the fact that each morning,
top down to the gladed ridge known as the
Then, if itâ€™s a great powder day, I head to Game
a ski valet delivers your gear to the slopes. Thatâ€™s
Dumps. Alternatively, Iâ€™ll do Kristiâ€™s to Jackpot.
Creek Bowl and hit the back bowls such as
if youâ€™re not sitting in the rooftop hot tub, which
Blue Sky Basin, China Bowl or Earlâ€™s Bowl for
overlooks the Eagle Bahn gondola, waiting for
it deserves is the lower mountain at Aspen
something a bit more challenging. If I feel the
the powder day. You wonâ€™t have to wait longâ€Śâ€?
Highlands. In a way, that suits me because, while
I have loved the place since the day I arrived. A great day for me starts with breakfast at The
The spot I donâ€™t think really gets the respect
the crowds are waiting for Highlands Bowl to
itself. The Alta Chutes, below the Sublette Quad
open, I am usually on Audacious, making
chair, are a particular favourite of mine. And then,
untracked powder turns entirely on my own.
of course, there is Corbetâ€™s Couloir, the most
If youâ€™re in the mood to show off, and fancy
famous run of all. There are plenty of skiers who
getting hollers from those riding the chairlift above
come to peer over the edge but never take the
you, then head down the lift line of Chair Six
plunge (it looks much worse from the top). I canâ€™t
(FIS Chair) on the first run of a powder day. Or you
say itâ€™s something I do every day but, when the
can go under the Deep Temerity chair-lift at
conditions are right, I still like to drop in and give it
Highlands; the only reason to do this, really, is to
a go. The best place to contemplate all this is at
show everyone how amazing you are.
the Couloir (00 1 307 739 2675), at the top of the
At the end of the day, once my legs are cooked,
Bridger Gondola, which offers fine dining and,
I will meet friends for aprĂ¨s-ski at the Sky Hotelâ€™s
at 9,000ft, even finer views of the whole valley.
39 Degrees bar (00 1 970 925 6760, theskyhotel.
Despite its reputation, this is not a resort thatâ€™s
com), a great social spot where you can boast
only for experts. There are now good intermediate
about the dayâ€™s ski exploits. Dinner has to be
options, with new lifts which have cut journey
at Matsuhisa (00 1 970 476 6628, matsuhisavail.
times to the easier slopes, and better grooming
com), one of Americaâ€™s finest Asian restaurants,
on the AprĂ¨s Vous and Rendezvous mountains.
where Nobuâ€™s cuisine wows the palate. Finally,
You certainly donâ€™t need to be an expert to
I would lay my head down on a Frette pillow at
compare notes over a few cold ones at the
The Little Nell Hotel (00 1 970 920 4600,
Mangy Moose (00 1 307 733 4913, mangymoose.
thelittlenell.com), where they welcome you by
com): the aprĂ¨s-ski institution at the bottom of the
name, make you feel like a local, and pamper you
pistes, which is more welcoming than it sounds.
so much that you never want to leave.â€?
With its new high-end restaurants, condos and hotels, this olâ€™ cowboy town has come a long way.â€?
is second to none: the resort is less than a mile
JACKSON HOLE WYOMING
from Grand Teton National Park, with Yellowstone
A winner of both gold and
only a short drive away. Whatâ€™s more, Jackson
silver in the 1994 Winter
Hole is a year-round resort, so when I finally pack
Olympics, the five-time US
away the skis in spring, out come the walking
national champion has,
boots, fishing rod, mountain bike and kayak.
since retirement, taken
But skiing is my first love and my approach to
â€˜UNTRACKED POWDER, CHALLENGING TERRAIN AND BIG VERTICALS ARE WHAT APPEAL, AND JACKSON HOLE HAS THESE IN SPADESâ€™
KRISTEN ULMER SNOWBIRD/ALTA UTAH One of the pioneers of the extreme-ski revolution, Ulmer skied moguls for
part in the making of extreme skiing films.
the sport has never changed. Untracked powder,
â€œIâ€™ve raced all over world, but Jackson Hole is the
challenging terrain, steeps and big verticals are
the US Ski Team and has
resort I quite literally call home. For 18 years Iâ€™ve
what appeal â€“ and Jackson Hole offers these in
lived here, yet I never tire of the terrain. When the
spades, whether you are losing yourself in the
sun is shining on one of those dreamy powder
serene Tetons with some backcountry skiing or
days, I still get that same excitement I did as
finding your nerve to take on some of the
Alta and Snowbird. What will they call themselves,
a teenager. It helps that the Wyoming scenery
incredible chutes and couloirs back in the resort
I asked myself at the time: Snalta? Albird? Would
subsequently pursued a career jumping off cliffs and skiing deathly descents all over the world. â€œTen years have passed since the marriage of
these rival resorts lose their identities, I wondered; but I neednâ€™t have worried. The joining of what used to be two completely different resorts was the best thing that ever happened. A single lift ticket now gives access to the largest ski area in Utah (and, many would argue, the most advanced terrain in the country), but the resorts have remained the same independent, world-class places they have always been â€“ and the famous powder is as soft and light as ever. Alta is more locally-focused and less glitzy, the place where Telemark skiers, weathered locals and young free-skiers convene to sample moguls, powder and chutes free from snowboards (the resort remains strictly skiers-only). Snowbird, by comparison, is the more glamorous resort; here you are more likely to join the boarders taking the Aerial Tram to the top of the Cirque to feast on a bowlful of powder. Silver Fox run is one of my favourites. It is north-facing and the snow is always good in there, whether it has snowed or not. To finish off the day, I love sliding into the giant aprĂ¨s-ski hot-tub at The Cliff Lodge (00 1 801 933 2222, theclifflodgeandspasnowbird. com). It can accommodate 20 people comfortably, although Iâ€™ve seen parties of 50 squeeze in. The hotel is the place in Snowbird, with a great spa, restaurants, swimming pools and rooms with views of the Wasatch Mountains, and, rare for America, the ability to ski in and ski out. For entertainment, I would definitely recommend Aerie on the10th floor of The Cliff Lodge (see above), which is a great American gastropub; to catch a big game, I would head to The Tram Club sports bar in Snowbird (00 1 801 Sloping off Big-mountain skier Chris Davenport in action and, top, a gondola high above Aspen Mountain, one of his favourite spots
933 2222); and for nightlife, go to Salt Lake City, just 40 minutes away from Snowbird/Alta, whose image as a quiet Mormon town has changed massively in the past few years.â€?
THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
o place lends itself to stereotypes quite like the American South. A year ago, when I moved with my family from New York to a small town in Virginia, I was packing more than my bags. I was packing a mental filing cabinetâ€™s-worth of hoary clichĂŠs. Nothing is certain, but I knew this: the South would be a place of fried food, banjo-picking hillbillies, and Southern belles sipping mint juleps on the porches of antebellum mansions. My Yankee wife tried to explain that we were moving only an hour west of Washington DC, but what did she know? Heck, we were below the Mason-Dixon Line, and those were the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Trail, that I could see from my porch. I pictured moonshiners tending their stills on starless nights. So, on weekends in my new home, I made it my job to go looking for those archetypes. Cue my surprise when the wild foothills I thought I had moved to turned out to be more Home Counties than hillbilly. The region known as the Virginia Piedmont, which begins a 30-minute drive west of Dulles International Airport, is basically Hampshire with better weather: a lush land of tumbling green hills, gracious horse farms and gorgeous 18th-century stone mansions that are more Downton Abbey than Scarlett Oâ€™Haraâ€™s Tara. As for the food, horsey villages such as Middleburg and The Plains (where Robert Duvall has an estate) are dotted with bistros and gastropubs serving the latest in local, seasonal, farm-totable fare. So much for the world of fiddles and fried green tomatoes. To find out just how sophisticated and gracious this part of the South can be, I set off to explore the country inns and restaurants of the Blue Ridge and its environs, a corridor stretching from northern Virginia to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, 500 miles to the south. Here, according to New York magazines, a property called Blackberry Farm was changing the way well-heeled Americans eat, live and spend their leisure time. The village of Little Washington was my first stop, and for good reason. Itâ€™s not often you can say a restaurant changed a nationâ€™s way of life, but you can make that case for The Inn at Little Washington. It was in 1978 that a self-taught chef named Patrick Oâ€™Connell stumbled upon this foothills settlement of fewer than 300 people, took a lease on an abandoned petrol station and opened a restaurant. â€œNo one in America drove to the country for food back then,â€? Oâ€™Connell, now 61, recalled. â€œRestaurants were in
Southern comforts Clockwise, from top left: the North Parlour at The Greenbrier; Jeff Ross, the garden manager at Blackberry Farm; Little Washington; gourmet food made from local produce; and horses in the country town of Keswick
On a road trip from the green hills of Virginia to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Douglas Rogers discovers a world where the dining is fine and the living easy
Grace & flavour
The journey is just the start of the
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â€˜VIRGINIA IS A LAND OF ROLLING HILLS AND STONE MANSIONSâ€™
The Inn at Little
WEST Washington VIRGINIA The Greenbrier
The Inn at Willow Grove
VIRGINIA TENNESSEE Blackberry Farm
NORTH CAROLINA 100 miles
cities.â€? But he had an idea. A devotee of Julia Child and French cooking, he started to serve upmarket cuisine inspired by trips he and his partner had made to the great country restaurants of France. Within six weeks, The Inn at Little Washington had been hailed as the best restaurant within a 150-mile radius of the US capital. Practically overnight, there was a sea-change in Americaâ€™s culinary consciousness. Politicians and celebrities beat a path to Oâ€™Connellâ€™s door, and East Coast chefs started to replicate his methods and recipes. Today Oâ€™Connell is a legend, and his concept of a gourmet country inn (he added rooms a few years later, inspired by English country-house hotels) has been emulated across the country. There would be no French Laundry without The Inn at Little Washington. I half-expected The Inn to be a bit stuffy: all pinched country elegance. Instead, I entered something like a Parisian bordello, with hand-painted ceilings, 17th-century French tapestries, and nooks with velvet furniture lit by lamps under silk shades, all the work of the English set designer Joyce Evans. My suite, named for the French Laundry chef Thomas Keller, gleamed with gold-leaf mirrors. The Inn has 18 rooms and cottages in this and other buildings around town, one of them being the Mayorâ€™s House, a favourite of the Washington elite who have made Oâ€™Connellâ€™s place their diner. Helicopters land in the field just beyond the herb gardens and, on weekends, black limos making the 68-mile drive from DC decant senators and Supreme Court justices for dinner. o, what of the food? I found a cosy corner table and dived into the tasting menu. What a journey: seared foie gras served with the innâ€™s own fig marmalade; sweet Nantucket Bay scallops sautĂŠed with curried cauliflower from the garden; a rare, gamey tenderloin of local beef that came with a pastry filled with custardy bone marrow. The highlight, though, was the opener: lamb carpaccio Caesar salad ice cream â€“ the dressing frozen into little scoops. The taste of that salad will live with me for ever. The next day, I continued south, taking winding country lanes through the foothills, the Blue Ridge literally turning blue in the autumn sun. Little Washington to Keswick and Charlottesville is pretty much all horse
Land where history is made Monticello (top), a former home of Thomas Jefferson. Right: Patrick Oâ€™Connell of The Inn at Little Washington, which has changed the direction of American dining. Far right: Oâ€™Connellâ€™s truffle popcorn
country, but in recent years it has become wine country, too. Wine Enthusiast recently rated Virginia as one of the top 10 wine destinations in the world â€“ remarkable, given that there was only one winery when Oâ€™Connell moved here in 1978. Now Donald Trump owns one, as do the rock star Dave Matthews and AOL founders Steve and Jean Case. I stopped for lunch at Barboursville, a gorgeous Tuscan-style estate whose Octagon blend is served in the White House. Itâ€™s owned by an Italian company. Virginia is the new Napa. Along with the wineries have come new inns selling their wines, and I spent my second night at one of the best: The Inn at Willow Grove, a handsome 18th-century Piedmont plantation-style mansion fronted by white pillars, just outside Madison, on Route 15. The building was in disrepair when the New Jersey businessman David Scibal and his art-dealer wife, Charlene, bought it in 2010. Several million dollars later, itâ€™s a chic, urban-meets-plantation retreat, filled with modern art and catering to hip young DC couples. My balcony suite looked out over fields and forest, and I learned that, just beyond the treeline, stands Montpelier, the former home of President James Madison, drafter of the United States Constitution. A small miracle was that the landscape had barely changed since Madisonâ€™s time; I was looking at what he saw. The other side of the mountain called. After a visit to Monticello, home of another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, overlooking Charlottesville, I crossed the Blue Ridge on Interstate 64 and drove an hour west into West Virginia. I love a grand old resort hotel, and The Greenbrier, established in 1778 as a â€œEuropean Cureâ€?
Artisanal Clockwise, from top left: truffle-hunting dogs; The Barn at Blackberry Farm; and a salad of seasonal vegetables from the garden
and society playground, is the most famous of them all. Green fields gave way to cold, grey mountains. This is coal country, which may not be fashionable now, but back in the day made this area like Silicon Valley. Still, it was a surprise to turn off the main street of White Sulphur Springs and see it there: a giant white wedding cake of a hotel, with 721 rooms. The Greenbrier sits on 6,500 acres, has three golf courses, a hunting lodge, and â€“ bizarrely â€“ a nuclear bunker under its 1962 West Virginia wing. It was in 1959 that President Eisenhower, a regular guest and a good friend of the local golf pro Sam Snead, gave a secret order to the resort owners, the C&O Railway Company, to build a fallout shelter to house the US Congress, in case of a nuclear attack. Incredibly, the shelter remained secret, even to the hotel staff, until 1992. I did a bunker tour on my first morning, the guide Terry Thompson walking me through the decontamination showers and dormitories. Apparently, once a week for 30 years, under cover of darkness, military vehicles delivered rations to the shelter. Thompson was working there at the time. â€œDidnâ€™t you know?â€? I asked. â€œEveryone just heard rumours,â€? she said. Shelter apart, the highlight for me was the stunning dĂŠcor, starting in the lobby: a split-level space of black-and-white tiled floors, bright green wallpaper and blood-red carpets â€“ the signature baroque style of the post-war New York designer and socialite Dorothy Draper. or centuries The Greenbrier had been the retreat of the rich and famous, as well as local families, but after the 2008 crash, it looked as though it might finally close. Enter Jim Justice, a West Virginia coal baron, who bought it in 2010. After a major marketing campaign, the glamour and stars are back: the actor Ben Affleck, for instance, and local girl made good Jennifer Garner. The Greenbrier Classic is now part of the PGA tour, and Nick Faldo is building a holiday home in the grounds. There have been other changes, too: a swanky underground casino, an ice rink, a bowling alley, four restaurants, and a boutique shopping complex. Itâ€™s a city in itself. And yet the original feel remains, right down to the Dorothy Draper wallpaper. Justice has been coming here since he was a boy, and he wants to keep it that way. It was a six-hour drive from here to the Smoky Mountains, down Interstate 81, on the western side of the Blue Ridge, and on to my final stop â€“ Blackberry Farm. At Lexington, I took the Blue Ridge Parkway exit and drove 20 miles south on the Parkway to Otterâ€™s Peak, a steep overlook, with breathtaking views either side. Thomas
BEALL +THOMAS PHOTOGRAPHY
Jefferson once thought this the highest point in America, and had some of its rocks collected for the building of the Washington Monument. As for the Parkway, built in the 1930s under Franklin D Roosevelt, itâ€™s a monument in itself: a smooth but bewildering traverse of a million hairpin bends that would take days to complete. Instead, I rejoined Interstate 81 at the next exit, and nudged into Kentucky and Tennessee. It was late afternoon when I finally pulled up at Blackberry Farm. A 4,200-acre Relais & ChĂ˘teaux resort 30 miles south-east of Knoxville, itâ€™s a luxury working farm at which guests get to learn from the propertyâ€™s artisans: gardeners, cheese-makers, brewers and even dog trainers who teach their animals to sniff out truffles. Itâ€™s the farm-to-table ethos in its purest form â€“ except guests
SO MUCH FOR THE SOUTHERN WORLD OF FIDDLES AND GREEN TOMATOES get to sleep in sumptuous wood cabins, each with a porch, crackling fire, flat-screen television and steam-bath. I checked in, had my car taken from me, and was given a map of the farm and keys to a golf cart. Unless you are walking or riding horses, this is your transport while here. My first meeting was with the garden manager Jeff Ross, a dashing fortysomething with an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure plants and heritage seeds. I met him in front of his office â€“ a tumbledown shed with a tin roof â€“ and was given a tour of the garden, from its unusual seeds to its Sea Island peas, winter radishes and land cress. The farm either grows its own produce or sources it from nearby farmers and suppliers, and Jeff also leads foraging expeditions in the mountains for mushrooms, nuts and blackberries, many of which go into guestsâ€™ meals. â€œThe whole county is our garden,â€? he said. Next I paid a visit to the â€œpreservationistâ€? (maker of jams and pickles) in the pantry. Blackberry Farm makes all its own preserves, and a pickled smoked-onion recipe had just been chosen by Starbucks for its sandwiches â€“ so the preservationist was busy. Down the hill, meanwhile, the cheese-maker was tending to a group of guests, and the brewer was offering a tasting of his three beers,
including his classic â€œSaisonâ€? ale. My favourite artisan, though, was Jim Sanford, a former elephant trainer, now teaching a team of Logotto Romagnolo dogs (which he brought back from Italy) to sniff out truffles on the land. â€œI can train anything with four legs and a tail,â€? he said. Blackberry Farm is not all about food, however. Activities from fly-fishing to horse-riding and clay-pigeon shooting can be selected from an elegant hand-made leather binder in each guest room, although I found riding my golf cart on the steep trails to be just as much fun. Whatever the adventure, the joy was in the food at the end of it. There are two areas where meals can be taken: the Main House dining room for breakfast and lunch, and The Barn for dinner (jacket required) â€“ an actual barn transplanted here from Dutch Pennsylvania. And what meals they served â€“ every bit as unique and imaginative as those at The Inn at Little Washington. I tried poached trout in buttermilk consommĂŠ with watercress, hearth-roasted shrimp and grits made with preserved tomatoes, plus a bacon and caramelised onion tart with leaf lard. I felt I was in a cathedral, not a barn. As I write, I have open in front of me a copy of The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, the restaurantâ€™s recipe book. I am going to make something from it tonight. And I will never look at those mountains from my front porch in quite the same way again. United (0845 607 6760, united.com) flies from London Heathrow to Washington Dulles from ÂŁ474 return. Holiday Autos (0800 093 3111, holidayautos.co.uk) offers a weekâ€™s hire of a four-door economy car from ÂŁ149. THE DETAILS The Inn at Little Washington (00 1 540 675 3800, theinnatlittle washington.com). For 35 years, this has been a top gourmet destination. Doubles from $425 (about ÂŁ267); dinner from $158. The Inn at Willow Grove (00 1 540 317 1206, innatwillowgrove. com). This former plantation house, in 40 acres, offers contemporary farm-to-table cuisine. Doubles from $250; dinner from $75. The Greenbrier (00 1 855 453 4858, greenbrier.com). National Historic building dating from the 18th century, with sulphur springs and spa. Doubles from $219; five-course tasting menu from $95. Blackberry Farm (00 1 865 984 8166, blackberryfarm.com). Boutique resort set in more than 4,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains, acclaimed for its locally sourced food. Doubles from $995; dinner from $125 (all prices exclude drinks and taxes). MORE INFORMATION DiscoverAmerica.com
breathe naturally. surround yourself with the things that matter most.
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The 51st state of
America? In its Sixties heyday, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was a tropical retreat for Hollywood stars and Presidents. Now, that glamour is being revived with a swathe of high-end resorts and gourmet restaurants. Richard Grant is charmed by the exotic US territory that sees its future in stars and stripes ďż˝LCKI8KI8M<Cďż˝
Restoration drama The private dipping pool at Su Casa, a beachfront villa at Dorado Beach converted from a 1920s plantation house. Opposite: a cupola at San Juan Cemetery MAIN PHOTOGRAPH BY KEN KOCHEY
THE AESTHETIC AT THE RESORT IS CLEAN, SIMPLE, AIRY AND CLOSE TO NATURE, A CELEBRATION OF THE BEACH LCKI8KI8M<C�
CENTRAL FLORIDA’S YOUNGEST THEME PARK Purchase tickets and save at LEGOLAND.com! LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick and Knob configurations, the Minifigure and LEGOLAND are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2012 The LEGO Group. LEGOLAND FLORIDA IS A PART OF THE MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP. STAR WARS™ and all characters, names and related indicia are © 2012 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.
hy Puerto Rico? I put the question to Eric Christensen, the developer hired by Ritz-Carlton to create an ultra-premium Reserve property here at Dorado Beach, on the north coast of the Caribbean island which last month voted in favour of becoming America’s 51st state. He was shuttling around the site in a golf cart, calm and relaxed given that the grand opening was only a month away, and there were still bulldozers churning up mud and a thousand things left to do. “Well, obviously we’ve got an incredible location here, and that was a major draw, but Puerto Rico has a lot of advantages for us,” said Christensen. “It’s accessible through a good international airport and, being a US territory, has infrastructure that works. A lot of people speak English and genuinely welcome tourists. On some of the smaller, poorer Caribbean islands, service can be problematic – but that’s not an issue here. There’s a tradition of great service.” The real clincher was that the Puerto Rican government guaranteed the loan for the first phase of the $1.2 billion (£750 million) Dorado Beach development, as part of a big new push into the luxury travel market. For many decades, tourism on the island was geared towards budget-conscious Americans who wanted beaches, casinos and the same franchise restaurant chains they knew from back home. Those tourists are still coming, but in the past few years, five-star resorts have been opening all over the island, and Dorado Beach will undoubtedly be the jewel in the crown. Already, says Christensen, Ricky Martin has bought one of the adjoining residences, and A-list celebrities whom he isn’t prepared to name are scrambling over each other to book retreats and weddings at Su Casa, a restored 1920s hacienda in the secluded heart of the resort that can be rented for $30,000 a night. In style and flavour, all the new luxury developments borrow to some extent from Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage, a mélange of Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and North American influences, famous for hospitality, rum cocktails, old colonial architecture, vibrant nightlife and a great love of celebration. There are 21 bank-closing national holidays in the Puerto Rican calendar, and most of the 70-odd towns on the island also have festivals honouring their patron saints, plus carnivals. Here, you are never more than a few days away from a street party. “Life is short and the most important thing is to enjoy yourself,” said the driver who picked me up at the airport. “We love to get together with our families, put on our best
Kicker caption Nfflclcls niii tiii Biiitlsh-bcckxd Siiirrc Liiinx giiixr niiint hiiix biiin siiicllng tiiis niii miiillnns niiiNfflclcls niii tiii Biiitlsh-bcckxd Edge of America Top to bottom: the contemporary Perla restaurant, based on a clamshell, at La Concha resort in Condado; street musicians; and a doorway in Old San Juan
clothes and celebrate. We have a plantain festival, an orange festival, festivals for tomatoes, flowers, cocoa, coffee and even for a small fish called the ceti.” Driving through the capital San Juan, you pass American chain stores, Spanish-language billboards and artworks celebrating the Taino Indians, the original inhabitants of the island. Their universe was upended when the Spanish arrived at the end of the 15th century, inadvertently introducing smallpox to the island, along with Christianity and subjugation. The Taino population was decimated by the new disease, and the survivors forced to work on sugar plantations alongside African slaves. This mixing together of Spanish, Native American and African bloodlines forms the basic stock of the Puerto Rican people, and following the Spanish-American war of 1898, they were all declared United States citizens. The North American influence is most vivid in the Condado district of San Juan. A high-rise strip of hotels and condominium towers, between a lagoon and the Atlantic, it looks and feels like Miami. At street level, luxury boutiques are interspersed with bars, casinos, restaurants and souvenir shops. Kayakers in the lagoon swirl up phosphorescence with their paddles at night. It used to be that eating in Puerto Rico was a choice between classic American fare and the native cuisine, which is tasty but perhaps over-dependent on pork, fish and plantains fried together in various ways. But as I discovered at Perla, the flagship restaurant of a chic new hotel called La Concha, those days are now gone. Under a domed ceiling scalloped like a clamshell, I ate the most exquisite fennel-dusted scallops with truffled white bean stew, and one of the best filet mignon I’ve tasted. The 4,000-strong wine list came loaded into an iPad, and a few bottles cost upwards of $3,000. Luxury is nothing new in Puerto Rico. The Vanderbilt family, railroad tycoons from New York, opened the island’s first high-end hotel in Condado in 1919. For the past eight years, it has been in the process of refurbishment and restoration, and the grand entrance lobby, two bars and restaurant are now open to the public, although the rooms aren’t finished yet. The chef, Juan José Cuevas, has worked in two three-starred Michelin restaurants in Spain, and he cooked me a lunch I will never forget, wonderfully fresh and light and inventive, incorporating native herbs I had never tasted before. Just a few miles from Condado, and bearing no resemblance to it whatsoever, is Old San Juan, the walled
GETTY; 4CORNERS; PHOTOSHOT
Old-world elegance Clockwise, from top: Hotel El Convento, a restored 17th-century convent in San Juan; a model at Dorado Beach; and Palominito islet off Puerto Rico
and fortified city that the Spanish started building in 1508, and defended for many centuries against pirates and attacks by the British, French and Dutch. Wandering its cobbled streets and leafy plazas, admiring the big heavy doors, ornate balconies and shady inner courtyards, I felt glad that the Arabs had occupied southern Spain for 800 years and influenced its architecture so profoundly. Here was the Moorish Andalusian style transplanted into the New World, executed with grace and harmony, and beautifully restored over the past three decades. Parrots and hummingbirds flit through the plazas, gigantic bougainvilleas spill over whitewashed stone walls, and a small army of cats keeps down the rodent population. For elegance and charm, there is no better place to stay in Puerto Rico than Hotel El Convento, a restored 17th-century convent on the same plaza as the cathedral. You enter through studded wooden doors 20ft high and cross a marbled floor to an interior courtyard shaded by a 300-year-old tree. The staff are welcoming and attentive, and complimentary wine and cheese are served at sunset on an open-air terrace with views across the city and bay. I could quite happily have spent a month there, getting to know the many cafes, tapas joints, salsa and reggaeton clubs, art galleries and museums of Old San Juan, and perhaps sinking into cocktail-sodden dissolution like Johnny Depp’s character in The Rum Diary. But I had an appointment at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve at Dorado Beach, perhaps the most eagerly awaited hotel opening in the Americas, if not the western hemisphere. I arrived in the midst of a PGA tournament, on one of the four adjoining Robert Trent Jones golf courses, and was immediately whisked away in Eric Christensen’s golf cart. “The people who can afford to stay here are the most difficult in the world to impress, and luxury alone is not
going to do it,” he said. “So what we’ve tried to do is to create a place so rich in detail, history and narrative, that they get caught up in it and keep coming back for more.” I was expecting something fantastically opulent with huge gold lions, but the aesthetic at Dorado Beach is clean, simple, airy and close to nature —a celebration of this extraordinarily beautiful beach and the magnificent old trees on the shore. Laurance Rockefeller built one of the world’s first eco-resorts on this site in the 1950s, and Christensen’s team has taken that legacy as inspiration. “We went to extraordinary lengths to avoid cutting down
I COULD HAVE SPENT A MONTH THERE, GETTING TO KNOW THE CAFES, TAPAS JOINTS AND CLUBS
areas has a steampunk look, with Victorian-industrial light fixtures and an apothecary that will be full of medicinal plants in big glass jars. Botanists and plant healers will be on hand to prescribe treatments, and you can climb up into a treehouse for a massage. Nothing here can be bought in a shop, or ordered from a supplier. The furniture and fixtures are all specially designed and built by artisans in Bali and Thailand, lending a subtle Asian undercurrent to the design. Walking through Dorado Beach is more like being in a giant art installation than a hotel resort. What you marvel at most is the creativity involved, and the fact that Ritz-Carlton gave it so much leeway. The property is also an object lesson in sustainability. It has a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate, hard to achieve in a luxury resort. Developers used recycled materials, installed state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies, and built a wind- and solarpowered facility, with all its systems exposed. It is here that Jean-Michel Cousteau, the environmentalist son of Jacques Cousteau, will run a children’s camp. “He’ll teach them underwater photography, take them night snorkelling, and show them how to process photographs and how a green building works,” says Christensen. I get the feeling that Dorado Beach was a satisfying project to work on. “Oh, absolutely,” Christensen agrees. “I did Euro Disney, which was fantastic, but this has been something else. To bring together the most creative people in the industry, and to give them almost free rein in a place like this — that’s the most fun I can imagine.” WEXAS Travel (020 7838 5892, wexas.com) is offering seven nights in Puerto Rico from £1,599 per person, room only, based on two sharing a superior room at Hotel El Convento. The price includes return flights, seven days’ car hire and insurance. Trailfinders (020 7368 1200, trailfinders.com/ puertorico) is including Puerto Rico in its 2013 programme, with five-night holidays available from £899. THE DETAILS Ritz-Carlton Reserve’s Dorado Beach (00 1 800 836 3124, ritzcarlton.com). Opening on December 12, 2012, the former Rockefeller estate in Puerto Rico will have rooms from about £1,000 per night – if you can get a reservation. Hotel El Convento
trees, which drove our construction guys crazy,” he said. “Instead, we built around the trees.” At the entrance is an immense fig tree, shaped like something out of a fairy tale, and hung with 30 lanterns. The reception is open-air and the whole design aims to dissolve the lines between inside and outside. Rooms have doors that slide all the way back into the walls and disappear. Each has a private pool and an outdoor shower. There is no bar in the bar, dissolving that barrier too. Instead, cocktails will be made and explained at the guest tables. The chef, José Andrés, described by Christensen as a “mad genius”, will be creating his magic in the dining room, rather than behind closed doors in the kitchen. The spa is designed to look 100 years old, and in some
(00 1 787 723 9020, elconvento.com). This landmark treasure in the heart of Old San Juan is gorgeously decorated with Spanish antiques and tapestries. Gloria Vanderbilt is a frequent guest, and visiting heads of state often stay in the marbled presidential suite. Rooms from £112 per night. The Ritz-Carlton San Juan (00 1 787 253 1700, ritzcarlton.com). Offers a more classic interpretation of luxury than its sister property in Dorado Beach: opulent rooms, stone lions around the pool, a private beach, extensive spa facilities and two first-rate restaurants. Rooms from £249. La Concha (00 1 787 721 7500, laconcharesort.com). Located in Condado, this award-winning beach hotel has a chic, fashionable feel with club music pulsing in the lobby, and a late-night cocktail scene. Rooms from £149. MORE INFORMATION seepuertorico.com y DiscoverAmerica.com
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3 nights 5 from £899 Includes a FREE room upgrade & Sunday brunch cruise
• Times Square location • Stylish design • Luxurious rooms
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3 nights 4 Hollywood & 4 nights 5 San Diego from £1,479 Includes 1 days convertible car hire W: Trendy Rooftop bar Rooftop Cinema US Grant: Historical landmark A Luxury Collection Hotel
7 nights 5 from £1,849 Includes a Blue Skies of Oahu Helicopter 6ight
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• ‘Pink Palace of the Paci⌥c’ • Iconic 1920s hotel • Luxurious spa • Superb Wakiki beachfront location • A Luxury Collection Hotel
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3nts 3* Courtyard by Marriott fr £599pp
3nts 3* Essex Inn fr £649pp
3nts 3* The New Yorker fr £559pp
5nts 3* South Beach Hotel fr £749pp
3nts 3* Circus Circus fr £599pp
3nts 4* Radisson Hotel fr £639pp
3nts 4* The Sheraton fr £672pp
3nts 4* The Manhattan at Times Square fr £599pp
3nts 5* Langham Boston fr £749pp
3nts 5* The Fairmont fr £729pp
3nts 5* The Intercontinental fr £679pp
5nts 4* The Mondrian South 3nts 4* Luxor Hotel & Casino Beach fr £999pp fr £639pp 5nts 5* SLS South Beach fr £1,099pp
3nts 5* The Cosmopolitan fr £699pp
Includes return Economy Class flights with Delta. Upgrade to Business Class one way fr £899pp
To order a brochure or book visit travelbag.co.uk or call 0845 872 7586 Visit your local Travelbag shop: London, Alton, Brighton, Cheltenham, Knutsford, Solihull & Winchester * Prices based on selected departures Feb - June 2013. Main image: South Beach, Miami
FASHIONABLY THRIFTY With the favourable exchange rate (currently $1.59 to the ÂŁ1) and prices lower than they have been for a decade, it is hardly surprising that more than a million Britons visited the Big Apple last year. This winter, with bargains in mind, many will head for Woodbury Common, an hourâ€™s drive from New York, where Tom Ford, Reed Krakoff (the Coach designer, whose biggest fan is Michelle Obama), Breitling and Canali have all opened their first ever outlet boutiques. With discounts averaging 40 per cent off recommended retail prices â€“ a classic black-lace pencil skirt from Tom Fordâ€™s 2011 winter collection (left) cost $400 (ÂŁ250) last month â€“ traffic jams are likely. But with savings like that, it is worth considering a helicopter transfer from West 30th Street in Manhattan (from $3,600 return; libertyhelicopter. com) or a private car, from $98 an hour, through The Surrey hotel (thesurrey.com; doubles from $560). In addition to 60 other Premium Outlet Centres in the US, Simon Property Group owns and operates â€œdestinationâ€? malls including The Forum Shops in Las Vegas, Copley Place in Boston, the Florida Mall in Orlando and Sawgrass Mills near Miami, as well as Ontario Mills in southern California and The Great Mall in northern California.
NEW STRINGS ATTACHED ancho Valencia, the 49-room Relais & ChĂ˘teau property in
southern California, is best known in America for its tennis programmes, with coaching by top US pros on 18 hard courts.
But, following a $30-million (ÂŁ18.8-million) refurbishment, the hotel is clearly hoping to lure such regulars as Bill Clinton and Bill Gates to healthy pursuits that donâ€™t require a racquet. Its 2.5-acre spa, which opened in September, now features three pools, a 1,000sq-ft open yoga pavilion, classes from hot yoga and ballet barre to zumba, plus a range of treatment rooms, some with fireplaces and outdoor showers. After a game or treatment, guests can cool down with a popsicle (try avocado, or cucumber and melon) freshly made on the premises. Doubles from ÂŁ440 (ranchovalencia.com). Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149, airnewzealand.co.uk/special-deals-usa) has return flights to Los Angeles from ÂŁ608 in economy.
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Restaurants by Michelin-starred chefs at the new Los Angeles International Airport
Average number of visitors per year to the Santa Fe Opera Festival TOP DESTINATION
Cost in dollars, per week, of Chalet Elisa in Aspen (firefly-collection.com)
Year of the first Americaâ€™s Cup yacht race, 45 years before the modern Olympics
ALL ABOARD FOR ALASKA From May, it will be possible to jet to Alaska in just 10 hours from Britain â€“ via the unexpected stopoff of Reykjavik. From May to September only, Icelandair flights will depart from Glasgow or London Gatwick, costing from ÂŁ693 return. While Americaâ€™s 49th state is mainly one big wilderness, it has a surprising number of small luxury lodges from which to explore the country. Entree Alaska (entreedestinations.com/alaska) has a 10-day trip taking in
highlights of the state, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking and ice-fishing, with short trips on helicopters and seaplanes, from $10,469 (ÂŁ6,570). For those who prefer to see the country from the sea, American Safaris takes guests into Glacier Bay to spot whales from inflatable boats, grizzlies from kayaks, and calving glaciers from the warmth of an on-board hot tub. Steppes Travel (01285 880981, steppestravel. co.uk) has a seven-night trip from ÂŁ2,795, excluding flights.
Landing in Hawaii was beautiful. We came in at night and all you could see were the lights and the outline of the mountains
en Ainslie CBE, 35, is the
most successful Olympic sailor of all time, having won gold in four consecutive Games since 2000. He has been World Champion 10 times, European Champion nine times and was last month named World Sailor of the Year 2012. Currently based in California to train for the Americaâ€™s Cup, he lives in Lymington, Hampshire, where he went to school. How many holidays do you take a year? One: normally a sailing holiday, believe it or not. Itâ€™s nice to be able to relax and enjoy a boat, rather than race it. I wouldnâ€™t be any good at a beach holiday; I need to be doing something active. Favourite holiday sailing spots?
JONATHAN GLYNN-SMITH; CHILLI MEDIA
The Greek islands and the Caribbean. Places like the British Virgin Islands are easy to sail around and have lots of character â€“ but if you want a bit more adventure and a longer voyage, St Barts, St Kitts and Nevis are all beautiful islands. Plans for your next holiday? It would be nice to go skiing, because I havenâ€™t been allowed to for so long. I went six years ago to
TRAVELLING LIFE Ben Ainslie The Olympic sailor on San Franciscoâ€™s secrets, his love of the Big Apple and glamorous hotels from St Moritz to Fiji a chalet near Chamonix and loved the fresh air,
Your favourite city for a weekend away?
Your perfect day on holiday?
the breathtaking scenery â€“ and the sport.
Barcelona, which is good fun and has a great
A light breakfast near the water, a bike ride or a run
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic: the crews
Favourite spots in America?
climate. Last year I went to the Amalfi coast and
to feel good about the day, then a nice lunch and
are polite, the seats are comfortable and they
Iâ€™ve travelled all over â€“ New York, Miami, Seattle.
stayed at the Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento, with
maybe something fun, like golf, tennis or sailing.
both have good global networks.
I also really enjoy San Francisco, where Iâ€™ve been
beautiful, big classic rooms overlooking the gulf. We
Best place for lunch if youâ€™re sailing?
Essentials on holiday?
based for the past few months.
chartered a speedboat â€“ the best way to view the
Doyles fish restaurant in Vaucluse, right on Sydney
Having good friends and family around.
Any tips for visiting the city?
coast â€“ and also went to Capri, which was lovely.
Harbour. It serves the most amazing seafood
The most glamorous room youâ€™ve stayed in?
I do quite a lot of cycling to keep fit and I tend to
Ever been on safari?
and you can see the boats from your table.
At Badruttâ€™s Palace in St Moritz, I was upgraded to
head for a beach called Stinson, about 10 miles out,
Once, to the Selous game reserve in Tanzania,
Could you enjoy a break away from the sea?
the most ridiculous room, overlooking the lake. The
which is on a beautiful little cove. Thereâ€™s a steep
where I went walking in the bush with an armed
I guess I could, but I do love the ocean. Friends
price was off the scale, and only on request.
climb up Mount Tamalpais en route, but itâ€™s worth it.
guide. The highlight was having a coffee just outside
went on an expedition across South America on
Your greatest adventure?
What about restaurants?
the tent one morning, hearing a rustling sound
horses, which sounded amazing, if a bit extreme.
The Transpac [Transpacific Yacht Race] from LA to
Ozumo, an Asian fusion restaurant downtown, is
and seeing an elephantâ€™s trunk appear about
The most romantic place youâ€™ve stayed?
Hawaii, which took five days. Landing in Hawaii was
very relaxed, with a good bar and great Asian food.
two feet away. I sat there in total disbelief.
Vatulele, a tiny island off Fiji, just a mile by half
beautiful; we came in at night and all we could see
Favourite hotel in America?
Favourite restaurants abroad?
a mile. When I was training in Australia, I went for
were the lights and the outline of the mountains.
The Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District of New
Catalina, at Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour, where the
Christmas and there were lots of parties, eating and
Other unforgettable sights at sea?
York is a lot of fun, and it has a nice rooftop pool.
seafood is amazing and the wine great, too. On
drinking â€“ as well as Hobie Cats to play on.
The stars. You donâ€™t need them to navigate any
I love New York: it is mad, and so intense.
a couple of occasions Iâ€™ve tried their Penfolds
Favourite souvenirs from abroad?
more, but theyâ€™re so beautiful when youâ€™re out on
Great spots to sail on the US coast?
Grange, which is a pretty special wine.
Iâ€™m a binge shopper: I donâ€™t shop much, but when
the water. We often see dolphins and whales, too.
San Francisco, which has its own micro-climate.
Other great spots in the city?
I do I buy a lot â€“ and America is great for sports
The roughest place youâ€™ve been?
Because of its position, air is sucked under the
Palm Beach just north of Sydney, which is on the
gear: Assos stuff for cycling, and Nike for running.
I went to a regatta in Brazil on my own, and I hadnâ€™t
Golden Gate Bridge, so you are guaranteed winds,
most beautiful headland. Youâ€™ve got Pittwater
My casual wear is mainly Henri Lloyd.
bothered to book a hotel. I ended up in a place
as well as a warm climate and gorgeous scenery.
natural harbour on one side, the ocean on the
Top tips for places to stay in Britain?
where the only way of getting anywhere was in
Do you travel light or heavy?
other and a wonderful horseshoe-shaped beach.
The St Jamesâ€™s Club in London, off Piccadilly. They
a little rowing boat, which took forever.
With all my sailing kit, I need a big suitcase. On
Anywhere youâ€™d like to revisit?
really look after you and the breakfast is good.
Do you offset your carbon when flying?
holiday, though, I take just my Tumi roller bag, which
New Zealand, where I lived for a bit and visited the
What luxuries do you like on holiday?
No, because Iâ€™ve no idea whether these schemes
is big enough for my computer and quite a lot of
North Island: Ninety Mile Beach, Lake Taupo and
Business-class seats. I have a bad back â€“ well, thatâ€™s
work. I support a charity called ShelterBox, which
clothes. If I need a suitbag, I take the one my mum
Rotorua, but didnâ€™t have enough time to explore.
my excuse anyway â€“ but it really helps
sends boxes of useful things to disaster areas.
gave me about 20 years ago for my birthday.
And Newport, where Iâ€™d love to spend time sailing.
with jetlag, too, if youâ€™ve had a decent sleep.
Interview by Lisa Grainger
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