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Issue two | July

2011

The King of cool

Produced in International Media Production Zone

e McQ ue en wa s s te v or end a ry act g le a tr u ly d by ie rr ca e h or w a s a? h is cha ri sm

heston blumenthal

king maker

lionel messi

sole man

Is the culinary mad professor over scientific gastronomy?

the stately residences you’ll want to stay at this summer

How the world’s best footballer almost slipped through Barca’s net

why shoe obsessive Manolo Blahnik thinks he’ll soon create the perfect pair


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How close do you want to be?

With the Bobby Moore Club you can be closer to some of the most exhilarating experiences in sport and entertainment at Wembley Stadium. All England Senior International home games Both The FA Cup Semi’s and The FA Cup Final The FA Community Shield The Football League Cup Final The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final Priority access to world class concerts and sporting events* Complimentary train service Social membership at Stoke Park Club To find out more contact Bonnie Rolfe on 020 8795 9519 or email bonnie.rolfe@wembleystadium.com

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contents / Features

TwenTy nine / The real sTeve mcqueen Geoffrey Macnab delves beneath the machoism to uncover the real man behind Hollywood’s ‘king of cool’.

ThirTy five / manolo blahnik Celia Walden chats to the flamboyant designer on a choice obsession and his pursuit of the perfect shoe.

forTy four / The silenT assasin Lionel Messi: the world’s best player at the world’s best team. Ian Herbert on how this almost never happened.

sixTy Two / american pies? Heston Blummenthal ponders his OCD, MasterChef copycats and a bid for the Big Apple.

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contents / regulars

FourTeen / radar Feast your eyes on July’s hottest buys, offbeat finds and events you’ll want to squeeze into your schedule. Managing Director Victoria Thatcher Editorial Director John Thatcher Advertisement Director Chris Capstick chris@hotmediapublishing.com Group Editor Laura Binder laura@hotmediapublishing.com Group Deputy Editor Jade Bremner jade@hotmediapublishing.com Designers Adam Sneade Sarah Boland Production Manager Haneef Abdul Group Advertisement Manager Cat Steele cat@hotmediapublishing.com Sales Manager Sukaina Hussein sukaina@hotmediapublishing.com

Tel: 00971 4 364 2876 Fax: 00971 4 369 7494 Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. All prices mentioned are correct at time of press but may change. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in AIR.

TwenTy Two / criTique What culture and lifestyle critics across the globe have 96praised and panned this month.

FiFTy Six / moToring We put Sweden’s incredible new supercar and the all new Aston Martin Virage through their paces.

SixTy / gaSTronomy Why downsizing is the new trend in London and what Heston Blumenthal will be cooking up next.

SixTy-Seven / golF Where to play, what to drive and where to go if you want to experience golf to the extreme.

SixTy eighT / Travel Retreat to residences fit for a king or be dazzled by the Caribbean’s most diverse gem.

eighTy / whaT i know now Edmond Avakian on trust, family and why he never looks back...

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Al bAteen July 2011

Welcome onboard

H.E. Khalifa Al Mazrouei Chairman ADAC

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the second issue of Al Bateen Executive Airport’s monthly magazine, AIR, in which you will find all the latest news and developments about the Middle East’s sole dedicated executive airport. In this issue we focus on our exciting new inhouse FBO brand, DhabiJet, announced at the recent EBACE Show in Geneva. As a growing centre of international business and finance, Abu Dhabi has seen significant growth in the number of corporate jets flying into the city over the last few years. Recognising the importance of this escalating business activity, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has committed itself to supporting it through investing in the private aviation sector and implementing an ambitious development plan for Al Bateen, the region’s first and only dedicated private jet airport – importantly, open 24/7. With a prime location just minutes from the heart of the UAE’s capital city, Al Bateen offers an integrated and enhanced business jet facility for a growing number of international VIP passengers. And we are pleased to say that Al Bateen is fast getting on to the map. Traffic was up 25% in April compared with the same month last year. Ample capacity at Al Bateen Executive Airport has enabled the airport to accommodate more corporate jets; and a programme of investment is running in parallel to upgrade the airport’s infrastructure and commercial facilities. Recent significant improvements have included the transition to category 1 IFR operations which was completed in October last year. ADAC is also supporting the development of corporate jet maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activity at the airport to complement the existing comprehensive range of passenger and aircraft handling, and support services. These developments are all helping us to create one of the leading and most exclusive executive airports in the world. The business aviation market is becoming an increasingly important element of Abu Dhabi’s air transport strategy and by establishing an airport dedicated to business aviation, ADAC is taking a central role in regional leadership of this sector. We aim to continue to reinforce the credentials of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as the region’s premier venue for the aviation and aerospace industry, for now and the future. And for us to succeed, it is very important to get your feedback and would therefore welcome thoughts and suggestions about the airport, its services and planned growth. We look forward to hearing from you.

Contact details: albateeninfo@adac.ae www.albateenairport.com

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Al bAteen news

al bateen executive launches neW Fbo brand ‘dhabiJet’ at ebace 2011 Al Bateen Executive Airport used the occasion of Europe’s premier business aviation event EBACE (the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition) and attended by over 12,600 industry delegates, to unveil its new FBO brand – DhabiJet. At a press briefing on 17 May, Vice President Mohammed Al Bulooki stated that DhabiJet will deliver an exceptional quality of service and innovation that discerning clientele have come to expect from the Middle East. DhabiJet will bring together all of the requirements for Business Aviation customers visiting Al Bateen under the management and co-ordination of a single, highlytrained DhabiJet Customer Service Team. Pauline Smith has stepped into the role as Senior FBO Manager. Pauline joined the management team in January bringing a wealth of business aviation experience. She was formerly FBO Manager at ExecuJet Middle East where for the past three years she has been responsible for the day to day running of its highly regarded FBO facility at Dubai International Airport. Prior to that, Pauline spent 14 years with Harrods Aviation at London Stansted. As Duty Officer at the company’s London Luton Airport base, she ran several departments and oversaw all aspects of VIP aircraft handling. Recruitment is now underway for a couple of customer service representatives to further

“The whole team at Al Bateen is excited about the launch of DhabiJet. It represents a critical piece of the jigsaw” - Steve Jones - 10 -


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Al bAteen news “I am looking forward to creating such a strong FBO in the region’s sole dedicated business aviation airport” - Pauline Smith

bolster DhabiJet. “I am looking forward to creating such a strong FBO in the region’s sole dedicated business aviation airport,” said Pauline. “I am very pleased to be part of the committed Al Bateen team and play a key role in helping to make it the internationally renowned, world-class business aviation facility and VIP centre of choice.” she said. To complement the newly unveiled DhabiJet, work has commenced on a new state of the art crew and flight operations centre adjacent to the executive terminal. It will provide a range of dedicated crew amenities such as a relaxation lounge, sleep rooms, showers and rest areas, along with easy access to new flight planning facilities. Steve Jones, General Manager, Al Bateen Executive Airport commented: “The whole team at Al Bateen is excited about the launch of DhabiJet. It represents a critical piece of the jigsaw in our declared aim to create the best Business Aviation Airport in the Middle East. The focus will be on service and facilities but, most importantly, making life simple for our customers.” DhabiJet represents the start of the second phase of investment at Al Bateen. Over the past year, ADAC and Al Bateen management has devoted its efforts to the implementation and certification of a new instrument landing system which has been well received by business jet and helicopters operators flying in and out of Al Bateen. The revision of the airport’s aeronautical charges last year has also had a positive impact in encouraging new traffic. Speaking at a press briefing at EBACE Mr. Bulooki indicated that in the longer term the DhabiJet brand could be adopted at other emerging airports in the Middle East. “We have a terrific potential here,” he noted. DhabiJet’s creation complements the rise in passenger traffic at the executive Airport. In April this year traffic was up 25% in commercial aircraft movements compared with April 2010. These figures follow hard on the heels of its 18% growth shown in Q1 2011 activity versus Q1 2010.

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Quintessential British style in the heart of Mayfair Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel London This chic hotel personifies the refined sophistication of modern British luxury and offers the perfect home-away-from-home. Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel is in the heart of Mayfair, boasting one of the most prestigious addresses in the city. The hotel is located only minutes from the most upscale London shopping areas of Bond Steet and Regent Street. With outstanding personal service, spacious and elegant rooms and suites - ideal for large families - and its restaurant ‘HIX at the Albemarle’ celebrating art and cuisine, it offers all a most memorable London experience.

Albermarle Street, London, W1S 4BP Tel: 020 7493 6020 Fax: 020 7493 9381 E-mail: reservations.browns@roccofortehotels.com www.roccofortehotels.com


rADAr

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Home for the holidays? indonesia’s iconic villa up for grabs Sun and seclusion beckoning? Then have pen poised to sign on the dotted line for one of Bali’s most coveted private villas. Having sailed quietly on to the property market, The Istana certainly has the goods to tug at purse and heart strings alike. Find the 5,200 square-metre estate perched on a clifftop in Bali’s Bukit, where five spacious suites, two infinity pools, library and home theatre await. Its west-facing position, which peers over the Indian Ocean and Uluwatu reef, makes for soul-soothing sights while inside gloss lacquer, silk wall panels and rustic floors form a seriously luxe island retreat. Oh, and an onsite team (western chef, four butlers, two drivers, spa therapists, housekeeping and 24hour security) mean you won’t have to lift a finger, ever. theIstana.com Interested parties should contact matthew@elitehavens.com

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rADAr

Go Dutch

If you know New York you know that things don’t stay in fashion for long in the city that never sleeps. What’s de rigueur one week can be old news the next. So having opened as far back as April this year, it’s somewhat of a surprise to find that The Dutch, the American Restaurant and Oyster Room in Manhattan, is still setting tongues wagging. We say ‘somewhat’ of a surprise because through the Michelinstarred skills of chef-owner Andrew Carmellini The Dutch boasts one of the city’s culinary kings. Fight for a table here before doing so is considered passé. thedutchnyc.com

Never mind storing your shoes in a walk-in wardrobe of their own, if you really love your Louboutins keep them out of harms way in a handcrafted safe like this, ‘The Bel Air.’ For four generations German locksmith Döttling has been in the business of customising safes to meet the exceptional needs of its clients and their bespoke designs are now highly sought-after. The perfect addition to a master bedroom. b5living.com

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Plane To See

For their latest novel timepiece Bell & Ross have taken inspiration from air traffic control instruments, with a sweeping red light beam replacing the hands to mimic the workings of an actual radar. The markings on the outside disc indicate the hours, the middle disc the minutes and the central disc the seconds. Buy one and you’ll own one of only 999 made. bellross.com

To visit this mind-boggling art exhibition you have to dive eight metres down into Cancun’s waters. Artist Jason deCaires-Taylor has been dropping sculptures deep into oceans around the globe for a number of years, including one of a man watching TV from a sofa and 400 lifesized figures (above). Not just for show, Taylor’s efforts also aid the environmental cause: each piece is carefully designed to simulate reefs and promote the growth of marine life. underwatersculpture.com

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rADAr PasT MasTers

The slender Piaget Altiplano 34mm rightly ranks among the finest female watches ever made, but its beauty has been further enhanced with the addition of a gleaming white dial, framed by 72 brilliant-cut diamonds. A further 28 brilliantcut diamonds encircle the seconds subdial, while an exclusive 18-carat pink gold pin buckle adds a touch of femininity to the alligator leather strap.

This half-armour (circa 1590) crafted by Pompeo della Chiesa, the Italian armourer of his age, forms part of Masterpiece London, a unique design, art and antiques fair, that offers would-be buyers the chance to purchase the best of the best from around the world. Other rarities on sale include a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT, a rectangularcased Patek Philippe wristwatch that dates back to 1918, and a prototype of the famous Spitfire fighter aircraft, the last surviving in the world. Masterpiece London runs until July 5 in the South Grounds, Royal Chelsea Hospital. masterpiecefair.com

On The MOney

For his first solo exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim, 2010 Hugo Boss prize winner Hans-Peter Feldmann has taken the novel step of creating an artwork out of his prize money: pinning all $100,000, in single dollar bills, to the gallery walls. Feldmann’s thinking? He’s hoping to spark debate on the notion of value in art. The exhibition runs until November 2.

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Buy Fred AstAire’s FerrAri 750 MonzA

One of the year’s most hotly anticipated hotel openings occurs this month as the Mandarin Oriental, Paris welcomes guests for the first time. Once inside they’ll find a hotel designed to reflect the style and sophistication of its host city and a suite – the outsized Presidential – that’s as good as any you’ll ever stay in. mandarinoriental.com/ paris

The dancing king drove this car – one of only 35 that were made – in On the Beach, his first non-singing, non-dancing movie role. In the film Astaire played a Grand Prix driver and during filming of the movie’s racing scenes eight cars were written off in only twelve days. Thankfully, the Ferrari 750 Monza remained intact and come August 19 it will be auctioned off for an expected $3.25 million in Monterrey, California. rmauctions.com

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The MAin evenT The open championship, royal st. george’s, england, July 10-17 rOry’s glOry Come tee-off time at Royal St. George’s all eyes will be on Rory McIlroy. The boy from Holywood, Northern Ireland, served up the ultimate riposte to those who had labeled him a choker in the wake of his Masters meltdown by producing a performance fit for the silver screen in claiming the US Open. His winning margin, the biggest ever at the event, and his score, the lowest in the tournament’s long history, are emphatic examples of potential fulfilled. And now that Tiger has lost his roar (a lot of money and his dignity, too) the stage is set for the 22 year-old to claim the vacant title of the game’s most popular player. Over to you, Rory.

The OPen’s BesT MOMenTs carnousTie, 1999 Anyone who has watched golf down the years will forever remember the name Jean Van de Velde. Sadly for the Frenchman, it’s not his oncourse prowess that we recall but his spectacular failure. Come hole 72 of The Open Van de Velde held a three shot lead. Come the end of hole 72 he had to hole a seven footer to simply tie for the lead. He made it. Then lost in the play off. But it’s the image of Van de Velde removing his shoes and socks as he gave considerable thought to playing out of the water that we’ll never forget. TurnberrY, 1977 The greatest dual for the famous jug took place against the backdrop of a gloriously sunny afternoon. Entering the final day, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus tied for the lead after carding the exact same scores on each of the previous three days. But having edged in front of his great rival on the penultimate hole, Watson faced the most nerve-wracking of short putts on the eighteenth to claim the title in the face of a stunning recovery shot and putt from Nicklaus that earned him a birdie. He made it. Just.

The LongesT Yards If you want to watch out for golf’s big hitters at The Open, the average distance of these players’ drives are this year’s longest on the PGA and European Tours.

sT. andreWs, 1995 Of all the putts made and missed in Open history, none are as memorable as Constantino Rocca’s incredible effort on the final hole. Needing a birdie to force a tie with John Daly, a pair of shanked shots left Rocca with the unenviable task of having to sink a snaking 65-footer. Uphill. That he did so – dropping face first to the green as the ball disappeared down the hole – seemed to rob the Italian of his energy, as he tamely surrendered in the subsequent play off.

roberT garrigus 308.5 Yards danieL vancsik 309 Yards aLvaro Quiros 310.3 Yards bubba WaTson 310.8 Yards J.b hoLmes 317.2 Yards

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Critique

Film The Perfect Host

Another Earth

Dir. Nick Tomnay A bank robber on the run chooses the wrong hideout when knocking on Warwick Wilson’s door (Hyde Pierce, right) – a consummate dinner host who is anything but your average Joe... at best: “Tomnay skillfully shifts the tone from suspense to dark comedy...” Hollywood Reporter. at worst: “This is bargain-basement moviemaking and looks it.” New York Observer.

Dir. Mike Cahill On the eve a duplicate Earth emerges, astrophysicist Rhoda Williams (below) causes a fatal accident. Emerging from prison, she finds an unlikely love affair: will she embrace it or accept a chance to journey to the new Earth? at best: “A gripping, intimate (science fiction) story...” Hollywood Reporter. at worst: “Ultimately a conventional relationship film.” Playback:st.

Point Blank

Ironclad

Dir. Fred Cavayé This non-stop Parisian flick sees married nurse, Samuel (above) fight for his pregnant wife’s life as she’s kidnapped before him. The trade-off? Three hours to get a man under police surveillance out of hospital. at best: “A galvanizing must-see for all lovers of seat-edge suspense cinema.” Radio Times. at worst: “A long parade of growling, gunfights and near arrests.” Daily Mirror.

Dir. Jonathan English 13th century England sets the scene for this bloody battle of a movie where a small group of Knights Templar (headed by US star Paul Giamatti, left), unite to fight the relentless tyrant King John and defend the great Rochester Castle. at best: “Much more enjoyable than Ridley Scott’s po-faced Robin Hood.” Daily Express. at worst: “Do you laugh or flinch at this sort of thing?.” This Is London.

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Images: Guggenheim New York

Art W hile fans of Arabic art in New York await the muchanticipated reopening of the Met’s Islamic Galleries in Autumn, they’ve been able to get their Arabian fix from ‘Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra’ at The New York Botanical Garden. As Diane Nottle of The National says, these are ‘visual art forms that may rarely cross [New Yorkers’] minds: landscape architecture and garden design’. The exhibition, which runs until August 21, takes its inspiration from the glories of the Alhambra in Grenada, featuring beautiful Mediterrannean trees, wonderful pools and fountains and the sounds of Middle Eastern and Spanish music. Nottle is impressed: the exhibition ‘has transformed the Enid A Haupt Conservatory into a microcosm of Islamic Spain’, she says. ‘For those who take the 20-minute train ride from midtown Manhattan to its 250 emerald-green acres in the Bronx, any visit to the garden is like a day-trip to another land.’ Showing at the Louvre in Paris until August 15 is Mimmo Jodice, an Italian photographer who mixes photos of well-known portraits from the Louvre with snaps of employees who work there. The pieces are disparate and united only by their eyes, which all sit at the same level, and stare directly at the spooked-out visitors. The aim, according to the Louvre, is ‘to restore life, soul, and personality to bygone figures and confer new status to the subjects of the photographic portraits of today’. Le Figaro is intrigued: ‘There is great evil in Mimmo Jodice, a Neapolitan photographer as beautiful as a Roman coin’ says Valerie Duponchel. Particular highlights include a photo of a painting of M. Bertin, a ‘bloated and chunky’ chap who nevertheless keeps his ‘charm as an intellectual and lively debater’, and the photo of the modern day Martin Kiefer, exhibition organizer, with his ‘clear eyes’ and ‘dazzling beauty of youth’ London’s Tate Britain has launched a more traditional art show entitled ‘The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World’, which runs until September 4. It’s a collection of more than 100 works showcasing the extreme art movement of Vorticism, which was an early 20thcentury alternative to Futurism and Cubism, and which brought the modern machine age to the fore. It was championed by Wyndham Lewis, a painter, writer and cunning publicist. ‘Do go and see this exhibition’ says Alastair Sooke of The Telegraph, ‘there are several strong and striking works of art, such as Gaudier-Brzeska’s monumental head of [Ezra] Pound, and the futuristic sculptures of [Jacob] Epstein, which wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi horror film.’ Although he does sound a note of caution: ‘it’s worth asking whether, to some extent, the familiar story of Vorticism is a chimera, the creation of Lewis’s self-promoting imagination.’

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Critique

Books

Jon Ronson is one of the world’s most provocative and talented investigative journalists and his previous books were massive hits. There was 2002’s ‘Them’, in which he tracked extremists across the world who believe the planet is controlled by a tiny, secret elite – including David Icke who believes the Earth is controlled by 12foot lizards. Then came 2005’s ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’, a hilarious look at some of the extraordinary programmes run by the US military, including a unit which was supposedly trained to have superpowers including visibility, walking through walls and the ability to kill goats simply by looking at them. So it’s no wonder that his latest release, ‘The Psychopath Test’, captured the world’s attention: it’s an extraordinary account of how psychopaths are spotted and defined, which weaves a gonzo-style travelogue of interviews with experts in the field and psychopaths themselves. Will Self, writing in The Guardian, says ‘Let me state for the record: at his best, Ronson is one of the finest comic writers working today. I began The Psychopath Test late at night, tired, dispirited and ill – then found myself laughing like the proverbial loon for page after page, for approximately the first 40, at least.’ The Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Kellogg pitched it as ‘a book that manages to be as cheerily kooky as it is well-researched’. On the non-fiction side, Whitbread Award winner Ali Smith’s ‘There But For The’, has been hailed as an ‘amusing and imaginative book’ about a guest who refuses to leave the house after a dinner party. The book is characterdriven, with much of the action (or lack of it) reported through the eyes of Brooke, a precocious child with a penchant for wordplay. As The Telegraph says, ‘Smith’s prose is not just supple, it’s acrobatic: one minute providing crisp realism – cocky teenagers, unspoken homophobia, university bureaucracy – the next a hypnotic stream-of-

‘At his best, [Jon] Ronson is one of the finest comic writers working today’

consciousness. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today.’ Another novel about people going astray is ‘Please Look After Mother’ by Kyung-Sook Shin. It tells the story of an elderly mother who gets lost at the train station in Seoul while travelling to see her kids: as her family comb the city for her they look back on the ways in which they took her for granted throughout her life. The National’s Hilary Claire O’Hagan amusingly notes that ‘The author ought to have purchased telecommunications shares before her book was released, because if the intention was to guilt-trip readers into calling home, she has surely succeeded.’ The Financial Times gave it a solid endorsement, describing it as a ‘well-controlled and emotionally taut novel’: a good one to slip in your carry-on for your next long haul flight.

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TheaTre ‘Audiences at London’s National Theatre have been enjoying ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’

The Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway’s 302 West 45th Street has been playing host to none other than the actor formerly known as Harry Potter, Mr Daniel Radcliffe, who has been fronting ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.’ Voldemort’s former nemesis plays J. Pierrepont Finch, an ambitious window cleaner who zooms up the greasy pole to become VP of advertising at a major company, playing every trick in the book and compromising his morals along the way. Although she describes the erstwhile Seeker of Griffindor House as ‘sweet and earnest’ and says he ‘works very hard’ Tulis McCall of the New York Theatre Guide does not understand why the musical has been a success. ‘This could be titled How To Succeed on Broadway Without Really Anything’ she said. ‘Start out with an offensive concept and add unimaginative direction, mediocre music, a bland book and a set that does everything to get in the say of the actors and voila! You will have a hit.’ In London, meanwhile, audiences at the National Theatre have been enjoying ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, a Richard Bean play directed by Nicholas Hytner, and starring James Corden, better known as Smithy, the loveable, chubby Essex boy from ‘Gavin and Stacey.’ Set in Brighton in the 1960s, the play sees Corden play Francis, a man taken on as a hired goon by two employers with the same aim – to con a gentleman known as Charlie ‘The Duck’ Clench. Francis,

petrified that his two ‘guvnors’ will meet, spends his whole time trying to keep them apart, to uproarious effect. Since Gavin and Stacey, Corden has been prolific on TV but some of his appearances have fallen a bit flat. His return to the theatre (he played at the National back in 2004 in The History Boys) seems to have gone rather better though: as Time Out London’s Andrzej Lukowski says, ‘respect to Corden for a heroically committed physical performance, lobbing his chunky frame about like a human baton, conducting the ensemble’s fine-tuned symphony of hysteria.’ The Stage rated the play highly too, describing it as ‘an instant hit that could prove just as big as the Alan Bennett play that originally brought Corden here.’ Meanwhile the Comedie Caumartin theatre in Paris’ 9th arrondissement is showing ‘Amour et Chipolatas’ (Love and Sausages), written by popular stand-up comedian and actor Jean-Luc Lemoine. It sees headstrong bride-to-be Margot invite three of her old boyfriends to a barbecue with her husband, an exceptionally jealous man. The three men – an astrophysicist, a salesman and a painter – are wildly different in their outlooks and personalities, and all are determined to outdo one another. It’s an explosive comedy with plenty of heart – as Guillermo Pisani of TheatreOnline.com says, ‘the wide differences between the characters, clever repartee, many gags and a few twists give the piece what it takes to tickle the audience.’

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Critique

technology

‘Panasonic’s HMTA20 is a shock, dust and waterproof number which shoots 1080i video’

Most adults feel they don’t have time for computer games – and rightly so. There’s plenty enough going on in the real world without wasting precious hours submerging yourself into an alternate realities. But tech reviewers across the board are making exceptions for the extraordinary new release from Rockstar, ‘LA Noire’, which has immediately hit the top of games charts across the globe. Set in Los Angeles in the 50s, it immerses players into an amazingly life-like world in which they have to collect clues, interrogate suspects and solve crime. The detail is almost unnerving: as Michael Parsons of Wired magazine says, there’s a ‘sense of an absurdly detailed and lovingly created world, with great music, voice acting, and a rich sense of period – the police radios [even] play original police period radio traffic.’ It’s a game that takes its time and feels very intuitive – ‘Everything is geared towards maintaining your immersion in the game world’, says Parsons. Steve Boxer of The Guardian agrees. ‘The familiar need to suspend disbelief has been all but eliminated’, he says. ‘The games industry has dreamed of creating one thing above all else – a game that is indistinguishable from a film, except that you can control the lead character. With LA Noire, it just might, finally, have found the embodiment of that particular holy grail.’ Nathaniel Berens of Adventure Gamers goes even further, saying ‘Only in my film and adventure game-geek dreams would millions of dollars and over seven years of development time go into a game that is truly an interactive film noir classic, one that easily equals the best the genre has ever had to offer.’ If you love taking films when you’re on your travels but worry about keeping the camcorder safe in the great outdoors, you should check out Panasonic’s HM-TA20, a shock, dust and waterproof number which shoots 1080i video. The critics at TechRadar describe it as ‘a kind of holiday camera you use anywhere and chuck in a bag with a wet towel and sandy shoes, without having to worry about it.’ Panasonic’s HM-WA10 is another new and particularly strong piece of kit, which is ideal for shooting underwater – as CNET says, ‘If water-based activities are your bag, then you’ll be pleased to know that the WA10 can be submerged in up to 3m of the wet stuff for as long as 60 minutes at a time. You’ll need to give it a breather between sessions, though. Panasonic says ‘10 minutes should be enough.’

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‘Witness from Baghdad 1’ by Halim Al Karim, 2010 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalist

The Art of Tax Planning The Sovereign Group is proud to be sponsoring The Sovereign Art Foundation for the 8th consecutive year – helping it to make the world a better and more artistic place. Sovereign offers charity to its clients too. We form charities and foundations to help our clients with their charitable aims. And to ensure they have more to give we offer a comprehensive family office service including wealth management, tax planning, asset protection, company and trust formation. Contact us for an exploratory conversation. Local Freephone No: 800 Offshore Tel: +971 4 448 6010 dubai@SovereignGroup.com

SovereignGroup.com


the real

Steve McQueen geoffrey macnab uncovers the reality behind hollywood’s king of cool

T

he posthumous “king of cool” is how Steve McQueen is routinely described by his fans today. Thirty years after McQueen’s death, the reputation of the star of The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt and The Getaway hasn’t been usurped by any of his successors. No subsequent male lead has managed to be quite as cool as McQueen. It’s not for want of trying. From Die Hard onward, Bruce Willis has striven forlornly to emulate McQueen’s laconic screen image. Kevin Costner clearly modelled

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his persona partly on that of the equally close-cropped and undemonstrative star. Alec Baldwin was another McQueen pretender, even taking the star’s old role in an ill-fated remake of The Getaway. But none has come close to McQueen’s mix of machismo and unflappability. He was only 50 when he died of cancer. Unlike Paul Newman or Robert Redford, he didn’t become crumpled with age or take on the character roles that would diminish his original aura. The irony is that McQueen really didn’t think he was a very good actor – one reason why he was so undemonstrative on screen. “He always said he wasn’t an actor, he was a reactor. By that he meant that he didn’t want to be lumbered with speaking plot. He wasn’t sure he could do it,” Peter Yates, who worked with him on Bullitt, recalled. McQueen’s solution was to pare down and down: to aim for the most minimalist style he could. He is the antithesis to a star like James Cagney, who was in audiences’ faces, demanding their attention with his motor-mouthed delivery of dialogue and expressive physical gestures. Nor, although he studied with Sanford Meisner (one of the top Method acting coaches) and effortlessly projected rebelliousness, does he have the soul-searching, neurotic quality of a Montgomery Clift or a James Dean. He isn’t the monolithic John Wayne type either. Actors who try to imitate him risk being dull. They don’t have his eyes or intensity. “Steve was the ultimate movie star. He had what they refer to as the X-factor. Well, it’s sex appeal, that’s what it is. He had enormous sex appeal,” Robert Vaughan (his co-star in The Magnificent Seven) said of him. McQueen was unusual among action stars in that he appealed equally strongly to male fans, who relished his feats of derring-do on motorbikes or in cars, and to women, who sensed a vulnerability behind the swaggering persona. “I think it’s safe to say that it would have been impossible not to fall in love with Steve,” Ali McGraw, who began a turbulent love affair with McQueen during the making of The Getaway, recently told Vanity Fair. For all his self-possession on screen, McQueen had a violent temper and a reputation as a rebel. In his early roles, a sense of barely suppressed rage is always evident. McQueen had been abandoned as a kid by his stunt-pilot father. He was a troubled adolescent who often fell foul of the law, fought with his stepfather and spent time in reform school. His time in the marines taught him the restraint and discipline he always seemed to convey in movies. Scan McQueen’s filmography and what is apparent is that, outside the films that are shown on TV regularly (The Great Escape, Papillon, The Getaway, The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt and one or two others), there is a lot of dross. The Blob (1958) may be a cult film but it doesn’t show off McQueen to advantage – it’s hard to maintain your cool when your co-star is a mass of flesh-eating gunge. His breakthrough Never So Few (1959), his first film with John Sturges (later to direct him in both The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape) is a dreary

‘For all his self-possession on screen, McQueen had a violent temper and a reputation as a rebel’

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war picture. “His entire modern, 21st-century appeal seems to be down to six or seven particular movies,” says Tony Earnshaw, curator of Steve McQueen: Hollywood Nonconformist. “I’ve always felt that he was a far better character actor than people gave him credit for but he became subsumed within this peculiar persona.” It’s a moot point how nonconformist McQueen really was. His choice of projects was often very conventional indeed. Contemporaries talk about his outrageous scene-stealing antics with his hat and gun during the making of The Magnificent Seven, designed to ensure that audiences’ attention would be drawn to him. Yul Brynner became increasingly exasperated by the way McQueen tried to upstage him. When he was playing tough-guy roles, he didn’t convey much in the way of emotional depth. In The Great Escape, for example, his character, “The Cooler King,” is defined entirely by his actions. He is an escape artist who sees breaking out of Nazi captivity as his one and only goal. One of the more surprising aspects of his career, given that he became the best-paid star of his era and is closely associated with action roles, is how effective McQueen was at playing losers and characters on the margins. Two of his finest films, Junior Bonner and Tom Horn, are also among his most underrated. By the time McQueen made Tom Horn (1980), he was already suffering from the cancer that would kill him. That adds extra pathos to a film that is about someone left behind by changing times. His character is a man of the old West: a real-life figure who – the opening intertitles tell us – had ridden shotgun for the stage lines and worked both as a Pinkerton agent and as a cavalry scout “in the bloody Apache wars”. He clings to his minor celebrity as the man who caught Geronimo, but by 1901, Horn is all but washed-up. Production was problematic. Whether through perversity or illness, or because he despised Hollywood and would far rather have been racing bikes, McQueen held the studios to ransom when to appear in other people’s films, and invariably demanded complete freedom on his own cherished projects – like this one. His Horn looks old and ravaged. He is, we’re told, “a vestige of that heroic era we’ve just about lost.” He moves stiffly, at microscopic speed, his spurs always clinking, but unlike the businessmen, judges and journalists who’ve colonised the West, he retains an innocent rapture at the great outdoors. He can’t even look at his beloved mountains without a tear coming to his eyes. This is a film

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mor e than an action man

Images: Corbis Text: Geoffrey Macnab / The Independent / The Interview People

The BloB (1958) McQueen brings a surprising conviction and plenty of Method-style intensity to his role as a rebellious teenager pitted against a gooey, amoeba-like monster. The Thomas Crown affair (1968) A rugged action star like McQueen didn’t get many chances to play dapper Cary Grant-style romantic leads. This glossy thriller sees him at his most debonair – and famously features an erotically charged chess game with Faye Dunaway. PaPillon (1973) McQueen goes head-to-head with Dustin Hoffman in this drama about two convicts on Devil’s Island. McQueen is laconic and macho while Hoffman is fussy and expressive. Their acting styles are poles apart but complement each other far better than might have been expected.

about dying. From the very first sequence, in which Horn drifts into a Wyoming town, shuffles off for his morning whisky and manages to get himself badly beaten up by heavyweight boxer Gentleman Jim Corbett, it’s obvious his days are numbered. He knows it, and often seems to be willing his own death. “Committing suicide?”, he asks himself. “Is that what I’ve been doing all these years?” Sam Peckinpah’s Junior Bonner is equally moving and well-observed, an elegiac film about a rodeo star whose best days are also behind him and can’t cope with the shiny, modern new world. Given the dignity and pathos of these two performances, it’s surprising how seldom he took roles that stretched him. When late in his career, he tackled Ibsen in An Enemy of the People (1978), there was a sense that he was belatedly trying to correct the sense that – as the critic David Thompson put it – “he preferred playing with cars to making movies.” McQueen didn’t have great range. He wasn’t especially imaginative in the way he plotted his career. “Through all those early blockbuster hits whether it’s The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape or The Thomas Crown Affair, he is rather affected,” acknowledges Tony Earnshaw. “It’s a very distinctive style of acting. A lot of people said he wasn’t acting. It was this old humbug about his just playing this version of himself on the screen.” What he did have was an effortless charisma. The idea of “the king of cool” is corny in the extreme. It’s a testament to McQueen that nobody ever questions it when this label is pinned to him.

an enemy of The PeoPle (1977) McQueen has long hair, a big, bushy beard and horn-rimmed specs in this Ibsen adaptation (above). He plays a crusading doctor trying to save the town from a polluted water system.

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Whoever said men’s heads aren’t turned by heels hasn’t seen a woman transformed by a pair of Manolos. Their creator explains his 30 year obsession

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‘One day I want to design the perfect shoe – and I think I will. I just need a few more years’

Don’t insult me,” says Manolo Blahnik. “I don’t see myself that way, and if others do, that would make me sad.” The charge is not one that many would reject so violently – certainly neither of the other two designers who make up the holy trinity of modern footwear, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. The charge is that, after four decades of designing shoes for the world’s most famous women, Blahnik is himself a celebrity. Were it not for a certain television show, the man Naomi Campbell calls “the godfather of sole” would probably have retained a greater anonymity. Bianca Jagger may have worn a pair of his shoes when she rode into Studio 54 on a horse in 1977 and Princess Diana was said to own more than 50 pairs, but it wasn’t until Carrie Bradshaw was mugged for her slingbacks on Sex and the City that Blahnik’s surname became a part of the female lexicon.”I never watched the show,” the 67-yearold grimaces. “At the time I just thought that it was about these stupid New York girls, but then somebody sent me a tape of the mugging episode and I thought it was so funny. Not the fact that the girl was mugged, of course, because I would never want that.” Overhearing our exchange, Blahnik’s PA informs us that only recently a young British magazine stylist was robbed for a pair of his shoes. Blahnik looks horrified. “Is that true? That’s very upsetting…” In his lilac suit and bow tie, fuchsia suede shoes and fine white hair combed back in an urbane, Mad Men slick, Blahnik is a creature from another era. His mind is light and fanciful and he is eager to please, begging me to rein in the wild tangents that leave him breathless (“I can’t help it – I go on like a tap sometimes.”) When you consider that this same imagination is responsible for the beautiful madness of his designs (a single burgundy stiletto sandal with an ankle strap designed to wind itself like ivy up a woman’s calf sits on the table between us), it’s hard to resent the disorder of his thought processes. Like his style, his references are resolutely uncontemporary. He hates planes and trains, and right now, is “stuck in a 19th-century period: everything is inspired by Proust, Tolstoy, Balzac and Flaubert – Madame Bovary looking divine and rushing off to her lover in these shoes.” Back in his Georgian town house in Bath, where more than 25,000 pairs of his “stupid shoes” are stored chronologically, he doesn’t read newspapers or watch TV, today’s celebrity circus being of little interest. “It’s not the vulgarity of it – vulgarity’s OK,” he maintains. “And bad taste is OK too, sometimes – although when all those football people buy your shoes…” he tails off with a slight shudder. “But really, I’m not interested in all that.” Princess Diana, he concedes, “was special. She wore my shoes with such grace and had a luminosity I’ve only seen matched by Julie Christie. Maybe Kate Moss has something of that too, now, because she’s funny as well as being beautiful, but really the whole celebrity phenomenon

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is only of importance because it makes you money. If it pays your factory workers and your taxes and it means that you can buy books, then I can see the point of it.” What drives him now and has always driven him, he insists, is “the satisfaction of seeing the shoes being made.” “Mr [Philip] Green could come tomorrow with a million pounds and I would still say no,” he says, giving his bowtie a defiant tweak. “How do you approve the quality? I’d be mortified if it weren’t up to scratch. Generally, I’ve realised that I just can’t work for other people. I’m lucky that I’ve got this little family business which suits me fine.” Blahnik can still remember the beginnings of that business – and the first time, in 1972, that he saw a woman wearing his shoes. “It was Talitha Getty, and she was walking down the King’s Road in acid-blue

shoes with white rubber heels.” Later, it emerged that the Sixties’ It-girl had bought every pair he’d made. Born and raised on a banana plantation in the Canary Islands to a Czech father and Spanish mother, Blahnik never planned to become a designer. In retrospect, his footwear fascination was always there. “My mother wore these cheap espadrilles, and I remember thinking how fabulously feminine they were, with those ribbons all the way up the leg.” It wasn’t until years later, after studying literature at the University of Geneva and moving to London, where he worked as a PR for Joan Burstein, the founder of Browns, that he found himself idly sketching shoes. “It was the Sixties and you could feel all this new talent coming through. Around that time I was introduced to Diana [Vreeland,

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then editor of US Vogue] and she told me to ‘do shoes’. I couldn’t believe how quickly they took off. I had no idea that anything I was doing was that different.” The sketches in his book, Manolo’s New Shoes – 170 illustrations of shoes with serpent laces, cherry ankle straps, and Himalayan goat fringes – bear testament to how different that vision still is. In fact, it’s hard to believe that anything as effervescent could end up supporting a woman’s body weight. “I love making things that nobody thought could work, but sometimes my employees tell me that it’s just not possible, and I have to give up on an idea.” Compromise, however, doesn’t come easily to him. “I’ll go with an aluminium heel instead of a titanium one, because titanium would be too heavy to walk in, but then it won’t have the gleam I want.” To be certain that the structure underpinning his designs works, Blahnik has been known to test the shoes himself. “My assistants and I will try out every shoe ourselves, walking up and down the factory floor to make sure that there are no blisters.” Blahnik says it’s a fallacy to suggest that women can and should learn to walk in high heels. “A good shoe should have balance, so you shouldn’t have to struggle to get it right.” Raising himself up on imaginary heels and jostling with the carved walking stick he has needed ever since he was treated for ligament

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damage, he shows me how it’s done. “It’s the height that gives women that sexy rhythm when they walk – and that’s what men love most.” Reports that men “don’t notice women in high heels” are erroneous, he maintains. “Anyone who says that must be out of their mind: the first thing that men look at are a woman’s legs, and there is nothing more flattering than high heels. The male reaction to heels is half normal and half perversion, but some men tell me I’ve saved their marriage.” There is something appealing, he feels, about voluptuous women in high heels. “Perhaps it’s because it makes them lighter. What I don’t like is tiny girls in high heels.” Does he accept the feminist view that high heels are a modern form of corsetry? “I’ve observed women slipping their shoes off under the table when I’m out having lunch,” he says after a moment’s pause. “And I think it’s such a strange, prehistoric idea that you have to suffer to be beautiful. Surely we’re more evolved and we know now that it’s all nonsense. Anyway,” he laughs, “I’ve seen plenty of feminists in New York wearing my heels.” The flats you might assume feminists would prefer aren’t, oddly, offensive to Blahnik. “Trainers are my pet hate because of the flat-footed way they make women walk, and I do think it can be hard to walk elegantly in flats but there are far uglier shoes out there. The only shoes I like right now are by Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaia and Yves Saint Laurent because they are done with a sense of humour – but other people are making horrors.” Like Yves Saint Laurent, whom he remembers fondly, Blahnik is outraged by the concept that what he does is art. “I don’t consider it ‘art’ for one minute. But I don’t know what art is any more.” A perk of never following fashion is that he never finds his work “démodé”. “I don’t want to sound like a pompous old man, but when I look at some of the shoes being designed by students now, I sometimes think ‘God, I’m still influencing shoes, 30 years on!’” Financial and creative success aside, Blahnik still has one thing left to wish for. “One day, I want to design the perfect shoe – and I think I will. I just need a few more years.”

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Images: Corbis Text: Celia Walden / The Daily Telegraph / The Interview People

‘I love making things that nobody thought could work, but sometimes my employees tell me that it’s just not possible, and I have to give up on an idea’


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a new you

Medical Director Dr. Emmenegger explains the innovative methods used by the clinic Doctor Emmenegger, what is a “non-surgical lift”? Amongst the latest technologies on offer, there is a non-invasive medical procedure called Thermage which has become one of the specialties at the Clinic Lémanic. This principally consists of thoroughly heating the skin by means of high-frequency radio waves to stimulate the collagen under the skin and thus improving the derma. With this procedure, associated if necessary with other treatments for more visible results, one can rapidly see a wonderful 3D effect on the tone and density of the facial and/or body tissue. Better still, a single treatment suffices in most cases, and it takes generally only two hours. The achieved results last for 3 to 5 years, a positive revolution in the domain of ‘non-surgical lifts’. What about shaping up one’ s body? Is there a natural and painless treatment you can offer to your patients today? Yes, one of the latest techniques is cryolipolysis. It is a new, non-

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Dr Véronique Emmenegger, Medical Director very much appreciated by the many patients who have experienced it. Who is cryolipolysis aimed at? It’s ideal for men and women of any age and any skin type (apart from those whose skin is already extremely slack) who have slight local bulges. It is not a slimming method, but a true remodelling technique. And are the results permanent? Yes, the treated fatty cells are destroyed for good. Doctor, what can you offer to those patients who wish to lose more weight? While cryolipolysis is a short-term treatment, we have also developed a longer term and truly comprehensive weight loss program, producing spectacular results. It is based on a highly personalised approach, taking into consideration the needs of every individual and the results of his medical tests. Our clients who come to Switzerland for a longer stay enjoy the utmost benefits of this method.

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I

t is his silence which defenders find most disconcerting. If they are being torn inside and out by a player of outrageous talent then they generally expect some surreptitious sledging but you don’t get a word from Lionel Messi. Few are better equipped to explain the giddying experience of marking him than Asier del Horno, who was slaughtered then sent off on the night Messi did for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February 2006 and the lack of provocation is the part he still remembers. “He doesn’t say anything,” says the 30-year-old, whose winding road since leaving west London has taken him to Levante. “There are many provocations in football between defenders and forwards but that’s not his style. Messi doesn’t provoke.” That’s always been a significant part of the player they call “The Flea” and whom Cesc Fabregas says the Barcelona youth squad thought was “mute” until a reserves tournament in Italy in which “thanks to PlayStation and the [camaraderie of the] trip we discovered he knew how to talk”. There wasn’t much chat, for instance, before he undid Manchester United in the Champions League final in 2009. Nothing at all, in fact, for 35 minutes and suddenly there was Messi; first drifting from the right to operate as the dummy centre-forward which Sir Alex Ferguson admitted forced his central defenders out of position, then ascending to the Roman heavens to head the goal that clinched the final. The image of Edwin van der Sar, open-mouthed and transfixed, is one of the most iconic of that night. It was the same again in this year’s Champions League final between the two teams; Messi advancing 10 yards seemingly undetected, definitely unchallenged, before firing in a low, grass-skimming drive too fierce for van der Sar. But United are not the only ones who didn’t detect Messi. The remarkable story of how Barcelona captured – and almost immediately lost – the talents of the 13-year-old boy from Rosario, on Argentina’s Parana River, forms part of an engaging and superbly sourced new study of the player by the Italian journalist Luca Caioli. The scouting systems of football’s world powers would like to believe that they now have the networks to scout players for themselves. But Caioli reveals how Martin Montero and Fabian Soldini, from a company established in Rosario to buy and sell players, calmly walked up to the then Messi home – 525, Estado de Israel – and, after a conversation with Messi’s father Jorge, set the wheels in motion. Their Nou Camp contact was a Barcelona

The SilenT ASSASSin How Barcelona almost said no to signing the world’s deadliest footballer

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Celia – creator of the milanesa a la napolitana which is still his favourite dish – returned to Argentina when the player’s youngest sister Maria Sol did not settle.) It was arguably the player’s maternal grandmother, also Celia, who did most to propel him into football, by marching him into training sessions in Rosario and insisting they let little Lionel play. “They were afraid he would get trodden on,” his mother tells Caioli. “But my mother wasn’t.” The growth hormone treatment which was such a significant part of Messi’s childhood was an important factor in his move to Europe. The Argentinian clinician who treated him, Dr Diego Schwarzstein, discovered a rare deficiency – found in one in 20 million, he estimates – and prescribed one injection a day for a period of three to six years, depending on his development. The cost of treatment was 600,000 Argentinian pesos ($147,000) a year. Schwarzstein tells Caioli the treatment was available for free in Argentina but Jorge Messi says state benefits covering the treatment stopped and that financial help towards the costs from Newell’s Old Boys, the club Messi joined, also started drying up. “We went so many times to ask for the money, that in the end my wife said to me: ‘I’m not going to ask any more’,” Messi Snr relates. “I think

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Images: Corbis Text: Ian Herbert / The Independent / The Interview People

shareholder, who approached Carles Rexach, the club’s then technical director. The boy – who would very soon become the subject of a bitter battle between Nike and Adidas – arrived in Catalunya on 17 September, 2000, then had to hang around until 3 October because Rexach was busy out in Beijing, watching Spain in the Olympics. It was a long walk around the training pitch when Rexach finally returned to watch Messi play. “By the time I sat down on the bench I had made my decision,” Rexach tells Caioli. The book charts the Messi family’s subsequent struggle to tie Barcelona down to a contract. The Barcelona board didn’t trust Rexach’s judgement that the club should take on the responsibility for a 13-year-old and his entire family and, in December, at a meeting with the family’s representatives at a restaurant in Barcelona’s Montjuic district, Rexach grabbed a napkin and wrote words to the effect that the club promised to buy the boy. They signed an individual who, Caioli’s work makes clear, inherits his bashfulness and his footballing ability from his father, who was a steel works executive before packing up his life in Argentina to accompany Messi. (The entire family initially did, though Messi’s mother


‘It was arguably the player’s maternal grandmother who did most to propel him into football, by marching him into training sessions in Rosario and insisting they let little Lionel play’

[Newell’s] didn’t realise the value of what was in front of them,” adds Adrian Coria, Newell’s then youth-team coach. Messi’s departure for Spain on an Aerolineas Argentinas jet forms part of his sometimes difficult relationship with his own country and the porteños (Buenos Aires locals) who expect their nation’s stars to play for one of the city’s clubs before they leave. He rejected Argentina’s overtures to play international youth football for a while and the shyness meant he hardly spoke to team-mates when he finally joined their ranks for the 2005 Under-20 World Cup. There are stories of Gabriel Heinze being at boiling point at what he perceived to be the cold shoulder Messi gave him. Messi’s sense of nationhood is strong though, as Caioli’s interview with him for the book reveals in subtle ways. His favourite music is the Argentinian cumbia; his favourite film the Argentinian comedy drama El hijo de la novia (Son of the Bride). It has not always been a smooth ride at Barcelona, either. Caioli relates Messi’s drawn out struggle for Spanish citizenship, without which he could not break into league football as the club had filled their quota of non-EU nationals. There have been many injuries, too. The abundance of testimonies to Messi’s magnificence reveals that those who have been closest to him consider two prime qualities. Foremost is the ability to have the ball seemingly glued to his left foot and thus operate at a speed which can make a change of direction almost impossible to contend with. “Technically speaking, he is one of the few strikers in the world who can drive the ball forward without looking at it,” says Roberto Perfumo, the legendary former Argentina defender. The second is an ability to be unaffected by any occasion. “It doesn’t matter if he is playing in front of 10 spectators or 100,000,” adds his former coach Frank Rijkaard. “He is always the same.” Caioli also finds those who challenge the suggestion that Messi is the new Maradona. A persistent theme among them is Messi’s need to learn he is “part of a whole, has to share the ball, pass it more quickly,” as one commentator puts it. “Diego sometimes used to put his foot on the accelerator, whereas Messi lives with his pedal to the floor,” adds Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid’s former director general and another compatriot. Rijkaard’s advice to Messi was, “Finish the action: shoot, or cross it, don’t keep dribbling.” Ferguson had been telling confidants for some time prior to May’s Champions League final that he had an answer to the boy whose school friends knew him as piqui (the smallest). Messi doesn’t make much noise because it is not a requirement.

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Inset: White cotton slim jacket with satin lapel; Exclusive ‘fleur de lys’ print shirt. Right: Navy slim evening suit with gross grain lapel.

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Look sharp this summer in top-to-toe Paul Smith London

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Left: Prince of Wales check super slim double breasted suit; Pink block stripe shirt. Above: Slim peak lapel ‘travel’ suit; Sky blue shirt.

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Left: Shorter trench coat in cotton; Exclusive ‘polka dot’ print shirt. Right: Slim suit; Gingham check button down shirt.

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Motoring

Swede Dreams

Why Sweden’s entry to the supercar race isn’t just a fantasy

S

weden is best known for its saunas, homebuild furniture and safety record, but now it has stormed on to the supercar world with the new Koenigsegg Agera R. This is a car that counts the Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Huayra amongst its principle rivals and is one of the world’s apex predators. With a base price of €1.5 miillion, 1150bhp coursing through its veins and a top speed of more than 420kph, there are few cars on the road that can touch the Agera R on a hard charge. But a car is about more than the numbers, it must have its own unique style to back them up. The Agera R does, and more. Visually it’s a big bluff boxer of a car with a smooth, powerful front end and, normally, a low slung double bubble roof that gives that car the look of a stealth fighter, great white shark and more rolled into one automotive form. Other unique touches include the dihedral synchro helix doors that twirl effortlessly up and out in one fluid motion, which, alone, have probably accounted for more than one sale.

Today it has a skibox on its roof, which is meant to show that the car handles well in the snow, courtesy of a specially developed winter tyre, but in fact makes it look, well, a tad weird. Inside it’s a unique combination of modern LCD screens, metal swtichgear that seemingly comes to life with the ignition – thanks to carbon nanotubes concealed within the metal – and perfectly tailored carbon fibre seats covered in leather that combine luxury with near ridiculous performance that comes from within. Christian von Koenigsegg wanted something special, a real alternative to the Bugatti Veyron, and set about creating an 1150bhp monster with a five-litre twin turbo powerplant at its core. That powerplant propels this 1435kg to 60mph in just 2.9 seconds, way faster than the Zonda. In 7.5 seconds, 200kph is conquered, and the Agera will go from 0-200kph in just 12.7 seconds, which will leave mortals with internal bleeding. It will breach 420kph before it runs out of steam. But it’s not just the numbers, it’s the sheer violence of the turbo-powered delivery that sets this car apart.

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The Numbers Koenigsegg Agera R Price: €1.5 million 0-100kph: 2.9s Top speed: 420kph+ Engine: Five litre twin turbo Power: 1150bhp

‘The Agera will destroy almost anything on track if the driver is good enough’

Torque: 1200Nm

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Unlike the Veyron, all the power goes through the rear wheels and the most advanced traction control system in the world can only help a little. It’s an absolutely docile creature until the revs hit 3,500rpm and then it bolts forward with a jolt. Suddenly, I’m at the next bend and the 7250rpm redline with a kilometer of strange road behind me, punching down two gears on the seven speed semi automatic as a violent convulsion shakes through the drivetrain. On track, fireballs even blow out of that huge rear exhaust. It can produce lateral cornering forces of 1.6g, thanks to epic levels of grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports and a set up focused on the cornering speed, while the Veyron Super Sport will give 1.45g. That means, theoretically, that the Agera will destroy almost anything on track if the driver is good enough. But without four wheel drive to help if things go wrong, the Agera R takes serious skill to keep on the road, although it does come with its own track-focused tricks. That’s the challenge and the allure of the Keonigsegg Agera R, it’s a bucking bronco of a car that makes the Bugatti Veyron look tame by comparison and is the most involving hypercar the world has to offer. Sweden has joined the supercar race, with a serious bang.


Motoring

Virage is a Vision

A

n Aston Martin is an emotional choice. There are faster and more luxurious cars for less money, but this one sells itself on a higher plane. The all new Virage is a feeling, it’s the right to feel special each and every day. That was the dream behind the last outing for the Virage name, on the big, boxy, brash super saloon of the late 1980s. This one, though, is all new and a development of the DB9. The new 12-cylinder slots in just beneath the rangetopping DBS. It’s pitched as a whole new model and it is styled as a hybrid of the two. Strong, angular sill sections contrast with the curvaceous rear haunches and it’s about as overt and dramatic as it can be without treading on the testosterone-fuelled DBS’s toes. This car comes with a 490bhp variant of that sixlitre powerplant that sounds as good as anything on this Earth. It’s one of those engines that makes you drive fast, everywhere, drinking in the sound of 6,000 singing revs. It’s a thing of pure beauty and every time the road straightens out I find myself planting the throttle to the floor and the hairs on my neck standing up as that V12 roar envelopes the cabin and the car skips through the automatic gearbox. I’d need to grow up in a hurry, though: this car’s penchant for pure acceleration could land owners in bother. It’s a seriously quick GT car, hitting 60mph in 4.6s and topping out at 185mph. It’s blisteringly fast in

The Numbers Aston Martin Virage Price: €160,000 Engine: 6-litre V12 Power: 490bhp Torque: 420lb/ft 0-60mph: 4.6s Top speed: 186mph gear, too, just a flex of the right foot away from legal trouble. With 85 per cent of the torque available from 1500rpm, it can ride in a higher gear on a tickle of throttle and the new carbon-ceramic brakes are more than solid enough to drag off the speed. It’s still a heavy GT, rather than a ragged sportscar, but then the Aston Martin Virage is perhaps the perfect package for the DB9. Faster and more aggressive than the base model, more refined and genteel than the DBS, it is everything you could want in a luxury sportscar. Emotionally speaking, in any case.

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Nick Hall

our mAn on The inside TrAck

how The auTomoTive iNdusTry has adopTed The TreNd of dowNsiziNg Remember when mobile phones were like suitcases? Or when computers filled a room? Downsizing has always been the trend in electronics, but the automotive world has resisted such changes – until now. There was something macho, something inherently butch about driving a big, normally aspirated car with massive performance. Turbocharging was somehow seen as the poor option, it just wasn’t the done thing and as recently as last month I was told by a leading sportscar manufacturer that its flagship car simply had to be a V12 and could not rely on turbocharging. I think he will have to change his tune at some point, though: emissions regulations in Europe and the US are set to change big engines and with the likes of the M5, BMW has admitted defeat earlier than most. Even Ferrari has mooted the possibility of a twin turbo V8 flagship model and in recent decades that simply would not have been done. But, the thing is, by the time this has become the norm you won’t care. Why? Because the motor industry employs countless geniuses, literally thousands of them, to ensure that the next generation of cars are every bit as involving, every bit as good, while the emissions drop like a stone. The next gen M5, which has finally been fully unveiled, will produce 560bhp from its 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 and 502lb/ft of torque. That leaves= the last generation V10 in the shade already, it will hit 60mph in 4.4secs, 190mph on a hard charge and will leave supercars in its wake. But despite all this, despite a power boost of more than 10 per cent, BMW has cut consumption by 30 per cent. It, Ferrari and others will continue to do so, the power will go up and the capacities of the engines will go down. And nobody will notice or care if their Ferrari comes with a 500cc engine, providing it sounds good, hits 200mph and can scare the life out of them on the right road. Downsizing has finally arrived in the automotive world and I, for one, can’t wait to see where it takes us.

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Gastronomy

Small beginningS

Venetian tapas is the fastest-growing trend on London’s restaurant scene: Rob Orchard speaks to the man bringing La Serenissima to the Big Smoke...

F

or 213 years, Maiden Lane in Covent Garden has been loved by foodies for one excellent reason alone: it’s home to Rules, London’s oldest restaurant. This repository of hearty, all-British dishes will serve you immense steak and oyster pies, gigantic shoulders of roast beef with Yorkshire puddings the size of footballs, and whole stone bass on the bone. It’s a temple of outsized comfort food which has been the undisputed go-to restaurant for anyone in the area since Georgian times. So it feels a little strange to be back on Maiden Lane, surrounded by the bustle and hum of contented foodies, but with the heavy English fare replaced by small, delicate dishes of tapas-style Venetian bacaro food. The restaurant is Da Polpo, just a ten second saunter from Rules, but a world apart in concept and cuisine. It is the latest launch from Russell Norman, a dynamic restaurateur whose lightning series of launches – starting with Polpo in 2009,

and followed by Polpetto in 2010 and Da Polpo in June 2011 – have seen him lauded as one of the restaurant world’s most successful entrepreneurs and made Venetian food the fastest-growing cuisine trend in the city. Before striking out on his own with his best friend and business partner, Norman was Operations Director for Caprice Holdings, responsible for such well-loved names as The Ivy, J Sheekey, Scott’s, and the launch of Rivington Grill in Dubai. Perhaps surprisingly for a man on a mission to bring Venetian food to London, Norman is seriously underwhelmed by most of the food on offer in La Serenissima. “Venetian restaurants are mainly abysmal”, he says, “the vast majority of them pander to tourists’ tastes, they simply plunge for the lowest common denominator of pizzas and lasagna and cannelloni. The tourists just want to sit down at the first place available and stock up on carbs so they can walk around and enjoy

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the sights. When you talk about Venetian cooking it’s a bit of a joke but there is a genuine culinary tradition which is actually very good but you find those dishes in the bacari.” He first encountered these bacari – back-street snack bars frequented by the locals – as a student in the mid 80s. “When I first went to Venice I fell in love with it as everybody does because of the architecture and the romance, its compelling decrepitude and beauty”, he says, “but then on subsequent trips particularly in the last ten years I started to notice these little bars in the back streets and they’d always be full of rather intimidating locals shouting in dialect and the tourists like me would stay away because we didn’t really understand what they were all about. And then I remember plucking up the courage one day and thinking ‘well they’re standing there eating something,’ so I went in to one of them and just pointed at what I wanted. They have this sort of grazing idea that’s really attractive and doesn’t really exist anywhere else in Italy.” So what sort of food can you expect at London’s new breed of Venetian bacari? At Da Polpo, we enjoyed delicious cicchetti, including wonderful arancini risotto balls,

Parmesan crochetti and a small, shareable pizzette with mint, courgette and a sublime chili kick. There’s a section of the menu dedicated just to meatballs – the lamb versions, which we ordered ‘smashed’ in a fold of piadina flatbread, were devilishly moreish, and the fritto misto was superb. Norman speaks lyrically about some of his favourite authentic dishes. ‘Baccalà mantecato is wonderful, it’s salt cod that is soaked and flaked and infused with garlic and parsely and then you add olive oil in a tiny dribble while you whisk like mad with the other hand and you create this lovely creamy salt cod mayonnaise which you then spread liberally on hot crostini and it’s just utterly delicious... It’s very typically Venetian but not the sort of thing you’d find in those horrible restaurants where the waiters dress as gondoliers.” But it’s not only Venetian food that Norman and his business partner have brought to the West End: a fourth restaurant, Spuntino, opened in March this year, serves US diner food, with a nod to Polpo’s trademark small dishes in the form of a great menu of sliders. Sliders and the miniaturisation of food came under attack in the influential Observer Food

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‘Spuntino, opened in March this year, serves US diner food, with a nod to Polpo’s trademark small dishes’

Monthly in May, in a feature by Ariel Leve. “The shrunken replica is where it gets too precious”, wrote Leve, going on to criticise “The phenomenon of Sliders – mini burgers... In London they’re served with a brioche bun and a side order of mini macaroni and cheese. Is this meant to be an expensive snack? Miniature entrées means that essentially you’re making a meal out of canapés.” Norman seems unphased by any negative comments on small dishes, particularly sliders. “Sliders aren’t miniaturisation”, he says. “A lot of people talk about them as mini burgers but they’re not, they’re meatballs in a brioche bun: a slider is a little delivery system for something tasty. A burger is ground beef and nothing else, but we serve sliders with a hunk of salt beef and a dollop of tear-inducing mustard, ground meat and bone marrow sliders, even spicy mackerel and red cabbage sliders, so these aren’t burgers.” Whatever the foodie politics of smaller dishes, it’s clear that Norman and his business partner have struck on a winning formula – if you’re looking for a lighter, sparkier alternative to dinner at Rules this summer, you know where to go...


gastronomy

American Pies?

Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal has rejected scientific gastronomy in favour of traditional English fare for his first London restaurant. But his search for the perfect chip could continue in New York. - 62 -


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gastronomy

H

eston Blumenthal thinks he might have OCD. The rules of politeness dictate that the least I should do is murmur some kind of dissent, but the words never come. The problem is that he has just spent the past five minutes describing his quest for a perfect chip and there are precious few other explanations for a man who thinks it’s normal to put a vegetable through an MRI scanner to prevent it going soggy. His fixation on detail – along with his penchant for liquid nitrogen – has earned him a reputation as the mad professor of cooking, as well as a lot of Michelin stars. But it could also be the sign of something clinical. “A friend of mine is a psychiatrist and he asked me one day, ‘do you know what, have you ever thought you were OCD?’. He said it’s classic, because people that have OCD rather than ADHD, if they find something they like and it gets them, it’s that. It’s obsessive behaviour,” Blumenthal says. “I don’t know if I have or not, but I do like shiny objects. If I’m in the lab and a delivery comes, they will not open the box if I’m there and we need to be focusing on one thing, because I’ll be over there like a toddler,” he says, pausing to enact the scenario, throwing his teaspoon to the floor, and lurching towards his iPad. At first he insists his fanatical side is not evident outside the kitchen. No, his sock drawer is not arranged in perpendicular angles, “quite the opposite”, and no, he does not organise his life with scientific precision. But then we get on to exercise. This, he admits, borders on addiction. “I play a lot of racquetball. I’ll play even when I know I should be resting. I’ll play at 6.30am every single day and if I get a chance I play twice a day.” All that obsession has been useful in his professional life. His chip experiments led to his muchcopied triple-cooking method; and his dogged use of science to perfect meals undoubtedly helped him go from self-taught cook to running a restaurant voted best in the world. Blumenthal is sitting in a room upstairs in the Hinds Head, the Tudor pub that is one of three award-winning restaurants he owns in the Berkshire village of Bray – or Braymanthal as it has been dubbed since his empire expanded. Ever since he set up the Fat Duck 16 years ago, his restaurants were confined to this Midsomeresque idyll. Until this year. The opening of his London restaurant, Dinner, in January took the 45-year-old out of his Bray comfort zone and into the competitive capital. Now he’s

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‘These days he plays down the science in his cooking, rejecting terms like molecular gastronomy and describing what he does instead as “just modern cooking”’

Images: Corbis Text: Emily Dugan / The Independent / The Interview People

tempted to follow in the footsteps of Britain’s other big-name chefs and take on the US. “I’ve had lots of offers,” he says of the US market, “I would say that the whole concept of Dinner was a model that could be replicated. If an opportunity comes it might be something I’d like to do. New York would be one of my top choices. It’s one of the great food cities in the world now.” The opening of Dinner was also a departure for another reason: its emphasis on traditional English cooking was a move away from the liquid nitrogen, snail porridge and crab ice-cream that led to accusations of gimmickry. These days he plays down the science in his cooking, rejecting terms like molecular gastronomy and describing what he does instead as “just modern cooking”. But his test tube cooking has spawned a generation of enthusiasts, with liquid nitrogen even being used on the BBC’s MasterChef. Now he worries he will be blamed for other people’s bad cooking. “I heard there was a guy on MasterChef using nitrogen or dry ice or something. I’ve got mixed feelings. I’m flattered if the dish is pulled off and works well, but if it doesn’t then it’s like ‘Oh god, this is all that funny stuff that that bloke in Bray does.’ If you put technique above the taste of the food that’s no good.” For a while, Blumenthal seemed to be the man with the Midas paring knife. With an ever-expanding restaurant empire, shelves full of awards, a lucrative contract with the supermarket Waitrose and a string of television shows, everything was going well. But two years ago a batch of oysters infected with the norovirus at the Fat Duck seemed to threaten the implosion of the whole lot. The incident prompted the kind of blanket reaction you’d expect from someone whose character borders on the clinically obsessive. “I’ve not served an oyster in here, in the Crown, in the Duck or in London since that happened. I don’t know if I’ll ever change.”

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Golf Have you played Here yet?

Las Colinas, Spain Spain’s not short of idyllic, sun-soaked courses but if you want to try one of its newest (and nicest) head here. The meticulously-designed par-71 course is fit for all handicaps – multiple tee positions separate the great from the good swingers – and the practice facilities are second to none. But it’s the emerald-green fairways and cotton-white bunkers that are its most attractive elements, while the infinity pool you can retreat to post round isn’t bad either. lascolinasgolf.es

exTremely good golF That’s how long it takes to play all 18 holes at Nullarbor in Australia, the world’s longest (at 1,365

kilometres) golf course.

The number of courses at Mission Hills

China, the world’s largest golf club.

1400FT

That’s how high you climb – via a helicopter – to reach the tee of the ‘Extreme 19th’ at Legend Golf Club, South Africa. The world’s longest par three.

That’s how further your ball will travel when cutting through the thin air at 10,000ft at China’s Jade Dragon Snow Mountain golf club.

20% - 67 -

What better way to cover the course than at the wheel of a customised Bentley? This buggy has 12 inch alloy wheels, tops 20mph and features a unique Sony sound system. Just don’t have it on when your partner’s putting out. $27,000 from Harrods.


travel ARC TIC OCEAN

PA C I F IC OCEAN

05 INDIAN OCEAN

touch down

Holiday hotspots that will welcome you and your jet...

01. Musha Cay, Bahamas Make a beeline for the powderwhite sands of this secluded private island and you can put jet to ground on its 2,000 foot strip. Once there you’ll be privy to colonial-style dwellings and myriad watersports (explore the peacock blue sea with a scuba dive). But if all that chilled island-life is getting to you, it’s just 40 mins by jet to Miami... 02. Desroches Island, Seychelles Skim the horizon 230km south-

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west of Mahé and you may begin to spy 14km of unspoiled beach: your haven for however long you care... Coconut palms give way to clear waters and beachfront villas with island-chic interiors. And with swift connections to Africa, Asia and Europe, why not jet off there next? 03. Sasaab and Solico Lodges, Kenya For a taste of the wild, make for either of The Safari Collection’s luxe African lodges, both of which


04 ATL ANTIC OCEAN

01 03 02 06 SOU THERN OCEAN

transform bush into airfields for would-be guests. On the descent, look out for the black and white rhino the Solio Game Reserve is famous for, or hit dry land and dedicate your days to guided safaris where spotting a big cat or gentle giraffe is a dead cert. 04. Château la Chassagne, France You can check-in to this 19th century hunting lodge after touching ground on its nearby Chateâu Chassagne airfield, an 800 metre grass runway that was voted the best in Europe.

And you won’t have to walk to the activity-strewn country retreat afterwards – a Rolls Royce will arrive to escort you the final 50 metres. 05. Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives Avoid the usual seaplane route to your Maldivan hideaway by heading here; just an eight-minute boat ride away from where you can land your jet at Gan International Airport. On arrival, expect picture-perfect beaches and thickets of tropical vegetation

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- the resort actually encircles a small jungle - dotted with super luxurious lodgings and a great spa. 06. Ulusaba, South Africa A flight into Sir. Richard Branson’s game reserve makes for a pleasant landing: blankets of emerald green drape over the surrounds; lodges teeter on a koppies edge and restaurants look at one with the rugged cliffsides. Don’t take off without capturing the canyons on camera.


Dominican Effect First-time visitors will be dazzled by the diversity of this Caribbean gem, says Christopher Wakling

S

ammy Davis Junior is a friend of mine. I met him last week in the Dominican Republic. He poured me cocktails while balancing on the tailgate of a fast-moving truck. I had not expected to find Sammy Davis Junior alive, well, and extreme-bartending in the Dominican Republic, but I knew precious little about the country before I set off, so much of it surprised me. It surprised Christopher Columbus, too. He knew nothing of the island when he landed on it in 1492. Nobody did. Except, that is, the indigenous Tainos, whose ancestors had called the place home for some 4,500 years. Christopher Columbus put a stop to that. He declared it Hispaniola (‘little Spain’) and, with one eye on future colonisation commissions (and marketing brochures), noted in his journal that it was “a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys”. Then he set about ruling the New World. HQ: paradise. Nowadays, Hispaniola is made up of two countries. The troubled nation of Haiti takes up one-third of it, to the west. The more relaxed Dominican Republic comprises the two-thirds to the east. Both countries have about nine million inhabitants, making the island by far the most populous in the Caribbean (nearly twice as many people as neighbouring Cuba). Big swathes of it seemed pretty empty to me. That’s because it is also –

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after Cuba – the second biggest Caribbean island. The Dominican Republic alone has a coastline about 1,000 miles long, and the country has both the highest peak in the Caribbean (Pico Duarte, at 10,161ft) and its biggest lake (Lake Enriquillo, which spans 102 square miles). Sammy Davis Junior filled me in on all of these facts, and many more, all the while mixing cocktails bottle-tobottle as our truck hop-skipped over dirt-track ruts. As one of Outback Safaris’ longest serving guides, Sammy has been telling tourists what’s what for 18 years. He has a well honed patter. (“I’m Sammy. Like Sammy Davis Junior. Look, my face looks like Sammy Davis Junior’s.”) And there’s a lot to see. I began in the capital, Santo Domingo. It was pouring. Slug-fat raindrops hammered the car on my way in from the airport. Gutterspouts lining the tiled rooftops in the Zona Colonial fire-hosed the cobbled streets. Then, as we approached the Basílica Catedral Santa María de la Encarnación, the rain stopped and the sun came out. This was the first cathedral in the New World. The first hospital is round the corner, as is the first monastery, the first university, and – less marketably – the first slave-trading port. Winston Marrero, a Dominican born and raised in Santo Domingo, showed me the colonial city with obvious pride. He pointed out the nine arches on the cathedral’s Parque Colón façade, no two of which are the same, and the palm tree motif of the vaulted ceiling. Molten light poured into the cathedral from three sides hung with vast, open doors. Winston explained that each door weighed 1.5 tons, and that they swung on their original, five-hundred-year-old hinges. Then he showed me how he could move one with a fingertip, before ushering me outside into the heat. “It’s hot,” I said, squinting. Winston agreed, and bought me a hat. Stunned by this generosity, I thanked him and licked my lips, whereupon he bought me a drink. I’m wary of generalising about national traits, but I am honour-bound to mention that this same hospitality was common to every Dominican I met. People I’d barely met invited me to friends’ birthday parties. They say crime rates are low, that it’s safe for travellers, and that ‘the people make the island’. I’ve never been anywhere so friendly. We drank in the beautiful tiled courtyard of the Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, overlooking the Rio Ozama. My drink was served in a glass so cold that the first inch of it I poured froze on contact with it. I waited to pour the rest, considering the bright red bougainvillea which – as throughout the colonial city – tumbled over the courtyard walls. The flowers were almost as vivid as the tropical fish I swam with off Punta Cana later, at the Marinarium Marine Park. I took the Reef Explorer tour. It comprises a boat ride out to a big pontoon which floats above a protected coral reef. Snorkelling equipment, kayaks and fruit punch are all thrown in, as are a series of pens containing large but harmless stingrays and nurse sharks. You can swim with them, see them fed, even touch them – all of which is impressive, if zoo-like. For me the

‘The sea here is Photoshop turquoise, the sand is sifted white flour, palm trees sprout along the beach at picturesque angles’ chance to float off among the wild needlefish, angelfish, trumpetfish, spotted-scorpionfish, and peacock flounders, all themselves weaving psychedelically in and out of the sea fans and knobby sea-rods, was better still. (Helpfully, there’s an identification chart on the floating island.) Punta Cana is the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. It’s where most of the big, all-inclusive resorts are, and some smaller, more luxurious hotels. By ‘smaller’ I don’t mean small, and by ‘big’ I mean massive: there are about 36,000 rooms spread among the hotels here, some of which have up to a thousand suites. The biggest hotels lurk among sprawling golf courses at the end of long drives, sheltered behind corporate-looking gates. They’re largely American- and Spanish-owned, they’re big business, and

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they’re not, on the face of it, particularly Dominican. That said, they’re a great place for a holiday. I stayed a night in Dreams Punta Cana. The sea here is Photoshop turquoise, the sand is sifted white flour, palm trees sprout along the beach at picturesque angles. My ‘preferred’ suite had two bathrooms, two sinks, two televisions, and enough towels to dry a football team. Once I’d fought through the pillows to the bed, the pile on the floor was as tall as me. The resort has seven restaurants and 10 bars, and a wiggly-edged pool the size of, I don’t know, Hyde Park. The Sanctuary at nearby Cap Cana is posher still. It has suites with private plunge infinity-pools, and there are golf courses at Cap Cana designed by Jack Nicklaus, and Donald Trump has something to do with the place, and... you get the picture. These hotels weren’t here 40 years ago. Not much was, just verdant hills tumbling into white beaches stabbed full of coconut trees. For some reason this landscape, and the neon blue sea, and prevailing breeze, seemed attractive to Frank Rainieri, Punta Cana’s first hotelier. With US investment, he gave the area everything from its first real road, to its airport, even its name. Everyone else has essentially piggy-backed off the success of the Punta Cana Resort, which now comprises a number

of hotels, including its flagship, Tortuga Bay. The interesting thing about the Punta Cana Resort for me wasn’t Tortuga Bay’s understated opulence and exquisite cuisine, so much as the story of how the hotel came to be where it is, and the resort’s place in the wider scheme of things. Luxury is often synonymous with waste, yet from the outset Grupo Punto Cana has fought to yoke refinement to sustainability, making the most of the environment without spoiling it. As Jake Kheel, head of the company’s Ecological Foundation (formed in 1988), explained: “We’re not just talking sensible towel laundering.” From the outset nothing on the property has been built taller than a coconut tree. The resort’s water is recycled for use on its golf courses, which are turfed with salt-tolerant grass grown in soil produced from the hotels’ recycled kitchen waste, itself chomped to usefulness by resident Californian Red Wriggler Worms. All this is real: Jake showed me the worms. He also explained the Foundation’s Rhinoceros Iguana conservation project (they’re inveigling them on to the golf courses), and its plan to reintroduce the Ridgway’s Hawk to the area (there are thought to be only 120 breeding pairs in the wild). Beyond these environmental

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initiatives, the Punta Cana Resort has built two schools and a hospital, and recycles the airport’s waste as well as its own. If guests tire of the award-wining spa, silky sand, and world-class golf courses on offer, they can involve themselves in many ways. As Jake pointed out: “Folk donate time, supplies or cash to our projects, and can help the resident ornithologist count birds, too.” Having discussed wildlife with Jake, I was relieved that the deep sea fishing I’d planned was to pursue mahi-mahi, a plentiful, edible catch. Gone Fishing of Puerto Plata supplied the boat, Sarabel, and guidance (Emmanuel); the deep blue sea provided the nine mahi-mahi I managed to land. Yup, nine. Nobody was more surprised than me. Having baited my hooks after Emmanuel’s patient (“let’s try again”) instructions, and bobbed around for an hour or so catching nothing but the sun, the scratchy scream of the first reel igniting bounced me from my seat. Mahi-mahi swim in shoals. Another reel began shrieking, then a third. The fish on the end of my line leapt higher and flashed greener and were simply much larger than any I’d ever caught before. Emmanuel was kind enough to let me do the hard work (sorry, reeling) so that he could concentrate on laughing at my companion’s shrieks. They’re strong fish. By the end of the day I had shredded hands to go with my red neck. The catch, incidentally, goes to the crew of the boat, who sell it to local restaurants. My grin was the widest but I wasn’t the only one smiling. The largest fish I landed weighed 20lb, and the portion of mahi-mahi I ate in the excellent Jellyfish restaurant the following day cost US$20 (£13). Saona Island is also at this eastern end of the Dominican Republic, an hour or so south of Punta Cana. I wanted to go there because I’d read it was where they filmed those Bounty bar adverts from the 1980s. And it’s exactly like the advert, with sand so bleached-white and sea so ridiculously turquoise you can actually taste the paradise. But just in case you can’t, you can lop down a coconut, machete off its top, and drink the milk. I did this as well, albeit with the help of a professional Saona Island coconut chopper: the long-distance-lopping is more fiddly than it looks. And more dangerous, too. Dominican road etiquette is, well, quixotic, with helmet-less families, four to a motorbike, vying for space among the potholes with pickups and buses, and one-way signs that it’s apparently OK to ignore. I’d be surprised if there were not a fair few nasty accidents a year. But Sammy Davis Junior (he did actually look very much like Sammy Davis Junior) who taught me many things about the country, swore blind that more people are killed in the Dominican Republic by falling coconuts than they are on the roads. He also told me that coconut oil, taken in differing doses, cures both diarrhoea and constipation, stops hair losing its colour, and helps prevent heart attacks. Having barely scratched the surface of his stunningly beautiful country, I choose to believe what Sammy Davis Junior told me about it, because Sammy Davis Junior is a friend of mine.

‘The Sanctuary at nearby Cap Cana... has suites with privateplunge infinity pools, and there are golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus’

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TRAVEL

FIT FOR A KING

Laura Binder savours the splendour that awaits guests at the world’s most stately residences

Ballynahnich castle, ireland Galway’s sky-reaching pine trees and rugged 12 Bens Mountain range shroud an ancient gem: a 450acre estate with a stone castle as the jewel in its crown. Don your tweeds in true country style and explore the extensive grounds, where every step reveals a new pursuit: walled gardens border a fairytale-like labyrinth, groomed tennis courts are poised for a match, and the salmon-fat Ballynahnich River is ripe for fly-fishing. For an added taste of the estate, make for the castle’s Owenmore restaurant and sink your teeth into seasonal fish plucked from cold, clear waters or the most tender of wild game. ballynahinch-castle.com

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Bussaco Palace, Portugal Once primed as a royal residence for Queen Maria Pia (wife of King Luis I) is now – happily for us – a hotel of palatial proportions: stuccoes adorn staircases, ornate archways are gloriously head-turning, tiled walls depict historic events and décor – with its touch-me velvets, jewelled chandeliers and rich tapestries – are shutthe-door divine. Touch down on the palace’s heli pad and make a beeline for its grandiose gardens (where swans skim rippling lakes) and seek refreshment beneath an ornate archway to contemplate a charmed Portuguese life. almeidahotels.com

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TRAVEL

château de Bagnols, France There’s arguably no surer sign of a grandiose stay than a drawbridge entrance. Meander through rolling Beaujolais countryside and thick vineyards and that’s exactly how you’ll be met at your newfound residence: a honey-hued 13th century castle hugged faithfully by an original moat. Inside, interiors harp back to its Lyonnais heyday as an opulent Renaissance retreat (it was later found miserably abandoned by one Lady Hamlyn and painstakingly restored). Foodies will go weak at the knees for its Michelin-starred restaurant, Salles des Gardes, but there are few finer spots to spend a sun-licked evening than on the château’s terrace, eyes shaded by 100-year-old lime trees. chateaudebagnols.co.uk

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Four seasons hamPshire, uK Darting round London and keen to leave the city behind? Just one hour is enough to escape the rat race and transport you to the storybook surrounds of Hampshire; where black iron gates give way to a red-brick Georgian estate. For the most revered spot in the house, make sure to reserve one of its 22 to-die-for suites. The west wing’s Royal Suite is a prime pick for socialites who can host private dining for up to six esteemed guests. Or, if you have a more secluded time in mind, simply laze on the balcony with a significant other and sup beverages to vistas of palace-perfect gardens… fourseasonshampshire.com

Fort mihir gahr, india It’s not only the rolling English countryside that boasts esteemed digs of the landed gentry – this ‘Fort of the Sun’, as its name translates, serves as a spellbinding interruption to Rajasthan’s golden sands. The lesser known fortress draws its heavy wooden gates to reveal just nine suites each with luxe features, from plunge pools and steaming Jacuzzis to spacious terraces and lose-yourself-bathrooms. Drag yourself outside to navigate desert and country atop one of the hotel’s stable of fine Mawari horses – and rest with a royal feast of a picnic served by courteous attendants. mihirgahr.com

KasBah tamadot, morocco If seclusion beckons, escape to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and lock yourself away in the sultriest of Kasbah’s – discovered by owner Richard Branson during a hot air balloon ride. Deep reds, burnt terracotta and golden tones meld into sumptuous interiors, but there are other temptations: traditional Hammam await to soothe, an infinity pool shares views of snow-capped peaks and romantics have their pick of dining options: feast on Moroccan fare at the cliffside restaurant, beneath the stars by a candlelit pool, or in a private spot of your choice… kasbahtamadot.virgin.com

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TRAVEL luton hoo, uK Cruise the winding gravel entrance (it takes some time) and you’ll find this mammoth 17th century mansion posing proudly before an Alice In Wonderland-like maze of landscaped gardens and cherubim statues. But you won’t be the most regal guest to have graced its presence: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip honeymooned here in 1947. Reserve the Queen Elizabeth State Suite and rise, as she did, to smileinducing panoramas of the estate’s glistening lake. Fair-weather chaps should try their hand at fishing or clay pigeon shooting by day before retiring to the drawing room to take high tea or, when evening draws in, don a jacket and tie (compulsory for gents) and pluck a British classic from The Werner’s menu – the roasted pigeon is a plump delight. lutonhoo.co.uk

Parador de alarcon, sPain Scarlet tapestries cascade from four-poster beds; orange tones burn in defiance; intricate textiles cover bare stone and black, cast iron lights dangle from chains. On checking-in, then, it takes a mere turn of the head to realise you’ve trodden on Medieval ground. The now luxe hotel has conquered the former castle of the Marquis of Villena (siezed by King Alfonso VIII in the 12th century) and its walls have withstood some thirteen centuries of historic tales, seiges and revolts among them. Today, art-lovers need only keep their witts about them for the plethora of artwork to own the corridors, painted by Spanish greats like Alvaro Delgado, Martinez Novillo and Menchu Gal. A sight to behold. parador.es

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L’andana, itaLy Breaks here are best spent in a whirl of romantic contentment. After all, with surrounds like this it’s nigh impossible not to fall head over hills for the Tuscan terrain which hugs the historic estate: once a summer retreat of Grand Duke Leopold II. Lounge with blankets of green at your feet and billowing cypresses and maritime pines overhead, whose brackish scents fill the nostrils. Morning time cues other scents: orange flower brioches and currantfat buns waft from the restaurant’s oven while lunchtime cues more Italian classics to feed the soul: don’t leave without sampling stewed octopus and Borlotti beans or green-as-the-hills pistachio ice cream. andana.it

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life lessons What I KnoW noW

Edmond Avakian

Founder & CEO of AVAKIAN Jewellers I know that having a harmonious family life and support from each member is a big boost to one’s energy. I know that banks are the last place to turn to when you are in urgent need of funds. Their slowness and lack of understanding of many businesses makes them the worse place to turn to. I have abandoned this practice 20 years ago and believe me, I have slept better. I know that in the most desperate moments of a business, one should never give up and believe in what he is doing. A helping hand, maybe indirect, will come at the last moment to turn the situation around. I know that very few are the people that a successful businessman can ever trust (less than three). I know that one should believe in his intuitions. The last crisis showed us that some of those over a million dollar per annum economists knew as much about economics or markets reactions as the taxi dispatcher in the airports. I know that life is here to be lived today, and that one should not live with any regrets. The worse thing to say in five or 10 years is: “I should have done this or that 10 years ago.� I know that to be successful, jet lag and sleeplessness has to be in your system. If after a 10/12 hour flight, you are not ready to take a shower and hit the road, and prefer the massage or the spa, you have either inherited money or your salary is being paid by shareholders, not your own pocket.

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One watch. Three positions to play with.

LIMELIGHT MAGIC HOUR Three-position rotating bezel White gold, diamond set Piaget Manufacture

www.piaget.com PIAGET BOUTIQUES: Abu Dhabi: Khalidiya Street, 02 667 0010 - Al Manara Jewellery, Hamdan Street, 02 626 2629 Dubai: The Dubai Mall, 04 339 8222 – Wafi New Extension, 04 327 9000 Abu Dhabi: Al Manara Jewellery, Marina Mall, 02 681 0888 Dubai: Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, Atlantis 04 422 0233, Burjuman Centre, 04 355 9090 Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 1211

AIR_July'2011  

Inflight magazine for private jet passengers in the Middle East