Beyond Indulgence

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Beyond Indulgence


Introduction This book is not a travel destination guide, nor a compilation of advertorials. Rather, it is an intimate and subjective take on that which is beyond mere “luxury”, a word whose currency has become utterly devalued in the last decade of over-zealous PR posturing. We have sought to provide our particular readership – defined by sophistication and welltravelled by definition – with a helpful and, we hope, intelligently written, beautifully presented book on places that exemplify the title, Beyond Indulgence. While we are unashamedly subjective (we know our readership well and are aware of what they appreciate), our selection is not arbitrary. Alongside some of the perennials – legendary hotels and destinations – we have profiled others that possess that intangible “beyond” quality by virtue of their elegance, simplicity, atmosphere or ecological purity. In an industry that sells fantasy, each of the profiled excels at making the fantasy that much more potent and the experience more memorable. This time, we have also included interviews with some giants of the travel and hospitality industries. Whether the discerning traveller is aware of their names or not, the fact remains that they are the true purveyors of one of man’s Author: Nick Artsruni 978-1-905904-30-3 First published in January 2014 by Beyond Black

BB Publications Suite 7, 40 Craven Street Charing Cross London, WC2N 5NG UK

oldest and most enduring of passions: that of discovering the world and its wonders.

Beyond Indulgence

CONTENTS Worldwide

Into Africa

The Quintess Collection

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Ian Schrager

The Royal Mansour

Hotelier and Entrepreneur

Kasbah du Toubkal


Riad El Fenn

Capri Palace Hotel

Kensington Place

Palazzetto 113

Yenn Wong

Fattoria La Vialla Ca Maria Adele

Ski Switzerland The Alpina Carlton Hotel St Moritz Chesa Lumpaz Pierre Yves Rochon

Hotelier and Restaurateur

Into Asia Tugu Bali Shreyas Retreat Villa Maya Residence on the Rocks Split Apple Retreat

Interior designer


Le Bristol

Rafael Serrano

Hotel Heritage

Developer and Investor

New Hotel Athens

The Caribbeans & South America

Royal Hotel San Remo

Jade Mountain

Audubon Cottages

Carlisle Bay

Retreats Brenners Park FrÊgate Island Private Lough Eske Eilean Shona John O’Groats Inn Geoffrey Kent Founder of Abercombie & Kent Travel

Hacienda Los Lingues Samana Hotel & Residences The Lodge at Pico Bonito Esencia Estate Casa Bonita Casa del XVI Mukul Resort Sandy Lane

Beyond Indulgence

T Foreword by Nick Artsruni, primary writer and editor in chief of Beyond Indulgence

he expression “do not judge a book by its cover” is thought to date back to at least the mid-19th century. One of the earliest quoted examples of the metaphor being used to reveal a pitiful character defect is in George Eliot’s dubious epic, The Mill on the Floss. By all accounts, the novel is a tedious affair of the travails of the Victorian everyman (and woman) struggling to adapt to the sweeping changes heralded by growing industrialisation. Despite Eliot’s pedestrian style – which some have (rather unkindly) referred to as something that might have emerged from the pen of a lobotomised Dickens – she has undoubtedly been responsible for some of the sharpest and most perceptive tropes in the canon of English literature. Her sympathetic, but nonetheless cutting , depiction of Mr Tulliver as an uneducated man left puzzled by the growing complexity of the world around him reaches its apex in The Mill on the Floss when he explains why one particular book (Defoe’s History of the Devil) has found its way into his collection: “They was all bound alike,—it’s a good binding, you see,—and I thought they’d be all good seems one mustn’t judge by th’ outside.” It is, therefore, with a sense of some trepidation that I have undertaken to write the foreword to this issue of Beyond Indulgence, the seventh book in the beautifully bound Beyond Black signature hardback series. The cover of this particular edition has already set a certain standard to which this section will manfully struggle to match. With any luck, comparisons with a lobotomised George Eliot are already being formulated by some. One can only hope... The decision to expand the Beyond Black portfolio of hard cover publications was not taken lightly. Over the course of ten years, the imprint has published various works of non-fiction, most of which have been in collaboration with a number of third parties and often for the benefit of charity or artistic and creative philanthropy. The original, distinctive set of books – a curated collection delineating the definitive set of establishments that defined and transcended the accepted standard of excellence across a variety of different industries – have been released extremely infrequently. The reason for this is simple – it is rare that the standards of any given industry shift notably within a short period of time. The Beyond Black series has previously charted the changing paradigms of superlative service in the fields of finance, elective surgery and superyachts – to name but a few. In 2014,

six years after the release of Beyond Black: The World of Exclusive Retreats and Estates, BB Publications are delighted to release their second book reviewing the international hospitality industry: Beyond Indulgence.

business meetings enjoyed as a conversation between peers. Removing the element of personal recommendation is, unquestionably, anathema to people of substance (rather than marketing statistics).

The aim of Beyond Indulgence was made clear to myself and the rest of the editorial team from the start. From embryo to ozalid, the goal has always been to seek out and accurately review a collection of global hospitality establishments that are unified and typified by their inability to accept the conventional limitations of the luxury travel market. This mission statement of sorts has, at its core, the essence of the BB Publications brand: to look “beyond” the norm, to transcend the previously accepted pinnacles of professional standards – the aims of any forward thinking business model.

The locations chosen for this volume were handpicked by the editorial team based on interactions with our primary readership – the BB Inner Circle. The inner circle, which began (and still is, to some degree) a loose association of like-minded individuals, has grown to a peer network of active subscribers to BB Publications, whether that be to the tri-annual periodical, B Beyond, guests to the publishers’ regular private events or readers of the Beyond Black hardback book series (are your ears burning?). Personal recommendations were subsequently supported by our own research to ensure that each destination reviewed in this volume offers an incomparable level of individual luxury.

There is, of course, a second, equally important, aspect of what is imparted by the Beyond Black brand name. Those familiar with the series since its inception might recognise the signature style but those uninitiated seem to have been thrown by a growing collection of imitators. Imitation may well be the sincerest form of flattery but poor imitation is a crime worthy of punishment in print. The confusion manifested itself in a sequence of disconcerting instances of correspondence with various potential participants. We were distressed to hear a series of PR account managers, marketing executives - and even hotel owners - lazily ask for the ‘criteria’ for inclusion in this book. For us, any close inspection of the question reveals its fallaciousness: adherence to a set of criteria implies a regimented policy for inclusion, a box-ticker’s approach to luxury and a cold, calculating approach to quality control. Beyond Indulgence was named specifically to reflect BB’s uniquely personal approach to publishing. We have always maintained that our readers expect to be given the credit they deserve as high-powered individuals of a certain stature. Such individuals have no desire to be put into boxes or referred from one destination to the other based on a set of pre-determined “criteria”. The idea – a research analyst’s wet dream - is almost laughable to those of us who live in the real world: one of private events, dinners and

Anyone well-versed in the quickly evaporating tradition of “long copy writing” (younger readers may turn to their smartphones now - if they have not already done so) might just have been paying enough attention to notice the stark difference in titular descriptors between BB’s first and second books on the global travel and hospitality industries. The World of Exclusive Retreats and Estates has a significantly different emphasis to Beyond Indulgence, it must be said – and for good reason, too. The former book was published at a time when the word ‘luxury’ was beginning to take on greater significance in the global marketplace. As the property market continued to boom and Western capitalism traded at an all-time high, the luxury sector expanded to an unprecedented level – so much so that the very word ‘luxury’ began to loose all meaning. The World of Exclusive Retreats and Estates sought to look beyond the myth of widespread luxury and uncover, well, exactly what was said on its unique leather bound cover – the world of undiscovered and exclusive (rather than massproduced ‘luxury’) international retreats. The rationale behind this book’s title is similarly semantic. Indulgence is a word that has changed immeasurably over the years as our understanding of the luxury marketplace

evolves. Where originally – and still, by official dictionary definition, the word “indulge” meant “to allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of”, the implications of “indulgence” has changed, slowly yet perceptibly, to allowing oneself to be treated by others. As a society, it seems, we have allowed ourselves to become lazy. Tastes are catered for, rather than indulged. Occasions are curated rather than spontaneous. Adventures are organised rather than experienced. If you are reading this, the chances are that you are shaking your head in disbelief – as we would hope. Beyond Indulgence was not written for those who passively slot into pre-ordained demographics: it was written for key decision makers, people who utterly reject the notion of relinquishing control of their personal pleasures to others, just as they would reject a similar idea in a business setting. Beyond Indulgence, then, is a book with international scope to reflect its international readership. It is one which is based, primarily, on a set of personal recommendations from a knowledgeable and sophisticated peer group. Finally, it is a book which encourages readers to take control of their own lifestyles – something that many of you will not need to be told twice (or, in all likelihood, even just once). The book seeks to showcase a set of establishments which offer an indulgence of the senses across the board – from sandy beaches in the Caribbean to spa visits in central Europe, and from sustainable island retreats in Cambodia to design-led splendour in urban capitals worldwide. If our text fails to do justice to the delights on offer at some of these remarkable resorts and destinations, we would urge you to put aside your (doubtlessly) much-thumbed copy of The Mill on the Floss and reflect instead on the words of the seminal semantic, Samuel Johnson: “Words are the daughters of earth, and... things are the sons of heaven.” We hope you enjoy this beautifully bound edition of Beyond Indulgence. Most of all, however, we hope that you have the opportunity to experience some of the heavenly things described within it.

Beyond Indulgence

Quintess Collection


Unrivalled personalized service and luxury in the finest properties around the world

Multimillion-dollar vacation homes—stocked with your favorite foods and beverages. No peanuts in the pantry, though— they know your son is allergic. Reservations at that amazing new steakhouse? Already made and they already checked—a vegan entrée for your mom is no problem at all. Effortless vacations, every time. That’s the Quintess life.

QUINTESS EXperiences: Bhutan

Beyond Indulgence

QUINTESS Member Tim Rooke

QUINTESS Member Blake Magee at Lake Como

in Cabo

QUINTESS RESIDENCES: La Quinta Rat Pack Retreat


embership in the Quintess Collection multiplies the comfort and status of entertaining friends, family and colleagues in spacious and luxurious properties without the expense of maintaining a second (or third or fourth) home. From snow-strafed villas in Aspen to palm-fronded bandas in Zanzibar, Quintess Members enjoy service tailored personally to their travel needs. What’s on your champagne bucket list? Stand on the hallowed grounds of Augusta, putting distance from golf’s greats, with exclusive access at The Masters. Hover over hippos in a hot air balloon on your five-star South African safari. From the Taj Mahal to Machu Picchu, for two people or twenty, Quintess is constantly evolving to make your dreams come true.



Quintess Destinations: Resort at Pelican Hill

Superb homes in spectacular locations, often at below-market rates, make the Quintess Collection the preferred choice for luxury vacations. But Quintess is much more than a ski chalet or a safari. Their Member Relations Team and exceptional Destination Hosts ensure effortless travel and an unparalleled standard of personalized service. From Los Cabos to Lake Como, their Members have fabulous, five-star experiences … every time. QUINTESS RESIDENCES: Tuscany Terra Toscana

The Quintess Collection Member Development Phone: +1 800 550 0324

Quintess is comprised of exceptional beach, mountain and city homes, averaging $4 million, guaranteed to deliver on their flagship standards. These homes are perfect for gathering family and friends and providing plenty of space to spread out. Quintess Beyond offers the best from luxury partners --exquisite resorts and exclusive estates, in sizes ranging from “couple” to “corporate retreat.” Finally, Quintess Adventures brings you handpicked personalized escapes in beautiful and exotic destinations across the globe. The Quintess world is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?


QUINTESS Member Mary Williams in

Jackson Hole

Beyond Indulgence

Ian Schrager Listening

to Ian Schrager speak is like hearing the soothing sounds of a familiar record. The same words will crop up in conversation – and subsequent conversations – time and time again: his description of destinations and hotel locations as “twenty-four hour international gateway cities”, his passion for “unique” creations with “personality”. Where some might use words such as “visceral” or “distinctive” as verbal flourishes or embellishments, Schrager is succinct and business-like. When he describes the “alchemy” behind the creation of a successful environment or experience or product, it isn’t a case of him falling prey to hyperbole. He knows exactly what he is saying – and he means precisely what he says.

Photography by Chad Batka

When introducing his ongoing current projects, the EDITION brand hotels and apartments (in partnership with Marriot) and the PUBLIC hotels, Schrager uses terminology that has become commonplace for hoteliers. He sums up potential buyers for the EDITION Miami apartments as “Sophisticated, global citizens of the world, people ‘in the know,’ and people that always want to be part of the zeitgeist.” He continues talking in a slick, confident style reminiscent of a stereotypical 1980s stock broker, “There’s simply nothing like these apartments in the Miami market. The level of finishes, details and the sophistication sets it apart from anything else available. We really got it right.” Conversations with those regarded as leading figures in their field can often take place in a specific language - an accepted way of speaking in jargon that negates the necessity for excessive explanations. In Schrager’s case, there is an altogether different inflection. Yes, it is the same old buzzwords that spew forth but he does not use them out of triteness, nor for brevity, nor for the sake of being understood. He uses them, quite simply, because he invented them.

Hotelier and Entrepreneur

To fully understand the man who is in the process of launching two new hotel brands off the back of a series of other international hospitality projects, one must look at his history. Schrager’s personal story is one that is indelibly linked with the legendary nightclub he founded with Steve Rubell in 1977, Studio 54. “Studio 54 completely reinvented and changed the nightlife scene in New York,” Schrager says, matter of factly. “It was the ultimate game changer. It brought people from all walks of life together for the first time and, when all these different people were in the room together, a certain magic and alchemy happened.” The club itself needs no introduction. It dominated the New York entertainment scene in a way that no other space managed to do previously, nor is likely to do again. Tales of events where the club was filled with four tons of glitter piled onto the floor - “like standing on stardust,” Schrager recalls, fondly – are commonplace. Never mind listing the names of celebrity guests, even one of the bouncers, Haoui Montaug, became famous just by working there. “There was no product at Studio 54 other than the magic that we created,” asserts Schrager, despite all of this. “We had the same music and liquor that everybody else had. The only thing that distinguished us was this emotional, visceral experience that we created... that magic that set us apart. That’s the same approach I take with my hotels and residences - even though I do have a product, I approach it as if I don’t and I’m seeking the same alchemy and magic.” Schrager’s methodology has had an overwhelming influence on the public’s subconscious perception of indulgence over the last thirty-five years. It has revolutionised the hospitality industry –

Beyond Indulgence

from clubs to hotels – to a staggering degree.

build something special, people will come.”

At its core, everything Schrager touches is characterized by imagination and creativity. With the advent of widespread consumer air travel (especially for long haul flights) in the 1970s, hospitality largely became about the most efficient way to cater for the greatest number of people. Schrager changed that paradigm by envisaging and implementing concepts that appealed directly to individuals. When asked about his decision to move away from nightclubs (his Palladium venue was nearly as popular as Studio 54 had been previously, yet he moved into hotels with the opening of Morgans in 1984). Schrager replies simply that “[it]was a logical progression for me. It’s the hospitality business, as is the restaurant and nightclub business. They all have the same goal: taking care of people.”

Rather than location or any other traditional factors, Schrager attests that his greatest influence is “the street”. Pushed to elaborate, he continues, “[I am inspired] By people in general, from all walks of life - by just about anything. I am a sponge. I think there is a collective unconsciousness and I just try and tap into it.”

From an outsider’s perspective, of course, that view might be described rather differently. It was the capacity to envisage something unique where nothing like it had existed previously. The nous to create something so desirable that it calls out directly to the consumer – the spoilt child – in each and every one of us. Schrager – then as now - conjures up a vision so attractive and exclusive that his target demographic perceive it almost as they would a mirage in a desert. The popularity of his creations exceeds desirability; his customers are desperate to buy into his ideal. With the opening of Morgans, Schrager laid claim to the creation of the first ‘boutique hotel’. When asked about his use of the term, which has now found its way into general usage, Schrager is typically direct: “The boutique hotel is [just] a name we gave it. All we wanted to do was create a hotel that we liked and that manifested our personal culture. Product distinction, individuality, uniqueness, sophistication, and cutting edge design.” When pressed further on his decision making process behind that wildly successful first foray into the hotel industry – one which spiralled into a series of further establishments that become known as the Morgans Hotel Group – Schrager’s answer is illuminating: “[Firstly, ] location is not that important. If you

Schrager’s understanding of the nature of the individual is either something that comes as an extension of his own personality or vice versa: a businessman’s understanding of a successful model that leads him to apply the same branding techniques to himself. Given the intuitive and, by all accounts, idiosyncratic methods he has of developing his projects, one might reasonably suspect it to be the former. The now 67 year old speaks in sweeping statements that would surely be ridiculed if uttered by anyone who had not achieved the same levels of unparalleled success. “I think of my hotels as an extension of me,” he says, again with a remarkable directness and an air of total conviction. “They [the hotels and I] are similar in that they both aspire to complete simplicity and purity, devoid of all artifice and contrivance.“ This is a man, quite clearly, who stands and falls by his actions. He has made enough good decisions in his life to trust his own judgements completely. He knows himself and does not speak lightly. Indeed, tellingly for such a convivial character, another of his favourite words seems to be “gravitas”. It is an attitude that manifests itself in the twin aspects of intuition and flexibility that have come to define his business dealings. Talking about his plans for any given hotel invites the comparison of a conversation with an artist discussing his work. It is, in Schrager’s own words, a “visceral connection”. “Making people feel cosy and at home is a kind of state of mind. It’s visceral and ethereal. It’s difficult to make a hard and fast rule or [to] define, but it is the kind of thing where we all know it when we see it. In my case, it’s about having a light touch and having all things come together to go into a unique, unanticipated

and uncharted place. If you can get to that zone, people will feel cosy and comfortable. I feel most at home in my hotels.” The instinctive combined with the flexible and unexpected is so key to Schrager’s approach that this normally congenial man becomes short and irritable during interviews where he has been obliged to repeat himself. He hates to be asked how he does what he does – so much so that he likes to confuse journalists with analogies that involve “connecting the dots” to create something entirely “original” or claim, in a tone totally devoid of irony that “it’s a ‘one-plus-one-equals-three.’” Rather than engage him further on his methods, we invite him to speak about his disdain for cast-iron rules and standards – and on this Schrager is very forthcoming: “We live in a society that loves to categorize, loves to put things in a box. Any time you can do something outside the box and capture people by surprise and stimulate their imagination, you have an opportunity to do something truly original and have a great success. By mixing all of these diverse and unlikely finishes and details in unexpected ways, a kind of spark - or alchemy - happens. It becomes magical. And if you’re fortunate to be able to do that, you wind up with a unique experience, a distinct product, and you capture the zeitgeist.” The conversation turns to Schrager himself and, here too, his responses betray an impatience with those who seek to qualify, quantify or otherwise categorise. When asked about favourites – in era, styles or individuals – his answers are all similarly curt: “I do not have a favourite...I don’t have a preference...I like all of the above. Again, I can’t put any hard and fast rules on this...I love all kinds of art.” The one constant? “It’s visceral - a lot like choosing a house or a car or a lover...” Moving to more general topics, Schrager opens up again. On the subject of art, Schrager is very happy to discuss his personal indulgences: “I have original pieces of furniture from [everyone from] Marc Newson, to Donald Judd, to Jean Michel Frank, to Antonio Gaudi, to Le Corbusier. At the moment I’m working with Christian Liaigre. It’s very wide and varied and

it’s difficult to pigeonhole what I like because it evolves, changes.” “Having art in a hotel,” Schrager continues, “is an incredibly important idea. It allows people to experience art in a more personal, intimate, nonmuseum like environment. It allows people to experience art and live with art in a way that was previously only reserved for the really wealthy. Having art in a hotel takes all pretension out of it. It’s the democratization of art. It’s the same thing Andy Warhol did with painting and what Terence Conran did with furniture - making it accessible to people from all walks of life. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the great artists of my time, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Julian Schanbel, Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl, Bryce Martin, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Kenny Scharf, and many many others.” This incredible variety of creative interests has not gone unnoticed by Schrager, either: “I think one renews oneself by constantly staying hungry, curious and passionate about their life and the world they live in. That makes the possibilities limitless.” Outside of art, Schrager’s enduring love of sport (“I play tennis ans still play basketball”)

reflects an enduring craving for competition. Ultimately, however, Schrager’s understanding of indulgence, from a personal perspective, at least, comes from an emotive response to the creativity that is so intertwined with his work. He clearly takes a tremendous amount of satisfaction from his success and, crucially, from seeing others enjoy his success. The greatest achievement he has derived from his work, he says, is the thrill of “creating a distinctive product and [the] gratification from guests who appreciate your efforts. “ If indulgence was once the ultimate personal liaison – an extravagant gift to oneself – so it is that, in any capitalist society, businesses will try to find a way of hijacking that relationship. Our definition of a gift has become inextricably linked with the nature of a transaction – something bought and sold through a series of middle men (manufacturers, branding specialists, advertising specialists, salesmen, distributors, shop assistants...) rather than offered from one individual to another, freely. Equally then, indulgence, the personal gift to oneself, has been exploited and monetized in a similar fashion. Schrager’s developments in the field of hospitality are even more revolutionary when one examines them in the context of

semantics – our very understanding of words like ‘indulgence’, ‘boutique’, ‘independent’, ‘individual’, ‘lifestyle’... Similarly, they are revelatory to those examining contemporary consumer culture: it is as if Schrager has pinpointed precisely the way to evoke a visceral need, a thirst, in each of the individuals that make up a mass market. His approach is unique in the industry insofar as it combines both the ultimately targeted approach – an individual sell – with mass market appeal. Never mind inventing buzzwords. Ian Schrager is a man who has been reinventing perceptions on a global scale since 1977. To close out our piece – and give ourselves a chance to catch our thoughts – we throw out (what we think is) a fluff question about another hackneyed term that we have strenuously avoided using since the mid-noughties. The answer is one that sums up Schrager, the ultimate experience-maker over and above a mere entrepreneur: “Luxury is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with how much something costs... We deal in product distinction and unique experience.” He repeats himself again, knowingly this time – like a catchphrase – and with a smile: “Build something special and people will come.”

Beyond Indulgence

Capri Palace Hotel


taly’s island of Capri comes close to what many would describe as a perfect scenario. It is almost certainly the closest physical representation of the word “idyllic”, which has its roots in an Ancient Greek diminutive - ‘a charming little thing’. Encompassing an area of just 10 and a half square kilometres and enveloped in an enchanting light that seems to caress the curvature of the Tyrrhe nian sea haven all the year round, Capri has always been considered the ultimate destination for seekers of beauty. From artists to Emperors, and from aesthetes to hedonists, the easygoing island has welcomed them all to her shores in the fullness of time. Open harbours invariably come at a cost to reputation, however, and, although still admired for her warm embraces, the island has long been on the receiving end of accusations of promiscuity. Day trippers and tourists flood her shores incessantly: the burden that must always be borne by such a timeless beauty. In such circumstances, the values of prudence and good judgement reign supreme. In the case of Capri, the Cacace family – founders of the Capri Palace Hotel - have played the role of chaperones to the island’s virtue. The story of the hotel is already bound in folklore, despite the fact that present owner, Tonino, is only a second generation inheritor. His parents, Mario and Rita, colonised the island in 1950. Together with Tonino’s great-grandmother, Mariantonia, the family soon operated a department store, an inn and a separate hotel – the Palace – in a town on the Western side of the island known as Anacapri (named with a suffix to denote its physical elevation over the rest of the area). In 1975, at the age of just 23 years old, Tonino took over the running of the Palace after the premature death of his father Mario. What he inherited was not just a hotel but a

safe haven for those seeking a pure beauty “far from the madding crowd” (to quote Gray, not Hardy). The Palace and the Mariantonia inn had both, throughout the ‘60s, been regarded as just that.The Cacace family had grown accustomed to hosting some of the world’s best known personalities – from Jackie and Aristotle Onassis to Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly - in an atmosphere hallmarked by discretion, privacy, unimpeachable levels of service and, of course, utterly Epicurean luxury. All of this, naturally, was par for the course during the so-called Golden Age of entertainment. After taking over the business, Tonino was keen to ensure that his family’s efforts – and indeed the island as a whole – was not at risk of becoming passé; a passing fancy that had had its heyday and was ready to be surpassed by newer, bigger, more accessible resorts. Over the course of the next few years, Tonino transformed the face of Capri’s tourist industry. Indeed, the first step was to lay claim to the destination itself: the Palace Hotel became the Capri Palace, and the Cacace’s establishment became (and, to many, still is) a synecdoche for everything that is good about hospitality throughout the island. Typifying this was Tonino’s decision to personally greet as many guests as possible who arrived at his exclusive establishment. It is a policy to which Tonino still adheres today. Those who have met Tonino Cacace, now in his early 60s, describe him as a charming man – funny, gregarious and wholeheartedly welcoming in a manner which patently and honestly transcends his profession. But they also describe a force of personality – a man who stamps his character on every meeting, not with brashness but, rather, with a sheer zest for life that is both infectious and

The greatest pleasures, it is often said, are brought about by personalities rather than places. Even the most indulgent experiences can be ruined by an ill-mannered encounter. The so-called ‘personal touch’ is notorious for being able to make or break a potentially perfect scenario.

Beyond Indulgence Via Capodimonte, 14, 80071 Anacapri, Isola di Capri Napoli, Italy Telephone: +39 081 978 0111 E-mail:

utterly consuming. It is an attitude that no amount of money can buy and one which manifests itself in every aspect of the Capri Palace hotel. One particular example stands out. Tonino frequently recalls the day that he found the perfect blue for the Palace’s Beach Club, Il Riccio, the development of which he oversaw personally. “I knew I wanted to paint the Beach Club chairs blue,” he says, “but I was looking for a blue that makes you happy.” He was not satisfied with any of the options put to him, nor with his own research until, by chance, he came across the perfect shade on a trip to Mykonos. The bright, exuberant blue now beams out over the cliffs of Anacapri as a fitting testament to the force of personal conviction. And yes, it does make you happy. The hotel as a whole exudes personality. Not Tonino’s in particular, perhaps, but rather its own, unique atmosphere – something that sets it apart from other 5 star hotels to the extent that it qualifies (probably with something to spare) for

the highly sought-after ‘5 star L’ rating – the highest ranking a 5 star hotel can receive. It is in the unique elements of design that cut across the clean lines of the hotel, designed to recall the elegance and splendour of an 18th Century Neapolitan palace. It is in the decision to re-imagine the hotel not just as a place to stay but a place to feel alive, connected, cultured and inspired. Art is not just on the walls and in the hotel’s design, it now makes up the very essence of the space as a whole. Bespoke works by internationally renowned artists abound: Velasco designed the mosaic of the main pool; Tonelli painted the individual swimming pools housed in the Magritte and Warhol suites of the hotel. Last and perhaps greatest of them all is the majestic, three-dimensional 40 metre wall - an installation piece designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro – that greets guests at the entrance, as if to tell them “this is not a hotel; this is a feast for the senses”. Literal feasting is also taken to the form of high art at the Capri Palace. Tonino accepts his limitations gracefully and

graciously credits the work of general manager Ermanno Zanini and his team for the development of the twice Michelin starred restaurant, L’Olivo, widely considered to be a star attraction in its own right (its popularity demonstrable by the management’s need to build a new terrace for the restaurant to satisfy demand), and another Michelin starred restaurant at the aforementioned Beach Club, Il Ricio. While the team rightly take the credit for the implementation, the achievements also pay homage to another outstanding feat of direction from Tonino.

recently innovated Capritouch brand name. Creative souls might point to the space on site reserved for resident artists, whose studios guests can arrange to visit during their stay. Ultimately, however, it is a testimony to the personalities of this place – not just of Tonino Cacace, but also of the management team, the people of Anacapri and perhaps even that of the hotel itself – that there are so many wonders with which to endorse it. Perhaps the greatest of all, however, is summed up in the philosophy of the Capri palace’s new, uniquely designed Capritouch suite (one of four recently crafted suites):

It is tempting to go on at length about the size of the rooms – massive, courtesy of Tonino’s decision to reduce the hotel’s capacity from 110 rooms to 72 (including 15 bespoke suites) – or the glorious spa that is technologically unsurpassed and scientifically exact, in stark contrast to other, more nebulously described wellness centres. Sartorial savants might wax lyrical about the restored Mariorita boutique, which offers the absolute pinnacle of Italian fashion from both internationally recognised designers and local Caprisian artisans under the

“We realized that nowadays, the seasoned traveller does not want to enter in a place without a clear identity, a place without space and time, that could be anywhere and everywhere. [In fact,] he wants to enter a hotel and feel Capri, breath Capri, and live it to the fullest.” It is an approach that encapsulates the spirit of the Capri Palace, and one which will see it continue to re-define the standard of luxury for years to come.

Beyond Indulgence

There’s a certain type of travelling experience that a hotel – however grand or luxurious – simply cannot offer. The type of hospitality only really given to house guests is a feeling that is understood across virtually every society around the world – whether that is expressed in words, actions, customs or conventions.


Palazzetto 113

t is with that thought in mind that we introduce the Palazzetto 113, a delightful Venetian guesthouse – or, literally translated, ‘a little palace’ - loosely described as a B&B. In fact, this baroque style town house, set in the historical heart of Venice’s mellifluous waterways, feels more like a home away from home. Palazzetto 113 is the latest project by Campa&Campa, created by interior designer duo Alessio and Nicola Campa. Intimately and perfectly designed and decorated, the space is presented in such a way as to incorporate varying elements of typical Italian styles. The façade of the building, for example, is extremely distinctive for this part of the country, given its Sicilian ceramic finish. The leonine gargoyles on the enchanting terrazo, however, declare firmly for Northern Italy. The silky tapestry on the walls follow suit, one feels, although this has a particularly decadent flavour that attests. unmistakeably, to a Venetian master plan. All in all, it is the sort of décor of which one of the more cosmopolitan Doges would be proud. Another essential element for a dutiful Doge, of course, would necessarily be a platform from which to survey his realm. On this front, too, the Palazzetto 113 excels. The previously mentioned terrace is part of what makes

this little palace so special. Although typical of the area, the combination of this beautifully crafted space with the breathtaking view of the city gives an entrancing result. The classically designed terrace is a nice touch that completes the effect of a luxurious pad with all the benefits of a home rather than a hotel. All creature comforts are, of course, also catered for at the Palazzetto 113 with aplomb. Cosy king size beds with orthopaedic mattresses greet guests after entering via each suite’s own sitting room. Gilded mirrors garnish the walls near the bathrooms – which are worth a mention in their own right for their beautifully marbled and mosaicked finish. All of this is offered within touching distance of some of the finest attractions in the city. Indeed, all of the major sights of the city are within walking (or terraceviewing) distance – particularly the contemporary art attractions for which the Dorsoduro area is so popular.

For more information, please visit

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fattoria la vialla

These are phenomenal achievements in and of themselves, of course, but they are all the more remarkable when one learns that the owners, Piero and Giuliana Lo Franco, had no agricultural experience prior to their acquisition of their first farm (back in 1978), which now makes up one part of the estate. After falling in love with the rural life, the pair could never have imagined that, after their first purchase, the small Ca dell'oro vegetable farm, they would find themselves devoting more and more time to a growing homestead of farms, vineyards, houses and olive groves. The 3,316 acre farm that flourishes today started from humble beginnings. So much so, in fact, that it is still named to reflect the early work that took place at the very start of the Fattoria La Vialla journey. The small Ca Dell'oro farm was tended using the simplest of instruments, the “vialla” - Italian for a small plough used for vegetable gardens and mountain terrain. Since then, with a remarkable sensitivity to the natural environment, Piero and Giuliano – and, subsequently, their family - have worked near ceaselessly to restore this fertile paradise to a state of productivity and balance the likes of which had not been seen in the area for decades. This was an almost an ant-industrial approach – a labour of love that has reaped incredible, palpable rewards over the years. The Lo Franco family now have well-defined roles at the estate that allows each of them to look

Followers of the Beyond Black book series or B Beyond Magazine might already be familiar with Fattoria La Vialla, the totally organic, family run farm set in the foothills of Tuscany on the outskirts of Arezzo. Although its raison d'etre is its produce, the farm also has guest houses on the property to accommodate the occasional visitor who wishes to be fully immersed in the rustic experience.


a Vialla is not just a firm favourite of this imprint, however: the estate has also continued to collect a quite incredible number of awards for its work in producing some of the finest quality organic food and wine in Italy, while at the same time maintaining a totally sustainable approach to managing the natural environment. In 2008, Fattoria La Vialla was also denoted a “Carbon Farm” by the European Environment Agency due to its negative carbon footprint - the fact that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces (-3,880 tons in 2009 and today -5385 tons).

after their own sphere of production: Gianni, the oldest of Piero and Giuliano's three sons, looks after the administration; Bandino (the youngest) is in charge of the mill, the oil and the sauce making and Antonio, a trained sommelier, looks after the vineyards. By keeping the business family run, the Lo Francos ensure that La Villa continues to operate on the same values as it did when it started: those of quality, sustainablility and a commitment to an organic lifestyle and means of production. Visitors to La Vialla will leave wondering why and how agriculture has evolved to be anything other than what it is here. A slew of gold medal awards fail to do enough justice to the lilting pleasures of the farm's many creations: extra virgin olive oil, pecorino cheese, red and white wines, spumanti, sughi (sauces), pasta and more... After tasting the 'Pomarolina' (tomato sauce with vegetables) or the 'Fragolino' (aubergine based sauce with honey), many will consider it an act of mercy that La Vialla offer a catalogue order service to selected customers via their website. This remarkable place is, quite simply, a mustvisit destination for anyone visiting Tuscany. The overwhelming quality of the food and wine produced at this very farm is now widely regarded as one of the major attractions to the region – an almost unbelievable accomplishment when looking back at La Vialla's history, and one that is a testament to the values of hard work and remaining true to one's convictions.

Via di Meliciano, 26, 52029 Castiglion Fibocchi Arezzo, Italy Tel: +39 0575 477720 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

Beyond Indulgence

furnishing is a statement piece; every step you take envelopes you into the alluring ambiance that seeps from the walls of this seductive place. The concept bedrooms continue the theme of sensuous luxury but add an element of hedonism – and more than a hint of decadence. The Sala del Doge (or Doge’s room), for example, is coated in regal red upholstery from wall to wall. A huge gilded mirror sits imperiously on the wall directly opposite the imposing king size bed. The suggested dress code for this room? “Sumptuous nudity”. When the backdrop is this ornate, clothes seem redundant...

Ca Maria Adele T Some places hold a certain power of evocation. Their names conjure up an idea; their very utterance calls to the soul. The definitive example of this is bound up in two potent syllables: Venice.

hink of the amphibious city and your mind projects images of gliding gondolas, festive masks and grand Gothic palazzos rising from the waves. The canals that vein the city seem to circulate it with the very essence of romance. If the mood of a city is summoned up by its name, then it takes its form in its features. Frequently praised for the beauty and complexity of its challenging architecture, Venice’s romantic qualities are expressed artfully in the Ca Maria Adele, first project by Campa&Campa. This charming hotel, located in the contemporary art neighbourhood of Dorsoduro, manages to recreate in microcosm and build on the values for which Venice is known throughout the world. Each room in the Ca Maria Adele is titled, and also granted a corresponding mood, design, and dress code. These descriptions

The concept rooms, deluxe quarters and larger suites at the Ca Maria Adele are variously and uniquely designed to suit all tastes. The Sala Noire, for instance, themes itself on black pearl; whereas the Sala del Camino engenders a warm glow with its gentle cream and pastel finish. Sala Giugi, the breakfast room, is a intimate and stylish room. Brocade designs throughout and a sheer, draping curtain give the room an airy, carefree feel as you cibare, or take your breakfast.

are not empty claims. The astounding thing about this hotel is the fact that it manages to subtly yet unmistakeably fulfil these emotive promises. The décor of each room and area of the hotel breezes through these nuanced sensations with a consummate verve and finesse: from the entrance, which promises “willing expectation” and substantiates that with a wistful looking threshold – replete, of course, with a dock for one’s gondola – to the glorious lounge/living room, built to invoke “Venetian revery” with its ornately carved furniture and fireplaces, mottled golden walls and plush finishings. It is no surprise then, that Ca Maria Adele has been given an award as #the Most Romantic Hotel’ in Europe by Johansesn Conde Nast and the Doge’s Room has been awarded by Mr and Mrs Smith this year as the second sexiest room in the world. The hotel is an astounding feat of design – even by Venice’s high standards. Every

The twist comes with in the form of a penchant for the exotic. Having proven its mastery of traditional Venetian design, the Ca Maria Adele also features a number of salons featuring Turkish, North African and Oriental styles. From the balmy terazza, which channels the soothing indolence of a Moroccan riyadh, to the Sala Orientale, which embodies the splendour of the Ming dynasty with its floral motif and beautiful vases, there is truly something for everyone.

Sestiere Dorsoduro, 111, 30123 Venezia, Italy

Telephone: +39 041 520 3078E-mail:

Those with the desire to explore outside the bedroom will also be fully satisfied. Everything, according to the management, is less than three minutes away from the Ca Maria Adele. The Dorsoduro area itself includes the Zattere waterfront, as well as the Chiesa della Salute area, which has always been regarded as one of the most exclusive districts of Venice, now dotted with a series of stunning, contemporary-style residential buildings. The Dorsoduro is also known as the contemporary art neighbourhood – so be sure to investigate the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the Francois Pinault Collection (located in Punta della Dogana) and the dynamic museum dedicated to Emilio Vedova hosted in the Magazzini del Sale.

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alpina If ever we were tempted to define a hotel in terms of net worth of its guests, we’d dub this a billionaires’ hotel - you could be breakfasting next to major art collectors, oligarchs or mega stars, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Discretion and low key is the name of the game.

This was followed, quite superfluously, by octopus/ scallop/chorizo/lime & basil, a complex and elaborate mix of warm octopus, melting scallop in a sweet dressing, juxtaposed interestingly with a lush basil ice cream, and subtly spiced up by the chorizo.

Ann Carrington to make them of cutlery. There are a few more pieces by the same artist and also made of cutlery on the walls of the restaurant – all of them striking and entirely ingenious.

The vast ground floor lobby bar and its outdoor terrace would encourage socialising if the guests were so inclined, however most people kept to themselves during out visit, either out of natural reticence or because they were there as a family.

Our main course was deer & duck/pumpkin/ hazelnut/brussels sprouts. The hazelnut sauce was a creative and intense alternative to the more conventional chestnut puree, and the sautéed pumpkin sticks a flavoursome and healthy variation of fries.

You are guaranteed to breakfast/dine or swim next to some of the wealthiest people on the planet (a small number of them have been astute enough to buy chalets on the grounds of the hotel and have a private entrance to its facilities). Staying at the Alpina is akin to staying at a private club for oligarchs, celebrity entertainers and sundry billionaires.

The Restaurant

Bold choices of art works, distinctive commissioned pieces (both wall-mounted and furniture), and evidence of a growing and eclectic private art collection, strategically displayed throughout the hotel, give it the feel of an exceptionally sumptuous private reception room, complete with its own antique painted ceiling and a Gone with the Wind double stairway.

Sommet (or peak in French) is headed by chef Mr Marcus G. Lindner from Zurich.


special effort has been made to re-create an authentic, pre-Castro Cuban Fumoir, housing another set of art works, one of which has even stirred controversy in the art world, guaranteeing it long-lasting notoriety.

The Spa

We stayed in one of the 5th floor suites whose twin balconies gave us a 180 degree panoramic view to die for.

Without any question, the most sumptuous and fully equipped hotel spa B Beyond has ever had the pleasure to visit, this is probably best described in pictures.

Everything, from the cashmere covered sofa to the glass-covered fireplace and coffee table books stacked up on the shelves, conveys the warmth of a self-contained private chalet. The concave mirror in the sitting room section acts as a reflective art piece of the whole. Orchid plants are in every area of the suite, including the bathroom. One of the most remarkable things about the Alpina is that original (rather than replica) furniture pieces and antique barn wood have been sourced and used throughout.

‘Died and gone to heaven’ is probably the most clichéd, yet the most apt way to describe the Alpina spa.

Neither words nor images can, however, convey the sense of visual and sensual feast. Water streaming down rock wall after rock wall, green living walls, rough-hewn blocks of lime, a massive 85 foot indoor lap pool, several sauna and steam rooms, a large salt resting room and the piece de resistence, a full heated outdoor pool with its whirlpool area. As a matter of fact, the outdoor pool is long enough to swim in and an absolute hit with the younger guests, particularly in the evenings. We loved it.

The hotel also has the first European branch of MEGU and a 14-seat private cinema (with a popcorn machine) which screens different movies every night. The private cinema has become de rigueur, but the comfort features of the Alpina one are in a class of their own. The cinema becomes a night club every so often. Our gastronomic experience at Le Sommet started, appropriately enough, with Roederer on tap. Our first course was a tartare of veal/crawfish/ parsley/sour cream. The crawfish melted in the mouth; the veal tartar was juicy and delicately spiced, topped with a spoonful of sour cream - all this on a bed of parsley puree with the different flavours marrying surprisingly well. Second course was Lamb’s lettuce soup/duck/ quail egg. The ingenious combination of softly boiled quail egg and a lamb/duck mélange in a lettuce reduction gets a resolute 10 out of 10 and is one of the best dishes this author has ever had the pleasure to sample..

Pudding was a caramel/passion fruit/fried banana/ pistachio - an intricate interplay of smoothly sweet caramel, tangy passion fruit and pistachio on a fried banana base. The sommelier picked some fresh Swiss wines post-Roederer and they did a fantastic job of complimenting the food without overshadowing it as is often the case. A word of caution: the degustation menu above may leave you too replete to appreciate the truly outstanding breakfast spread which includes a number of Russian specialities – as well as everything else you’d expect in a Swiss hotel of this calibre. The Art The Alpina has an eclectic collection of art that does give the hotel the feel of an art gallery. Nachson Mimran works with art foundations, in addition to commissioning pieces for the hotel. He also curates the growing collection of The Alpina. The very Swiss tradition of displaying the horns of plenty in a hospitality establishment has taken an interesting twist here: Mimran commissioned

Why Stay There?

You would be treated to an arty, somewhat idiosyncratic atmosphere because many of the patrons are fairly eccentric and arty themselves. You’d notice this as soon as you enter the hotel. However rich or famous you are, there’ll always be someone just so or even more so than you, which guarantees you absolute privacy. In fact, although guests would engage some of the staff in conversation (the formidable maître d’ appeared to have been on a friendly basis with many of them for years before the opening of the hotel), they keep a polite but well-defined distance between one another. You would love the spa which is truly second to none, both in terms of design and facilities.

The Alpina Gstaad Alpinastrasse 23 3780, Switzerland Tel: +41 33 888 98 88

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Carlton Hotel Perched above the lake and overlooking the splendour of the surrounding mountains, with a 360 degree views from every suite, this fairly recently re-modelled hotel is a high techmeets-chic-design celebration of style.


ne of 5 hotels owned by the Kipp family and designed by Swiss maestro of cool laced with flights of fancy, Carlo Rampazzi, the Carlton is without question one of the best hotels we have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I am using the word purposefully as staying there is indeed quite an experience. To begin with, the senses are regaled by the clever if occasionally confusing mix of period and contemporary pieces, the latter often thrown in as if in jest. The main restaurant chairs whose backs imitate actual diners are a good case in point as are the giant lobby lamps mounted on stacks of re-used old chair legs. The apocryphal story goes that Nicolai II of Russia intended to use the building of the hotel as his winter residence. True or not, the designer has made great artistic use of the story, incorporating rich fabric panels in the bathrooms and images of the tsar’s jewellery collection. The 60 or suites’ bathrooms are quite the most beautiful, supremely wellthought out, faultlessly functional, ‘never-want-to-leave’ water rooms with massive shower alcoves and every convenience imaginable. A closer look around the suite reveals intricate detail such as the use of clever wood marquetry, weathered leather, marble, tiles, terrazzo walling and rich fabrics everywhere. The suites are extremely generously sized, with curved walls emphasising the feeling of space and a mini bar-cum-coffee/tea making area set apart from the sitting room. Orchid plants, trays of delectable Swiss chocolates, fresh fruit and other snack bites are thoughtfully laid out for the guests. The balconies have the most spectacular views of the Swiss mountains, again at a 360 degree angle. Then, there is the spa…We are quite accustomed to seeing magnificent spas in ultra-high end hotels, especially in winter resorts. This one is of truly massive proportions and as state of the art as you have by now come to expect from this hotel. Occupying two floors, it has the requisite indoor and outdoor heated pool and whirlpool, and a full complement of saunas, steam rooms, and pampering spa treatment rooms. Our favourite area was the cooling area directly off the sauna which is simply outdoor space, directly on the snow and overlooking the steep walk towards the lake. Skiers typically spend their mid to late afternoons relaxing and further toning their bodies there. The Carlton is an extremely sophisticated, polished hotel combining quirky design with high tech to achieve the ultimate in 21st century hospitality. The attention to detail is rare, even in the highly competitive world of ultra-high end establishments.

Via Johannes Badrutt 11, 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland Tel: +41 81 836 70 00 / Email:


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GUESTS, HENCE ITS NAME. Chesa Lumpaz was completed in 2007 and for the first time it is now being offered for rental. The history of the property goes back to the late 19th century. Where the chalet now stands was once the house of the coachmen – in an era when horse-driven carriages were the only mode of transportation to St Moritz.

Located in the heart of St.Moritz, next door to the famous Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, Chesa Lumpaz is a contemporary style, superluxury 900 sq/m chalet, built over five floors and featuring the most up to date technology in home comfort, entertainment, spa and wellness.


he word Lumpaz means bear in the traditional language of the Engadine valley. Bears find renewed strength when they are safe in their own lair.

open up the roads increased, cars made their first appearance in the Swiss Alps and subsequently, train access to St.Moritz was added. The once so important coachmen were obsolete.

Chesa Lumpaz offers the same rejuvenating and restorative experience to its guests, hence its name.

Almost a century later, in late 2007, the construction of the stunning Chesa Lumpaz was completed and the property is now one of the most exclusive alpine chalets.

Chesa Lumpaz was completed in 2007 and this is the first time it is being offered for rental. The history of the property goes back to the late 19th century. On today’s location of the chalet there was once the house of the coachmen – in an era when horse-driven carriages were the only mode of transportation to St Moritz. The Swiss canton of Graubünden was at the time the only place in the world that had a law banning cars from the road. In 1925, when the pressure to

With a team of successful and established architects, designers and construction companies on board, the goal was to create the ultimate in design, functionality, comfort and sense of wellbeing. Swiss architects Valentin Bearth and Andrea Deplazes planed the building, later joined by internationally acclaimed architect Nico Rensch, whose exceptional track record of building private properties and a natural flair for functionality, design and materials, enhanced the team. The result is a modern, yet warm and cosy house. The ingenious use of space provides guests with utter privacy and the ability to indulge their personal interests and tastes. Every conceivable detail has been thought of to maximise the comfort of the guests after a day’s skiing: you can relax in the wellness area or train in the private gym, or watch a movie in your room’s own cinema, or read a book in front of the fireplace…

Telephone: +41 81 833 13 26 Website: Email: The Swiss canton of Graubünden was at the time the only place in the world that had a law banning cars from the road. In 1925, when the pressure to open up the roads increased, cars made their first appearance in the Swiss Alps and, subsequently, train access to St Moritz was added. The once so important coachmen were obsolete. Almost a century later, in late 2007, the construction of the stunning Chesa Lumpaz was completed and the property is now one of the most exclusive alpine chalets.

Architect Nico Rensch has made no corner cutting compromises. He felt that the Chesa Lumpaz did not need one master bedroom, but four. Rather than maximising occupancy, he created four large bedroom suites, only differing in terms of colour scheme and art. The top floor of the villa is dedicated to socialising, relaxing, entertaining and experiencing culinary delights, supplied by a private 5 star chef and a full complement of staff. For the culturally minded, Chesa Lumpaz boasts a library with a complete set of Taschen (and soon, Beyond Black) publications, offering guests the opportunity to browse through a multitude of art and photographic editions. The top floor of the Chesa Lumpaz is a window to the town of St Moritz. Whether you are enjoying the mountain views, watching the lake sporting events in the summer or following the polo on ice in the winter, you have access to it all directly from the living room of Chesa Lumpaz. The chalet can be rented in its entirety including all services. The chalet team is always at hand to fulfil any wish of the guests: massage after skiing with your personal guide, followed by a delicious dinner and a night clubbing in the town of St Moritz, and a service befitting the quality Swiss hoteliers are justly famous for. The chalet offers a different experience in summer and winter and staff would guide you and organise the best activities of the season, including accommodating your children in the most exclusive summer camp in the Swiss Alps. Chesa Lumpaz is a truly exceptional arrival on the super-luxury private residence-ran-as-a 5star hotel scene.

Beyond Indulgence

Pierre Yves Rochon

Interior designer

The first

thing that strikes me when looking at your portfolio – even in the case of your more modernized or contemporary designs - is how much your work seems to reflect the values of traditional art composition. I imagine that this stems from your self-professed love of European classicism. Could you please expand on that for our readers? In a sense you are correct, European classicism is my “first love”. It is what I learned and practiced at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. It is also the historical base for all architecture classical or modern. The principles of European classicism: balance, symmetry, and proportion are calming and give order and sensibility to a space. Even the most modern of architects use these principals to this day for the same reasons that PYR does. Also, I am European! You have stressed that you take into account the cultural and geographical identity of every hospitality client with whom you work, but is it fair to describe your design motif as being predominantly Eurocentric? We absolutely consider the location, and cultural and geographical surroundings of each and every project. So, no, I do not believe PYR is predominantly Eurocentric. For example, we are working on an exclusive luxury residential tower in Miami, Florida. Being a US based project, we very much took the landscape and overall environment into our design. The interior and exterior architecture references the existing architectural style of Miami and of their people.

the design concept and then typically sit with the entire design team to brainstorm and come up with the final direction. How, if at all, has your approach changed over the years? You are now recognized as one of the pre-eminent interior designers in the world today so presumably people are quicker to cede more control of any given project to you and your team directly! PYR’s approach has not changed over the years but has certainly evolved. It must! Clients and Owners indeed trust PYR to use our expertise to assist them, specifically in regard to design aesthetic, guest circulation and overall program. In your opinion, is hospitality design primarily an industry that trades in aesthetics, marketing/branding strategy or guest experience? Naturally, the three are inextricably linked, but do you think they have an order of importance and/or relevance for your clients? These three topics are completely interconnected, so this is a hard question to answer. I believe Clients often think marketing/branding strategy and aesthetics are the most important; at PYR we believe the guest experience is most important. This is our job. We are brought into a project to successfully combine aesthetics, marketing/ branding strategy and guest experience, to best fit the client’s needs. Does being so immersed in the hospitality industry make it difficult to separate work from pleasure? Do you ever find yourself walking into a

Following on from my first question – there is an incredible sense of balance to your work. Do you feel as if that is something that you have always had, or rather that it was an ability that grew and matured over time and with experience?

hotel and silently critiquing aspects of the design?

This has always been a very natural ability of mine, but of course it has matured. A design process is always growing and developing as we are.

Do you have any projects coming up in the near future about which you are

No, never. I try to enjoy the guest experience as a guest would in one of PYR’s properties. This helps me to learn and design better.

particularly excited? Yes many! Stay tuned....

You and your team are renowned for taking a particularly thorough approach with your projects. At what stage do you usually become involved with a project? Or does it differ vastly on each job?

What is your personal definition of indulgence – in a word, phrase or

I am the very first person in the office to touch any project. I generate

To design!


Beyond Indulgence


was reminded of the seeming effortlessness with which the hotel has traditionally managed to marry discretion with opulence. Guests came and went as I perused the Sunday papers – an older American couple discussing their race horses portfolio; an English woman in a pared down jeans and cashmere outfit, giving sotto voce travel schedule instructions to the butler; a young family with their nanny enjoying their smoked salmon sandwiches... My suite had a proper key which is always the sign of a good hotel (the electronic cards work only 8 times out of 10 and are a pet hate of mine). The reception room of my suite would have easily accommodated a drinks party for 30, which too is a rarity with European hotels as they try to maximise the space (the only notable exception being Capri Palace whose owner has a program of reducing the number of rooms rather than increasing it). A nod to modernity in the classically decorated hotel is the elaborate and automated electronic lighting and socket system, along with the super-fast WiFi. The one intangible, however, is the feeling of belonging that the Bristol conveys and cultivates amongst its fiercely loyal clientele – it is the sense of belonging to a ‘club’ of social peers who appreciate and can afford the best of unobtrusive but omnipresent service; exceptional dining (the main restaurant of the hotel is reminiscent of a lavish Belle Époque train coach, capsule-like in the central lobby); the stately home courtyard; the requisite spa; the fabulous location and the timeless serenity the whole of it exudes.

le bristol Le Bristol has carved itself a very unique kind of reputation among grand Paris hotel: it is where old money goes to stay.

112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France Tel: +33 (0)1 53 43 43 00 / Email:

Beyond Indulgence

Hotel Heritage Bruges, strategically positioned between Ostend and Brussels or Ostend and Antwerp, evokes images of romantic canals and Flemish lace and is often compared to Venice. It is a destination in its own right and has starred in a number of films as one of the most beautiful European settings.


wenty years ago, Johan and Isabelle Creytens took over a historic building, variously used as a grand private residence and a bank, and converted it to a boutique hotel of just 22 rooms – the only Relais & Chateaux hotel in Bruges. Their creation, Hotel Heritage, is ideally placed near the Market Place and the city’s myriad culinary and architectural delights. An owner-run hotel is something of a treat these days – star rating and industry accolades notwithstanding, many savvy travellers would research and opt for personalised hospitality that combines tailored service and a degree of informality. On the subject of treats, the Heritage offers easily the best of them all – handmade Nilson beds, crafted out of top quality natural materials, that are so amazingly comfy that visitors are now given the option to replicate the dreamy experience by purchasing one of their own. While being one of the most creative we’ve encountered, this is by no means the only treat at the Heritage.

Beyond Indulgence

The hotel’s restaurant, Le Mystique, has a resident chef, Koenraad Steenkiste, whose emphasis is on organic and local Flanders region produce. For the gourmet guests, Le Mystique offers some very interesting signature dishes with distinct regional flavours. A good case in point is the Veal Cheek cooked in Bruges Tripel (an amber coloured malt beer with high alcohol content) with pommes fondant and parsnips. A brilliant variation on the traditional consommé is the French pigeon, oxtail and carrots clear broth. The Pas de Bleu ‘Hinkelspel’ cheese is served with the delicious and inimitable syrup of Luik (an intensely fruity Lieges sirup). For chocolate lovers, the Soup of bitter chocolate and mint is an absolute must. Le Magnum bar sits a cozy 20 and doubles up as a library, offering a great wine and local beers list. The Heritage would appeal to those who like a solid, traditional and ornate style: period sofas, massive chandeliers, gilded mirrors, carved fireplaces, deep rugs, embossed cushions, and fine art on the walls fit its name well – or the other way round. This is combined, of course, with contemporary comforts we have all come to take for granted, but in addition to the free wifi, every room boasts an iPad2, a great touch! The suites on the top floor have Durance products and their own Jacuzzi as well as spectacular views over the city. The vaulted cellars have been converted to a spa and gym, complete with Sauna & steam bath, solarium and a fitness room with power-plate. Perhaps one of the best features of the hotel is the top floor sundeck with far reaching views across the beautiful city of Bruges. HOTEL HERITAGE Niklaas Desparsstraat 11, 8000 Brugge, Belgium +32 50 44 44 44

One of the many additional treats the hotel owners offer, in fact, is a guided tour of Bruges, as well as a more exotic one: a hot air balloon experience.

Beyond Indulgence

for forming that opinion early during one's stay: when walking into the New Hotel reception, for example, only to have one's breath caught short by the sight of a lobby swathed in various carpentry bin-ends upcycled into a staggeringly idiosyncratic art wall. Although these sorts of features are seemingly endless, they form part of a larger context which completely underpins the YES! philosophy. Where other designs are often led primarily by theme, then by competitions between architects or designers, the YES! Group take a clearly structured approach. This starts, first and foremost, with the people behind each project. It sounds obvious but people often lose sight of the fact that, in the hospitality industry, the guest experience is key. With that in mind, what better way to guarantee a quality experience than by putting together a quality team to inspire it?


Hotels which prioritise design are not exactly a novelty in the global hospitality industry. Collaborations with designers generally do not set the world alight with innovative thinking, and seldom do they deliver a unique execution. Now, look at the images on this page and re-read the above.


his book features a great number of hotels, while the Beyond Black imprint has been reviewing superlative destinations for over 15 years. It is fair to say that, in that time, we have never seen anything quite like the fluorescent pink and neon blue colour scheme underpinning the vibrant design of YES! Hotel's Semiramis establishment. From Shanghai's Waterhouse on the Bund to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi , Sweden, with London's Sanderson hotel also in the mix, there are undoubtedly a few destinations

that break the mould enough to transcend 'quirky' design. Athens' collection of YES! Hotels, however, are perhaps the first to wholeheartedly embrace an overwhelmingly bright, positive and in-your-face aesthetic. The YES! Hotel mission statement sheds some light on that decision, with the group stressing that their goal is to leave guests feeling totally positive about their stay at the hotel. 'OK', quite simply, is not an option for the YES! Group. As such, they have

The best experiences are relatable to relationships. They are born, grown and nurtured through a dialogue between different parties with shared aims. The same is true of architecture and design and, by extension, the hospitality industry at large. By forging a dialogue between some of the leading figures in the art, design and service industries, YES! have succeeded in breaking new ground where other “design hotels” continue to tread well-worn territory and rely on gimmickry. Simply talking about the group's approach is exciting because with it comes the recognition that this is, without question, the future of the hospitality industry. A quick overview of some of the people involved in the planning of these urban interventions is richly enlightening – not to mention hugely impressive.

The group is the brainchild of international art collector and patron Dakis Joannou. Each of the group's five hotels – the Semiramis, NEW hotel, Twentyone, Periscope and the Kefalari Suites – were commissioned as a bespoke project by Mr Joannou, with the individual designers responsible for each one given free reign to create not just a hotel but a totally immersive experience. As a result, each hotel comes across more as an installation piece-museum hybrid than mere accommodation. The aforementioned NEW hotel was overseen by design duo Fernando and Humberto Campana with a nod to their reputation as pioneers of eco-sensitive design grounded in hand-crafted techniques and colloquial effects. Where themes so often give the impression of being more of an artificial patina as opposed to something that is integral to a construction, the approach of Mr Joannou and the Campana brothers bears fruit in the remarkably eccentric but utterly holistic results discernible in NEW hotel. Zig-zagging cutout mirrors, chairs and curtains made of materials that mimic draped seaweed, green painted rooms bedecked in marble slab finishings...all of these, in addition to the incredible wood effects described above, give the hotel the appearance of something that has risen from the earth organically and entirely of its own volition. The combination of quality craftsmanship and naturally led, utterly artistic design gives the New Hotel a unique sense of extravagant yet harmonious beauty. The same principles are enacted for an entirely different result in the case of the Semiramis. In this instance, Karim Rashid was commissioned for his unmistakable signature style – modern, youthful,

playful and featuring curvaceous forms and bright, vibrant colours throughout. This, complemented by a regularly rotating selection of highly-prized contemporary art from Mr Joannou's collection, results in an irrepressibly vivacious, stylishly bold and ultimately modern construction. The thing to remember here is that YES! Hotels are not just another example of self-trumpeting architectural follies which worship at the temple of form while forgoing function. There is method in the near-madness of Semiramis' multi-coloured swimming pool or fluorescent glass panelling, just as there is in NEW hotel's bead and figured based wall motifs. The former cements the impression of the Semiramis as an ultra-modern destination, built to be a cornerstone of the affluent and fashionable Kifissia suburb of Athens. It was born of a desire to reflect an understanding of and appreciation for the values and experiences integral to the world of contemporary entertainment, fashion and art. As such, the hotel's construction and ethos makes a point of encompassing the highest standard of unique, cutting-edge artistic and technological design points. This piece was written from the perspective that there is no greater indulgence than to be surrounded by beauty. And if beauty alone is a luxury then beauty underpinned by reason is worth even more. YES! hotels represent an indulgence to which we have become accustomed at any top quality hospitality establishment. It is the story of these hotels, however, the incredible degree of thought and creativity that abounds in each of the five Athenian hotels, which sets them apart from other travelling experiences. Beyond Indulgence? The answer is an unequivocal YES!

gone out of their way to perfect a standard of design in each of their five properties that is at once arresting and flamboyant without being garish or tacky. In their own words, the group describe their approach as enacting the values contained within their name – an acronym for “Young, Enthusiastic and Seductive”. The youthful, effervescent designs are not the primary element of the hotel group's philosophy, however. One would be forgiven

Filellinon Street, 16, Athens 10557, Greece / Email: /

Beyond Indulgence

royal hotel san remo Royal Hotel Sanremo is something to behold. Perched above the sparkling bay, the stunning Belle Epoque palazzo dominates the San Remo landscape with its unquestionable opulence.


he supremely elegant, fine art adorned lobby with its sweeping stairway and marmorino columns, the deep white sofas, the views from each successive reception room and finally, the attentive staff, all make an unmistakable statement: this is a grand hotel in the time-honoured sense of the word, rather than a fly by night modern pretender. Our suite on the 5th floor looks over the palm-fringed garden of the restaurant and beyond that, the huge diamond shaped pool that looks like 3 connected pools. The sheer size of it all is impressive but it is the unadulterated beauty of the views from the suites, the sun, scents and colours of the Mediterranean that add up to a sense of perfect happiness. Our bathroom is almost the size of the suite and although we seldom write about amenities, B Beyond being entirely dedicated to reviewing the absolute best, it is noteworthy in its own right. Sipping from the bottle of Prosecco, compliments of the management, relaxing on the balcony, we decide to stay an additional night rather than move further up the coats the next day. I am keen to try out the candle-lit garden restaurant, Il Giardino, and what a good decision that is! Our dinner included: • a delicious cream of beans soup from Pigna with mussels and clams, a combination I hadn’t encountered before but one that works extremely well.

The spa The spa, on the ground floor of the hotel offers Payot treatments, a fitness room and an indoor hot pool. A daily ‘menu’ of specials on offer is posted and although we didn’t get a chance to try them out, they all sounded eminently covetable. The hospitality When it comes to hospitality and service, the Italians do it better every time and so it is hardly surprising that most grand hotels around the world employ Italian staff. Whether through training or natural instinct, they combine warmth with professionalism and quite literally brighten your day. B Beyond has to admit here to a strong partiality to all things Italian and to Italians in particular. We have been returning to the country over and over again – with or without TasteMaker (www.thetastemaker. org) subscribers – and each time, we find something new and amazing to write about. Royal Hotel is a case in point. Even though we know San Remo extremely well, this trip was something of a revelation. The elegant city has been a hub of wealthy Russians who have already colonised everywhere from Cap Ferrat to Ospedaletti and lifted real estate prices. This is a trend set to continue because, quite simply, the Italian Riviera is no less beautiful than the French – and the Italians… well, this cannot be overstated, they do do it better.

• Goose liver terrine with black truffles in Muscat jelly, a rich and flavoursome dish just as the name suggests, the sweetness of the Muscat giving it added sophistication. • salads and a selection of rare cheese, washed down with a Bardolino rose, Cà de Frati • and finally, a rich raspberry Vacherin.

Corso Imperatrice 80 18038 Sanremo (Im), Italy Tel. +39 0184 5391

Beyond Indulgence


eyond global centres of commerce and major national metropoleis, it is difficult to think of a place that evokes

such a unique sensation as New Orleans. The Big Easy has become synonymous with a particular approach to life – one of laissez-faire, of revelry and excitement, and of casual and habitual luxury. The expression joie de vivre might have been invented specifically for the Creole capital. Even after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, it is a testament to the character of the city and its people that events such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz & Heritage Festival were never cancelled and have continued in the same spirit in which they were conceived. The Audubon Cottages in hemselves could perhaps be said to represent the Phoenix-like spirit of Louisiana's largest urban centre. They were built shortly after another natural disaster – a series of two great fires in the late eighteenth century which destroyed much of the city. From the early nineteenth century

seven residences. King and/or Queen size beds feature in each, along with various combinations of private fountains, charming fireplaces, hardwood floors and crystal chandeliers. With private courtyards and wrought-iron furnishings completing the effect of old-world mystique meets modern day glamour, it is small wonder that Hollywood golden girl Elizabeth Taylor favoured the residences during her stays in New Orleans. The





themselves, the setting, the pool and the wonderfully lush garden might not be enough for some guests, however. In which case, Audubon also makes sure that they

thinking, welcoming conurbations of what was to become the

by providing a dedicated, on-site


French Butler service. This is what

and naturalist John James Audubon – the cottages' namesake – stayed in what is now known as Cottage 1 of the collection while working on illustrations for his seminal book Birds of America. Set deep in the French Quarter, each of the Audubon Cottages have a story to tell – from wartime stories to tales of hauntings all infused with a deliciously local Creole twist. These residences, originally built in a French colonial style but subsequently updated through periods of Spanish occupation

New Orleans is, without question, one of the great historical melting pots of the United States. As such, it is always a privilege to experience that wellcherished heritage through the lens of contemporary standards of indulgence. The Audubon Cottages collection specialises in filling that niche precisely.

with home comforts taken to a superlative level in each of the

cater to every guest's every need

their own place in history. During the year 1821-2, famed painter

Audubon Cottages

are described as 'the premier bed and breakfast alternative',

onwards, the city established itself as one of the great free-

On a micro-scale, Audubon Cottages were quietly establishing


Stepping inside the cottages, you can tell immediately why they

truly sets Audubon apart from their competition: where the indulgent experiences of some establishments end



the style

revelation and




level of service (or, conversely, the amateur attempts of some B&Bs), Audubon goes beyond what many might expect of a boutique hotelier. The butler is available every day to every guest to offer a complete individual service. From unpacking suitcases to making dinner reservations at recommended restaurants, Audubon's

to short-lived Republican freedom, and from the American

butler service combines the benefits of a concierge with that of

Revolution through to the present day, are 'cottages' only in

a personal valet - and everything in between.

name. Exquisitely decorated, gilded with vine-like plants and an abundance of bright flowers, and positioned around what is commonly held to be the oldest swimming pool in the French Quarter, these are guest houses of the highest quality. Beautiful stone and brickwork abound in a communal area outside the pool itself, which is refreshingly and authentically salt-watered in a region that is famed for its maritime exploits.

Just one block from the celebrated Bourbon Street, yet surprisingly ensconced in a quiet and peaceful setting, Audubon Cottages are ideally situated for almost any occasion to visit the Big Easy. And, frankly, when considering this beautifully hiddenaway retreat, positioned in the heart of a city with the magic of New Orleans, why would you need an excuse?

509 Dauphine St. New Orleans, LA 70112 United States Tel: +1 504-586-1516

Beyond Indulgence

Brenners Park Hotel & Spa

Baden-Baden is the original spa destination. The region's organic springs have been used for bathing since the days of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Small wonder, then, that the town was named after its primary leisure activity ('baden' translates from German as 'bathing' or 'baths'). renners Park Hotel is to Baden-Baden what the natural springs are to the beautiful, Black Forest German town itself. It is one of the seminal grand hotels in the area, having first opened its doors to international dignitaries over 140 years ago. The original property, known as 'Stéphanie les Bains' - for its French character - or 'Stephanienbad' was bought by Anton Brenners in 1872. The turn of the century established it as one of the most important spa retreats, not just in Europe, but around the world. In 1907, for example, the hotel played host to King Chulalongkorn of Siam and Laos and his retinue – just one of many royal visits over the years.


Whether you've earned it (after a long day of exercise) or not (after a long day of pampering at the Spa), the retreat offers a wide variety of exceptional dining options, startin with the one Michelin starred Brenners Park Restaurant which offers a full gourmet experience headed up by Executive Chef Paul Stradner. Other dining options include the ‘Wintergarten’ restaurant serving Mediterranean dishes or guests may also sample some traditional Black Forest Gateau at afternoon tea in the cosy 'Kaminhalle'. There is also the ‘Rive Gauche’, which offers Mediterranean-themed dining experiences located in the heart of the Lichtentaler Alle (the enchanting and historic park and arboretum in Baden-Baden).

The hotel's charms, then, are hardly a secret. 100 bedrooms offer a winning combination of supreme comfort and exceptional luxury, reflected in each room's individual décor and furnishings, enhanced by elegant antiques and luxurious marble bathrooms. While the hotel undoubtedly retains an air of unfettered opulence, it is the unparalleled level of service from the Brenner's Park staff that keeps people returning year after year.

More than anything else, however, Brenner's Park is renowned for its luxurious spa facilities including a heated swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms and an extensive medical facility. In 2014, the hotel will look both to the future and its past with the opening of the nostalgically named‘’Villa Stéphanie’, a destination spa and wellness centre extending over five floors and comprising of a 500-square-metre sauna, Kneipp therapeutic pools, a plunge pool, a private fitness centre and a Hamman.

Beyond the indulgences of the accommodation itself, the myriad activities available for health purists and outdoors enthusiasts are staggering. Baden-Württemberg is a region famous for its outdoor activities, from mountain biking and climbing to golf and water sports. The town itself is also home to one of the most famous casinos in the world and is a few miles from the international racecourse at Iffezheim.

Schillerstraße 4-6, 6530 Baden-Baden Germany Phone:+49 7221 9000 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

Frégate Island Private in the Seychelles is the newest addition to the Oetker Collection of masterpiece hotels, having joined the portfolio in July 2013. This singular luxury retreat occupies an entire private island in the middle of the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.


eautifully crafted and nestled into the coastline, its 16 residences are naturally secluded – all have their own luxurious terrace, large private infinity pool and jacuzzi. On the island (which is the size of Monaco) guests can also enjoy seven stunning beaches with the option to 'exclusively hire' their own, including the beach acclaimed amongst the 10 best beaches in the world. In addition to the amazing coastline, lush forest and world-protected fauna, the resort is a secluded haven of peace – a true masterpiece and a jewel of conservation in the Seychelles: Frégate Island Private is home to the second largest population of Giant Aldabra Land Tortoises and is the nesting home to endangered turtle species. The benefits for guests staying at Frégate Island Private, Seychelles go far beyond the local natural beauty, however. In addition to the varied inclusive activities: sailing, windsurfing, sea kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, mountain biking, volleyball, badminton, tennis, bocce ball and guided nature walks with the island ecologists, Frégate Island Private also offers a myriad complementary services to all guests – including various treatments at the retreat's acclaimed Rock Spa.

Frégate Island Private

Fregate Island Private, P.O. Box 330, Victoria, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles Telephone: +49 7221 900 8071 Email:

One of the main draws of the spa is that it offers what Frégate describe as “bespoke holistic health experiences” with Ayurvedic Physician, Dr. Abhilash Haridas. Following an initial consultation, Dr. Haridas creates individually tailored programmes to help each guest achieve a balanced state of body, mind and consciousness through a combination of Ayurvedic therapies and highly personalised Ayurvedic wellness cuisine. This new spa concept sees Frégate Island Private distinguishing itself as the only resort

in the Seychelles to specialise in this renowned Indian science of preventative health and healing. Emphasising preventative and healing therapies along with various methods of purification and detoxification, Ayurveda is more than simply a healing system. Guests can either choose a three-day Ayurvedic experience, or extend this for the full duration of their stay at Frégate Island Private. Their programme is then created specifically to suit their individual needs, with therapies such as Shiro dhara, Kati Basti and Pinda Sweda complemented by personalised daily Ayurvedic dining menus - designed in conjunction with Frégate’s dynamic executive chef Arnaud Davin, and based primarily on fresh ingredients grown organically on the island’s own plantation or line-caught within a few nautical miles of the island’s shores. Various complimentary benefits for guests staying at Fregate Island Private include: An introductory morning yoga session at the Rock Spa. The yoga experts will provide meditation exercises for 55 minutes of pure relaxation in a peaceful Spa Pavilion. A welcome ‘head & shoulder’ massage. The Rock Spa’s skilled therapists will treat guests to a 55-minute massage, using the pioneering Ayurvedic techniques, and using Rock Spa products made in the Seychelles with ingredients grown on the island. A half-day deep-sea fishing excursion to sample the authentic taste of the Indian Ocean. Seychelles has some of the richest fishing ground in the world. The resort’s Captain is an expert in the surrounding waters and will show guests the abundance and diversity of local fish, such as Tuna, Dorado or Wahoo, before Chef, Arnaud Davin, prepares the catch (any style) for guests: grilled, plancha, sushi… An introduction to scuba diving. The island’s passionate diving staff will show guests the most unspoiled spots to appreciate the beauty of Seychelles’ brilliantly coloured and abundant underwater life.

Beyond Indulgence

Lough Eske a fire and had to be rebuilt before the hotel opened in 2007). Also apparent, though, is a sense of local dominance beyond the time of English control in the area. The remnants of a medieval castle belonging to powerful Gaelic landowners, the O’Donnells, can still be seen in the woods just to the north of the newer structure - and the site has clearly always been the seat of authority for the local community.

There is a widely accepted credo that appears in most sporting analysis: that a lack of competition breeds complacency. The same principle applies across a wide spectrum of different industries most pertinently, in this context, to the field of hospitality.


here are a wealth of examples of restaurants, once patronised by the great and the good, being abandoned as a result of slackening standards. Similarly, service in certain top-tier establishments has frequently been called into question after a few consecutive years at the top. Despite its stature as the only 5 star hotel in Ireland’s Country Donegal, however, Solis’ Lough Eske Castle is a welcome exception to that rule. The area known as the Wild Northwest of the Emerald Isle certainly has no shortage of optimal reasons to attract visitors. Typified by its rolling, sandy beaches and its rugged mountainous backdrop, Donegal is also punctuated by a multitude of natural lakes set apart from the indented coastline – and it is from these lakes that Lough Eske takes its name. The Solis property looms majestically over the freshwater lough (lake) in a manner befitting its imposing Elizabethan-style architecture (after its initial construction in the 19th century, the castle was destroyed by

Lough Eske Castle Lough Eske, Donegal Town County Donegal, Ireland T. +353 7497 25100 Email: reservations.lougheske@

The imposing style of the castle’s facade has been pared down by a soft, welcoming interior. As a spa as well as a hotel, Lough Eske is characterised by a natural, soothing décor. A light and airy feel pervades both the private and the common areas – although the rooms’ comfort do not suffer as a result. In fact, it is quite the opposite: the hotel’s down to earth charms belie the supreme quality underpinning each and every understated yet sumptuously luxurious fitting. Lough Eske boasts 96 rooms in total, including various suites bordering the castle’s extensive courtyard. It is fair to say that the appeal of any hotel can be underlined (or otherwise) by its surroundings and, when set in that context, Lough Eske makes a decisive case. This part of Ireland is a remote haven for wildlife, a naturally beautiful location for golf lovers and a world of its own for avid explorers. The sea and lake offer fishing, sailing and scuba-diving experiences, while the myriad beach and forest trails encourage hiking, biking and horse riding. Clay pigeon shooting is a well known pastime in the area and, although some might stand aghast at the prospect of surfing in a region which borders the often bracing climate of Northern Ireland, the palpable evidence of the Gulf Stream here makes the weather pleasantly mild and temperate – particularly in the Summer months. The more adventurous guests might also consider a trip to the Island of Toraigh, some 12km off the coast from the

eponymous main town of Donegal. Its seclusion over the years has seen it largely preserve its traditional Gaelic culture until the present day, which makes it a fascinating place to visit almost in and of itself. Those with a checklist approach, however, should certainly be aware of various prestigious local sites: a round tower that once protected monks from Viking raids, the ruins of St. Colmcille’s 6th century monastery and the intriguing Tau Cross that suggests early seafaring links to the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Over and above this, the island also offers activities such as Scuba diving, cycling, sea angling, rock climbing, bird watching, traditional music & dance and dolphin and (at certain times of the year) whale watching. To complete the Donegal experience, Lough Eske castle’s spa offers a welcome rest and retreat from the rigours of rural exploration. The hotel’s Spa Solis features eight treatment rooms made up of five single treatment rooms, two couple suites with a jet bath and steam room and a pedicure/ manicure room. Additionally, a Thermal Suite houses an ice fountain, sauna, steam room, sanarium, tropical experience showers, heated bench and an infinity pool. A fitness centre and 17m swimming pool makes up an impressive set-up at the Spa without even delving into their long-standing expertise in the field of aromatherapy. The trick to ensuring that a business stays at the top without clear competition, one might argue, is to diversify. The myriad appeals of Lough Eske, and the Donegal area as a whole, mean that the hotel is pushed to maintain high standards across the board of hospitality. Whether that is with regards to comfort, design, service, concierge efficiency or any other aspect of what makes this destination a cut above the rest, Lough Eske continues to pass each test with flying colours.

Beyond Indulgence

Eilean Shona is a private island, complete with eight bedroom residence, off the West Coast of Scotland. This Highlands retreat is as secluded as it gets for holiday makers looking for a private place for a Swallows and Amazons style family getaway or precisely the opposite – the ideal location for the ultimately exclusive adult party.


ust two and a half miles wide by one and a half miles long, the sequestered spot hosts a dazzling diversity of landscapes: from its wooded Eastern side covered in a sea of rare and magnificent trees to its wild, rugged Western side. The island’s highest point is 265m above sea level from where there are spectacular views out to the Hebridean islands, Ardnamurchan and Arisaig. The main (and, indeed, only) house is a large British country residence designed with comfort and quaint simplicity in mind. The eight bedrooms are very generously apportioned with additional space with beds on the uppermost floor should one be required to provide makeshift accommodation. Five bathrooms each contain a huge oversized bath and fortunately, unlike an all too large number of Scottish houses, Eilean Shona can boast to an ample supply of hot water with which to fill them. The house is a wonderful base of operations from which to explore the many delights of the Scottish Highlands. Nature walks are the obvious draw (the island also plays host to an array of seabirds, deer, seals, otters, eagles and birds of prey, red squirrels and the rare pine marten) but this is also an ideal place for artists due to the undisturbed natural light and overwhelming tranquillity. Those of a more active persuasion will be enticed by the on-site tennis court and billiards room.

Eilean Shona can be booked for a week at a time by contacting the owner, Vanessa Branson, directly via email (primarily) - or secondarily by telephone on 07866 429204.

Beyond Indulgence

floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look out over the Harbour. Its function as part of the retreat is that of an on-site co-operative shop and café that offers guests a taste of local produce. Although visitors receive a hamper on arrival containing freshly baked bread, speciality cheese and wine, it is the locally distilled Old Pulteney Malt Scotch Whisky that really stands out here.

john o’groats If there were three words to encapsulate the philosophy of Natural Retreats, the travel company who have lovingly restored the ancient inn at John O’Groats, they would be ‘attention to detail’. The eco-conscious group, famed for developing various self-catering travel destinations set in areas of outstanding natural beauty around the world, have taken the Victorian

In addition to paying homage to history, however, planning for the future is also central to sustainable redevelopment. Here, again, Natural Retreats have been meticulous in their approach to re-crafting a beautiful site that will stand the test of time. Prospective visitors to the region, it must be said, have occasionally been put off by a preposterous misconception of Scotland as a ‘dour’ country. That myth is firmly dispelled by a single glance at the new extension to the Inn at John O’Groats: a Norse style set of individual steeples (covering a number of bespoke apartments) , each daubed in an eye-popping burst of colour that contrasts gloriously to the craggy, windswept landscape. All of the apartments within feature modern kitchen/ living areas, stylish bedrooms and bathrooms and a variety of carefully chosen windows, selected purposefully to ensure that guests have the best vantage points from which to enjoy far-reaching views of the dramatic John O’Groats scenery. With a panorama that stretches from across the Pentland Firth onto the islands of Stroma and the Orkneys, these are unquestionably some of the most breathtaking coastal views in Scotland.

Barring the pristine beauty of the natural environment, the undoubted jewel in the crown of the John O’Groats Inn, it is the individual private Residences that take pride of place on the site. In addition to the main building, the Inn maintains 23 such residences, built to the same high standard which saw Natural Retreats pick up an award for John O’Groats’ sister property in the Yorkshire Dales. Just as the apartments in the main building are designed to give the best views possible around the area, so too is each residence uniquely positioned to showcase the majesty of the natural background. Sustainable thinking is, again, deliberately and conscientiously thought out here. To protect each residence from the exhilarating winds that billow over the landscape, the Retreat now incorporates ‘bunds’ – naturally landscaped mounds that both act as wind-breakers and afford additional privacy to each residence. Even the roofs atop each building has been designed with the environment in mind – the tightly insulated, spacious cabins feature living roofs made with a unique blend of sedum and wildflower. The result leaves one wondering whether these incredibly dappled creations have simply sprung out of the ground of their own free will. Anyone familiar with the British Isles will know the importance of the area as a heritage sight – particularly with regards to the traditional ‘End to End’ challenge, whereby participants make the adventurous journey from one end of the country’s mainland to the other. They would also,

in all likelihood, be aware of the incredible beauty and diversity of the ecosystem in this part of Scotland, perfectly isolated against the Highlands on one side and the remote, perhaps even underappreciated, splendour of the North Sea on the other. With this in mind, the Inn offers guests the chance to experience this unique side of nature at first hand. In addition to cliff walking and treks into unspoilt forests or sandy white beaches (from which, on a clear night, one can sometimes catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights), the retreat organises sea safaris for visitors to potentially encounter Orca (‘killer’) whales, grey sales and a myriad more oceanic flora and fauna. The truth is that it must be tempting to let nature take centre stage when developing a site so richly steeped in beauty, history and prestige. Sustainable lifestyle, although of paramount importance, has become an expectation amongst savvy, conscientious travels. What is so impressive about the Natural Retreats re-development at John O’Groats is the group’s willingness to look beyond the obvious and expected and ensure that every detail is thoroughly and properly thought out. It is as if the company have taken their concierge policy – where they provide a dedicated travel advisory team for every visit (so rare for a company that specialises in self-catered trips) – and applied the same level of care to every aspect of their properties. It is an exceptional trait for such an ambitious company to have – and one that they display and act upon with aplomb.

landmark, positioned at the northerly pinnacle of the British mainland, and updated it to a standard of contemporary comfort and style.


n keeping with the group’s sensitive (not to mention sensible) thinking with regards to sustainability, the property, originally built in 1875, has been restored with a preference for using local craftsmen and materials wherever possible. Given Natural Retreats’ clearly defined strategic nous for sustainable and environmentally friendly redevelopment, one might ask why we have not picked up on this over and above the group’s purported attention to detail? The answer is immediately apparent to anyone who steps foot into the John O’Groats Inn: the former is borne

out - and taken to new heights - by the latter. The main building has been updated in such a way as to retain all but one (the now redundant flagpole) of the individual, iconic features of the original construction. Caithness stone and Scottish Larch timber bedeck the inn’s excellently insluated yet impressively staunch-looking walls and parquet floors. Where original buildings remained at a high standard, Natural Retreats have incorporated them into the overall masterplan of the area’s regeneration. The old cottar’s house – traditionally

John O’Groats, Wick, Caithness KW1 4YR, UK

the dwelling of a Highland’s peasant farmer – on the site has been a part of the area since time immemorial and was inhabited until fairly recently. As such, rather than see it destroyed or become dilapidated, the building has been carefully renovated to house the site’s Outfitters – a shop for clothing, equipment and all manner of supplies to allow guests to explore the breathtaking surroundings of the Scottish Highlands. Similarly, the storehouse – developed into a fairly simplistic portable cabin until as recently as 2010 – has been re-imagined as a quirky, design-led space that boasts kitchen facilities, wood-burning fires and

Phone:+44 844 384 3166 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

geoffrey kent

Founder of Abercombie & Kent Travel

Geoffrey Kent,

the man behind the eponymous travel company (there is no Abercrombie), is one of the best raconteurs I have ever had the pleasure to meet. That is not his claim to fame, of course – not as far as the general public is aware, anyway. He is better known as a pioneer who keeps re-inventing the art of travel as a matter of inclination but also to ward off attempts at imitation. Among the polo playing crowd, he is known as an intrepid player – one of the best in fact - with a number of major trophies to his name. He and I both know that I am at his home to hear about Abercrombie & Kent, but the man is irrepressible and the tales literally pour out of him. He tells me that David Rockefeller, profiled in B Beyond a few years back, was the great catalyst behind the company as it now is. Not only did he give young Kent one of his first major breaks when he let him organise a business conference in Africa, he remains a client and a friend to this day. Fifty years ago, Kent started a small travel company with his parents - with not much more than a refrigerated Bedford truck and his mother’s silver ice bucket - and has since turned it into a formidable brand that strides miles ahead of any other in the industry. This is because, in addition to all those things mentioned above, he is also a visionary with a head for business and a talent for perseverance that are truly impressive. Not content with being ‘our travel man in Kenya’, young Kent decided to broaden the company base in the ‘70s by going to North Africa and to Egypt in particular. ‘Everyone should see the pyramids before they die’, he says, ‘it’s the number 1 bucket list item’. Having taken a Nile cruise before this was fashionable, he came up with the idea of leasing the entire boat used for filming Death on the Nile and organising his own trips. The first attempt ended up in near disaster and taught him a valuable lesson: that it is better to control the operation from start to end than rely on any suppliers.

The way he tells the story is anecdotal, as these things become after time, but you sense that it must have been a watershed point for him. ‘I had this very VIP group from New York. They were all having a drink on board when the engine was started. The engine hadn’t been used forever, of course, and suddenly, this huge cloud of soot landed on everything. The guests were all completely covered in it, none of the toilets worked, nothing worked…’ Kent cancelled the trip and flew his guests back to New York. ‘Lucky mine wasn’t a very big company at the time’, he says, ‘or this would have been a major PR disaster. This was my first experiment of trying to get out of Kenya and while the idea was right, the execution was bad’. I suppose others might have dissolved then and there in a pool of embarrassment, but not Geoffrey Kent. Undeterred, he decided to build his own small ship, put a swimming pool on it (the first ever on a Nile river boat) and hire the best local guides. This ‘worked perfectly’. He knew then that he would have to build his own end user product (EUP in Abercrombie & Kent parlance) and ensure that the guides were indeed great, providing that ‘last mile of the experience’. He hired and trained local people, Kenyans and Egyptians, and made sure there were always enough guides on each trip to act as hosts. Guests could meet the guides’ families, talk about the country with a native and have a feeling of belonging. In the 70’s, this must have been a life-changing experience. Geoffrey Kent could have easily carried on like that for a good long time and certainly until newcomers came to challenge his established operation. But the man is nothing if not a strategist, so he looked at options of spreading the operation into new territories instead – places where ‘you couldn’t drink the water’. As ever, there is an anecdote that accompanies the quip. ‘My father went to Kenya in 1936 with the King’s African Rifles’, he begins. ‘Whenever we asked, ‘what are we going to do these holidays’, he’d reply, ‘we are going to another place where you can’t drink the water’. ‘He loved that expression. It meant, of course, we would be going to a place that was exciting, a place where few people had ever been.

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We went all over Africa, on these truly amazing trips. So, my strategy was and still is, where is the next place where you can’t drink the water?’ His strategy is, in fact, more elaborate than that. He would go to a place, buy the EUP, build the logistics around it and add that famous last mile of experience, the guides. Still in the 1970’s he was already spreading to South Africa and looking at India. The country had two attractions: water you couldn’t drink and polo. Kent ‘s polo playing career is well-documented. He was one of the world’s best amateur players in his time and captained Prince Charles’ team. His slightly out of sequence (1980s) anecdote is part of the game’s colourful history and one where he was centre stage. He was asked to be a referee at a polo match in the 1980s when one of the then top players, Col RS “Pickles” Sodhi broke his collarbone in a big collision. Knowing it’s very hard to replace a 5 goal player, Geoffrey Kent had a premonition of what was coming as he watched the Maharajah of Jaipur stride towards him. “Bubbles”, as the Maharajah is affectionately known, used every argument in the book, including old regiment loyalty and personal friendship, to persuade Kent to step in and replace Sodhi. ‘Wait a bit,’ thought Kent, ‘I have never ridden these horses, I am not psyched up…’, then he decided not to over-think it. ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ They had to announce on the loudspeaker that breeches, boots and helmet were needed in his size. Once kitted out and on the field, he had, he says ‘a sheer lucky ball, and then another and another’. He scored 3 goals in all and won the India Open Championship.

But back in the 70’s, his first thought was that no one was promoting India and the sheer excitement of it properly. It was Aisha, the late Rajmata of Jaipur, who encouraged him to go to the Pushkar Fair, because ‘all people do when they come to India is sit around the palaces all day long’. Just like Aisha, who was as outspoken as she was beautiful….

Kent went on to become the first company to offer a high end camp at Pushkar. From India, he got the confidence to spread even further afield and started taking groups to Nepal (he even took Prince Charles on expeditions there) and to Bhutan. One of the places he always wanted to go to was Sri Lanka, but was deterred by the continual problems in the country. Last year, he finally bought an office and raised the A&K flag there. ‘Where aren’t you?’, I ask him. He explains that when he considers a new destination, the first question is: ‘Do we have our own ground operating company there?’ ‘We are not in Brazil. We sell Brazil and operate ships on the Amazon River, but we don’t actually own a ground operating company there. My wife is from Brazil and we have a home in Florianopolis. Brazil has a lot of potential. It is a vast, beautiful and largely undiscovered country but there are no 5 star properties, so we would like to do that in the future.’ But the thing that most excites Geoffrey Kent at the moment is his new venture: private jet safaris. He has just come back, he informs me, from the Serengeti, where he took 40 people on a private A&K jet to watch the wildebeest migration. ‘Since the very early days of A&K, I decided that I wanted to take on tours very sophisticated people (who are usually very wealthy people). I’ve never had an interest in a mass market operation and A&K is the only company that has never compromised on this. But you have to continually come up with new product because others are always trying to copy us. One of my ‘favourite’ marketing pitches is: ‘We are as good as A&K ‘ – which, of course, they are not – ‘but half the price’. He says his new venture re-focused his mind on that vital component of the A&K trips: the guides. He decided to introduce a new concept – that of hosts. The A&K hosts had to be ‘top notch people’ – sophisticated, charming, knowledgeable and above all, very well-travelled. They needed to be able to tell a good yarn.

It must have occurred to Geoffrey somewhere along the line that he was really looking for a clone, because he decided to do the first trips himself. He has since found 3 hosts – people who have been in and out of A&K, know the company well and have been clients in the past. They are all the things he describes above AND physically fit. He has, of course, also kept the guides who provide the local knowledge. How did the idea occur to him? He considered what he had by way of end user product that could not be easily replicated and then it came to him. ‘Why don’t I do private jets, I was one of the first to go on a Concorde flight and we (A&K) did round the world trips by Concorde that were very successful. Plus, I know a lot about this business. Let’s launch that again.’ ‘So I launched two: one private jet trip around Africa and another around the world which will take place in October 2014.’ ‘I am pioneering this, so I am doing it myself. I planned it by asking myself and answering this question: If I had a private jet, where would I go?’ ‘For the African tour, I took Lalibela in Ethiopia, then Uganda to see the gorillas (I was the first to build a gorilla camp there), then the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti ). I have a camp there, in the middle of the migration route, from where you can watch 1.5 million wildebeest - only during these 3 months of the year. It’s a fantastic feeling. Namibia is next, then the Victoria Falls in Botswana, where my favourite camp, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, sits on a 4000 ha reserve. It is the best camp in the world. We finish in Cape Town, drinking beautiful wine and having great food and that’s the end of the trip. When we first announced the trip, the whole thing was sold in 6 weeks. My office said, if it is this successful why don’t we sell 15 days and then the return trip? And that is what we did. The round the world trip by private jet was based on the same idea. We will leave from Miami, fly to the Amazon, the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the South Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea, the Komodo Is-

lands, Madagascar, the Maasai Mara and back home. If I had a private jet, that’s the sort of trip I’d plan. This trip sold out in 15 days.’ What, I wondered, makes his formula so successful? What he tells me makes perfect sense but sounds much easier than it must be. Geoffrey Kent knows his logistics better than anyone else and this is what his clients pay for. ‘I worked out years ago that the number one thing that ruins a trip is baggage. Having to deal with packing, unpacking, customs, immigration, lost luggage… I knew I had to control that. A&K has its very own ‘Travelling Bell Boy’ service which takes over the luggage logistics. Bags are labelled, colour-coded and numbered; they get loaded and unloaded, taken through immigration, taken to camp or a lodge and placed in the guest’s room. When the guest leaves, the same thing is repeated in reverse. The guests never see their luggage, except when they need it. Our luggage trucks are built on the FedEx model, driving for up to 8-9 hours from one destination to the next.’ Logistics aside, A&K is very much like its founder: an adrenaline-powered adventure-fuelled concept with a certain undeniable style. Kent goes on, ‘My whole life has been about putting together something that’s completely raw - a kind of primal activity that’s full of underlying excitement and where anything could happen – then counter-balancing it with the most beautiful

comfortable camps, complete with flushing loos, hot showers, electric lights… These camps are very much like super hotel rooms, but transported in a truck.’ He adds, with a chuckle that he’s always marvelled at the average American’s definition of danger: driving through the amber light on the way to work. The A&K trips are designed, he says, so that people can see really unusual things in safety. Building on the success of, and obvious demand for private jet safaris, he is planning trips for smaller groups – 24 or even just 12 people at a time – and for 9 to 12 days, to accommodate the perennially busy schedule of his typical customer. And while East Africa and India remain popular destinations, he will be adding less familiar ones, such as little explored parts of South America, China, West Africa and the vast land-locked central region of the African continent. These are trips for wealthy aficionados, he says, who know that there will be an element of risk, but appreciate the fact that everything is taken care of. How much risk, I ask? By way of reply he tells me another story, this time to do with space travel and how he went up in a supersonic jet fighter, an English Electric Lightning, in South Africa, just for the hell of it, but also because he has a rule: test every package before taking clients. ‘I’d push the envelope to the absolute edge’, he says, ‘but will pull back if it’s not totally safe for my clients. I have two mottos:

1. Go anywhere you can’t drink the water 2.

I’ll do it myself first. If it doesn’t work, modify or re-design it’

The private jet travel concept opens up the whole world, he says, and an off shoot of that is a new business model – planning trips for people who own their jets, but who wouldn’t know or can’t be bothered to plan an exciting itinerary, not to mention take care of logistics A&K style. He plans to have distinct departure points for different round the world trips, in addition to the 62 or so offices he already has around the world. The beauty of the concept is that a competitor would be hard-pressed to copy it. Kent goes back to my first question: is he peeved at imitators? The risk, he says, would deter most would-be competitors, because the financial commitment is just too high. So Geoffrey Kent is at it again – pioneering - except this time round and after decades of reinventing the art of travel, he knows exactly how to do it. Why is he so driven, I wonder? The answer is an oft-repeated line that punctuates our conversation: ‘You have to innovate’, says Kent, ‘you can’t just sit on your laurels.’ And I have to ask you, dear reader, if you had to pick any travelling companion, for a trip of a lifetime, would you pick anyone else?

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SABI SABI A quick glance (and gasp) at the stunning surroundings of Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa should be enough to impress you. More than that – it should instil some understanding as to the sense of guardianship felt by those who maintain it. The Lodge is rightly proud of its role in overseeing and protecting the breathtaking swathes of perfect wilderness for a period of 35 years.


our equally luxurious lodges sum up the standard of safari excellence that Sabi Sabi has set in the region of Sabi Sand Wildtuin, part of greater Kruger National Park. Between them, the lodges reflect the heritage of the reserve as a whole, with reference to the historical thrill of the newly cultivated bushveld in the 1800s ('Yesterday'), the comfort and updated traditionalism of the contemporary safari experience ('Today') and the resort's incipient approach to its future of ecological conservation and responsibility ('Tomorrow'). A tribute to the pioneers of the grand steam train era of the late 1800’s, the historically themed Selati Camp is the Sabi Sabi of 'Yesterday'. The most romantic of Sabi Sabi’s four lodges, Selati conjures up images of a time when life was slower, a little gentler and a lot more indulgent. The 8 beautifully appointed suites, including the Ivory Presidential

Suite and Lourenco Marques Honeymoon Suite, are filled with authentic antiques, vintage décor and railway memorabilia - offering intimacy with a dash of nostalgic opulence. The lodge suites are all air-conditioned with en-suite bathrooms and outdoors showers. The ‘Today’ experience is found at Bush Lodge, with its traditional safari style made new and exciting with a vibrant and eclectic mix of furnishings and décor garnered from all corners of the African continent. Accommodating only 25 couples, the lodge has earned a reputation of warmth, service excellence and personalised attention. Bush Lodge has two magnificent thatched viewing decks and visitors can indulge in watching the abundant wildlife that regularly come to drink from the nearby waterhole. Being a family friendly lodge, the popular EleFun Centre has age appropriate children’s

programmes, which are themed around the bushveld environment. The lodge also offers the award-winning Amani African Spa with a range of holistic treatments. Little Bush Camp continues the ‘Today’ experience and exudes the warmth of consummate African hospitality. The lodge is intimate – with just 6 suites, making it an ideal retreat for those seeking an idyllic hideaway. All suites are air-conditioned with en-suite bathroom and outdoor shower as well as private decks each with private spa bath, where you can enjoy the surrounding bush in complete seclusion. Earth Lodge, the Sabi Sabi of 'Tomorrow', is a celebration of ecological responsibility, which belies its 5-Star rating and standing as one of the world’s top 10 destinations. Sculpted into a slope of the earth, the lodge merges so well into the

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surrounding bushveld that it is virtually invisible.

Sabi Sabi 4 Jameson Avenue, Melrose Estate, Johannesburg, South Africa

Phone: +27 11 447-7172 Fax: +27 11 442-0728

Earth Lodge has been finely crafted to reflect Africa’s mineral wealth in tones of platinum, bronze, silver, gold and copper. Magnificent chandeliers, metal sculptures and natural fabrics all enhance the lodge's perfect proportions and gracefully curved walls in textures and hues borrowed from nature. Designed to instil a sense of peace, the new-look lodge is the ultimate luxury escape. Each of the 13 suites, including the renowned Amber Suite, has a private plunge pool and are all gloriously luxurious. Away from the main lodge, a quiet meditation garden leads to the award-winning Amani Spa, while the underground cellar and its enviable wine collection is a bonus for connoisseurs. For the more energetic visitors, there is also a new exercise centre that – unlike your gym at home, or many other for that matter – can boast endless

views of outstanding natural beauty. As if that were not enough, guests can also make use of the unique ‘day bar’. Perfectly positioned at the pool, this is the ideal place to doze on white muslinenclosed salas or relax, ankle-deep in water, at stone-topped tables with a refreshing cocktail– all the while taking in the unending natural beauty of the bushveld. Simply put: the Earth Lodge is a remarkable space that continues to exceed our expectations in terms of design, décor, sustainability and sheer, unrivalled opulence. The same, however, could easily be said of Sabi Sabi as a whole. It is no surprise to see it continually voted amongst the world's finest safari destinations – especially when one considers that this is a far cry from a glorified 'glamping' trip. The area is blessed with an astonishing variety of flora and fauna. Guests have an excellent chance of close encounters with the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant,

buffalo and rhino – as well as cheetah, wild dog and a plethora of other species indigenous to the area. Against the backdrop of Africa’s ever-changing landscapes and rhythms - from the clear light of dawn and the pastel haze of late afternoon to the fiery sunsets and sudden onset of night - the abundance of animals and extraordinary variety of birds exist in their unfenced natural environment, as they have done for centuries. In terms of genuine Big Game and other wildlife spottings, this is the real deal. Sabi Sabi represents a wild, untamed indulgence in a setting that only special parts of Africa can provide. While resorts of this ilk are doing all they can to protect, enhance and sustain this sort of incredible safari experience, there is no guarantee that it will last forever. All the more reason to embrace it now, while we still can.

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If ever there was an apt name for a hotel, this has got to be it – because, of all the ‘royal’ establishments out there, this one is truly regal.

And so, the Royal Mansour has done everything bigger and more luxurious than any of the Marrakech greats. To begin with, the hotel could just as easily be a museum or a gallery celebrating Moroccan craftsmanship at its absolute best. 1200 craftsmen worked for 3 years to create mosaics of exquisite beauty, gold leaf ceilings, carved walls, and a multitude of exceptional details that make for an exceptional interior.

fireplace (you would appreciate the wood fire if visiting in the winter, even though the days are balmy) and a terrace with a hot tub spa.


re you going to Marrakech on a commercial flight? Don’t worry, the RM will give you the private jet treatment on arrival anyway: as you step on the tarmac, its representatives whisk you off to a VIP area while they deal with passport control and luggage collection.

The through walk starting at the entrance and culminating at the garden and swimming pool is a succession of plunge pools, intricate bird cages, fountains and damasked sofas that make you feel as if you’ve suddenly alighted on the set of One Thousand and One Nights.

The ‘barely there’ staff use a dedicated service entrance and would rekindle the fire on request. We were pleased to have our fruit platter replenished daily and appreciated the personalised, gold-embossed stationery left for us in a leather folder – a special touch that I have not encountered anywhere else on my travels.

The black limousine delivers you to the hotel compound where you are met by the prerequisite Moroccan dress staff opening the gates to splendid walled gardens that hide 52 private riads from prying eyes.

Our riad, although one of the smallest, is spread over 3 floors and comes with its enclosed open air courtyard where you can relax while stargazing, a sumptuous sitting room with a real

There are no rooms at Royal Mansour – every guest gets his or her individual slice of paradise, complete with their own spa or small pool (these, in addition to the two main pools on the grounds – one open, the other covered). Marrakech has long been the secret of the beautiful set but in the last decade or so, the secret got out and the proliferation of sumptuous old houses turned into B&Bs or boutique hotels has seen the city metamorphose into one of the most chic destinations in the world. As the King of Morocco invested into Royal Mansour, there was never going to be any question of competition – even though it is not easy to compete with established and iconic landmarks such as the Mamounia next door.


Royal Mansour Marrakech

The middle floor houses the sleeping quarters, with the signature wooden shutters, soft leathers and textured Moroccan fabrics. The bathroom is a wet room with an Olympian size rose marble pool.

The hotel spa is housed in its own building of classic build and proportions, dreamily positioned in a secret garden.

The hotel has 3 restaurants fringing its main courtyard: a traditional Moroccan that was perpetually full, a Grande Table Française that is suitably formal and the breakfast/lunch one in the gardens by the pool that is deservedly popular. Indeed, we spotted Jack Lang, former French Minister of Culture, there on the opening day of the Marrakech Biennale. The Royal Mansour is not a hotel for travellers looking for value - rather, it is for those looking to experience a dream-like indulgence of regal proportions.

Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti 40 000 Marrakech, Morocco Phone: + 212 5 29 80 80 80 Email:

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Kasbah du Toubkal

There is a word that refuses to be dismissed when discussing Morocco's Kasbah du Toubkal – liminality. Used in various contexts over the years, the most direct translation from its original Latin etymology is “threshold”. Fantasy writers have long been fond of describing the idea of a liminal plane: an indistinct time or place between two definitive points a world between worlds.


tanding on the cusp of the Kasbah de Toubkal, further explanations seem unnecessary.

It is an awe-inspiring sight – a place befitting fantasies or legends. Perched delicately on a precipice, straddling the divide between the Atlas Mountains and the flatter region further north, this former summer house of a local caïd (feudal baron) is best described as a bastion of tranquility in the foothills of the highest peak in the range - the Jbel (Mount) Toubkal. Its solitary position in front of this massive summit seems nigh-on impossible, and it is no great surprise that this was the location chosen by Martin Scorcese for his mystical epic, Kundun, based on the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. What makes the Kasbah du Toubkal even more fascinating is its relative proximity to tourist haven Marrakech. The guesthouse offers car services to and from the city which take just 90minutes in total. The fact that it neighbours on so well-colonised an area as Marrakech should not be underestimated – in fact, it goes some way to explaining the underlying principles of the Kasbah. Established in 1995, the founders – Chris and Mike McHugo – opened the doors to the Kasbah du Toubkhal with a very clear vision of sustainability. In so many cases the word rings hollow, a mere buzzword designed to appease local councils, the community, visitors and (of course) awardgivers. Not this time. After spending some considerable time travelling around North Africa, and Morroco in particular, the McHugo brothers bought the building that now houses their guesthouse with a view to ensuring that the Berber lifestyle that surrounds and permeates it would never be diminished. The Kasbah, then, is the embodiment of an adventure that never ended, a dream that never died. The old caïd's summer house was subsequently restored to a high standard to meet the burgeoning expectations of foreign tourists who were quickly beginning to flood into Marrakech - but also in a totally vernacular style. Rather than charge excessively for an incongruous style of hospitality, the Kasbah is reasonably priced to suit travellers and trekkers on all budgets. Rather than hire staff trained overseas, its employees are instead sourced solely from the local Berber community. Rather than leave you with full stomachs and empty words about the environment,

the management adds an additional 5% on your bill to be put towards the development of the local area. [ed: Before commenting, cynics would do well to investigate the Kasbah's developments in the local mountain town of Imlil, where the Kasbah and its owners have built two rubbish incinerators and placed bins around the area to preserve the environment. Just one example of many such efforts.] The results? Authentic, responsible tourism at its best. The Kasbah is a far cry from a cushy, cosmopolitan riyadh – it is a mountain dwelling, built as a comfortable base for trekking and expeditions into the breathtakingly beautiful Toubkhal national park. That said, this is no Spartan cell. The Kasbah offers rooms ranging from a standard bedroom for two to two types of suite (Junior and Apartment) which offer private terraces. The latter, of course, is the real luxury. The main building is situated between a waterfall fed stream – which the Imlil villagers still use for washing purposes – below it and a series of mountain dwellings above, on the crest of snow-tipped Jbel Toubkal. The views from the Kasbah's terraces into the Atlas foothills are predictably stunning. Guests at the Kasbah are motivated to explore the local area by participating in complimentary walks in and around Imlil. For the more adventurous, traditional camel riding and day and overnight treks are also offered – including a daunting ascent to the 4167m pinnacle of Jbel Toubkal. For more easy-going guests, the Kasbah also offers a hammam (steam bath). In either case, however, sweaty and/or steamy, visitors should be warned that while the bar is a welcome drinking hole after a day's exertions, it is also alcohol free in accordance with the Muslim beliefs and local Berber traditions. Those who wish to partake are encouraged to bring their own supplies from free-flowing Marrakech. Once again, we find ourselves reflecting on the liminal nature of this miraculous mountain retreat, caught in between the traditional Berber environment and the often rapacious tourist industry that continues to have such a huge impact on Morocco. The Kasbah du Toubkhal has been the recipient of so much praise over the years for perfecting their services for the latter in (what has so far been) a largely successful attempt to preserve the former. What makes the Kasbah so special is its ability to exist and thrive in its own way in between these two contrasting landscapes. With one foot in each, the spectacular hotel seems not so much a world apart as a world within the two. Through total appreciation and understanding of each, the Kasbah du Toubkhal encompasses ideas of indulgence – and then transcends them through its attitude towards responsible tourism and sustainability. It is a truly remarkable destination. For more information, please visit Tel: +33 5 49 05 01 35

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riad el fenn It is a tough ask to create a stand-out riyad in Marrakech – the jewel in the crown of Moroccan opulence. That, however, is the mission statement of El Fenn, the Vanessa Branson and Howell James owned retreat hidden away in the heart of the Medina quarter of the city – and one that is fulfilled with consummate ease.

occasionally extreme heat of this sub-tropical environment.


ne of the key differences between El Fenn and any one of the many other luxury riyads in this sybaritic city is that it is not, in fact, one riyad, but seven. It is a boutique hotel made up of several interconnected private residences – instantly differentiating it from the enclosed oases that flood the winding alleys of this North African haven of cosmopolitan art and culture. Reflecting on a hotel split up in such a way, one might logically assume that the space loses its sense of intimacy. Perhaps that is the case but, honestly, how often is a hotel described as 'intimate' anything other than a confined space made cramped by strangers? The El Fenn philosophy is a welcome relief for those who travel to escape unwanted social encounters. By encompassing a larger area, the hotel ensures that all its guests are given proper living space. With a total of just 20 individually styled rooms and suites, the El Fenn is a breath of fresh air in a city where personal space is often at a premium. Guest rooms are separated around different parts of the buildings, which together form a large block near the Bab El Ksour gate - situated a mere three minutes away from Marrakech's main square, the Djemaa el Fna. Traditional courtyard rooms form the basis for any riyad and the same is true of El Fenn – although, again, the amount of space is palpable. Double rooms containing king size beds dwarf the frequently cosy but compact alternatives in competing accommodation. The colonnade rooms are larger still. Facing outwards towards the city, each has either an outside seating area or an oversized bathroom to enjoy – handy in the

More than space, however, it is the unique finishing touches which make the El Fenn a stand-out destination. There is a lot to be said for traditional Moorish and Berber hospitality – indeed, unlike other cultures, the North African standards of comfort have been highly praised and little-changed for hundreds of years – but Marrakech is not a city that stands solely on accepted ceremony. It is a location that is in a constant state of evolution, one which puts it amongst the most exciting travel hotspots in the world today. As such, the urbane touches of the owners are welcome in El Fenn: leather lined walls, Venetian mirrors and Italian marble compete with (and often complement) killim and tadelakt finishes throughout. Marrakech Biennalle founder Vanessa Branson's touches are particularly noteworthy – each room is adorned with artwork from her private collection. The personalised flourishes are all the more evident in the hotel's more spacious quarters. The junior and imperial suites all feature separate sleeping and seating areas and are designed to act more as a casual reception for friends than a more clinical 'guest suite'. That welcoming atmosphere is something that harks back to the original intentions of the owners, who initially bought the grand old site as a holiday home for themselves. Ever since, that intention has infused the evolution of the space. It remains something which epitomises the El Fenn ethos: a dedication the idea that this is more than a holiday spot: it is, at its core, a private residence – a proverbial 'home away from home'. There is no greater testament to this than the fact that Vanessa Branson keeps a personal riyad in the El Fenn named after her, This four bedroom nook, replete with its own private courtyard and separate roof terrace, a kitchen, dining room and a plunge

2 Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco Phone:+212 5244-41210 E-mail:

pool, is the ideal place to entertain during family or group trips and, priced at just €600/night, it represents excellent value when set against the higher price for four individual rooms. For those travelling in smaller groups, the private pool suits are a well-documented delight, with the Sunday Times voting one of these rooms one of the world's top 10 sexiest. By contrast, the other features mezzanine accommodation in the style of a New York loft conversion. Key to the popularity of 'Riad Vanessa' is the fact that those staying here have full access to facilities at the rest of the hotel. The El Fenn spa (and modern style hammam) is a smorgasbord for the senses, with bathing, massages and facials all on the menu in addition to the unique aromatherapy that infuses the city as a whole. The hotel also treats guests to three separate swimming pools - two lined in carrara marble plus an incredible rooftop plunge pool with views overlooking the Koutoubia mosque – the largest in the city. The rooftop lounge – a staple of Morrocan architecture – is taken to a quite magnificent level of luxury at the El Fenn. Sitting in the Berber style open tent here commands possibly the best views in the city and, in turn, allows the eyes to wander further afield, where the imposing Atlas mountains hold sway. Naturally, the El Fenn staff are wellaccustomed to organising excursions for guests and the diversity and splendour of the Moroccan environment can all be easily reached from this restful and sumptuously well-designed base.

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Kensington Place A quick click onto Kensington’s Place’s website is revelatory as to the entire philosophy of the hotel. Where some destinations seek to dazzle and entice with (what they hope to be) tempting rhetoric or (more often than not) tired, trite verbiage, this beautifully arranged modern boutique keeps it simple.


ever has the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ been used more aptly than in this case: a bird’s eye view showing the location of Kensington Palace tells us almost all we need to know. Perfectly situated in a leafy district (Higgovale) set away from central Cape Town, Kensington Place is: Under 5km away from the cableway to take visitors up to Table Mountain, the historic Victoria & Alfred Waterfront complex, the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) and the Camps Bay and Clifton beach areas. 14km away from the Kirstesnbosch National Botanical Garden, hailed as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world.20km away from the Cape Town International Airport Looking at the hotel itself, something else is immediately apparent – even from the exterior. Kensington Place is a small building. The word ‘exclusive’ is bandied about liberally in travel reviews but a hotel comprising of just 8 suites surely deserves that descriptor. It gives off an air of complete tranquillity at a location surrounded by foliage and backed by the nearby Table Mountain. To summarise: while Kensington Place is ensconced within what seems to be its own mini-oasis , it is still just a relative stone’s throw away from the most important sights and attractions in the area. It is an urban retreat, hidden away, and minutes from the city itself. The hotel’s straightforward way of thinking is carried through almost (see below) every aspect of one’s stay. Kensington Place’s much-lauded kitchen presents its guests with the assertion that good food is created by using only the freshest locally sourced ingredients, and follows that up with a matter-offact menu – both in terms of layout (simple black text on a plain white background) and choice (Steak

& Chips, a Cajun Spiced Chicken Wrap and a signature Caesar Salad all appear on the menu at the time of writing). The results, however, are quite spectacular. By opting for a seasonal menu, the hotel ensures that they make up in exquisite taste whatever they might lose in frills and fancy. Simple, top quality and fresh ingredients, cooked to perfection, can rival the most elaborate meal any time. Especially, some might say, when the former is a deliciously cooked breakfast, which Kensington Place serves throughout the day to accommodate late-risers on their own private terraces – as well as those with less orthodox eating habits, who can choose to eat al fresco anywhere around the hotel. We mentioned above that one aspect of Kensington Place demonstrated a noticeable break in character from the direct, straightforward approach that epitomises the hotel overall. That, dear readers, is in the décor. Where quality speaks for itself in every other aspect of this beautiful bolt-hole, the design practically jumps for joy. The outside pool is stunningly lit up by carefully discreet but warming lights in the evening, reminding us a little of a Moroccan Riyadh transposed to a southern African setting. Inside, beautiful, quirky artwork bedecks the walls; delightfully individual pieces of furniture abound. It’s modern, tasteful, comfortable and a little bit special; a real treat for those tired of the off-the shelf ‘luxury’ look. A word to the wise acts as a final endorsement of this simply stunning getaway: be sure to book early. Kensington Place is regularly booked out 10-12 weeks in advance. Exclusive retreat? Undoubtedly, yes. Secret? Not by any stretch of the imagination. This is, patently, one of the best hotels in Cape Town: it’s small wonder that people keep going back.

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Yenn Wong Hotelier and Restaurateur


design plays a hugely important role throughout the hospitality industry, but it has clearly taken on a special significance with all of your projects – from hotels to restaurants. Why did you decide to make this such a key aspect of your business plan and how does this vary in different countries/locations?

through the JIA group – shortly after the emergence of another Italian eaterie, Mercato, in the same area. Obviously there are differences enough between the two, particularly evident in the styles of head chefs Enzo Carbone (Capo) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Mercato), but what specifically attracted you to invest in this sort of project?

I’ve always loved design and find that people are universally becoming increasingly interested in design as part of their normal lifestyle. Even the budget traveller today is design-sensitive (It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive). Same with restaurants - people are no longer satisfied with just good food; they also want the right atmosphere which is created through design, lighting, music and attitude.

I don’t feel the opening of any one Italian restaurant should prevent someone from opening another, especially since the two concepts are different. As you know, we’ve worked with Enzo Carbone previously and found the Italian ‘Cookhouse’ concept of Capo particularly interesting. Also its location was a plus, so we went for it.

Do you find it difficult to switch off while travelling? Being directly involved in the hospitality industry must mean that every holiday is more like a scouting trip/ corporate espionage! While I can switch off when travelling if I wanted, I actually love experiencing and discovering things. Hotels and restaurants play a big part in the travel experience and while my eyes are constantly open for new food, drinks, design and styles, it is actually a pleasure and therefore also relaxing. Are you finished with opening new hotels for now? You seem to have made a clear move away from that side of your business and more towards the restaurant industry. I have not completely moved away from hotels and am in fact currently working on a new hotel project in Hong Kong, details of which cannot be released just yet. But yes, our focus has been on restaurants lately - I prefer to work organically on my business growth based on the best opportunities that present themselves, rather than on a firm and fixed long term plan. We were intrigued by the decision to open Capo on the Bund – the Italian restaurant you co-own

The perceptions of top level service differ vastly depending on whether one’s values are European or Chinese. Is that a fair assessment, would you say? If so, how do you rationalise the two in a European restaurant in China? While the two cultures may be different, I think the basics of good service in a restaurant are fairly similar – it’s about consistent good food, friendly, courteous yet non-intrusive service and of course attention to detail. We have staff who are familiar with both cultures and recognize what both, our Western and Chinese clients expect, so they are able to handle accordingly. Have you targeted any other emerging areas in Shanghai or further afield that you would like to target for developmental projects? Definitely. Over the years we have accumulated very good experience on how to operate in China and we see this as very valuable experience. China is a very important market for our business and we will always seek opportunities there if one comes up! You seem to have a preference for opening Italian restaurants (Capo at Rockbund, Issimo at JIA Shanghai)! Is there any particular reason being that?

Does Italian cuisine or culture represent something in particular that you feel is in demand/is lacking in the contemporary Chinese restaurant scene? In Shanghai we focused on Italian cuisine as we were working closely previously with Salvatore Cuomo and then with Enzo Carbone. I don’t have a particular preference for just Italian restaurants, although it is a cuisine which other cultures do easily accept. As you know in Hong Kong our collection of restaurants include Italian, Isaan Thai, Chinese, modern tapas, a jamón & sherry bar and we will soon be opening Aberdeen Street Social which will feature modern British cuisine. Are there any projects coming up in the near future that you are particularly excited about? We’ve read that the Aberdeen Street Social - the so-called ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant you are starting with chef Jason Atherton in Hong Kong’s Central area -is due to open in May this year – is that still the case? Can you tell us any more about it? Yes we will be opening Aberdeen Street Social in mid May at PMQ, Hong Kong’s new design and cultural landmark in Central. This is my third collaboration with Michelin star Chef Jason Atherton. It is a two storied restaurant with a very ‘social’ ambience, serving modern British cuisine. There is a chic restaurant on the upper floor and casual dining, bar and a dessert/bakery retail outlet on the ground floor. Both floors have outdoor patios and a garden frontage. Interiors are by Shanghai-based Neri & Hu who, as you know, also designed Capo. I would like to explain that our focus is not farm-to-table, but more on using the freshest and best ingredients available, with a sensitivity to sustainability. What is your personal definition of indulgence – in a word, phrase or sentence? To me, indulgence is being able to do what you want, how you want, whenever you want it.

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TUGU BALI Traditional Balinese Hinduism has long espoused the belief in reincarnation. It is, perhaps, small wonder that the local people have never taken on the conviction of a heavenly afterlife given that, to many, their island represents the closest one can get to paradise on Earth.


ften described as the most romantic location on the tiny Indonesian retreat, Hotel Tugu Bali is nestled between whispering rice fields and the instantly recognisable Batu Bolong Temple on the pristine, sun-kissed Canggu beach. Built upon a passion for the romantic beauty of the art, history and culture of Bali (specifically) and Indonesia (in general), it is not stretching a point to say that this is one of those sights that everyone should see before they die. Even from the outside, the Tugu Bali has the feel of somewhere that has been touched by magic. The effect is partly due to the vast and magnificent collection of priceless Indonesian antiques and artworks that adorn the hotel, but there is something more than sheer materialism (stunning though it is) going on here. Where the enjoyment of pure tropical luxury ends, an other-worldly ambience takes over. It is, quite simply, an intoxicating combination. Moving inside is almost a role reversal. Having been drawn in to the structure and interior of the hotel from

the outside, one's eyes are momentarily distracted to the stunning views of the surrounding Indian Ocean from the Bale Agung lobby. The enchantment doesn't last for long, though, as the lobby itself showcases an exclusive collection of historic Balinese artworks and cultural artifacts, while a glance towards the guest's accommodation reveals the extent of Hotel Tugu's split identity: while the sea holds sway on one side of the resort, the other is awash with a world of lush tropical gardens and wild lotus ponds. Hiding in their midst lie 21 distinct, discreet villas and suites. The magical theme continues into the accommodation, starting with the Puri Le Mayeur Villa, which occupies an area of 200m2 and ‘floats’ above its own 700m2 natural lotus pond. Named after and inspired by the love story of Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, a famous Belgian painter who moved to the island in 1932, and Ni Polok, a renowned Legong dance, the villa showcases original carved furniture by the artist. More obviously, it also hosts a private plunge pool, an open-air lotus pond dining pavilion, a beautiful

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outdoor bath, and a verandah to witness the sun setting against the backdrop of breaking waves. Entering the Walter Spies Pavilion, the other signature suite of the Hotel Tugu, one finds oneself transported to the art deco era of Java in the early 20th century. The eponymously named suite is dedicated to the German poet and artist who made Java and Bali his home in the 1920s. The suite incorporates several original Dutch colonial architectural elements, including the entrance gate, stained-glass windows, and a beautiful headboard made of the artist’s original garden gate. Like the Puri Le Mayeur, the Walter Spies Pavilion also has its own private plunge pool and a private outdoor dining pavilion – plus its own garden and a unique outdoor sunken bath. Beyond the signature villas, the Dedari and Rejang are far from generic alternatives. Each is uniquely arranged and decorated, each features its own little treasures and exotic luxuries, such as silver-decked baths crafted by local artisans, in-room spa areas and – simple but delightful - oversized beds that are scattered with fresh petals at night. It is also worth noting that all the Rejang Suites have a view to the sunset over the Indian ocean. If the setting, accommodation and views are not enough to relax you, the Tugu Bali has also won widespread acclaim for its traditional Spa. Focusing primarily on traditional Indonesian treatments – both physical and spiritual – options range from the hotel's Waroeng Djamoe (herbal healing class) to the Gubug Ngelamun LehaLeha (a head to toe pampering consisting of a spice scrub, milk bath and Javanese massage) and various other massages, water and mantra/ meditiation-based treatments to set one's body and spirit at rest. The sheer variety of treatments on offer means that the Tugu's traditional spa has something for everyone. Dining at the Tugu Bali is also a bespoke experience. Guests are invited to choose their preferred part of the hotel to dine. Private

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candlelit tables are arranged, with the minimum of fuss, in virtually any section of the hotel – be that in the gardens; in a private hut floating above the lotus pond or even tucked away on a discreet spot on the beach. The dining service itself is also a personalised experience. In addition to the venue, the cuisine, rituals, costumes, tableware... everything is mutable depending on one's whim or – more appropriately, on a particular theme that the guest can choose based on the staff's recommendation. A dinner for two, then, can range from a quiet repast under the stars, to a parade by 12 waiters, to an army of 30 people bedecked in 14th century Indonesian style, with the latter recalling the local folk tales that date back hundreds of years. A particular favourite amongst regular patrons is to dine in what is often said to be the most beautiful dining room in the country - the 300-year-old Bale Sutra temple, housed in a spectacular red room and lit with a sea of red candles. Or, to experience the grand, elegant dining of the royal Balinese kings in the past, opt for the 'Bale Puputan', the Balinese 19th century royal dining room of the kings, dedicated to Balinese heroes.

HOTEL TUGU BALI Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu Beach, Bali-Indonesia Tel. +62 361 4731 701 • +62 8786 1838 680 • +62 8180 5307 164 /

Conversely, for another memorable cultural evening, try the Waroeng Tugu, a more humble, but equally atmospheric, open-air, village kitchen dinner. Based on 15th century customs, the room (lit only by oil lamps) plays host to Iboe (Mother) Soelastri, who is now over 60 years old but who has - we're told – been blessed with her

grandmother’s cooking talent ever since she was four. Iboe invites guests to join her in picking up ingredients from the local market before her cooking classes. Cooking in front of guests in the terracotta, wood-fire kitchen, Iboe also teaches her skills as a class as she goes about her work. After tasting the results, it's plain to see that Iboe's grandmother must have been one hell of a chef. Although the bespoke nature of dining at the Tugu Bali is to be admired, it could be considered secondary to its greatest appeal – that

of its diversity of culinary styles. The hotel offers and incorporates both Balinese and Javanese cuisine into its dining experiences, and it is for this reason (in addition to the undeniable quality of the food itself) that the Tugu resorts are widely held up as the reference point for Indonesian food on the island. Just ask the string of presidents and ministers of Indonesia who can be spotted indulging by those inquisitive or eagle-eyed enough to peer beyond their own slice of islandheaven.

Beyond Indulgence

At Shreyas Retreat in Bangalore, India, however, balance has been restored. Yes, this is a 5 star relaxation retreat but, noticeably, the focus here is very different. The Shreyas way of thinking is shaped by the primary tenet of so many Indian philosophies: that introspection, self-discovery and unfettered self-determination hold the key to a higher quality of life. It is with that in mind that this luxury retreat operates more like an ashram than a getaway resort. The aim is to offer guests a platform for self-discovery and fulfilment through a holistic approach to balanced living and tranquillity.

shreyas retreat Books organised around a given theme lead one to question the full meaning and essence of that theme. Almost inevitably, that will change over time depending on changing cultural attitudes, technological innovations and societies’ changing expectations – amongst other factors. In this case, the meaning of the word ‘Indulgence’ has changed very subtly but nonetheless discernibly over the years.


here, originally (and still today, technically), to indulge means to “allow oneself to take pleasure in”; it now seems that the emphasis has shifted somewhat from a personal agreement to one that puts the responsibility on others’ shoulders. The feeling nowadays is almost that one somehow deserves to be indulged, that pampering is an expectation that should be placed at the doorstep of others, and that we as individuals either do not have the means to indulge ourselves or are simply too jaded to do so.

The idea is put firmly into practice at Shreyas with a routine of daily yoga, meditation sessions, chanting classes, a strict vegetarian and no-alcohol policy and community service. The benefit of this approach is to allow guests true indulgence, in the original sense of the word. The ability to take time away from the stresses of our everyday lives and truly take pleasure is fulfilled in Shreyas’ idyllic setting in the midst of 25 acres of stunning greenlands. Every aspect of the resort is dedicated to this purpose: Yoga Sessions - to rejuvenate and cleanse the body. Meditation sessions and other yogic practices to calm the mind. Spa treatments (Ayurvedic and others) - to rejuvenate the body and remove toxins. Nourishing, organic vegetarian food - to detoxify

and heal the body. An environment and accommodations which allow guests to benefit from the positive energy of nature. Community service to experience the joy of giving. Discussions on yoga philosophy and scriptures - to stimulate the mind. Yoga at Shreyas is, as you might expect, about much more than the traditional physical postures. The idea here is to catalyse one’s thinking/living philosophy through harmonization with the timeless wisdom enshrined within certain aspects of the Indian philosophical tradition. Apart from the Yogasana classes, guests can participate in sessions on Pranayama (understanding and regulating one’s breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal / internalization of sensory inputs), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) processes drawn from the Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga are practised at Shreyas, and sessions are customised for guests to suit their level of experience, as well as any physical ailments they may have. Another elegant twist in the tale of Shreyas Retreat is its corresponding emphasis on providing guests with a totally luxurious setting. For the holistic approach to work, the ashram activities and philosophies for guests are maintained in combination with an utterly relaxing environment. Where a traditional 5 star retreat might offer just the latter, or an ashram would conversely offer just the former, Shreyas insists that the two operating together, in tandem, is what is required for total

indulgence. It is an entrancing proposal: the perfect setting to relax and unwind and the perfect regimen to fully focus on and to take pleasure in what is truly important to you as an individual. Perhaps the defining policy at Shreyas can be encapsulated in the ancient Sanskrit verse “Athithi devo bhava”- ‘the guest is [served as] God’. The outstanding level of personal service and the attention to detail for guests during their stay here is just a part of that notion, however. The greater part, one might argue, is the fact that the Shreyas Retreat offers guests the ultimate power to indulge themselves. By providing both the setting for a totally relaxing experience and the tools for their guests to truly understand and appreciate the positive aspects of their lives, Shreyas goes beyond the contemporary reinterpretation of indulgence. By transcending luxury to offer balance, they ensure that an escape to this enchanting environment can be enjoyed by all.

Santoshima Farm, Gollahalli Gate, Nelamangala, Bangalore 562123, India Telephone: +91 99 16 110422 E-mail:

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Maya M

aya is the product of Hong Kong interior designer Niki Fairchild’s love affair with Sri Lanka. Situated in the old Ceylon village of Aranwella, the villa, which was home to the ruling family of the village, is a gem in the Tangalle area. It stands out impressively against a backdrop of other Dutch and British colonial-influenced architecture and magnificent oldworld grandeur. For, where the surrounding retreats are one or the other, Maya plays host to a fusion of both traditional Sri Lankan heritage and contemporary design. Minimalist, elegant, stylish and refined, Maya is ensconced in its own private estate and brims with sedate tranquility. Niki Fairchild, together with distinguished architect Pradeep Kodikara, has transformed the manor house into a five suite residence of haunting beauty. Period features meet modern design resulting in sky-high ceilings, vast open views, polished edges and absolute comfort. A small step out of your personal domain plunges you into the L-shaped indigo swimming pool, the center of Maya. The pool curves through the property and its soft, shimmering reflection offers an enchanting effect. Discreet, warm lights illuminate the property throughout, creating a raw energy between shelter and nature. An almost supernatural, ethereal glow floods this centenarian residence. This is the place to let yourself be seduced by solitude.All of the spacious rooms at Maya Tangalle

Perched on the southern coast of Sri Lanka lies Tangalle, a languorous town dotted with 18th century Dutch villas; a decadent remnant of its colonial past. Nestled on the coast, the shimmering sand frames the tepid waters of the Laccadive sea and the Bay of Bengal. Just 15 minutes away, in the rural village of Aranwella, you will find Maya, a lovingly restored 19th Century Walauwa (a Sri Lankan manor house) set amidst lush, tropical gardens, curious wildlife and encompassed by soft, billowing paddy fields.

have kept their original 25-foot high ceilings - as well as the intricate ornate lattice-work above the doors, which allows cool breezes to enter one’s living quarters. The sleek design of the bathrooms feature rain showers that pour onto the chocolate coloured terrazzo or smooth concrete floors. The Thekka suite, found in the original old house (or ‘walauwa’), overlooks the sea of rice paddies that extends out beyond the villa and creates a mesmerizing, breezy backdrop to the cool chambers. Custom designed teak carved four-poster beds in both the Thekka and Khumbuk suites lavishly welcome you to an oasis of calm, with striking brass reading lights completing the effect. The Amber and Ehela suites are situated in the New Wing. Each come with their own private courtyards and al fresco seating areas. Tasteful simplicity champions the design of the rooms with furnishings favouring quality over quantity. The Kohomba suite has the added luxury of a separate, private garden. Antiques adorn the rooms for the perfect balance between old and new: intricate and simple. In fact, it is the balance of flavours at Maya that make it so enchanting – something that extends to the gastronomy as well as to the décor.

Maya’s chefs have pioneered and perfected their signature dishes: a fusion of Sri Lankan and Continental. Typical dishes are the Lobster & Avocado, Lettuce and Coriander or Watermelon & Feta Cheese salads; beefsteak medallions with red wine sauce and mustard mash; or homemade ravioli with fresh crab and dill and basil pesto – all of which marry the spicy punches of conventional Sri Lankan cuisine with Maya’s unique method of incorporating the tantalizing juices of fresh, local produce. Those with a sweet tooth will also enjoy the chili cinnamon chocolate pudding, along with a range of home made cocktails, such as the zesty ginger kick. The unobtrusive style of service at the Maya does not detract from its commitment to what can best be described as the total pampering of its guests. Whether

you are looking to arrange a tuk-tuk to take you to the untouched emerald sands of Tangalle Beach or prefer to opt for an in-room massage, the unrivaled service will indulge you in any whim, no matter how extravagant. Five star hotels are easy to find. It is the combination of service, food and charm that differentiates the chocolate-box also-rans with hospitality of true class. At Maya, each of one’s senses are caressed into a feeling of pure bliss. It’s hard not to think that they’ve got it absolutely right.

Old House, Temple Road, Aranwella, Belliata, Sri-Lanka. Tel:- +94 (0) 47 567 9025 / 6 Email:

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Residence on the Rocks Imagine living in your own private hotel. That is the reality for the guests of Karl Ammann's secluded luxury villa Residence on the Rocks.


uch is the power of that statement that this writer is almost tempted to end the review here and now. The Seychelles – the tropical haven that has come to embody the term ‘island paradise’ like nowhere else – plays host to the Residence, a private accommodation that is fully serviced by the nearby Banyan Tree Hotel and its own full time caretakers (a couple from Sri Lanka), with the latter offering inclusive butlering, housekeeping, gardening and pool cleaning services from their on-site staff quarters . It is, without exaggerating, the perfect scenario for most holiday-makers: the independence and tranquillity of a private villa combined with the full scale service offered by a top quality hotel. Hidden away from the main hotel to such a degree that it appears shrouded in stunningly mysterious green jungle from afar, the Residence is actually perched just 100 yards (as the crow flies) up a hill from the nearest Banyan Tree villa. The Creole designed buildings comprise a main house, set over two storeys with two large bedrooms, and two separate guesthouses (with one king bedroom in each) positioned some thirty yards off a stunning central pool. The latter – an infinity pool - is built up on concrete to overlook the drop down the hill through the shading branches of a swathe of palm trees. The property has been designed in such a way, however, that as well as their immediate surroundings on the hill, guests can also marvel at a heartbreakingly beautiful view of two of the country’s most highly prized beaches - Intendance Bay and Takamaka. One of the overriding differences between hotel and residential accommodation can be in the character of the space itself. In the case of Residence on the Rocks, this could hardly be more pronounced. Every aspect of this place reveals the love with which it was crafted. From the walls which were painstakingly

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built around idiosyncratic and individually sized custom Indian Haveli doors (similar to French doors in shape and application) to the recycled Burmese teak parquet throughout to the colonial metal windows, imported from Kenya – everything at the Residence screams esoteric, unique character put together by someone with a highly refined personal taste. Intriguingly, the personal touch that gives this place such a magical feel has a fantastically down to earth explanation: owner Karl Amman has his primary, personal residence on the slopes of Mount Kenya. In the course of his travels, he found himself bringing back collector’s items with such regularity that his wife eventually imposed a rule that for every new item he brought back to Kenya, two other items would have to be sent away. Unable to simply abandon his horde of treasures, Karl moved the most appropriate pieces to the Residence on the Rocks. The objective, we are told, was to recreate the colonial splendour of the 1920s and 30s. The result is something far, far more than that.

Remarkably for a place which seems to have been built purely for its aesthetic qualities (not ignoring all levels of creature comforts expected in such a setting), the Residence on the Rocks is also praiseworthy for its commitment to the environment. The immediate surroundings were not changed or damaged in the construction of the property.The plot was chosen so as to avoid levelling ground or cutting down large trees. Any large rocks that featured on the land have, incredibly, been incorporated into the overall structure of the property. Rain water is collected on the roof before being filtered for use by an amazingly sophisticated three filter system (including an infrared one). Only if the 50,000 gallon rain water tank runs out will the system switch to the Banyan Tree hotel’s designated water supplies. In short, the overall design incorporates maximum energy efficiency measures without impacting in any way on the expected comfort level. Guest comfort is taken to almost impossible levels at the Residence on the Rocks. While the emphasis on privacy and independence is one

of the main draws to this place, it is hard not to resist the temptation to take full advantage of the various services offered by the owner and the Banyan Tree management service. For starters, the on-site caretakers are on hand to take care of any matters at the Residence every day. Pick up requests for guests to be taken to the main hotel’s facilities – gym, tennis court, bar, world famous spa etc - by electromobile are dealt with almost instantaneously. Alternatively, guests have the option to rent their own vehicle for the ultimate flexibility during their stay. Standard services such as room service, housekeeping and general maintenance are handled with aplomb, and the addition of the on-hand caretaking couple ensures that the hospitality and level of service offered by the Residence far exceeds that offered by all but the most attentive of establishments. Add all this to the spectacular natural beauty of the Seychelles – particularly poignant in the immediate area surrounding the Residence and the result, unmistakeably, is the complete package.

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Split Apple RETREAT


ee Nelson has put together a sanctuary overlooking Abel Tasman. There are priceless Japanese and other Asian artifacts, sculptures, paintings. Beautiful rooms, lovely bathrooms and a high-tech supreme audio-visual room with the latest sports feeds.

Lee Nelson’s Masterpiece

If a masterpiece is a manmade work with nothing out of place, a composition pleasing on a number of levels from instant gratification to life-changing thoughts, something you can return to time after time and discover something fresh, new, (which was there all along), then without doubt Split Apple Retreat is a masterpiece.

And the food.....where do I start. Lee's focus is on wellness - taking people and making them feel better. He has applied considerable medical knowledge (from his career as a doctor) to the selection of ingredients which enhance our lives. His wife, Pen, then marries these together in an Asian/ Mediterranean blend which will keep the most gourmand of us gourmets guessing, second guessing and confused. When I asked (bearing in mind my own unreconstructed diet) if pasta was healthy, I was told 'no', but there's a squash you can plant and bake which then produces a spaghetti which is very healthy. I walked away with some squash seeds and my mind in a whirl. An important point - I was only there for 19 hours, but in those 19 hours I toured the house, walked on two beaches, had a soak in a hot pool, drank innumerable cups of excellent exotic tea (this one's from hundred year old plants in the highlands of

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China....), a beautifully balanced aged Cuban rum, the same with a local pinot noir, meditated for half an hour in the morning, examined the vegetable and herb gardens and ate two lovely meals. And ended up feeling healthier, more relaxed and less bloated than I normally do! Lee has a client who comes for months at a time saying the place is great for his mind and body so he bases himself here and works. I can understand that. If I was based there, I think I would be much healthier and more focused. And we haven't even talked about the surroundings - golden sand beaches, and the Abel Tasman accessible with a private yacht. For anyone with an interest in food and wellbeing or just interested in seeing if the place affects them at all before going back to their bad habits - this is highly, highly recommended.

Words by Jean Michel Jefferson, Ahipara

Split Apple 195 Tokongawa Drive, RD2 Motueka, Abel Tasman 7197 New Zealand Tel: +643 527 8377 / Fax: +643 527 8644 Email:

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f you are reading this, the chances are that you are a seasoned traveller. Tales of sun-kissed beaches and clear ocean waters won't be enough to turn your head. Earnest affirmations of 'magical retreats' will not be enough to dispel your ennui. Let's be honest – for the majority of us, that is barely enough to get us out of bed. The fact is, the world is getting smaller. It has become more and more difficult to get inspired by the prospect of an indulgent vacation, a secluded spot in the sand or spa. Western society at large is bombarded with images, advertisements, much so that the promise of a week of 'sun, sea and sand' is more likely to engender a laconic Evgeny Onegin style laze of the hand than any genuine excitement. It is rare, nowadays, for a resort to buck that trend and make us really sit up and take notice. Song Saa, the twin-island private retreat positioned in Cambodia’s untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, does precisely that. There is something apt about the way their website loads in such a way as to cover the snapshots of the location with text – as if to tell you that there is something missing from the picture, a magic that does not translate from screen to sight. It is something that can only be felt be visiting this special place: an incredibly undisturbed paradise the likes of which many of us felt no longer existed.

SONGSAA Some destinations require the creation of a narrative to put their charms into context. Others write their own story.

Comparisons with Danny Boyle's seminal film The Beach (well, the first part of it, at least) may seem trite but should be forgiven. First of all, the resort is in a similar part of the world, one famed for its outstandingly preserved natural beauty. Secondly, it is very much a similar story in terms of starting plot lines. The owners of Song Saa have cornered a piece of South-East Asian Aracadia and made it their own. Welcome to a fragment of luscious green land perfectly placed, like an emerald jewel, on a bed of brilliant blue. It is the sort of place that most of us dreamed about long before the days of over-advertising and the internet – the sort of landscape that is so deeply embedded into our consciousness that no sales pitch is needed to evoke the joyful sensation that arises from its contemplation. It is the pure poetry of a tropical island, the epitome of the ultimate escape. The true beauty of Song Saa, however, goes below the surface (in more ways than one). The owners, husband and wife partnership Rory and Melita Hunter, are trailblazers for a new wave of sustainable luxury resorts that have stolen the show at the forefront of 21st century travel. They may have bought the land but, unlike the island of The Beach, this is no uncharted secret, reserved only for perennial tourists. Instead, Rory and Meilita have committed to setting a standard of sustainability which will hopefully come

to define Cambodia and the still-pristine parts of South East Asia generally. The first thing that is notable is the lack of major architectural interventions on the islands. The few buildings that exist here are made from locally sourced materials and, externally at least, built according to local styles and conventions.The villas, with their pitched thatched roofs and finishings made from recycled timber and driftwood, are built on either side of the larger environment, allowing the rainforest trees that pervade the centre to remain undisturbed. Inside, of course, it is a different story altogether – supreme luxury finds harmony with conscientious development. Think incredible views, private infinity pools and beaches, oversized baths and giant, comfortable beds. As venerable architectural journal AD once described it, this is a model of“low-impact design meets five-star luxury”. Equally impressive is Song Saa's dedication to marine conservation. In an area where commercial fishing ventures are under constant pressure and scrutiny to keep up to code with sustainability standards, ongoing efforts for underwater welfare are absolutely crucial. With that in mind, the Hunters made the decision early in their Cambodian adventure to establish a marine reserve between the twin islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong that make up the resort (connected by a footbridge). The aim is to safeguard the islands’ reefs and marine life including turtles, seahorses and exotic species of tropical fish.

The resort's commitment to building a sustainable future for Cambodia is further reinforced by the Hunters' development of the Song Saa Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit enterprise with current activities as far reaching as the creation of a waste management service in the Archipelago’s largest settlement (Prek Svay) and the founding of an education centre where experts and residents share views on conservation and sustainable livelihood practices. Its goals extend to the creation of a mobile education centre (the 'Boat of Hope') to support and supplement education on sustainable practices in the area, as well as the improvement of health care for communities that are isolated from mainstream medical infrastructure. It is that ongoing commitment to social and environmental responsibility that sets Song Saa apart from the rest. It shows that while the resort lives up to the standards associated with exotic dreams, it is also striving to ensure that the methods taken to maintain that standard of excellence does not degenerate the area into a nightmare environment in years to come. Guests can visit with an easy heart and clear conscience, something that is reflected back at them in the philosophy of the resort overall. Known as “metta bhavana”, Song Saa's stated inspiration is the Buddhist tradition of loving kindness for all living things. It is a state of mind that comes through best in their conservation efforts but also applies to their approach to guests. The 'Always Included' rate structure encourages

guests to participate in all walks of life on the island – from spa experiences to snorkelling in the marine reserve and surrounding area, and from nature spotting trails to local Khmer cultural exchanges. The diversity of activities on offer at Song Saa is staggering and acts as a testament to the huge efforts the owners have made to really make a difference in this area. The variety of different opportunities is something that could only be made possible by an ownership structure which respects and appreciates the surrounding area. Song Saa isn't a ground-breaking type of destination. It is the sort of place that has long existed in our imaginations, one that at one stage was in severe risk of disappearing altogether from reality. What is game-changing is the resort's affinity with the local community and wider area, something that enhances and enriches visitors' experience a hundred fold in comparison to some traditional hotels that have struggled to adapt to the concerns of a new breed of responsible travellers. Song Saa's genuine concern for the continued growth and lasting protection of this unique location is just as inspiring as the phenomenal beauty that currently exists in this quintessential 'tropical paradise'.

Krong Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia Phone:+855 23 686 0360 Email:

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RAFAEL SERRANO Developer and Investor

Admiralty Arch,

commissioned by Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, and designed by Sir Aston Webb, is an architectural feat and one of the most iconic buildings in London. It is the gateway between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, but few of those driving through the arch come to appreciate its harmony and elegance for the simple reason that they see very little of it. Londoners also take it for granted to the extent that they simply drive through without giving it further thought. This is all set to change within the next two years and the man who has taken on the challenge is financier-turned-developer Rafael Serrano. When the UK coalition government resolved to introduce more efficiency in the handling of public buildings, a new Government Property Unit was created for the purpose of selling off/leasing £2.5bn of assets, one of which was Admiralty Arch. Serrano produced no less than a 3 volume presentation (one of which was bound as a proper book investment case study publication) to make a case for his vision of restoring the building and turning it into a landmark hotel, with a members’ club and restaurants on different levels. The book is full of historical references, archival photographs and architectural drawings, demonstrating in-depth knowledge and sensitivity second to none. One would expect the man who won the much contested bidding for the Arch to have a heightened attention to detail. Serrano goes far, far beyond that – his knowledge of the architecture of historical buildings in general, and of this building’s history in particular - is nothing short of astounding. RS: Admiralty Arch is an asset with a lot of history. I felt privileged to participate in the bidding but didn’t dare hope to win. The strategy of our bid was to avoid presenting the same run of the mill documentation as everyone else. Rather, we focused on the historical importance of the building and researched archives to come up with every possible original drawing and photograph we could find. We hired designers to choose the colours and fonts of our presentation booklet. The original drawings show trees on the side of the arch that were never planted – we intend to do this and restore the building in keeping with the original concept – an opening towards, and an extension of Buckingham Palace.

We produced a video of how the building will look once restored and why we would be better than the other bidders. We explained how the new hotel will look within London and how it would compete against other iconic hotels in the capital. Finally, we presented our record of accountability and track record. We assembled a team that has sterling experience and track record: Blair Associates Architecture, who have several landmark hotels in London to their credit and Sir Robert McAlpine, as well as lighting, design and security experts. We demonstrated we are able to put a lot of effort in the restoration of public spaces, in conservation and sustainability. I have learned two things from my investment banking days: 1. The importance of team work. When JP Morgan was first founded they attracted the best talent available. By creating a team like this you achieve more. 2. The importance of execution. There were a lot of people who bid more money for this project. They had the means and the budget. What they didn’t have was the combination of great team work, experience and execution capabilities. I am well aware of the major responsibility that comes with winning the bid; that the legacy and the beauty of the building’s original design need to be preserved. We also have an obligation to work with everyone to preserve the historical connection and context of public buildings. We will start construction before Christmas 2013 and anticipate completing the project within 2/2.5 years. BB: So this will be the best London hotel? RS: I don’t really want to give it a label like that – let’s say I like to think of it as something London should be proud of. In terms of location, it cannot get better than this. Very few roads come to the Arch and no service cars or trucks can drive through it. It is in the middle or everything – Buckingham Palace, the Royal Opera, the National Gallery, all the theatres and of course, the Royal parks. The red concrete road outside is very rare and walking towards the palace is like walking down the proverbial red carpet.

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I can see myself staying here as a guest in the years to come. We’ve been approached to document the restoration of the building on film and in a book. I would like to do that but not as a commercial project. Admiralty Arch represents a combination of power, politics, economics, military history and various curiosities – a book should reflect that. Admiralty Arch was commissioned by King Edward VII and the ‘grateful citizens’ of Britain and its Empire to commemorate Queen Victoria. It was constructed over a century ago when London was at the heart of the largest, richest and most powerful empire the world has even seen. It is not common knowledge, for example, that Winston Churchill worked here, as did the author Ian Fleming for a few years. Lady Thatcher kept her own notes and archives at the Arch. This should not be just about the restoration of the building, it should go beyond that. I would like to do a book on the Arch itself and the history of it, not just a pretty coffee table ornament. London has produced an amalgamation of clever, talented people; wonderful art; culture; wealth. I hope we can contribute a little to that with the creation of the hotel and its own members’ club. On the club RS The genius of Sir Aston Webb was to not just create an extremely beautiful building from the outside but also an extremely efficient one from the inside. Discovering it in its entirety has impressed even people who have worked here but were not allowed access to some parts of it (employees only had clearance for the particular wing, floor or even just room they worked in). So not only has the building been closed to the public, but also to those who worked there. The North wing was originally designed as residential quarters. In the past, London architects built very high ceilings on ground floors to evoke a sense of grandeur and comfort.

The lower ground and basement floors of the Arch have 4 m ceilings and, given that we have enough rooms for the hotel and restaurants, we thought we’d create a members’ club there. I am a huge fan of London’s clubs and belong to many. I like the traditional gentlemen’s clubs, but I also go to the new social/dining clubs, such as the Dover Street Arts Club, Hertford Street and Lulu’s. I like the Travellers and the Reform clubs. Not only are both buildings architecturally interesting, they were designed by the very same architect, Charles Barry, who restored the House of Parliament after the great fire of 1834. At that time public buildings were built in two distinct styles: either neo-gothic or neo-classical. The House of Parliament was built in the former, while the Travellers and the Reform were built in the latter style. I have always had a keen interest in history and love architecture, in particular Italian architecture. I envisage the club as being much more than just a social hub – I hope it will attract creative people: builders, influencers, originators of art, culture, power… The club should reflect the importance of the building and its location and develop as a hub of influence. Part of our strategy is to decorate it as a quintessentially British club, emphasising the relationship we have with the Royal Navy. The tour of the building B Beyond felt singularly privileged to be given the tour of Admiralty Arch, pre-restoration, with Rafael Serrano himself as, quite probably, the most knowledgeable guide alive. We were keenly aware that we were seeing the building in a way that few people have and most importantly, in a way it will never be seen again. Pending restoration… Being given a new lease of life and being reinvented too, by a Spaniard with a passion for architecture and a love for history… “Compared to the Foreign office with its elaborate

frescoes”, Serrano speaks as we start wondering through lofty corridors, “the Arch is quite plain, but has a wonderful energy to it.” I would like to use the public spaces to display both traditional and contemporary art and will be forging relationships with the National Gallery, the Royal Navy and others to this end. The building does of course speak for itself – I just want to give it back its energy. He shows us a visual map of the tour at the outset. Has anyone driving through it ever noticed, I wonder, that the two sides of the fan-like structure are not equal but only look so through optical illusion? We stop momentarily at the space where the lift will be – right now, there is a picture of what it will look like and even before Serrano tells me so, I recognise it as the very ornate lift of Le Bristol, Paris. The building itself is a veritable maze of corridors, hallways, vast rooms with ornate fireplaces (many, historically important), stern portraits of admiralty lords, solidly built limestone stairways and, endless recess areas that will lend themselves perfectly to repose space amid the vast splendour of the new hotel. What is truly amazing is the flood of light from just about everywhere and the relative quiet – we are, after all, in the middle of one of the busiest thoroughfares of the capital. Serrano is intimate with every detail, of course, and shows us where every breakfast room and restaurant will be, but reserves the piece de resistence – or rather, two of them – for last. These are both extremities of the Arch – the rooftop and the below ground bunkers that once housed top secret archives including Lady Thatcher’s personal notes. If the below ground is still alive with history, it is the rooftop that I fall in love with. Walking around would give you a full 360 degree

view of London’s most important landmarks, but also, the crowd down below in Trafalgar Square and the best view of Buckingham Palace. It is perhaps there that I truly come to appreciate what the Arch’s new custodian-in-chief means by the unique “Britishness” of the project. After all, you cannot get more British or, for that matter, more London, than this. Rafael Serrano Serrano is a walking definition of a new breed of entrepreneurs who think and live in a global dimension. He speaks several languages fluently and, having lived here and there and pretty much everywhere, exudes cosmopolitan confidence without a trace of arrogance. His admiration for humility punctuates much of our conversation, in fact. Serrano is intensely private and insists that Admiralty Arch should remain the focus of our conversation. Still, through snippets of volunteered information, one can just about start building a portrait of the man. He describes himself as “citizen of the world”, having left Madrid 25 years ago and lived in Milan, Paris, New York and a number of other countries in emerging markets, including Brazil. He has a curiosity, understanding and appreciation for other cultures the likes of which one seldom comes across. London appears to have been his first foreign city and one he keeps getting drawn to (he is the founding investor and developer behind the Bulgari hotel and Residences in London). That said, he also likes New York (he tells me he went there for a few months and ended up staying 4 years) and is “very much into the American work rhythm and ethos”. If you work hard and are passionate about achievement, people will respect you. I love the energy of that and the whole Anglo-Saxon spirit of celebrating achievers rather than begrudging it to them. He says he was lucky to have arrived in NY in 1996, during the Clinton/Guiliani era when the city was peaceful, prosperous and generally better.

Serrano’s inspiration in design was the late Alberto Pinto, whom he describes as a genius, a man full of energy and creativity. He spent much time in Pinto’s studio and loves working with French artists to this day. Serrano lived in Paris in 1991 and says, once again, he is fortunate to have lived in particular “spaces of time”. Paris at the time was “full of art, culture fashion… with less bureaucracy and politicking”. The city retains, he says, aspects of that energy and he hopes this will not change. Ever since his father took him, as a young boy, to the Italian Embassy in Madrid, he was smitten with Italian architecture. Later on, his love for the country, its culture, its music, its food and its people grew exponentially. He is perfectly fluent in the language because, he says,” this is not just about learning a language - I like to be able to understand people”. Serrano comes from an investment banking background but in his heart is in land. His grandmother owned vineyards and gave him a special love “for the earth”. He bought his first property at 19 - a much loved mews house in Knightsbridge London, often referred to as the “friendly house”, recently sold but remembered fondly. Having done the prerequisite law degree that “gives you a lot of gravitas in Southern European countries”, Serrano started investing seriously in property. He bought a few more London houses and, while still with JP Morgan, he acquired land in NY, on the Upper Hudson river. The land status was changed from office to residential and the subsequent development and sale allowed him to create his own private equity vehicle, Prime Investors Capital. “We are”, he says, “very careful and old-fashioned when it comes to selecting properties and protecting our investment”. When Prime Investors Capital works with coinvestors, it is with sovereign wealth funds and big international companies. He is, however, the only investor in Admiralty

Arch. “If I get co-investors here”, he says, “it would be a sophisticated partner”. One of his ‘partners’ is none other than the Spanish Government, in fact, in advising on the Cervantes Institute in Eaton Square. Prime Investors Capital will, he says, continue to specialise in developing public buildings and the company’s track record will doubtless help him with future bids. Serrano is a great admirer of Former Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher who, he says, “opened the UK to the international business based on meritocracy and made it attractive to people like me to come and do business here”. He is also a “big fan” of the royal family for their integrity, humility and sense of responsibility. They are, he says, leading by way of example – and the world needs leadership; without it, we are lost. He talks about the importance of respecting the local community and the responsibility to give back – and although It very easily could, none of it sounds cheesy or grandiloquent. Probably because of the palpable enthusiasm and passion the man positively exudes…. Probably because he really does see himself as a custodian of what Sir Aston Webb created 100 years ago…. “Not only are we responsible for preserving the heritage of the building”, he says, “but we have an opportunity to do more than that - we should enhance and protect it for future generation.” “It is a major task and I like to be very focused. And after you’ve put all that drive, energy and focus into each day, when you go to bed, you have to ask yourself: have I achieved something today?” To me, that goes a long way to summing up Serrano, the man.

Beyond Indulgence


s you rise up on this grand stairway to heaven, you recognise it for what it really is: an imperial complex of terraces and tiers, floating walkways and etheric spires. Walk among the cloud-seeking columns in the grandeur of a mandarin and spot the undulating pools of koi-carp among the carefully positioned trees and ferns.

Jade Mountain Jade Mountain – the name itself has a certain totemic awe. After ascending from the ebon-wood reception, Jade Mountain first looms in front of you like a sun-gold monolith, a gigantic carved stone structure that, one might imagine, stands testament to humanity’s fervour and passion.

The inspiration for the resort was the carved jade mountains of Chinese traditional sculpture; and the resort itself epitomises this synthesis of natural and manmade beauty. The Jade Mountain resort is an experience designed primarily for couples, although anyone can feel and understand the absolute magnificence that abounds here. It is a place that arrests you with sheer wonderment at the power of the universe and of the people in it. Simply put, Jade Mountain provides the perfect setting for the sort of emotional response that is said to be a form of enlightenment in itself. This writer is hosted in the Galaxy Suite, one of a pair of ‘rooms’ on the penultimate floor of the complex. Half open to the elements (with the zephyr sent to chill the rooms as welcome – if not more so – than the sun’s rays), one only has to look over the edge of the Suite’s peerless parapet to realise that the high minded name is fully deserved. Opposite the hotel are the volcanic Pitons overlooking a sapphire bay; it is a stunning sight even for just a few seconds, yet a perennial one for the near-gods atop Jade Mountain. Below and all around are the lands and forests of St Lucia, a viridian sea lapping at the oceans around the bays of the Pitons and the Anse Chastanet beach. At sundown, when the shadowy volcanoes loom out of the distant darkness and the sky is made of diamonds, one can feel the world – the galaxy – pulsating all around; and one realises that, despite the pessimism of ‘our lonely planet’, at this moment one really is the centre of it all, in this time and in this space of glorious mysticism. All this is, of course, coming from hours of lounging and floating on the signature infinity pool that covers up to a third of one’s (very, very large) suite. The whirlpool bath, while a delightful possibility in itself, seemed to me to pale in comparison next to this sun-speckled pool of iridescent glass tiles. Looking outwards, one has the visual effect of the pool’s waters sliding over the sides, while the more distant seas themselves slide into the infinite horizon. At night, when the water finally become a little too chilly for

comfort, step back onto the coral, stone and hardwood floor – a marriage of design – and slip under your bed covers, drifting off to the soothing medley of open space… Waking up in the morning means a pleasant breakfast of light and airy touches. The mélange-like cocoa tea, despite its initially strange flavour, is an easily acquired taste and instills in one a heavenly sense of well-being that lasts throughout the day (I am later told that the drink is used locally as an aphrodisiac). Dining at Jade Mountain is also a truly beyond any mundane conception of ‘haute cuisine’ that you might hold. Aided by one of the most famous New World chefs, Allen Susser, the Jade Mountain kitchen is a paragon of tropical and FarEastern styles, both of which are fused to create some of the most exciting, oneof-a kind dishes I have ever tasted. It is a testament to the staff at Jade Mountain that they have adapted to the fickle supply from the resort’s organic farm, the Emerald Estate, and have used its superlative produce to create a world class gastronomy which will surprise you every single day and night. Personal highlights include the succulent sashimi (prepared on-site by the hotel’s sushi-chefs of course); the unsurpassable blue marlin steak, impossibly full of flavour and the melt-in-yourmouth wagyu flat-iron steak. The setting is cool: coral stone floor and pillars, the small moonlit pool in the centre and the potted palm fronds transport you to a world of exotic divinity. The sea breeze caresses the warm candle on the table. The staff, in sable uniforms, are courteous but quick to fade from your presence. Each of the couples dining here impeccably dressed and as dreamily perfect as the hotel itself, shine in their own, intimate limelight. This, the fairytale love story, is the power of Jade Mountain, the effortless grace to bring two people together; after all, how many of the best stories end with the lovers in each others’ arms?

P O Box 4000, Soufriere, St. Lucia, West Indies Tel: 758-459-4000/ 7000/ 6100 Email:

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Carlisle Bay There is something immediately reassuring about Carlisle Bay, the five star hotel and spa nestled near the Southern locale of St Mary's, Antigua, in a secluded cove after which the hotel takes its name. At first, it is difficult to put one's finger on exactly what that is but, much like the astonishing, piercing blue of the Caribbean sea after a dive, it quickly becomes clear.

ike a very small number of establishments around the world, Carlisle Bay is widely considered to be a cut above the rest. There is a traditional elegance that pervades everything about this charming island retreat; an unspoken assumption that quality speaks for itself. Whether by design or by nature, everything about this place says, quietly but assuredly, that it is more than a hotel – it is an institution.

The 82 suits that make up the hotel are the definition of simple elegance – crisp, minimalist but also unquestionably luxurious. From the junior to the three bedroom suite, all are built with room to spare, with the clean-cut minimal style adding to the sense of spaciousness. An interesting quirk is provided by the choice of dark wooden furniture in each of the rooms – a nod to the aforementioned colonial style and evidence of Carlisle Bay's insistence on superior quality throughout.

It is fairly easy, of course, to let the facts do the talking when you are sitting pretty in the Caribbean – and Carlisle Bay is, admittedly, quite the picture. The design is the result of a collaboration between CampbellGray Hotels (who also operate a hotel in Beirut and will open another soon in Amman, Jordan) and British designer Mary Fox Linton, with the aim to encapsulate the concept of 'barefoot luxury'. To create this effect, the hotel captures styles from around the world. Far Eastern elements abound, notably in the Japanese minimalist features and garden design (landscaped by London-based James Holderness), as do various British colonial touches that are still prevalent in Antiguan lifestyle. Pavilions and gazebos stretch out over the sand while comfortable wicker furniture and cream sofas laze laconically underneath.

Antigua itself, of course, can well afford to rest on its laurels as an outstanding tourist destination. The island, twinned with Barbuda (and Redonda) to make up a Commonwealth nation, is one of the most enchanting destinations in the area. Encircled with a beach for every day of the year (365), the leeward island is the envy of the world as the very image of a perfect getaway location. Every year in May, the International Sailing Week sees the world’s fastest and most beautiful yachts and their crew congregate for a week of competitive racing and socialising. All manner of water sports are practised here, although not on the idyllic Southern shores of the island, where Carlisle Bay and the historically significant English harbour are well protected from the winds. All of that without even mentioning the outstanding natural beauty that comes with Antigua's privileged position near a range of coral reefs. In fact, Antigua boasts


nearly all of the Caribbean's best known features of natural beauty – from beaches and coral reefs to mangroves and caves. Naturally, Carlisle Bay offer customised services for all guests to experience these wonders first hand. Scuba diving and snorkelling expeditions to the nearby Cades reef are organised regularly, and a 24 hour room and concierge service is always available for help with any island hopping exploration. Offering an authentic West Indian experience is of key importance to the hotel, and the local guides are quick to offer advice in Caribbean patois as well as assistance in hotel-organised helicopter trips to nearby Montserrat, with its active volcano, or for sailing trips to the pristine beaches and nature reserve on Barbuda. Zip line tour across the rainforest canopy of Antigua is firmly encouraged – Carlisle Bay is backed by the trees which makes up this tropical paradise. Sports enthusiasts will also find a home away from home here with nine tennis courts and an instructor present at the hotel, the renowned Cedar Valley Golf Club minutes away. With deep sea fishing also possible, the wealth of activities available on the island make this far from a pedestrian beach holiday. For those who do want to relax, however, Carlisle Bay extends its customary standard of excellence to its Spa and health centre. A wide variety of

beauty and massage treatments are offered at the Blue Spa, which also hosts a sauna and plunge pool – great after an extended session in Carlisle Bay's large, free form swimming pool, which forms the central part of the hotel. Yoga and Pilates are also offered, alongside a fully equipped gym, to provide a fully-fledged leisure experience. The sophisticated, cosmopolitan nature of Carlisle Bay has made it an enduringly popular destination in the competitive Caribbean market. The secret is simple – by offering an unrivalled standard of service, expert local knowledge, superlative design and the full breadth of features by which to maximise one's Caribbean experience, Carlisle Bay can rest easy in the knowledge that the quality on offer here is, quite simply, unquestionable. The 3 restaurants on the property – international foodserving Indigo, pan-Asian restaurant East and newly opened Italian eatery Ottimo! (which offers wood-fired pizzas) – simply serve to reinforce those values of excellence. If Antigua is the dream location to which the world wants to go then Carlisle Bay is the ultimate resort from which noone would ever want to leave.

Old Road St. John's, Carlisle Bay, Antigua and Barbuda Telephone: +1 268-484-0000 E-mail:

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Hacienda Los Lingues®

Hacienda Los Lingues®, 125km south of Chile’s capital Santiago, is one of the country's best-maintained grand estates. Found at the hub of the wine-producing Colchagua Valley and framed by the soaring Andes mountains nearby, visiting Los Lingues® puts you at the very heart of the dynamic Chilean environment.


os Lingues® takes full advantage of its enviable position in the midst of 9,000 acres of farmland, flourishing vineyards and on-site stables. In addition to the nearby wine-making Châteaux (the renowned Viña Los Vascos(Domaine Barons De Rothschild(lafit) ), the estate also maintains a word-class standard in horse-breeding at its Aculeo stable – as well as holding its own as part of a 20,000 acre working ranch. The estate’s heritage dates back to 1575 when King Felipe of Spain presented it to the then mayor of Santiago, Don Melchor Juffre de Aguilla. For over four hundred years, the land has been passed down to his descendents, making it one of the

oldest family run businesses on the continent (and twentieth oldest in the world). Incredibly, the house itself, and land around it, has changed little since then. Any maintenance, and regular works undertaken to ensure that the Hacienda continues to meet the highest standards of luxury hospitality, are done in the presence of historians to ensure that the original style of architecture is preserved. The main villa itself, with its manicured gardens, classic porticos and elegant living rooms transports you back in time to the 17th and 18th century. Fourteen vast rooms, furnished with ornate brass beds and heated by wood stoves are some of the intimate features that give the hacienda such

character. Each room is unique with quirky antique furnishings and idiosyncratic ornaments. In 2014, Los Lingues® will also add a 400sq m stand-alone house, designed in traditional Chilean style, that comprises three ensuite bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen – replete with its own personal chef. A more in-depth tour of the hacienda reveals an impressive stone-walled Games room, replete with billiards table; the romanticized Englishstyle Lyon’s Bar, built with the finest Chilean wood, millenary alerce (one of the world’s oldest living trees); the charming Red Room used as a living room; the grand and lavish Dining room and magnificent Chapel. The Yellow Room, considered

Panamerican Highway km. 124,5 - 5 km East Side, San Fernando 3070000, Chile Phone:+ 56 22 4310510 Email:

the meeting point of guests at the hacienda, is a labyrinth of trinkets. French Bacaratt crystal lamps, a 100 year-old Steinway piano, the marble table relic of the first President of the Governing body of Chile, Don Mateo de Toro – all these precious decorations infuse Los Lingues® with character and resplendence.

wine list, each meal is presented as a true epicurean

a minimum of 10 years. Needless to say, a visit to


said cellar, which showcases such a wide variety

Sumptuous four-course dinners, vacillating between old-world and Chilean cuisine (according to demand) make use of local produce and, of course, the organic produce of the estate. The menu also offers fresh fruit from the nearby orchard and fresh vegetables, honey and eggs from the farm. Anything that isn't produced directly on-site is brought in from the immediate vicinity - Los Lingues® supports local trade enterprises. Using opulent crystal, silverware and fine china, and featuring the hacienda's own, definitive Chilean

each with their accompanying reserve vintages,

As referred to above, four centuries of history are embedded in Hacienda Los Lingues®, allowing for the cultivation of superior wines – an oenophiles’ paradise.

A selection of Cabernet Sauvignon,

Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Rosé wines, are just some of the grape varieties on offer. Each offering is the result of the establish collaboration with the Châteaux Viña Los Vascos(Domaine Barons De Rothschild(lafit), whereby the hacienda select individual wines from the former's production line to be finished, bottled and labelled with the Los Lingues® trademark. For true extravagance, sample some of the finer wines in the cellar, all of which have been aged for

of different stocks, harvests and vintages - and a subsequent wine-tasting - is a delight in and of itself, and certainly paves the way for a relaxing afternoon! For those who prefer to enjoy their wine in the evening, however, other activities include mountain biking or horse-riding through miles of trails and the sweeping, emerald-hued countryside. Los Lingues® can also be used as a base to visit local olive oil mills and other wineries, or as a base camp for an excursion to the famous Sewell mines, high up in the Andes. Hacienda Los Lingues was one of the 1,000 places to see before you die according to Patricia Shultz, in her 2003 book, a New York Times best seller and it’s easy to see why.

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Samana Hotel & Residences

Caressing the crystal-clear waters of the Samaná Peninsula, Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences, an exclusive collection of 26 private suites and villas, is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the WorldTM.


he seven-acre property centers around the expansive canal of pools stretching nearly 500 feet from end-to-end. Suites have been artfully built to create a contemporary setting in harmony with nature. From the moment you arrive, the warm sea breezes and the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore transport you to a relaxed state of mind. For a complete escape, Sublime offers an ocean-side spa pavilion where relaxing massages are enjoyed with the tranquil sound of the Atlantic Ocean. The culinary experience is just as enticing with only fresh local ingredients incorporated into each dish.

Bahía de Coson 32000 Las Terrenas, República Dominicana Tel: +1 809 240 5050 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

The Lodge at

Pico Bonito Nestled at the foot of the Pico Bonito National Park, The Lodge at Pico Bonito seamlessly combines nature and luxurious comfort. The luxury ecolodge located on the Caribbean coast of Honduras near La Ceiba is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the WorldTM.


he Lodge offers the adventure of the outdoors, the beauty of the rain forest, and the personal service and luxury of a boutique hotel.

Twenty-two private standard and superior cabins furnished in plantation style are approximately 400 square feet and feature furnishings crafted from native woods complimented by crisp white bedding, vaulted ceilings, and large louvered and screened windows that frame the lush tropical jungle. Itzama, the Lodge’s full service restaurant & bar, specializes in Mesoamerican cuisine featuring local Honduran dishes. The chef uses fresh seafood and locally grown herbs and vegetables to create a unique flavor-rich palette. Surrounded by nature, there are many adventures The Lodge at Pico Bonito has to offer including bird watching for over 400 species, hiking to waterfalls and natural swimming holes, whitewater rafting, snorkeling at Cayos Cochinos, and exploring Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge.

AP710, La Ceiba, CP31101, Honduras Tel: +504 2440 0388 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

Esencia estate

Esencia is not a typical hotel, though it certainly offers the personal service and pampering facilities you’d expect at a refined world-class resort.


sencia is a 50-acre private estate, with an awe-inspiring beachfront, two swimming pools, day spa, gourmet restaurant, and an indulgent atmosphere fitting of royalty. In fact, the property and many of the buildings once served as the exclusive beach-side retreat of an actual Italian duchess. Brought to life by its natural surroundings and elements, “Esencia” explores all of life’s most unique pleasures touching on each individual’s senses. Set on one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya, Esencia, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the WorldTM, offers the soothing sound of the water with incredible views, sophisticated cuisine with rustic simplicity, personalized butler service and luxurious amenities. The restaurant Sal y Fuego, meaning salt and fire, specializes in international modern sophisticated cuisine with a Mexican flair. Aroma Spa, the first pampering organic spa in the Riviera Maya offers an array of face and body treatments and therapeutic baths incorporating pure indigenous fruits, plants and herbs.

Carretera Cancún-Tulum Km. 265 Xpu-Ha, Q. Roo 77750, Mexico Tel: +52 984 873 4830 Email: URL:

Beyond Indulgence

Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge

Once the weekend retreat of the Schiffino family Casa Bonita has been budged by nature to open its doors to outside guests and become an eco-lodge.


ocated in Barahona, in the still unspoiled and secluded southwest region of the Dominican Republic and adjacent to the only biosphere reserve in the country, Casa Bonita offers a unique ecological experience. This is a place where the lush green mountains create the backdrop for the perfect sunrise, the running rivers bordering the property sooth guests into relaxation and the microclimates keep the air crisp and fresh. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the WorldTM, Casa Bonita consists of 12 cabanas, a river spa and restaurant featuring naturally grown products from the area.

Km. 17 Carretera de la Costa Bahoruco-Barahona, RepĂşblica Dominicana Tel: +1 809 476 5059 Email:

Beyond Indulgence

Casas del XVI Nestled in the heart of the oldest city in the New World, Santo Domingo’s Ciudad Colonial, the three houses that make up Casas del XVI offer travelers the chance to step back in time to experience the vibrant culture, romantic architecture and stunning monuments born of the sixteenth century.


ith a focus on both preserving the original architecture and also celebrating the vibrant Dominican culture, the interior of each house is decorated according to a theme relating to Dominican culture and sixteenth century history. Guests will revel in the luxury, privacy and comfort of staying in a home, while enjoying the services of a boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the WorldTM. A butler tends to each house, ready to take care of any and all guests’ needs. Step outside to the historic streets of the Ciudad Colonial, and explore the area’s mosaic of museums, recondite theaters, ancient monuments, outdoor cafes, delectable restaurants, enchanting nightlife and romantic colonial mansions.

C/ Padre Billini #252, Ciudad Colonial Santo Domingo, República Dominicana Tel: +1 809 688 4061

Beyond Indulgence

Despite the many positive effects of globalization, there are parts of the world that some of us selfishly wish would stay the same forever. At a time when fewer and fewer places are left 'undiscovered', there are still pockets of tundras, valleys or coasts that retain an air of mystery, a secretive splendour that is infinitely rewarding to find and explore.

MUKUL resort F

or many, the winding coastlines of Central America retains this mystique. Certainly in contrast to booming Brazil to the South or the over-developed ocean-front areas of the USA to the North, the Central American countries are often referred to in the same breath as 'adventure travel'. While obviously laughable to reduce the disparate nations of such a vast swathe of land to such travel agency clichés, the label has undoubtedly proven beneficial in attracting a certain type of tourism to this part of the world. It is only recently, relatively speaking, that certain members of the hospitality industry in Central America have decided to take advantage of a growing sense of internationalism and global communication to showcase the fact that visits to this area can satisfy both a sense of adventure and wonder and the demands for total luxury demanded by today's elite traveller. Step forward Mukul Resort, Nicaragua's Emerald Coast paradise on the water. The South-Western city of Rivas is the nearest major conurbation to this green-clad haven, surrounded by breathtaking forest, jungle and grassland for miles around. The Emerald Coast itself – consistently referred to as some of Central America's most interesting real estate for investors – is a 30mile stretch of sandy beaches, imposing cliff faces and vast swathes of untouched local flora. Nestled in the midst of this pristine environment is Mukul, a 'resort' that revels in the fact that its wide open spaces and commitment to the long-term sustainable future of the local ecosystem almost defies its very descriptor.

Mukul's strength is that its relationship with its surroundings is much akin to the one between guest and host. The area plays host to the resort, which seems to almost act as a luxury layer on top of the local landscape, rather than an aggressive intervention into the natural balance of this special place. And, undoubtedly, it is special, with a set of majestic beaches, complete with crystalline greeny-blue water, skirting the plentiful, lush jungle areas that are home to a dizzying variety of native fauna. Mukul pays it dues to the animal kingdom with a respect from which many could learn: they have launched various conservation programs to protect the environment and to re-populate the indigenous turtle habitat. Although it is one of its most praiseworthy features, and one that defines the nature of this halcyon place, the Mukul Resort also offers much more than conservation. In total, thirtyseven guest quarters hold within them the most charming examples of Nicaraguan hospitality. Sustainably sourced local wood (mostly teak and pine) is the primary material used to construct the twelve beach villas and twenty three bohios, and the care with which they have been constructed, combined with their enviable positions (either on the waterfront or set further back, against the backdrop of lush rainforest canopy and some 300 feet above the Playa Manzanillo) ensure that represent a truly unique home away from home.

The Mukul Spa and Golf Course perfectly complement the peaceful, restful nature of the resort, which can on occasion feel like a beautiful, natural sanctuary. One of the signature details of the Spa is the Watsu massage, performed in the specially designed 'Secret Garden' (an enclosed massage room meets pool house, with a plethora of plantlife encroaching from all sides). The therapy is an underwater combination of hydrotherapy and shiatsu, which helps to soothe muscle aches, relax the body and mind, and improve circulation. The full sensual experience is rounded off with a hydrating “Walk in the Clouds” aroma wrap which envelops one's body in a heavenly, soothing cocoon while you receive a uniquely formulated hair and scalp conditioning treatment, made with a blend of 15 exotic oils. A seawater peel and hydrating facial completes the process. Away from this haven of wave and rocks, jungles and beaches, flora and fauna, the adventures of Nicaragua await. From the breaking waves at surfers paradise Gigante to the colonial charms of Granada - the oldest city to be established on the American continent – with ash-boarding down the towering slopes of the dormant Cerro Negro volcano in between (and maybe even a spot of rum from a tour of the local distillery – although we wouldn't advise taking all four together), this is a trip that you are not likely to forget in a hurry.

Km 10, Tola, Las Salinas - Playa Manzanillo, Guacalito de La Isla, Nicaragua Phone:+505 2563 7100 E-mail:

Beyond Indulgence

sandy lane In 1961 former British politician Ronald Tee, who was particularly partial to the island of Barbados, decided to create a five-star luxury hotel with a golf course; and he settled on the site of an old sugar plantation called Sandy Lane...


n any traveller’s island-hopping career, Sandy Lane is both physically and symbolically the ultimate destination, for it represents the quintessential Caribbean in terms of both history and splendour. Doubtless many of our readers are familiar with its palatial facade and parklands - part of Sandy Lane’s enduring fame. Perhaps they are familiar with its relatively recent renovations that synergise the traditional munificence of grandeur with the most modern of cutting edge technologies (all the latest gadgets and whatnot that complete our modern demands and expectations) and all the amenities which redefine luxury on a whole new, extraordinary level. After all, Sandy Lane boasts of a returning guest rate of more than 50%, which speaks volumes about its perennial seductiveness despite a famously exclusive price-tag. There is more to it, however, than the prerequisite 5 star luxuries of grand hotels the world over. There is, for starters, the unquestionable pedigree that comes from decades of hosting many of the world’s most discerning travellers, as well as the original St James’ villa owners. Le beau monde – a mixture of blue-blooded Brits, Jockey Club members, industrialists and sundry wealthy business people – has traditionally wintered at Sandy Lane and the hotel has long maintained a club-like atmosphere. Dining Jonathon Wright and Dominic Teague, executive chef and executive sous-chef respectively, manage Sandy Lane’s four restaurants that sprawl over the estate. Both Jonathon and Dominic have worked extensively in London’s top establishments in the past, and are intimately familiar with their Britishbased suppliers of produce. Bajan Blue and L’Acajou are Sandy Lane’s flagship restaurants; the former offers an eclectic fare from the grill – as well as the sashimi bar and pizza ovens – and is described as the more standard option catering to the British traditional taste. Of course, having sampled the exquisite Miso Blackened Cod and supreme sashimi, it is difficult to see how Bajan Blue can be described in any possible way as ‘standard’ - unless one assumes that this is the standard for Sandy Lane. The Spa The Spa is a complex in its own right, boasting a massive range of spa treatments both on cultural

and methodological lines. Treatments usually last just an hour but can go as far as taking up a good portion of the day all within the exclusivity of each guest’s own spa room. Each of these rooms, with their own gardens and hydrotherapy pools, is a preserve of calm and quiet dignity. Cohabiting with the spa are the gymnasium, with all the equipment and electronic gadgets that one can dream of in their ideal work-out session, and the restaurant (although there is the option of dining in one’s private spa room). Check out the meditation room, a surreal experience that almost hypnotises one with its Zen appearance. Golf Anyone who has been to Sandy Lane will know that Golf is synonymous with the hotel. The owners have historically been avid golfers and its present owners have determined to create a Sandy Lane golfing class of its own, marrying the hotel’s long burning love affair with the sport to their own passion. The Country Club course, designed by the renowned Tom Fazio, is scenery of rolling grasslands and gentle hills, beautifully balanced by crystal ponds and fountains. The Old Nine, the original course of Sandy Lane, despite its smaller size, has its own awe of an old school elegance and class. For the truly privileged, and the dedicated golfers, the Green Monkey course is without a doubt one of the most prized, most exclusive courses in the world. The personal course of Sandy Lane’s owners and crafted (again by Fazio) with all the passion that one finds in the sport, has just one hour of open playing slots each day and guarantees that you will have much of the course to yourself. Which is just as well, for its vast size and powerful landscaping – recovered from an old limestone quarry, itself currently the site of a lake sheltering below a cliff-range – simultaneously make a round of golf here an exploration of a paradisiacal garden. For the select few that tread upon these grounds Sandy Lane has produced a unique range of Green Monkey golf-wear, unavailable even to other Sandy Lane guests, to proclaim to the world over their privilege. The Country Club is also host to its own restaurant, with food as excellent as anywhere else in Sandy Lane. Here, one can sit after some light sporting activity and have an excellent lunch (I would recommend the grilled Mahi Mahi, tender and rich in flavor), while overlooking the wideranging Country Club course, extending almost all the way to the sea on the horizon.

St. James, Barbados, West Indies BB24024 Tel: +1 (246) 444-2000


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