DEVON DELIGHTS Embrace the English countryside
Three stylish hotels
Norwayâ€™s waterfront renewal
Polo in the Atlas Mountains
24 hours in Basel
MAN ON A MISSION Nacho Figueras is taking polo global
The new Cambodia Hotels, restaurants and bars are leading the sustainable movement in Cambodia
SUITE DREAMS The Grand Amsterdam
Voyages of a lifetime
ON THE ROAD Bentley Mulsanne
On the cover 48 Cambodia: next gen
Hotels and entrepreneurs are putting people first in the new Cambodia
58 Making waves in Oslo
Urban regeneration in the Norwegian capital is reshaping the city’s waterfront
66 Heavenly Devon
Golden beaches, palm trees and castles: Devon is Britain’s best-kept secret
74 A pinch of Basel
What to do with just 24 hours in Switzerland’s cultural centre
Arabian horses roam the grounds at Combe House in Devon
©2013 ALL RIghTS RESERvED
ADELYA JEWELLERY COLLECTION SUMMER 2013/ LADY MARMALADE / adelyajewellery.com
Contents June 2013
78 In the news 26 Retrospective The glitz and glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix
28 Europe Marseille rises as Europe’s new cultural capital 32 Middle East & Africa Donald Trump sets his sights on Dubai 34 Asia & Oceania New hotels on the rise in Malaysia 38 Americas The Plaza in NYC unveils a Great Gatsby-themed suite 40 Debut Hot hotels, chic boutiques and exclusive new resorts 42 Insider A local expert shares his top tips for visiting the US capital
44 Interview Polo pro Nacho Figueras is championing the Sport of Kings
Inside 76 Diary Out and about this month? Don’t miss these events 78 Spend it Plan your ultimate luxury escape this summer 83 Suite dreams Prestige Suite at Sofitel The Grand Amsterdam 85 Review Serious steaks and youthful exuberance at STK London 86 On the road Meet the new-gen editions of three classic vehicles 90 Ignition The Bentley Mulsanne is the godfather of luxury saloons 95 Grapevine News, gossip and insider knowledge from the hotel world 96 VIP Eve Branson’s inaugural Jnan Amar Polo Challenge in Morocco 98 Connoisseur Three of the best luxury hotels in Chicago dotwnews.com
Letter from the Editor We’re ALMOST hALfWAy ThrOugh The yeAr already, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time to start planning that much-needed summer vacation. Many people will be looking for something new this year – a new destination or a new experience in a familiar destination. Take Devon for example. Nearly every British reader will have had the pleasure of visiting Devon at least once in their lives, probably as part of a family holiday that may have also involved elderly relations, caravans and Wellington boots. But England’s picturesque southwest has a lot more to offer the discerning traveller. From its idyllic landscapes and postcard-perfect beaches to its luxurious castles and stately homes, Devon is the ultimate tonic for the city-weary holidaymaker looking for peace of spirit as well as peace of mind. For those who have not yet experienced the breathtaking landscapes before, read the story by Rowena Marella-Daw on page 66. For somewhere less visited, take a look at Oslo. The Norwegian capital is currently going through a major transformation that is converting its previously run-down waterfront into one of Europe’s trendiest urban centres. Since the opening of the new Oslo Opera house in 2008, interest and investment has poured into the neighbourhood, with dilapidated factories and warehouses being converted into art galleries, cafés and trendy boutiques, not to mention one new designer hotel that has quickly earned a reputation as the go-to place for visitors in the know. Travel writer Nick Walton revisited the city to bring us the latest on Norway’s urban Renaissance - read about his journey on page 58. Cambodia has been on my must-visit list since I first saw images of Angkor Wat as a child, so I had a very clear idea of what to expect when I travelled there earlier this year. But when I arrived, my preconceptions were completely blown away, to the extent that I restructured my itinerary, skipping Angkor Wat to see more of what was going on in the bustling capital Phnom Penh and on the much-talked-about Song Saa Private Island. During my short visit I found that, although the streets of the capital and other tourist hotspots like Sihanoukville are teeming with run-down watering holes and cheap eateries catering to backpackers and the mass market, there’s also a new wave of companies that are putting quality and sustainability at the forefront of their business propositions, attracting growing numbers of discerning visitors. Read about it on page 48.
Chasing the night Twilight settles over Vista Bar at Song Saa Private Island
There is something new emerging wherever you look this summer. eve Branson (Sir Richard’s mother) tells us about her new annual charity event in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains – the Jnan Amar Polo Challenge – in ‘VIP’ on page 96, and we also have some expert advice on what to see and do in Washington, DC from the head concierge at the new Capella Washington, DC, Georgetown in ‘Insider’ on page 42. Meanwhile Caitlin Cheadle caught up with polo legend and ralph Lauren model Nacho figueras to find out more about his quest to make the Sport of Kings more accessible to a new generation of polo enthusiasts (page 44), and paid a visit to Amsterdam to inspect the Sofitel Legend The grand, which has brought a touch of class to the edge of the city’s notorious Red Light District (page 83). There’s plenty more inside this issue, including a round-up of some of the best travel itineraries money can buy in ‘Spend It’ on page 78, and the next generation of flagship vehicles from some of the world’s top carmakers on page 86. Travel well.
Joe Mortimer Senior Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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Your ideal stay is waiting at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa. Experience the purity a n d b e a u t y o f t h e M a l d i v e s l i k e y o u h a v e n e v e r s e e n b e f o r e w i t h t h e r e s o r t ’s P ure H adahaa pack a ge —the first al l -inc l usiv e full fo o d , b e v e ra ge a n d e x c u rsi o n exp e rience available a t a Pa rk H ya tt re so r t. This c o mp le te e x p e ri e n c e o ffe rs y o u t h e l u xur y of unlimite d fo o d and be v e rage se r v ice s d u ri n g y o u r ti me o n th e i sla n d as well as experiencing the wonders of Hadahaa’s breathtaking under water kingdom. With the recent opening of the new domestic airpor t at Kooddoo, our remote island p a ra dis e in the extr e m e so uth o f the M a l div e s is th a t mu c h mo re a c c e ssi b le . We i nvite you to exp e rie nce pure M a l div e s at its v e r y b e st. R e s e r vations +960 6 8 2 12 3 4 or ma l div e s.parkhad a h a a @h y a tt. c o m N o r t h Huvadhoo ( Gaafu A l ifu) A tol l , Re publ ic of M a ld i v e s
The trademarks HYATT™, PARK HYATT™ and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt International Corporation. ©2013 Hyatt International Corporation. All rights reser ved.
Contributors Joe Mortimer
Lately, senior editor Joe Mortimer has found himself in several destinations where civil unrest or war has left a lingering stain on the country’s reputation and ability to move forward. But on a recent visit to Cambodia he was delighted to find that the nation is making significant steps in the right direction, with a number of entrepreneur and NGO-led initiatives that are building a high-quality, sustainable tourism foundation for the future, and providing training and education to encourage the Cambodian people to take up the cause. Read about Cambodia’s next generation on page 48.
Rowena Marella-Daw is a UK-based freelance writer specialising in luxury and honeymoon travel. After a stint working for a leading UK wedding magazine, she now writes for high-end lifestyle and travel publications. Her most memorable travel experience was a 10-hour train journey from Budapest through the Carpathian Mountains to meet a genuine Transylvanian count. A native of Manila, Rowena has lived in New York and Los Angeles. She recently spent a week exploring the beach towns and moors of Devon for her story ‘Heavenly Devon’, on page 66.
June 2013, Issue 84 Publisher Anna Zhukov email@example.com Senior Editor Joe Mortimer firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Deputy Editor Caitlin Cheadle email@example.com Deputy Editor Rebecca Haddad firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-at-Large Andy Round email@example.com Contributing Editor Mary Gostelow Sales Manager Andrea Tsiachtsiri firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director Kris Karacinski email@example.com Multimedia Graphics Manager Haitham El Shazly firstname.lastname@example.org United Kingdom Sales Representative David Hammond email@example.com Circulation department firstname.lastname@example.org Cover image Villa at Song Saa Private Island
Nick Walton is a Hong Kong-based travel writer with more than a decade’s worth of experience writing for travel publications around the globe. In this issue he returns to Oslo, a city he has visited both during its long, cold winters and bright, warm summers, to see how an urban regeneration project is changing the face of its waterfront neighbourhoods. From the new Oslo Opera House to an ambitious greenbelt project along the waterfront, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Norwegian capital this summer (page 58).
Nick Rice hit the road 15 years ago and has been living and working all over the globe ever since. Sometimes the road has been the one less travelled, sometimes the one of least resistance; occasionally it’s been dangerous, often exhilarating, but always rewarding. Having worked as a jaguar handler in Bolivia, a sailor in the South China Sea and a radio presenter in Havana, youthful exuberance is now tempered with a bit more caution. On a recent visit to Basel in Switzerland, he took some time out to discover what to do with 24 hours in one of Europe’s cultural capitals (page 74).
International Commercial Representations Destinations of the World News’ network of international advertising sales and editorial representatives are based in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America. Destinations of the World News is published monthly by WNN Limited and distributed globally to the world’s premier airport lounges, our subscriber network and a select number of five-star hotels in the UAE. The title Destinations of the World News is a registered trademark and the publisher reserves all rights. All material in Destinations of the World News is compiled from sources believed to be reliable and articles reflect the personal opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the publisher. Destinations of the World News is not responsible for omissions or errors that result from misrepresentation of information to the publisher. Advertisers assume all liability for their advertising content. All rights of the owner and the producer of this conceptual development and artwork design are reserved. Neither this publication nor any part of it may be imitated, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of WNN Limited. Principal Offices WNN Limited, Reuters Building 1, Office 106, Dubai Media City, PO Box 500661, Dubai, UAE Tel +971 4 3910680 Fax +971 4 3910688 WNN limited, 31 Archbishop Kyprianou Street, 3036, PO Box 51234, zip 3503, Limassol, Cyprus To subscribe to Destinations of the World News at an annual rate of $99 visit the website at www.dotwnews.com and hit SUBSCRIBE. Images used in Destinations of the World News are provided by Getty Images/Corbis/iStockphoto unless stated otherwise. DOTW News is printed by J G Cassoulides & Sons Ltd, Nicosia, Cyprus and Al Nisr Publishing, Dubai, UAE
IPs and spectators look on as Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber races past during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on May 26. The winding Circuit de Monaco, which runs alongside some of Monaco’s most iconic buildings, including the exclusive Hotel de Paris, is widely considered to be the most challenging on the Formula 1 circuit. It’s glamorous Monte-Carlo location, with the Monaco Marina providing the backdrop for one stretch of the race and designer boutiques lining other portions of the track, also make it the most prestigious. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of two races on the F1 calendar that bring their host city to a halt, as organisers have cordon off the city streets to be used as part of the course. This year’s race was won by Monaco native Nico Rosberg of the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, whose father, Keke Rosberg, won the same race 30 years ago in May 1983.
Marseille gets a makeover 2013 has been a year of change for Marseille, France’s secondlargest city. The port town’s infamous reputation as a haven for gang-related violence has long been forgotten, courtesy of a multimillion-dollar refurbishment that is, quite literally, changing the face of the city. The revamp comes as Marseille-Provence was named the 2013 European Capital of Culture. Historic buildings and run-down port areas have been given new purpose, becoming sites for the city’s new art and culture hubs. This month, the highly anticipated
Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) will open. The complex is spread across three separate sites: the former J4 pier, Fort Saint-Jean and in the Belle de Mai district (above). The museum is the first of its kind in the world and will house permanent exhibitions and host a range of cultural events including theatrical and musical performances. While events have been happening throughout the city since the start of the year, there are still plenty of things to see and do from this month onwards.
The first weekend of June marks the start of the Laterna Magica festival. The festival’s 10 scheduled events will begin with an exhibit of original work by a group of local and international artists, who will also participate in workshops and discussions that will give visitors a chance to learn how they conceptualise their works. From June 19 until July 12, the city will also hold its annual Festival de Marseille, a showcase of music, dance and cinema. When you’ve had your fix of contemporary art, the ‘old Marseille’ is still worth exploring. Start by booking into the new InterContinental Marseille – Hôtel Dieu (left), in the heart of Le Panier (the old district). The property is housed in an 18th-century building that was formerly the Saint-Esprit hospital. As you wander through the streets of the nearby neighbourhoods, sample Marseille’s specialty, bouillabaisse (Provençal fish stew) at a hole-in-the-wall cafe, or browse the high-end boutiques, you’ll discover l’art de vivre is everywhere you look.
The latest in luxury travel
The Luxury Collection’s Gritti Palace re-opens in Venice AFTER a 15-month renovation, Venice’s Gritti Palace has re-opened as part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. The US $45 million upgrade involved careful restoration of antique furnishes and artworks, while breathing new life into the 61 rooms and 21 suites, in a way that blends seamlessly with the original features of the building.
Each of the luxe suites has been inspired by a renowned former guest of the hotel, such as writer Ernest Hemingway (who was one of the first guests when The Gritti was converted from a 15th-century palazzo into a hotel in 1895) and American art collector Peggy Guggenheim, as well as iconic destinations around Venice.
The Gritti stands as one of the city’s historical treasures and is a museum in its own right. The Explorer’s Library, a new feature of the hotel, is worth visiting for the antiques and rare books on display, while Bar Longi features six paintings by the famed 18th-century local artist, Pietro Longhi. www.thegrittipalace.com
Literary-minded adventurers might like a nine-day expedition following Lord Byron’s 1809 journeys in Albania. Led by Albanian specialist Auron Tare, tours start in Ionannina, Greece, and finish in Tepelena, Albania, and along the way you stay at the Cajupi Hotel in Gjirokastra. The itinerary, which includes both horseback riding and walking, takes in the Butrint National Park which, like Gjirokastra, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. www.auronexpeditions.com Some of the most imaginative travel baggage comes from Julie Barnes’ Leigh Street Luggage in Adelaide, Australia. It has international brands Crumpler and Globe Trotter, but it also has its own range. The Leigh Street backpacks, exclusive to the store, are soft but durable cowhide, with zipprotected pockets and fully-adjustable straps. In today’s millennial world of savvy travellers carrying several devices and needing to be flexible, these are ideal. www.leighstluggage.com.au In Dusseldorf, try to visit Julia Stoschek’s private gallery, in her amazing modernist home-museum, which was once a corset factory. Julia Stoschek’s collection includes art photos and more than 500 video installations. She is showing her work Number Six: Flaming Creatures until the end of June. Check opening times before turning up. www.julia-stoschek-collection.net
A TWO-YEAR renovation of the Mandarin Oriental Geneva is now complete, including the addition of the hotel’s new Mandarin Floor. Located on the sixth level, the floor was designed by renowned French designer Sybille de Margerie, who also designed the guestrooms and spa at the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The rooms and suites on the Mandarin Floor boast rich palettes of reds, fuchsias and golds – and, of course, spectacular views of Geneva and the River Rhône. www.mandarinoriental.com
Cape Town’s Dear Me is the most versatile of eating places. It is a day-long brasserie, offering such Vanessa Marx dishes as lactose- and starch-free grilled yellowtail, paired with a Vondeling Chardonnay 2009. Thursday evening, it also offers a ninecourse gourmet dinner in a room that is all white except for clear plastic Philippe Starck chairs. At night, the rooftop becomes Tjing Tjing nightclub. www.dearme.co.za MARY GOSTELOW
Middle East & Africa
Trump on par AmericAn entrepreneur Donald Trump is working with Dubai’s Damac Properties to extend his golfing empire to the Middle East. Trump International Golf Club Dubai will feature an 18-hole PGA championship course, a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse, a Trump Spa and wellness centre, and three restaurants. The site is located in the middle of the ‘Akoya by Damac’ development, which will feature luxury villas, townhouses and golf condos (above), and Trump promises that there will be “nothing like it” in the region. The course is sure to further strengthen golf tourism in the UAE as well as the Trump portfolio, joining the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which is considered one of the best courses in the world. www.damacproperties.com
The mile-high social network Etihad Airways is tapping into the rise in social networking to aid business travellers in liaising with contacts, no matter where they are in the world. Etihad has launched an application in co-operation with LinkedIn to make face-to-face networking around the world easy. Dubbed “Etihad Mapped-Out”, the application allows travellers with a LinkedIn account to log on and search their connections by geographical location, making it easy to find where connections are at any time. “This tool is particularly useful for our guests travelling for business. Ahead of a business trip, the guest can use this tool to see not only his or her immediate contacts in the region, but also second-degree contacts,” says Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer. www.etihadmappedout.com
Street art in Cairo Despite the Egyptian capital’s main tourism drawcard being its centuries-old architecture and cultural attractions, evidence of a new trend-setting social scene can be found – it’s just a matter of knowing where to go. As an homage to the city’s rising class of creative young residents, Graffiti Bar and Lounge has opened inside the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza. Here, contemporary chic meets an underground vibe; stay for quiet after-work drinks or enjoy a perpetual calendar of events including comedy nights, art installations and live bands. It’s also worth staying for dinner – the menu is as bold and creative as the graffiti artworks that adorn the establishment’s walls. www.fourseasons.com
Luxury living Raffles Dubai is not just known for its iconic pyramid-like exterior – it is now home to what has been dubbed ‘the world’s most luxurious floor’. Formerly the residence of UAE politician and member of the royal family Sheikh Mana bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, Level 14 – now known as the ‘Dubai Floor’ — has been converted into hotel accommodation with lavish amenities including a private cinema, three kitchens, and a spa and hair salon. A stay on this level, which is expected to cost approximately US $27,000 per night, also comes with a butler, personal chef and limousine service, not to mention a private elevator to take you to and from your suite whenever you please. www.raffles.com/dubai
Qatar Airways expansion plans This year has already seen aggressive expansion plans for Doha-based Qatar Airways, and the airline is showing no signs of slowing down, with new routes and a brand new airport in the works. From September 18, the Ethiopian capital of Addis Abada will be the carrier’s 20th destination in Africa. A month later, Qatar Airways will also introduce new routes to the Philippines, and open another American gateway in Philadelphia in March next year.
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Asia & & Oceania Oceania
All roads lead to Malaysia
With exotic landscapes, subtropical weather and a rich cultural heritage, Malaysia has long been a tourism jewel in Southeast Asia. Now, the country’s status as a key travel and business destination is being reinforced over the next few years as an influx of international brands move into the area to establish a base. Malaysia-based destination development company DRH, which recently bought The Datai in Langkawi (above) and plans to open a second Datai in Malaysia in 2015, is developing a number of resorts and Ernie Els-designed golf courses in the Malaysian state of Johor in the coming years. The country’s capital is also set to benefit from a sharp increase in hotel activity. The world’s very first Harrods-branded hotel is under construction in Kuala Lumpur, a RM 2 billion (US $659 million) development project that is due for completion in 2018. The development will feature a seven-star hotel as well as two towers of serviced apartments, an office building, and retail space. Starwood Hotels and Resorts is also strengthening its presence, with two major establishments in the works. St. Regis Kuala Lumpur is slated for a December 2014 opening, while Malaysia’s first W Hotel (right) is due to open in January 2016 in the capital’s lively Golden Triangle district. The recently relaunched Regent Hotels & Resorts is also set to open a property with 238 rooms and 110 residences in the Jalan Ampang commercial and entertainment district in the second quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, the opening of the Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur, which recently made headlines for achieving the highest ever real estate prices in the city for its two penthouses, has been pushed back to 2016.
See the Whitsundays by sea A holiday to the chain of pristine islands known as the Whitsundays, in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, thanks to its tropical climate. Whitsunday Island, the biggest of the archipelago, is home to Whitehaven Beach, consistently voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It would be a pity to only spend a few hours on its white sandy shores, but a new full-day cruise is now available so you can explore the seven-kilometre stretch of sand in more detail. Cruise along the length of the beach to a landing point, where you’ll be met by a guide who will take you on a walk to a spectacular lookout. When the weather permits, the tour will also take you to nearby Elk Island, where you can enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch. www.cruisewhitsundays.com
Thai detox This summer, Amanpuri Resort Phuket is focusing closely on health and wellbeing, with the launch of new Wellness Retreats as of next month. The retreats, which will run until the end of August, are either three or five nights long and are tailored to each guest. Spa specialists will create a nutrition and exercise program specific to your needs and combine it with unique health-focused treatments including Polarity therapy, which rebalances your body’s energy levels, plus traditional relaxation treatments from the Aman Spa menu. www.amanresorts.com
A Balinese holiday minus the tourists? Look no further than Sumba Island There’s nothing like venturing off the path most travelled and discovering an untouched paradise. The luxury eco-resort of Nihiwatu on Sumba Island, just off the coast of Bali, is your answer to an Indonesian holiday minus the crowds. Forget the tourists and book here for a rustic adventure in a paradise setting of pristine beaches, tropical rainforests and lush rice paddy fields. www.nihiwatu.com
The Plaza NYC opens Gatsby suite as baz luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby dazzles audiences around the world, The Plaza Hotel in New York pays homage to the man who composed the classic tale with the unveiling of its new Fitzgerald Suite. Once a favourite hangout of F. Scott and his wife, Zelda, the hotel has called upon the help of the film’s costume designer, Catherine Martin, to transform the 700-square-foot suite on the 18th floor into an art deco haven worthy of Jay Gatsby himself. Careful attention has been paid to finer details, from the design on the bespoke door to the elaborate chandeliers and periodinspired furniture throughout, while the bedspread and towels have been monogrammed with a Jay Gatsby/Daisy Buchanan logo. Even mod-cons have been given the vintage treatment: the iPhone and iPad speakers are shaped like a gramophone. There is also plenty of ‘old-fashioned’ entertainment available to help immerse you in another era, including classic board games and a set of Tiffany & Co. playing cards. www.theplazany.com
Get a sound sleep FOr many of us, getting a proper night’s sleep has become something of a luxury. Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa in Colorado has been paying close attention to this growing problem and has launched ‘Sound Sleep Initiatives’ to help guests get a proper rest. These services go beyond your standard lavender-scented pillows, eyemasks and dedicated music channels. Guests can book in for a Slumber Massage at the spa, which finishes with a 15-minute rest time; order special meals at the resort’s restaurants, which are designed to relax the body and induce drowsiness; or request oxygen canisters and humidifiers to better adjust to the altitude (the hotel is situated more than 8,000 feet above sea level). So serious is the hotel about its initiative, it is even hosting a Sleep Camp from June 20–23. The weekend will include yoga sessions, nature hikes, and sleep workshops where you can learn relaxation techniques, plus plenty of free time to put your ideas into practice. www.beavercreek.hyatt.com
“These new ‘Sound Sleep Initiatives’ go beyond your standard lavender-scented pillows and eyemasks”
Vivienne Westwood teams up with Virgin Forget competitive airfares and guest benefits, it’s all about staff presentation these days, as more airlines and hotels recruit top designers to work their magic on staff uniforms. Virgin Atlantic is the latest airline to add the designer touch, assigning British designer Vivienne Westwood the task of sprucing up its cabin crew uniforms. Westwood’s upgrade of the old design, which has been in use for more than 10 years, melds innovation with sustainability, using eco-friendly fabrics to fashion modern uniforms. “I design things to help people hopefully express their personality,” she explains.
“I am always trying to find fabrics that are more friendly to the environment – working with Virgin Atlantic, they managed to research into this and find more eco fabrics.” The uniforms will be previewed from July 2013, with a full roll-out in 2014.
“Westwood’s upgrade of the old design melds innovation with sustainability”
Explore Ecuador by luxury rail From this month, Ecuador’s stunning natural landscapes can be seen by luxury rail. After four years and a US $280 million restoration, the South American country’s famous track, originally constructed at the turn of the 20th century, is once again operational. A four-day rail journey runs from Quito in the Andes to Guayaquil on the coast via the Nariz del Diablo (the Devil’s Nose) – one of the steepest stretches of track in the world. www.ecuadorbytrain.com
Explore NYC at your own pace with Peninsula
Book into a suite at The Peninsula Hotel New York this month and you’ll be in for a special treat: complimentary access to a sleek Mini Cooper and chauffeur for a maximum of three hours for each day during your stay, giving you enough time to shop, sightsee and be back at the hotel for cocktail hour. Valid until June 30. www.peninsula.com
DEBUT Hot hotels | chic boutiques | exclusive resorts
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Situated along the stunning Grand Canal in San Polo, one of the oldest parts of Venice, Aman Resorts’ latest addition pays homage to its UNESCO World Heritage Site setting. Housed in the historic Palazzo Papadopoli, the 24 individually designed suites offer sleek accommodation with classical touches, including original frescoes. Each suite also offers views of either the Grand Canal or the private garden courtyard, and Aman even provides its own private waterborne tours of the city for guests of the Canal Grande. www.amanresorts.com
This sleek new property, a member of Design Hotels, is conveniently located next to Rotterdam’s historic Harbor Museum and near the iconic Erasmus Bridge that connects the northern and southern parts of the city. Inside, all 215 rooms have been given a touch of luxury, with amenities such as in-room spas and private saunas. The style is contemporary, and each room is unique in its design. Services and entertainment options include a hammam, gym, restaurant and cocktail bar, where you can soak up the stunning views of the city skyline while you imbibe. www.mainporthotel.com
Aman Canal Grande
Mainport Hotel This re-launched oasis along the Arabian Gulf amps up the luxe factor for business and leisure travellers. Sitting alongside 200 metres of private beach, the complex of 307 rooms and suites, 80 serviced apartments and 12 chalets is heavily influenced by its location, with a recurring theme of water throughout. Despite state-of-the-art conference and banqueting facilities, relaxation dominates, with eight restaurants and lounges as well as Jumeirah’s signature Talise Spa, where you can enjoy personalised treatments. www.jumeirah.com
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa
Located in the exclusive Sanur district on the southeastern tip of the island, the Regent Bali’s 95 suites pay homage to the natural surroundings, with wood furnishings and a muted colour palette. The spacious rooms, Balinese décor and private surroundings will ensure you feel far removed from the tourist trap of central Denpasar. Book into one of the four premiere spa suites – although they’re decked out with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations, the island and garden views and water features will have you wanting to stay close to nature – and perhaps another night. www.regenthotels.com
Located in the fashionable Jing An district in Puxi, West Shanghai, the latest offering from Shangri-La is a prime base for exploring the city. Inside, 508 guestrooms provide an oasis to relax from the hustle and bustle outside, with mood lighting, muted tones and chic, contemporary décor. Floor-toceiling windows take full advantage of panoramic city vistas, with the 3,000 sq m piazza in the foreground. Business travellers will appreciate the 4,465 square metres of office space, or they can opt for a more informal meeting spot at one of the hotel’s two restaurants or the café. www.shangri-la.com
Jing An Shangri-La
Luis Colmenares, lead personal assistant at the new Capella Washington, DC, Georgetown, shares his knowledge on the US capital
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace Nusta Spa
Marvin is the place to go for brunch. Not only do they have great food, but their coffee is to die for. This hip and trendy spot offers hearty dishes such as croque monsieur, croque madame [fried cheese sandwich topped with fried egg], chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits [a corn-based porridge common in Southern US cooking], and the fantastic Nutella waffles. After your meal, visit the lounge – a great space to spend the afternoon outside catching up with friends over drinks.
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2007 14th St NW; Tel: +1 202 797 7171; www.marvindc.com
1314B 14th St NW; Tel: +1 202 506 6868; www.logan14salonspa.com
Tysons Galleria houses a collection of high-end stores, as well as a handful of good restaurants. Here, you’ll find Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Henri Bendel, and Anthropologie all in one place. It’s the Fifth Avenue of Northern Virginia.
In downtown Washington, Nusta Spa has a range of excellent bespoke spa treatments. The therapists ensure you have the perfect environment before they begin, with your choice of music and room temperature, for example. It’s also the first spa to receive Gold LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.
2001 International Drive, McLean, VA; www.tysonsgalleria.com
1129 20th St NW; Tel: +1 202 530 5700; www.nustaspa.com
Ph oto :C orb is
Brooks Brothers is a store that still emphasises great personal service. The clothes are tailored to perfection and are top of the line in quality and cut. They might be pricey, but they are classics that can be worn for many years, which I think makes them a worthy investment.
Experience the hustle and bustle of a busy dinner service at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. You need to go all out on food here; the raw oysters are a good place to start, followed by Angels on Horseback [oysters wrapped in bacon]. 1612 14th St NW;
1201 Connecticut Ave NW; Tel: +1 202 659 4650; www.brooksbrothers.com
Tel: +1 202 319 1612; www.pearldivedc.com
DINE Marcel’s is classic French cuisine done to perfection; yet another reason why Washington, DC is fast becoming a culinary destination on par with New York. The degustation menu is incredible and gives you a great idea of why chef Robert Wiedmaier is one of the best in the city. 2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW; Tel: +1 202 296 1166; www.marcelsdc.com. If you are an adventurous eater and enjoy sashimi, I recommend Izakaya Seki in the U Street Corridor. This fantastic find serves fresh fish and the best Japanese cuisine in town. 1177 V St NW; Tel: +1 202 588 5841; www.sekidc.com
ESCAPE An hour’s drive from Washington, Baltimore is a great weekend escape. The beautiful waterfront is worth the visit alone, and the Inner Harbor is lined with attractions, restaurants and shopping. Three centuries of history have left their mark on the town, celebrated in several worldclass museums. Check out some of the neighbourhoods like Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, Mount Vernon and Little Italy. www.baltimore.org
Polo for the people Professional polo player and Ralph Lauren model Nacho Figueras is on a mission to turn the Sport of Kings into the next Formula 1 – and the Eastern world is ready Interview: Caitlin Cheadle
You’re on a mission to globalise polo and bring it to new audiences around the world. How do you plan to make it more accessible? There are two sides to it: one is to make it more approachable to spectators and to encourage more people to attend polo matches, in order to kind of demystify the sport. The other is to encourage more people to play polo, because it is a lot of fun. It is a great sport, and the connection with the horses is fantastic. For those who dream of playing polo but don’t have the means to do so, I want to show that if you really have the passion, you can go to a local polo club and start getting involved. I want to show the kids that if they are really passionate about it, nothing can stop them from becoming the best polo player in the world. Historically polo was reserved for royalty, and it’s still seen as an elitist sport, would you agree? I think there’s a side of polo that’s associated with royalty, but there’s also a side that’s associated with people who love horses, which is the side of polo that I really want to focus on.
Photo: Getty Images
rofessional polo player Nacho Figueras is a well-known face on and off the pitch; he’s often seen hobnobbing with the likes of Prince Harry and other celebrities at charity polo events around the world, and you may also recognise him as the face of Polo Ralph Lauren fragrances, a position he’s held for more than a decade. One thing’s for certain, he sure has an effect on the female journalists who have turned up at a press briefing at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi to interview him – I haven’t seen so many flushed cheeks and sideways glances since my first school dance. But the man with the beautiful face turns out to be refreshingly down to earth. Having donated his time to several charitable causes, he’s now on a mission to spread the Sport of Kings to new audiences around the world, hoping to re-brand it as a sociable, adrenaline-pumping pastime worth travelling for, along the lines of the Formula 1, golf and tennis. Here, he reflects on what it takes to reach a global audience, and why newly affluent countries like China and the UAE are embracing polo with open arms.
A lot of sports with an international following, like football, are ones that people play as well as watch. Is polo at a disadvantage in that way? For every sport you have to start young to play professionally. But if you don’t have the chance to start young, you can still have a lot of fun doing it. A lot of people travel to play golf or tennis and it’s just for fun. Polo is actually great for that, too. Logistically it’s a little bit more complicated than football or tennis or golf – it’s not just a matter of buying the ball and the tennis racket and hitting it against a wall. But I think there is a big misunderstanding that it is impossible to pick up. What is one thing you want people around the world to know about what you are working towards? I want everyone to know that if you really love the sport and you want to train, you can. If you have money it’s obviously easier, but if you don’t there are other ways. In America there’s a programme called Work to Ride that I support, where inner-city kids go to a local stable run by a woman who puts them to work at the stable, kind of like community work. If they get good grades, she teaches them how to play polo. Some of them go on to play for their schools and get scholarships. They all look at polo as a platform to keep them out of trouble. And these kids get really excited about it. It’s a fantastic programme that puts polo in a whole new light.
These days there are a lot of polo events being held all over the world; where are the best places for a spectator to go and watch the sport? Well, the best place in the world to watch polo, and the place where it is played at the highest level, is Argentina. There is also a lot of great polo in America, in England and in the UAE. There’s a big connection to the horses [in the Middle East], so I think that is why polo is so popular. It was similar in China – we were just there playing polo in Beijing, and had an amazing response. And it is getting really big in Brazil, too. Does your role as a St. Regis Connoisseur enable you to travel to promote your cause? I’ve been a St. Regis ambassador for about three years now. There is a history between polo and the Astor family, which is the family that founded St. Regis Hotels in 1904 in New York City. They used to host a lot of the guys who were playing polo in New York at the beginning of the 20th century – that’s the link between the family and the hotel and the sport. I did something together with Prince Harry at a polo event with St. Regis in New York, and we started talking and now we have played polo together in different events in different parts of the world – in London, China, Brazil, America, and now in the Middle East.
Swinging success Figueras is passionate about bringing polo to a mainstream audience
Is there anywhere in the world that has surprised you in terms of the positive response to the sport? Yes, actually, in China. I knew polo was gaining in popularity there, but I was really surprised by how excited people were about it. I think that in a few years there could be a really big fan base there. In what way do you think your modelling work has positively affected your cause? Well, I only work with one brand, which is Ralph Lauren, so I don’t consider myself a model, really. I have been working with the brand for over 12 years, and I think the fact that I have been doing the ads for so long and that there’s so much advertising behind my face has given me some recognition that has allowed me to attract more attention to what I am trying to achieve. Is there anywhere in the world in particular that you’d like to travel to on your mission to promote polo? I’d like to place a flag in each country or destination, and then from there to link the different polo events in different parts of the world. At the moment polo is quite fragmented. For example, polo played in Argentina has nothing to do with the polo that is played in England, or the polo that is played in America. So, for someone who wants to travel around the world following the events, it can be very hard because players travel from one place to another and the events don’t connect. So, eventually I hope to be able to link them all together and then it will become easier to follow the sport. Once we have that attention and get that kind of globalisation, we can get more brands involved. Then, hopefully, we can start attracting the attention of the TV stations. Once you have that you can get followers who travel with the events, and you get brands and sponsorship to grow. Do you think polo will get to the level of the Formula 1 or football, with fans travelling all over the world to follow the sport? I think so, yes. The F1 is a good example of what could be done with polo. n
Discover the romance of Imperial Russia with Orient-Express at St Petersburg most luxurious hotel since 1875.
C a m b o d i a n e x t g e n e r at i o n entrepreneurs, sustainable initiatives and socially-minded businesses have given birth to a new era in Cambodia WoRdS: Joe Mortimer
n the lawn below me, a group of around 25 people are lying on their backs under the broad, drooping arms of a 100-year-old monkey pod tree, gazing up in awe at the stars above them. On a 30-foot canvas screen, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn sail down a murky river in The African Queen. Immaculately dressed men buzz around the prostrate figures delivering Kir Royals and Negronis to the wide-eyed spectators. Undeterred by the bustle below, cicadas continue their evening chorus. With the exception of a few notable interludes, life has unfolded in a similar fashion for decades at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, a cool colonial building couched in an affluent neighbourhood in Phnom Penh, seemingly a million miles away from the world beyond its walls. From the earliest exploration of the Indo-China hinterland, the Cambodian capital has been a wondrous way-station; a mystical city on the banks of the Mekong River, whose golden-roofed pagodas and gilded spires stirred up memories of childhood fairytales among early visitors en route to the ancient marvels of the interior. The stopover was not without its luxuries. Built in 1929, Le Royal, as it was originally known, was designed and built by architect Ernest Hébrard, the man responsible for much of the urban planning of modern Phnom Penh. The hotel was built in the fashionable European Quarter to provide luxurious accommodation for diplomats visiting the French colony, then part of French Indochina. With the exception of a period of closure during the Khmer Rouge occupation of Phnom Penh from 1975 to 1979, the hotel has served as a home from home for most people of note passing through the Cambodian capital. It wasn’t until 1997, after an extensive renovation and the addition of three new wings, that the Raffles flag was raised over the property. The remarkable facelift has preserved the character of the original building wonderfully, and when you sit by the pool and let the warm evening breeze and the scent of the frangipani trees wash over you, it’s easy to drift back in
Drift back in time by the poolside at Raffles Le Royal
Raffles Le Royal has retained its colonial era aesthetic
The cool white marble lobby of Raffles Le Royal
time and contemplate the history of the Khmer capital. Like the temples at Angkor Wat, Cambodia has many faces, and it is impossible to consider one without the other. No story of Cambodia’s future can exist without sparing a thought for its past. In an old orchard on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, a towering stupa is piled high with thousands of human skulls from the 8,895 bodies that were discovered here at Choeung Ek. Formerly a Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek is better known today as the Killing Fields – the site of some of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed an estimated 2.2 million people during its four years in power. Most of the Cambodians who perished here arrived from S-21, now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Formerly a school, Security Office 21 was one of around 150 holding areas for victims of the regime, who were imprisoned and tortured until their forced confessions led them to their fate at Choeung Ek, if they didn’t succumb to the violence, disease and malnourishment at Tuol Sleng. Rather than glossing over this most heinous of chapters in Cambodia’s recent history, the government wants visitors to learn about what happened here, partly in memory of those who died, and partly to ensure it never happens again.
“From the earliest exploration of the Indo-China hinterland, the Cambodian capital has been a wondrous way-station; a mystical city on the banks of the Mekong River”
Enjoy cocktails and good conversation at Bar.Sito
But while Cambodia will always remember the past, the country seems to be embracing the arrival of a new era in which the social, cultural and environmental future of the kingdom is finally playing an important role. Many of the initiatives dedicated to improving the country’s future are being driven by foreign organisations and individuals looking to promote sustainable development. From community support programmes rehabilitating street children in the capital, to nationwide NGO-funded activities and the introduction of sustainable practices and environmental management programmes by one forwardthinking resort, things are looking up for Cambodia.
Lotus flower-shaped Independence Monument was built in 1958
In addition to Raffles, Phnom Penh has just two other five-star hotels, a Sofitel and an InterContinental. While the restaurants and bars in these three establishments are ranked as the best in the city, there hasn’t been a lot of competition from independent venues in the past. But that’s all starting to change. In a leafy neighbourhood to the south of Independence Monument, home to many of the city’s NGOs, Rob Ainge has created DECO, a casual bistro-style restaurant aimed at discerning visitors and the city’s wealthy expats. Chef and co-owner Caspar von Hofmannsthal’s small European menu changes regularly depending on what fresh ingredients he can get hold of, with the exception of a few DECO staples which keep Phnom Penh expats coming back for more week after week. The kampot crab cakes with sherry mayonnaise are worth the journey alone. “Traditionally the people who stayed at Raffles or the Sofitel didn’t have many places to go outside the hotels,” says Rob. “What we wanted to do was create somewhere with a high standard of food, locally sourced where possible, but at prices that are approachable.”
Photo: Getty Images
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
BE AC H H O U S E CO LLE C T I O N CRAFTING T H E E X T R AO R D I NA RY
Natural design and reclaimed materials at Song Saa Private Island
It’s a story that’s repeating itself all over town. On another relatively quiet street near the resplendent Royal Palace is another hidden gem. Turn off the road up an anonymous-looking alley, past drying washing and the odd bicycle, and you’ll find Bar.Sito, its entrance marked with a small sign and a peep-hole door. Inside the speakeasy-style bar, owners William and George NorbertMunns are refining their extensive cocktail menu. “We only opened five months ago, but the response has been amazing,” says William as he strains an espresso martini into a glass. “When we moved to Phnom Penh, there wasn’t really anywhere you could go to enjoy a decent cocktail and listen to good music and have a great time with your friends. So we came up with Bar.Sito.” Derived from the Spanish term for ‘small bar’, this 30-seat lounge bar certainly lives up to its name. With one main room and a small cigar lounge that seats two, it’s an intimate space where cocktail and whisky aficionados (the largest selection I see while in Phnom Penh) can escape the bustle of some of the city’s rowdier lounges and rooftop bars. Apart from William, who makes the drinks, and George, who does the figures, the rest of the staff are Cambodians, all of whom are being trained in the art of cocktail making and hospitality, with a view to employing them in other ventures, including the new Public House bar, which the Norbert-Munn brothers have just opened on the other side of the street. In another part of town, not far from Tuol Sleng, Romdeng is one of three restaurants run by Mith Samlanh, a programme born out of the NGO Friends-International, which has been helping provide shelter, training and education for Phnom Penh’s street children since the early '90s. Nearly all of the staff at the restaurant are former street children gaining experience and a foothold in society after years of neglect. The restaurant serves creative Cambodian cuisine, a mixture of typical Khmer dishes and more modern creations, as well as innovative cocktails such as the Yellow Orange and Green Kampot Peppercorn Daiquiri. The house speciality is very much a traditional Cambodian delicacy: crispy tarantula with lime and chilli sauce.
“While Cambodia will always remember the past, the country seems to be embracing the arrival of a new era in which the social, cultural and environmental future of the kingdom is finally playing an important role”
Indulge your Robinson Crusoe fantasies on Koh Rong island Koh Ouen is connected to virgin Koh Bong by a wooden footbridge
Thegoldenbook Song Saa Private Island Tel: +855 236 860 360
Raffles Hotel Le Royal Tel: +855 23 981 888
DECO Tel: +855 17 577 327
Romdeng Tel: +855 92 219 565
Sunset over Koh Rong
In order to find out more about what’s happening outside of the capital, I make the three-hour drive to Sihanoukville, a journey made much more comfortable by the fact that I am collected from Raffles by an immaculately dressed chauffeur driving a BMW 5-Series. The chauffeur service is the first of many perks enjoyed by the guests of Song Saa Private Island.
ISLAND INITIATIVES Escaping it all without compromising on cultural experiences or luxury is not an easy task, but at Song Saa Private Island you are a stone’s throw from real life, and yet so completely remote from it that it’s virtually impossible not to surrender to your Robinson Crusoe fantasies. Conceived, designed and built by Australian couple Rory and Melita Hunter, Song Saa, whose motto is “luxury that treads lightly”, is a dream come true for the two entrepreneurs, who first spotted the islands as they sailed past them on their honeymoon. Several years of red tape later, they managed to lease the pair of islands – Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, collectively known as Song Saa, which is Khmer for “The Sweethearts” – and secure a license to develop them into Cambodia’s first private island resort. From the beginning, they made environmental management, sustainability and community development the cornerstones of the project. A 40-minute speedboat ride from Sihanoukville across the Gulf of Thailand, just 25 villas dot the island of Koh Ouen – Koh Bong has been left as an untouched wilderness for guests to explore. I’m staying in a jungle villa, perched high on the island’s elevated centre, with views across the ocean to the nearby island of Koh Rong. Stylishly designed using a mixture of natural and reclaimed materials, the villas scream eco-chic, with a writing desk made from one piece of driftwood, lamps made from recycled oil drums and an artwork made from pieces of an old fishing boat. There’s a sun deck with private plunge pool and day bed, an outdoor shower leading off from the bathroom, and a cantilevered bathtub surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the canopy. The next morning I'm up early for breakfast in the villa followed by a short longtail boat ride across to the island
of Koh Rong. Alongside Barnaby Olson, head of Song Saa’s conservation department, I paddle up a shady channel in one of the island’s mangrove forests for a crash course on the resort’s environmental management programmes and a firsthand look at one of Cambodia’s fragile ecosystems. Barnaby explains how mangrove forests enjoy a symbiotic relationship with coral reefs, and stresses that the documentation and preservation of Cambodia’s mangrove forests is paramount to the survival of its reefs: “Conservation is something of a luxury item in developing countries – it’s the last thing to come in and the first thing to disappear when times are tough,” says Barnaby, back at the Song Saa Discovery Centre that afternoon. “It often takes private enterprises or NGOs to take the first steps.” Later, we visit the village of Prek Svay on Koh Rong, where Barnaby and his team have been working with elders to promote waste management and sustainable fishing practices through community engagement and education programmes. The results are evident as we stroll through Prek Svay; perhaps the only litter-free village in Cambodia. Back at the resort that evening, at Driftwood Bar, logs crackle in the fire and music floats through the air, as waves lap against the low sea wall. Bats flit through the twilight and, along with the handful of guests who have left the comfort of their villas to enjoy island life, I sink into one of the beanbags, reach for my glass and smile. The new Cambodia is still so exclusive, so undiscovered, that we are all part of a club with just a handful of members. When the sun drops behind the ridge of Koh Rong to the east, the sky melts into a palette of pastel pinks and blues, and the jungle-covered hillsides fade into a murky black. Plumes of smoke rise as the lights of the village twinkle below. I walk back up to my villa, and at the top of the hill, on a small deck made of reclaimed wood, a couple settles comfortably into a pair of beanbags and gazes at the stars. Cambodia is still a beguiling destination that lures travellers from all over the world, but nowadays, foreign visitors want to know that they are giving back to the communities that welcome them. Fortunately, the new crop of creative initiatives taking place across the country is making that possible. n
Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa Maldives
The Residence, Maldives
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Maldives
W Retreat & Spa - Maldives
Niyama, A Per Aquum Resort, Maldives
One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives
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Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives
OSLO making waves Urban redevelopment along Osloâ€™s historic waterfront is giving the Norwegian capital a fresh new personality WORDS: Nick Walton
The gravity-defying Tiger’s Nest monastery
Bridges connect walkways around Oslo’s waterfront The old warehouses of Aker Brygge are now home to galleries and cafés
Photo: Nancy Bundt / visitnorway.com
urvaceous, elegant and boldly captivating, like a diva onstage, the Oslo Opera House comes to life as the first rays of morning light reach down to the tranquil waters of the city’s namesake fjord and bounce off its acute angles of white Italian marble. Unveiled in 2008, in typical Norwegian style – ahead of schedule and US $52 million under budget – the complex boasts 1,100 rooms and seating for almost 2,000, as well as captivating views across the water to the harbour islands of Hovedøya and Bleikøya. Chic and modern without a hint of pretention, the Opera House has helped propel the Norwegian capital to the forefront of Scandinavian cool, while serving as a vital anchor in the ambitious redevelopment that is forever changing the face of the city’s waterfront. Leaving the tranquillity of the fjord behind and making my way up the structure’s ramp-like slopes to the main auditorium and towards the city, the reality of this metropolischanging project is everywhere. Between the Opera House and Oslo’s central train station, construction crews carve out new subterranean highways that will plunge below the waterfront, leaving an unprecedented green belt – already dubbed OperaKvarteret – in their wake. Much of the development is taking place in the port neighbourhood of Bjørvika, a waterfront precinct in Oslo’s city centre – known as the Sentrum – that is reinventing itself with avant-garde architecture, revitalised warehouse properties and plenty of wide-open spaces. A row of eyecatching apartment buildings affectionately known as the Barcode Project (due to their monochrome facades and irregular heights) will soon be finished, and the government is already proposing to move the city’s famed Munch Museum, the Oseberg Ship exhibit and city library to the new-look foreshore. “It’s a great opportunity when cities reinvent themselves,” says Alex Popescu, a Romanian design student sipping espresso and sketching the Opera House from the quayside. “Oslo’s reinvention is driven by the people, by intelligent design, and by urban planning that’s not about making money, but about shaping a city for its future. It’s about making a place where people want to work and live, and revitalising neighbourhoods that were all but forgotten. It’s an exciting time to be in Oslo.”
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Photo: CH / visitnorway.com
Oslo Opera House opened ahead of schedule in 2008
“Chic and modern without being pretentious, the Opera House has helped propel the Norwegian capital to the forefront of Scandinavian cool”
Photo: Nancy Bundt / visitnorway.com
The red-brick warehouses of historic Aker Brygge
Oslo’s waterfront was traditionally industrial, with cargo ports, warehouses, railway lines and shipyards – a testament to the country’s seafaring heritage – providing a physical barrier to development on the banks of the fjord. To reinvent Oslo, it seemed, its past would have to be radically changed and potentially lost. But in 2000 the government made the tough decision, empowered by an upwardly mobile, forward-thinking populace and fuelled by Norway’s substantial oil reserves, to create Fjord City, or Fjordbyen, a 225-hectare, 10-kilometre long strip of urban renewal that would herald the emergence of a new persona for Oslo. To the west is Aker Brygge, another waterfront neighbourhood that’s seeing dramatic changes. Once run-down and empty, Aker Brygge’s shabby warehouses are now being populated with art galleries, book stores and cafés with sidewalk seating. There are fine dining restaurants hidden behind thick velvet curtains, cocktail lounges that close late, and polished marble lobbies at the base of revitalised office blocks.
The morning sun struggles to reach the narrow streets until I arrive at Oslo’s City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year. The open square before the City Hall’s two towers is a hive of early morning activity as Osloites walk or cycle to work. Crossing the tramlines that wind along the waterfront before delving deeper into the city, I pass joggers and office workers walking beneath the towering oak trees of the parklands that surround the Akershus Fortress, an ancient castle and former prison that hugs the fjord. The castle has watched over the city’s evolution since it was built in the 1290s and is now used by the royal family for formal occasions. Much of Vippetangen, the small knob of land on which the castle sits, is now reserved for official use; the Armed Forces Museum has its home there, as does the Museet for Samtidskunst (National Museum of Contemporary Art), the Nasjonalmuseet (National Gallery), and the royal stables. This means that the new attractions of Oslo, from opera houses to galleries and restaurants, will link perfectly with the city’s past and its rich maritime traditions.
Photo: Getty Images
The ultra-modern Opera House has 1,100 rooms and can seat up to 2,000 visitors
Thegoldenbook The Thief Tel: +47 24 00 40 00
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art Tel: +47 22 93 60 60
Grand design The Thief boutique hotel is home to a unique art collection
“Much of the development is taking place in the neighbourhood of Bjørvika, a waterfront precinct in Oslo’s city centre that is reinventing itself with avantgarde architecture and plenty of wideopen spaces” 64
Further along the foreshore, Tjuvholmen is where much of the new building is taking place. A former criminal commune where executions once took place, Tjuvholmen has turned chic as luxury apartment complexes compete for space on the coveted waterfront with the offices of Norway’s corporate elite. Below, at pavement level, gourmet restaurants like Lofoten Fiskerestaurant, which specialises in modern Norwegian cuisine, boutiques and even a Fisker dealership vie for the attention of pedestrians bound for the new Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, located on the tip of a finger of land which reaches out into the glistening waters of the fjord. The museum is to Tjuvholmen what the Opera House is to Bjøvika, an architectural anchor; a rationale for visitors to venture off the beaten path, to explore the new neighbourhood and its ambitious designs. Established in 1993, the private collection of contemporary art, which features works by Tom Sachs, Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons, among many others, opened in its new waterfront location at the end of 2012, in an elegant timber and steel building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
By the time I arrive on a brilliant spring morning, the sun is already out in full force, and the pier’s timber boardwalks and al fresco restaurants are bustling with brunch-goers and sun worshippers. Ferries toot and dart between the docks at Aker Brygge, across from the museums of Bygdøy on the opposite side of the fjord, and the water is a deep, entrancing blue. There is a steady stream of pedestrians bound for the new museum, and above the canal bridges and boutique-lined walkways, stylish visitors to Oslo stretch on the balconies of The Thief, a new design-savvy hotel perched overlooking the peninsula’s latest incarnation. The 119-room boutique wonder is a member of Design Hotels and boasts a collection of heavenly suites overlooking the fjord, complete with a curated art collection and furnishings by Antonio Citterio, Tom Dixon, Anne Haavind and Stokke Austad. The hotel’s stunning penthouse has its own rooftop terrace, the perfect spot to perch and drink in the progress of Oslo’s evolving urban persona. n
H E AV E N LY D E VO N To quiet the mind and feed the soul, look no further than the English countryside WORDS: Rowena Marella-Daw
The golden beaches of Saunton Sands
Picturesque Clovelly sits 400 feet above the quay
Photos: Getty Images
ngland’s true character and heritage lies not only in its iconic cities, but in its pastoral landscapes, and nowhere is this typified more than in Devon, in the southwest of the country. Dramatic coastlines, pristine sandy beaches and fairytale villages – not to mention generous helpings of Devon cream, fudge, locally brewed ales and fresh seafood – make this corner of Britain too good to miss. Getting there is part of the thrill, and the two-and-a-halfhour rail journey from Paddington Station on a First Class coach is a blissfully stress-free experience that went all too quickly, but it did enable my husband and I to relax while witnessing the gorgeous scenery along the way. The city of Exeter is a good starting point from which to explore the region, and renting a 4x4 meant we could access remote villages and navigate the narrow lanes that wind, dip and rise through the rolling countryside. We were blessed on this visit with mild weather and a mix of sunshine, showers and mist, creating a mystical tableau. Devon’s geodiversity is highlighted by government nominated ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ including a UNESCO biosphere, the Jurassic Coast (a World Heritage Site), and two national parks, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The whole county is a fine jewel in England’s crown. North Devon is home to long stretches of beach-side towns such as Saunton Sands, as well as Woolacombe, where surfing
“Dramatic coastlines, pristine sandy beaches and fairytale villages – not to mention generous helpings of Devon cream, fudge, locally brewed ales and fresh seafood – make this corner of Britain too good to miss” competitions are held each year, and pretty fishing villages like Clovelly, which stands on a cliff 400 feet above a quay that dates back to the 14th century, are replete with tales of pirates and smugglers. Down in South Devon, the coastline has a different appeal. Nicknamed the ‘English Riviera’ for its palm trees and microclimate, this 35-kilometre stretch of coast is home to the quaint towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, where remnants of Victorian heritage are most evident in the architecture and steam trains chugging through the countryside. One of the many highlights for visitors is Greenway, the holiday home of world-renowned crime and mystery writer Agatha Christie. With so much to see and do in Devon, it’s hard to choose a favourite spot, but for me it would have to be Dartmoor National Park. One moment you’re driving through lush undulating hills, then suddenly you are in the midst of ancient moorlands, wild and bleak. Its haunting beauty can be attributed to the heathland covered in moss, bilberry, heather and purple moor grass. Here, wild ponies reign supreme, toughened by winter’s harsh temperatures. They roam freely, sharing the land with grazing cows and sheep. There is an eerie silence to the place, disturbed only by the howling wind. Dartmoor is believed to have the largest number of archaeological remains in Europe thanks to its collection of stone circles, menhirs (standing stones), stone crosses and ancient villages, and many visitors will recognise the familiar images of its ancient granite outcrops, known as tors. A short drive from the town of Two Bridges, in the heart of the moorlands, we caught sight of Combestone Tor’s twin peaks. Against mighty gusts of wind and hovering rain clouds, we traipsed over boulders and rocks to reach the summit for an overwhelming panorama of the valley and peaks as far as the eye could see. Each tor has its own distinct shape, some associated with tales of ghostly sightings and legends. Myth has it that Hound Tor was a pack of dogs that some angry witches turned into stone. The tor is also said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. More recently, Dartmoor was the idyllic setting for War Horse, Spielberg’s poignant film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel. Situated in the very heart of Devon, Dartmoor has its own unique character, a place you could never tire of exploring.
Bovey Castle is set within 111 hectares of Dartmoor National Parkâ€™s moorlands
Thegoldenbook Bovey Castle Tel: +44 8444 740 077
Combe House Tel: +44 1404 540 400
Arabian horses preside over the grounds at Combe House
DEVON’S FINEST RETREATS After an invigorating walk around the moors, coming home to the comfort and luxury of Bovey Castle is the best way to experience Devon in style. This splendid country manor is tucked within a 111-hectare estate to the north-east of Dartmoor National Park. Its oak-panelled corridors lead to a striking Jacobean-style staircase and the minstrel’s gallery, overlooking the magnificent Cathedral Room. At The Edwardian Grill, head chef Marc Hardiman’s Beef Menu focuses on a nose-to-tail dining concept and features locally-sourced ingredients including Dartmoor beef and artisan cheeses. After a satisfying dinner, retire to the Cathedral Room for tea or after-dinner drinks. Lit only by candlelight and the flickering flames of an open fire, the atmosphere becomes magical and, when the full moon shines through tall windows, mysterious. The best views are from the elegant, spacious suites overlooking the 18-hole championship golf course and the moors beyond. From the hotel’s grounds, take the wooded footpath running alongside a stream to the tiny village of North Bovey, with its ancient church and graveyard, an iconic red phone box in the village green, and the rustic Ring of Bells pub. On the eastern edge of Devon lies Combe House, a Grade I Elizabethan building set within a 1,416-hectare estate in Gittisham, a village dating back to the Bronze Age. Driving through a lane leading to the manor, the
first thing visitors encounter is the sight of Arabian horses cantering on the grounds. The building’s mullioned windows, ivy-clad stone walls and gables are just the icing on the cake. Inside, the eyes are drawn to the Great Hall’s commanding fireplace and woodpanelled gallery showcasing ancestral portraits. With only 15 individually styled en suite bedrooms, this place feels like a private retreat. The signature suite, Tommy Wax, was named after a local candle maker – the last person to be hung for poaching on the eponymous hill, which can be seen from the windows. The Linen Suite is a converted Victorian laundry, where the large copper wash tub was specially made in India. Another romantic option is the secluded Combe Thatch Cottage, with its own private garden located next to a babbling brook. Locals come here to enjoy British cuisine with a modern twist, made from ingredients that have been hand-picked from the kitchen garden. Combe House cure their own meats and smoke their own salmon and sea trout on the premises, too. Service is impeccable, and each staff member brings their own personal touches, making guests feel truly at home. The whole of Devon is breathtaking to look at. But when you feel the whipping winds of its bleak moors, run across its vast deserted beaches and meander through its poetic, undulating landscapes, that’s when you really understand its ethereal beauty. Each visit is a revelation, one that leaves you feeling even more peaceful than the last. n
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NIGHT & DAY
Switzerland’s cultural centre is best known as the home of Art Basel and BaselWorld - but there’s a whole lot more to see in 24 hours Words: Nick Rice
08.00 Arrive at Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg – the only tri-national airport in the world (www. euroairport.com). A 15-minute, CHF 55 (US $57) taxi ride will bring you directly to the boutique Der Teufelhof hotel (Leonhardsgraben 49), to get checked in. 08.45 You’ll want to take a moment to explore this quirky hotel before heading out into the city. Established in 1989 and located right in the heart of the Old Town, the Teufelhof is part hotel and part cultural centre. Created within two interconnected historic houses above the ancient city walls, the property is comprised of two hotels: the modern Kunsthotel, or Art Hotel, and the Galeriehotel, or Gallery Hotel. The Art Hotel has eight rooms and a suite, each one decorated as an individual work of art. The Gallery Hotel leans more towards unique design, using the talents of Swiss designer Kurt Thut and Italian designers Vico Magistretti and Achille Castiglioni. The result is a minimalist living canvas in which contemporary artists are exhibited regularly throughout the hotel’s rooms, restaurants and its in-house theatre.
10.00 There are some 40 museums and galleries within walking distance of the Teufelhof, but if you had to choose just one, it should be the Kunstmuseum (St. Alban-Graben 16; www. kunstmuseumbasel.ch). Until July 21 there is a groundbreaking Picasso exhibit that includes works from several private collections in Basel – some of which have never been shown in public. The prints and sculptures will take you through his Rose and Blue periods, right through to Cubism, Neoclassicism and Surrealism. And this is just on the second floor – the courtyard houses the spectacular ‘Burghers of Calais’ sculpture by Rodin, while the first floor has permanent works by Hans Holbein, Chagall and more (open daily from 10am-6pm except Monday; $15.50 entry). 12.00 After a dose of high culture, some simple pleasures will make a nice contrast, and there is nothing quite like an invigorating swim in the Rhine. In the summer months, the banks of this fast-flowing river teem with visitors and locals alike, all plunging in for what is a timeworn tradition. No one can get out of the river at the same point they jumped in
because of the current, so the city’s tourist office provides innovative swimming bags called the Basel ‘Wickelfisch’ (www.basel. com). These simple yet ingenious bags work as a buoyancy aid in the water, and also keep all your clothes dry so you can climb out, get dressed and head off to satisfy a welldeserved appetite. 14.00 Make use of the Mobility Card that all the hotels in Basel give to visitors, which grants you free travel on all the trams and buses. If you only have 24 hours, then it’s only right to make lunch really count, so head for the revered Stucki restaurant (Bruderholzallee 42; www.stuckibasel.ch). Stucki is a culinary institution founded by former chef Grand Seigneur Hans Stucki. Now in the hands of Michelin-starred chef Tanja Grandits, its reputation for innovative, delicious cuisine continues unabated. It won’t be a cheap lunch, but you will get what you pay for; try the fillet of beef tartare with mountain pepper, red oven onion, and raspberry mustard for starters, and halibut with celery honey, pistachio dim sum and basil essence for the main course.
Photo: Basel Tourismus
Photo: Basel Tourismus
Der Teufelhof hotel
Guestrooms at Der Teufelhof
15.00 After a sensational dining experience, enjoy a lazy tram ride back through monumental architecture that spans the 2,000 years since Basel was founded. 16.00 If there are any events on, such as the renowned watch and jewellery show BaselWorld (www.baselworld.com), or Art Basel (www.artbasel.com), it is definitely worth taking a couple of hours to check them out. If not, take a few hours to amble around the old town and be sure to visit the stunning Town Hall, which is still in government use. Don’t miss the frescoes inside, as well as the statue of Roman General Lucius Munatius Plancus, who founded what was to become Basel in 44 B.C. Next, see the spectacular Basel Cathedral, which is now a reformed Protestant church. The Gothic twin towers, red sandstone facade and geometric patterned roof tiles combine to make a vibrant landmark, and the view over the Rhine and the city from the rooftop is quite dramatic.
18.00 Venture into any of the many museums that pique your interest – from the Toy World Museum with the world’s largest collection of teddy bears, to the Museum of Pharmaceutical History, which has some rather blood-curdling exhibits. You can also appease any retail desires by meandering up and down the central retail street, the Freie Strasse, which boasts upmarket boutiques from all the customary luxury brands. 19.00 Take a quick trip across the Rhine before heading back to the hotel. The ferry system in Basel uses no external energy whatsoever, giving it top green credentials. The four ferries use the force of the river current to propel them from one side to the other via a system of cables, blocks and rudders, letting nature power the hydraulics to get you across (www.faehri.ch). 19.30 By now you’ll be ready to take the weight off your feet, so take a final stroll back to the Teufelhof and freshen up before enjoying an aperitif in the sophisticated bar.
20.00 Have dinner in the hotel’s upscale Bel Étage restaurant, with four interconnecting rooms and an outside terrace underneath a sun sail, or at the Atelier restaurant, with its inventive menu and informal atmosphere. The exquisite meat dishes are the house speciality: try the smoked sturgeon, wafer thin-sliced rare veal and the fillet of Irish beef. If you’re a vegetarian, the watercress and asparagus ravioli is a surprisingly decadent option. 22.00 Visit the Falstaff wine shop in the hotel, which is embedded in Basel’s historic city walls, dating from the 11th and 13th centuries. After a nightcap, go to bed with that satisfyingly exhausted feeling – the result of a day well spent. n
STAY Der Teufelhof Basel Tel: +41 61 261 1010
All eyes will be on the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club this month for one of the biggest and most highly regarded tennis tournaments on the sporting calendar. The world’s greatest players will gather to do battle on the court in a fierce competition that is the oldest and most prestigious of the world’s Grand Slams. Naturally, tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to register your interest online. www.wimbledon.com
Photo: Getty Images
June 24 – July 7 London, England
Dragon Boat Festival
Photo: Getty Images
June 10 – 12 Across China
Baalbeck International Festival Established in 1956, the Baalbeck International Festival is one of the oldest cultural festivals in the Middle East, bringing together internationally acclaimed artists and performers to the ancient Temple of Bacchus. This year, the festival hosts a varied lineup of local and international performers including Lebanese singer Assi El Hellani and American soprano Renée Fleming. www.baalbeck.org.lb 76
Photo: Getty Images
June 30 – August 30 Baalbek, Lebanon
The dragon has long been regarded as a symbol of health, happiness and longevity in Chinese folklore, and the Dragon Boat Festival (or Duanwu Festival) keeps that tradition alive. The festival has been held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month for more than 2,000 years, and is celebrated in honour of the poet Qu Yuan. Festivities across the country include dragon boat races, performances and cooking zongzi – rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. www.tourismchina.org
Feast of Saint Anthony June 12 – 14 Lisbon, Portugal
While the official festival goes on for three days, the eve of Saint Anthony of Padua’s official feast day is when the city really gets into a festive spirit, particularly in the historical neighbourhood of Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon. The narrow streets are festooned with colourful streamers, bars take their service outside and every spare square metre of space is taken up with people. Make like a local and sample a serving of grilled sardines followed by a traditional Portuguese doughnut known as a fartura – available on almost every street corner – then find a prime position to watch the spectacular costume parade. www.golisbon.com
Tour de France
June 29 – July 21 France
Photo: Getty Images
This year marks the centenary of the world-renowned cycling race and, for the first time in the Tour’s history, the 2013 edition will begin on the island of Corsica before continuing on the mainland, taking in 10 new cities in total. Be sure to plan in advance to secure a prime spot along the track. Special VIP packages are available, which include access to private spectator zones and even a chance to ride along parts of the route. www.letour.fr
Spend it Escape to a private island in Belize, visit Florence by Ferrari, or perfect your golf swing at California’s Pebble Beach – start planning your summer holidays
On the road
The Tuscan village of Barberino Val d’Elsa
With so much to see in Italy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of traversing the country via air or high-speed train. But the picturesque roads and charming villages make this country worth exploring at a slower, more stylish pace. And what better mode of transportation than one of Italy’s most famous exports, the Ferrari? Pick up your wheels in Milan, then drive through stunning Northern Italy, taking in sites including the postcard-perfect Lake Como region and the town of Bologna. Your seven-day tour (clocking up 150 kilometres each day) will take you all the way down to Florence. The best part? You can tailor your tour to take in some truly unique experiences including dinners with countesses and private access to museums. And although you might not get to fully appreciate the Ferrari’s top speed of 350-plus kph, when you are exploring this amazing part of the world, why would you want to make it go by any faster? From: now Price: from EUR 1,000 (US $1,292) per day Book: email@example.com www.ferraritours.com
Paradise for hire
*All prices are subject to change. Please contact the listed companies for further information.
Want to take your next secluded island getaway to a whole new level? If so, why not rent your own private island – Royal Belize Island, to be exact. This small piece of paradise is located in the World Heritage South Water Caye Marine Reserve in central Belize. There, it’s just you, your companions and the seemingly endless Caribbean sea – and your team of staff, of course. Wake to the sun gleaming over the ocean each morning as you tuck into scrambled eggs and fresh shredded lobster prepared by your personal chef. Then, how you spend the rest of your day is completely up to you. Take the yacht out to explore the azure waters, embark on a walking tour of the island and its surroundings, snorkel in the warm shallows or just lay on the sand until the sun gives way to the stars. And don’t think you’ll have to organise anything yourself – your private butler is on hand to respond to your every beck and call. Available: now Price: from US $16,350 per night (minimum three-night stay) Book: firstname.lastname@example.org www.privatevacationisland.com
The Homestead at El Questro Wilderness Park
Australia’s Kimberley region is a sight to behold – an ancient, untamed wilderness at the top of Western Australia. El Questro Wilderness Park is a luxurious oasis in a wild, secluded setting. Three different accommodation options are available, though for a top-of-the-range stay, you’ll want to book one of the three Cliff Side Retreats in The Homestead, which is perched on the edge of Chamberlain Gorge. There’s plenty to see and do on this private one-million-acre property, though guests of The Homestead are rewarded with personalised and private experiences including hikes, cruises through the Chamberlain Gorge and exclusive use of the Zebedee Thermal Springs. And if that wasn’t incentive enough, if you book now you will receive 20 percent off a four-night stay, which includes all dining and beverages, plus a double pass to El Questro Wilderness Park. From: four-night stay offer available until October 27. Price: AUD $2,649 (US $2,597) per night Book: +61 3 9426 7550 www.elquestro.com.au
INSPIRATION HAS ARRIVED For the movers and shakers and rainmakers. For the ones who make it happen on the go and on the ground. Who accomplish great things without losing sight of the important things. For you, weâ€™re Marriott. marriott.com
Castaway by choice Beach House Iruveli, in the northernmost atoll in the Maldives, goes beyond a typical island holiday resort. The staff strive to go above and beyond to create unique luxury experiences for guests. Case in point: the new Castaway Escapes packages. Beach House Iruveli is now offering morning, sunset and day packages to the nearby deserted island of Govvafushi. It’s only seven minutes from the resort by boat, but it feels like a world away. Pack a picnic and spend the morning or a full day exploring this one-hectare piece of paradise. If the idea of being marooned on an idyllic island sounds all too good, you can even choose to stay the night by booking an overnight escape package for two. As the day tourists leave, you’ll be treated to a traditional Maldivian dinner on the beach, before retiring to cosy accommodation and sailing back to the resort the next morning. From: now Price: Morning Castaway Escape and Sunset Castaway from US $275 per person; Iruveli Full Day Castaway from $450 per person; Sunset Overnight Castaway starts from $550 per person (maximum two people). Book: email@example.com www.beachhousecollection.com
Photo: Joann Dost
In full swing Golf aficionados will no doubt have heard of this particular course before. Located along the picturesque, rugged California coast, Pebble Beach has long been regarded as one of the best golf courses in America, and indeed the world. Many golf legends have teed off here since it first opened in 1919, and the course has played host to more than a few top golf tournaments, including five US Opens. So, why not perfect your swing with a stay-and-play package? Book into one of three luxe accommodation options (The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay or Casa Palmero) and enjoy their world-class facilities by night before wiling away your days on one of the four smaller courses on the site. Once you’ve perfected your technique, take on the famous – and exclusive – 18-hole Pebble Beach Golf Links. The experience will no doubt leave you eager to book in an extra night or two to better your score. From: now Price: from US $635 per night. One round of golf on Pebble Beach Golf Links is $495 (including cart). www.pebblebeach.com
Give me shelter
In a city renowned for debauchery, the serenity of Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam never gets old, says Caitlin Cheadle
avigating Amsterdam’s cobbled streets and canals for the first time, unaware that I was mere steps from the notorious Red Light District, I could not yet have known how much I would appreciate the tranquillity of my hotel. I spot ‘The Grand Amsterdam’ hitched on a stone wall above an arched, cut-out entryway, and cross a quiet private courtyard to the revolving glass doors, where I am welcomed by doormen into a lobby of marble floors and plush sofas in shades of purple, indigo and burnt orange. I’m told that the delicate little baubles dangling from the ceiling are actually tiny butterflies, designed to reflect the painstakingly restored butterfly pattern of the original marble floors, which date back to 1411, when the building was St. Cecily’s Convent. Impressed by the hotel’s incorporation of modern style into its illustrious foundations, I learn over the coming days that The Grand Amsterdam is also a master of the finer details that make it feel more like a home away from home than a hotel. The fresh madeleines beside the concierge desk are replaced daily for guests to help themselves to, and an eye-catching abstract mural on the wall outside the hotel’s Bridges restaurant turns out to be the work of iconic Dutch artist Karel Appel. The stained-glass window beside the lobby, which doesn’t seem out
of place in this heritage building, was a gift from Rotterdam to celebrate 650 years of the City of Amsterdam, a remnant of when the building served as City Hall. On my way to the lifts that will take me up to my suite, I notice the black and white photographs on the walls are prints of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Debbie Harry. Prestige Suite 102 has the same blend of old and new styles with acute attention to detail. The one-bedroom suite opens with a cosy living room of soft carpeted floors, a wall of windows overlooking the canal outside, and a colour scheme of lilac, deep purple and cream. A sofa, flat-screen TV and work desk are next to the windows, and there is an en suite bathroom beside the doorway. Sliding doors reveal the bedroom, with a king-size bed and damaskpatterned inlaid headboard facing a second flat-screen TV and entertainment system. Beside the bed are bottles of Evian (replaced daily), copies of Vogue, and master switches to control the lighting and temperature. An abstract mural on the bedroom wall is actually a portrait of Frederik Hendrik van Oranje, former prince of Oranje and a guest of the hotel in 1628. The bathroom, nearly as big as the bedroom, is wall-to-wall slate grey stone tiles and black lacquered surfaces. A large double bath sits between twin sinks, in front of a sliver of brick wall, in which a waterproof TV is embedded.
Opposite the tub are frosted glass doors, which can be opened at bathtime for views of the canal. Heated towel racks are just outside the standalone double shower, and the room is stocked with Hermès products. Most of all, it is the thoughtful service here that exceeds my expectations. Running late for a meeting one day, I ask the concierge for directions. A few words are spoken to a young man in a uniform, and suddenly I’m being whisked along the streets of Amsterdam in a golf buggy, arriving at my destination right on time. Every night I return to my suite to find a different artisan chocolate (raspberry with toasted almond, for example), alongside a quote by an author or poet printed neatly on a note. And after a night out in Amsterdam, I’m most thankful that the purple velvet drapes block out all the light, so the Red Light District need only be a memory. ■
The important bit What: Prestige Suite 102 Where: Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam Price: from EUR 860 (US $1,100) per night Tel: +31 20 555 3111 www.sofitel-legend-thegrand.com dotwnews.com December 2011 dotwnews.com June 2013
When worlds collide Part steakhouse, part nightclub, there’s something for everyone at STK London, says Caitlin Cheadle
TK London on a Friday night at 7.30pm? Fully booked, with a queue forming at the door. Good thing we have a reservation – we squeeze past the crowded bar and take a seat on a white leather banquette, surrounded by couples and groups of guys in suits ordering first rounds of cocktails. A waitress approaches to explain the concept of STK; it is a place where you can enjoy a serious steak in a not-so-serious environment, and its menu fits the bill. With a focus on USDA prime cuts of beef, there are also whimsical dishes such as the Prawn Rice Krispies and the Fairground Attraction dessert plate (circus-themed sweets served inside a revolving platter) to keep things lighthearted. We start with the ‘Lil’ Brgs’ (mini burgers), which we’d eyed up on their way to several other tables. Deceptively, these little morsels pack a lot of flavour: the tender Wagyu patties are sublime, but the ante is upped by truffles, melted cheese, and brioche-like sesame buns. On the less indulgent side, a starter of Tuna Tartare is served atop Moroccan-spiced aubergine and topped with a dollop of cumin mayonnaise; a good choice if you’re going for one of the heavier mains. The Chateaubriand, at 800g, would fall into this category, and is best ordered to share. The fillet of tenderloin is cooked medium-rare, sliced on the diagonal and served on a bed of wilted spinach, topped with foie gras and truffle chips. The meat is delicious and the spinach buttery, and we enjoyed pairing the bearnaise and tangy signature STK sauce over the steak and accompanying roasted onions and fries. Truth be told, the dish didn’t need the foie gras or the truffle chips, so we were perfectly content to finish the steak on its own.
For dessert, the Fairground Attraction was passed over in favour of the slightly more adult Cherry Consommé – plump cherries stewed in cherry liquor and served in a tiny teapot, to be poured over a bowl of coconut meringue. We also tried the Cold Chocolate Fondant with blood orange and kumquat – a dense chocolate cake whose name perhaps slightly oversold it, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. STK London is a place for frivolity rather than formalities, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Along with the menu and décor, the service is also playful, reflecting the ethos of the STK brand, which stretches across the USA with locations in New York, Las Vegas, LA and Miami. The restaurant is perfectly situated in the new ME London hotel, which opened up on the Strand near the theatre district in March and caters to a niche market of young professionals that had previously been underserved in this tourist-trap laden part of the city. By the time we leave, the music has shifted from ‘80s tunes to current club tracks, and the dancefloor by the bar is filling up with the after-work crowds, ready to start the weekend. I’m reminded of the time I visited STK in New York’s Meatpacking District a few years ago, and wonder why it’s taken so long to arrive in London. n
The important bit Where: STK London Location: ME London, 336–337 The Strand, London, UK Cost: approx US $140 for two starters, a main (shared) and two desserts (excludes alcoholic beverages) Book: +44 20 7395 3450; london_ firstname.lastname@example.org www.stkhouse.com
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 Power: 560 bhp Torque: 680 Nm 0-100kph: 4.2 secs Top speed: 305 kph Origin: Munich, Germany Cost: starting from AED 565,000 (US $154,000)
BMW M6 GRAN COUPE
Roaring stylishly in at the top of the BMW M collection pecking order, the new M6 Gran Coupe is a thing of beauty. The 2014 model combines all the grace and style of the 6 Series with the high-performance engineering of the â€˜Mâ€™ range, plus an extra dose of aggressive sporty styling in the form of wider air intakes, M kidney grille and 20-inch alloy wheels on the outside, and additional luxurious touches on the interior.
Ever since Corvette began making cars in 1953, the convertible model has been adored by fans, but berated by drivers who curse the compromise on performance that open-air driving used to represent. But the Corvette team behind the new 2014 Stingray assures that both the coupe and convertible models will deliver the same performance. The automatic top on the convertible model can be lowered while driving at speeds of up to 50 kph, and controlled remotely using a button on the key fob. With carbon-fibre and aluminium trim and hand-wrapped leather materials, the interior is just as appealing as the exterior of the iconic American sportscar.
Engine: LT1 6.2-litre V8 Power: 450 bhp Torque: 610 Nm 0-100kph: 4 secs (approx) Top speed: TBA Origin: Kentucky, US Cost: from US $56,995
â€œThe Corvette Stingray offers an opentop driving experience with no compromise in performance, technology or designâ€? Ed Welburn, VP global design, GM
Engine: 4.6 litre V8 Power: 455 bhp Torque: 700 Nm 0-100kph: 4.8 secs Top speed: 250 kph (limited) Origin: Stuttgart, Germany Cost: TBA
MERCEDES-BENZ S 500 If the elaborate launch event in Hamburg was anything to go by, Mercedes-Benzâ€™s new flagship S-Class is going to be making headlines. Pegged as a mobile office-meetswellbeing centre, the new flagship S-Class has been built with the ambition to become the ultimate luxury saloon. Efficient engineering innovations extend from the BlueTEC hybrid engine to the lighting system. The inside features in-seat massage technology based on the hot stone massage principle, and a rear seat that offers fully reclined comfort.
BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL It doesn’t matter if you’re reclining in the back or sitting in the driver’s seat, the Bentley Mulsanne is a carriage built for comfort, says Joe Mortimer
hen I pick up the Bentley Mulsanne from the showroom, a company representative confirms what I had begun to suspect when I first saw the car: “Yes, the Mulsanne is ‘the daddy’ of the Bentley range,” she says. The Mulsanne is the flagship of the British carmaker’s stable – one that captures the classical heritage of the marque and the glamour of the golden era of British automobile design. But function does not follow form; the car has been built from the ground up, with performance playing just as important a role as design.
Sitting in the back of the Bentley, I can see the appeal of being driven around in it. The spacious interior, clad in soft leather hide with inch-deep lamb’s wool mats underfoot, creates an intimate lair for the back-seat passenger. On this model, the blinds on the rear window and the two rear side windows have been replaced with velvet electronic curtains that slowly open with the touch of a button. Hand-stitched leather on the seats and side panels – an optional extra worth around US$13,000 – add a touch of vintage flair, and wooden veneer on the door panels capture the spirit of Bentleys of old. 90
It is unquestionably a first-class environment. Personal screens, A/C and seat controls, in-seat massage settings and audio controls are all within arm’s reach, and there’s also a portable remote control. Removable cup holders and fold-down desks create a hospitable work and entertainment space, and a 12V socket provides power for portable electronic devices. Despite all the luxurious touches for back-seat passengers, after 15 minutes sitting in the back, I can’t resist the urge to get behind the wheel.
THE DRIVING SEAT
It strikes me that most people who buy a Mulsanne are the kind who would spend all their time sitting in the back of the car, leaving the task of driving to their chauffeurs. But getting behind the wheel of the Mulsanne offers a totally different perspective. It is still a first-class environment, with signature Bentley touches like bulls-eye air vents with push/pull organ stop switches and veneer-finished steering wheel – but with modern flourishes such as polished aluminium dials on the steering wheel to control the eight-inch digital menu. The only difference is that now I am the chauffeur and not the passenger.
Back-seat passengers and drivers alike are guaranteed a comfortable journey – the eight-speed gearbox makes gear transitions incredibly smooth and the 21-inch alloy wheels virtually guarantee a gentle ride. But the V8 engine and 505 brakehorsepower mean that the Mulsanne is also capable of getting up to a serious gallop if required, and there is a Sports mode in case you demand a bit more from the engine. It’s light on the road for such a big car, almost too light at times. Slight turns and bumps in the road can cause an unnecessary bounce in the front end and a bit of side-to-side rocking, especially at low speed. But to drive the Bentley Mulsanne is an indulgent affair. Knowing that the car was built entirely by hand gives a reassuring feeling of comfort and security, not to mention prestige. When you are behind the wheel of the Mulsanne, particularly when you have passengers onboard, you feel more like the captain of a ship than the driver of a car; a great sea-going vessel that would guarantee your comfort on the longest of voyages. If you’re planning on buying the Mulsanne, do yourself a favour and fire the chauffeur, then jump in the driver’s seat. This is one drive you will want to be in control of. ■
NUTS & BOLTS Engine: 6.75-litre twinturbocharged V8 Power: 505 bhp Torque: 1020 Nm 0-100kph: 5.3 secs Top speed: 296 kph Origin: Crewe, UK Cost: this model AED 1.5 million (US $408,500)
THE NEW SCENT FOR MEN
On the grapevine
The latest news, gossip and insider info from the world of luxury hotels
Jumeirah enters Azerbaijan
In the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, Jumeirah opens its first property in the region this month. Jumeirah Bilgah Hotel Baku, owned by construction giant Azinko Holding Company, is styled after the waveshaped Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Mete Atakuman is GM of the 176-room hotel on the Caspian Sea, some 20 miles from Baku’s city centre. Families will love the 14 three-bedroom villas, and children and adults alike will enjoy the waterpark, the nine-room Talise Spa, and when hunger strikes, the fresh seafood at Pier Grill restaurant. www.jumeirah.com
Qasr Al Sarab adds new villas
This October, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara launches 10 one-bedroom Al Sadu villas. The 206-room desert-set resort, 90 minutes’ drive south of Abu Dhabi city, opened in 2009. It has a repeat guest rate of 30 percent and one couple recently stayed for 21 days. There is already so much to do, from extreme dune-bashing through to camel and horseback riding and desert yoga. Villas will each have 1,300 sq ft of internal space plus a 280 sq ft plunge pool. Apart from alcoholic drinks, all your sustenance is included. Every day your butler tells you what the chef suggests, but you can plan your own menus. GM Wael Soueid, an endurance rider and polo player, is out training in the dunes as the sun comes up. www.qasralsarab.anantara.com
Viceroy to open on The Palm
After bounding into the Middle East with its takeover of the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi in 2011, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts now plans to open a huge resort on The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Developed by SKAI Holdings, Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah will comprise 481 large rooms and suites when it opens in late 2016, and 221 luxurious serviced Viceroy Residences. Pegged as a “luxury urban beach resort”, the US $1 billion development will be home to 10 restaurants, a gourmet market and bakery, a large spa, a large fitness centre with panoramic sea views, and a 106metre swimming pool. www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
VIP Jnan amar polo Challenge, moroCCo
EVE BRANSON takes us behind the scenes at her foundation’s inaugural polo weekend, set to become the hottest event in Morocco’s social calendar
The Capaldi Eve Branson with her son Sir Richard Branson
Photo: Jack Brockway
EVENT Over the past five years we have held the annual Eve Branson Foundation ‘Rock the Kasbah’ ball in Los Angeles, in aid of our mission to empower impoverished communities in the Atlas Mountains. This year we decided to start a charity polo event in Morocco, over the weekend of April 26–28. Guests enjoyed a reception dinner on the Friday night, a day of polo on the Saturday followed by a gala dinner, and a farewell Sunday lunch. It was a great success, and we’re already planning the next one. www.evebransonfoundation.org.uk
AMBIANCE Around 200 guests travelled from the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the US and the UK. Many new friendships were forged – it was a melting pot of cultures enjoying polo and providing support for the Berber communities. The weekend promoted enormous camaraderie, friendship, and a great deal of fun. Evening events matched the Marrakech culture of casual elegance: chic and sophisticated, yet lighthearted and unpretentious. And wherever you are in Marrakech – in the vibrant Medina or further afield – you always have the sense (and amazing view) of the magnificent Atlas Mountains. Jnan Amar Polo Resort Kasbah Tamadot
RUB SHOULDERS WITH Attendees included Sir Richard Branson, Holly Branson, Sam Branson and Isabella Calthorpe, John Cleese and wife Jennifer Wade, and the British Ambassador to Morocco, Clive Alderton.
STAY My first choice is naturally to be in the Atlas Mountains at my son Richard’s hotel, Kasbah Tamadot. I also love to stay at my daughter Vanessa’s hotel in the Medina of Marrakech, Riad El Fenn.
DINE Kasbah Tamadot has the exquisite Kanoun Restaurant, with breathtaking views from the terrace. Also, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near Lake Takerkoust is The Capaldi hotel, where we enjoyed a delicious Sunday lunch.
AFTER DARK In Marrakech, have drinks on the rooftop of Riad El Fenn restaurant, overlooking the Medina.
MUST-DO There is so much to see – besides the souks I recommend quad biking in the desert. Richard and the grandchildren recently cycled from Kasbah Tamadot down to Marrakech, and loved every minute.
Connoisseur An insider’s guide to the most luxurious hotels in the world
F Mary Gostelow
Luxury travel connoisseur
orget Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive – Chicago has the best handy retail. You can easily walk the entire southnorth stretch of Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile (Mag Mile). From a five-floor Burberry store to Crate & Barrel and Victoria’s Secret, you have luxury brands for kids, adults and the home. InterContinental Chicago, at the south end of Mag Mile, is in a historic 42-floor structure built by the Masoniclike Shriners in 1929, with an exterior that features many carved friezes and other sculptures. The original users included the Medinah Athletic Club; their legacy, an impressive indoor Art Deco swimming pool, 80 feet by five lanes in size, is one of the hotel’s standout features (above). Another highlight is Michael Jordan’s Steak House, a two-floor space with many 1920s-era carvings above and around you. Try the signature dessert, a 23-layer chocolate cake, themed for the basketball legend’s number. The 794-room hotel, under general manager Raymond Vermolen, feels surprisingly personalised. I especially like the south-facing rooms, such as room 2302, which give you a nice view of the Chicago River. From May to October, take an architectural river tour for an introduction to equally stunning early 20th-century buildings such as the 1919 Wrigley Building, the 1923 London Guarantee & Accident Building, and the strategically domed 1926 Jeweler’s Building, which had a dedicated car elevator and indoor parking to protect the jewellers who worked there. www.icchicagohotel.com
The Peninsula Chicago, near the north end of Mag Mile, has its main entrance on East Superior Street, next to the highly-recommended Euro café, Pierrot Gourmet, which is run by the 379-room hotel. The lobby is on the 20-floor building’s fifth floor, above floors of retail. Reach the fifth floor and you find a marble walkway leading to the concierge desk, a 10-foot high Art Deco allegorical rendering of Chicago by French artist Gérard Coltat. The best room views look east to Lake Michigan (try room 810). Treat yourself by booking the 3,000-square-foot Peninsula Suite, which comes with a terrace big enough to entertain 50 close friends, and there is a hot tub, too. General manager Maria Razumich-Zec has added many female-orientated touches to the service here, such as fresh fruit in the outstanding 20th-floor gym, which is open from 5am. There is an Olympic-sized indoor pool with outside terrace, and the seven-room ESPA is booked solid from 8am every Saturday and Sunday. Many locals also use the hotel for afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge. www.peninsula.com/Chicago Park Hyatt Chicago, one block north of the Peninsula, is located behind the iconic Water Tower, a 138-foot wedding-cake sculpture built to hold firefighting standpipes. Stay at this 198-room hotel (under the care of general manager Walter Brindell) if you appreciate an art- and book-filled lobby with all day non-alcoholic drinks, and a 24-hour gym with an adjacent pool. All rooms feature upholstered window seats, ideal for people-watching or for taking a short nap. Of the rooms, favourites are those that look out over the Water Tower, such as room 1106. NoMi all-day restaurant is cantilevered out from the 67-floor building’s seventh floor, and it’s where you can enjoy healthy offerings from nutritionist Patricia Teixeira – try her breakfast Care Smoothie with aloe vera, soy milk, peach and berries. www.parkchicago.hyatt.com Park Hyatt Chicago