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138 MIAMI’S BUZZING NEW DOWNTOWN HIVE What was once a dullish banking ghetto has been completely regenerated by one billion Dollar BRICKELL CITY CENTRE complex, complete with luxury condo towers, a sprawling open-air shopping mall and award-winning EAST hotel. Nicholas Chrisostomou bypasses South Beach to stay in Miami’s new downtown heart, which has transformed the Florida city’s urban core into a buzzing hive.

174 THE QUEEN OF SWIMWEAR The designer, CEO and figurehead of a highly successful, eponymous international swimwear label, deftly balances being a wife and mother with criss-crossing the globe, pool-side appearances and keeping her A-list clientele happy. MELISSA ODABASH takes time out of her hectic schedule to chat with Adrian Gibson about her modelling career, design inspirations and collaborating with Julien Macdonald.

24 WILD AT HEART IN SRI LANKA What was once a former coconut plantation and hugging a stretch of island coastline not as yet overrun by tourism, SHANGRI-LA’S HAMBANTOTA RESORT is a retreat towards rediscovering Sri Lanka’s wild heart. Ashlee Starratt explores the country’s largest property, which sprawls across almost 59 hectares of riotous tropical gardens, complete with 4,000 king coconut trees.

150 RAJASTHANI CUISINE ARRIVES IN BATTERSEA From the moment you walk past the two-ton life-size bronze elephant, it’s blindingly apparent that more is more at the new British outpost of CHOKHI DHANI. Dawn Gibson dines on opulent Rajasthani cuisine with a European twist at South London’s playful new Indian restaurant.

54 WIN A TWO-CENTRE SRI-LANKAN VACATION DREAM Win a fabulous five-night two-centre stay in ocean view rooms at Shangri-La’s stunning Sri Lankan resorts, spending two nights at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, plus three nights at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa overlooking the pristine southern coast of the island. Complete with dinner for two at celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa’s new-age Sri Lankan restaurant, Kaema Sutra.

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Thousands of thirsty locals, together with wine-loving tourists, throw wine all over each other in Haro - capital of northern Spain’s Rioja-producing region - every year on St. Pedro’s feast day. 29 June 2018




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10 NEWSFLASH Cultured Traveller rounds up the cultural events and unmissable festivals happening around our colourful world through ‘til the end of August 2018, including GALUNGAN on the Indonesian island of Bali; the annual Chinese dragon boat festival of DUANWU JIÉ; the much-publicised FIESTA DE SAN FERMÍN bull runs through the streets of the pretty Spanish town of Pamplona; the New York LGBTQ+ community’s annual carnival-like PRIDE march through Manhattan’s streets, and the no-holds KIRKPINAR OIL WRESTLING gathering in Turkey. 22 REST YOUR HEAD We take a peek inside some of the newest places to rest your head around the globe, including the 1,390-room MGM COTAI in the heart of the former Portuguese colony; the new all-suite RETREAT AT BLUE LAGOON at Iceland’s unique geothermal spa; luxury Italian hospitality brand BAGLIONI’s new 96-villa Maldivian resort, welcoming guests from this

summer on private Maagau island in Dhaalu atoll. And, ONE&ONLY GORILLA’S NEST in Rwanda, slated to open in late 2018, where guests will be able to encounter a local family of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. 58 CITY FOCUS Visually stunning, with iconic architecture and breathtaking vantage points literally around every corner, Alex Benasuli discovers that America’s compact capital of WASHINGTON, D.C. positively hums with world class cultural offerings, beautiful green spaces, engaging museums and a burgeoning foodie and arts scene, making it one of the most delightful cities in the States to visit. 94 SUITE ENVY If you have ever wondered how Alice in Wonderland meets the Dutch Golden Age could be interpreted in a contemporary hospitality design aesthetic, then look no further than the wondrous ANDAZ AMSTERDAM. Alex Benasuli wanders through the looking glass into the hotel’s indulgent yet fun presidential suite and is somewhat reluctant to re-enter the real world afterwards.


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CONTENTS 108 108 BOARDING PASS If the hype is anything to be believed, in a matter of months the first space tourist will enjoy his or her brief “vacation” out of Earth’s atmosphere, more than 100 kilometres above our planet. But are the first space tourists really about to reach for the stars? The Cultured Traveller investigates the commercial space programs of Virgin boss Richard Branson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 1116 NO SHOES REQUIRED 25-minutes off the coast of mainland Qatar, in the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, lies an idyllic private paradise that’s a complete departure from the country’s capital. Nicholas Chrisostomou makes the 11-kilometre crossing from Doha to idyllic BANANA ISLAND and enjoys a thoroughly unique barefoot luxury experience in one of the Middle East’s few overwater villas. 130 SPOTLIGHT Perched on a granite hill and once a towering force of protection between fiercely strong and independent kingdoms, Carolyn McKay visits remarkable 230-yearold BISHANGARH FORT about 70km from Jaipur, which has been


lovingly transformed into an utterly unique 59-room boutique hotel by luxury Asian hospitality brand Alila, complete with towering turrets and arched windows. 156 TASTE & SIP EXPERIENCE At Colombo’s iconic MINISTRY OF CRAB, one of the only restaurants on the island nation in the Indian Ocean dedicated to the celebration of the succulent crustaceans, Ashlee Starratt dons an apron and grabs some crackers to find out what makes the country’s most famous eatery – consistently voted one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – the ultimate celebration of Sri Lankan seafood. 162 MUSIC & NIGHT LIFE South America’s biggest musical export has won twenty-five Grammys, sold 15 million albums and performed for the Obamas twice. In an exclusive interview, Latin American pop star JUANES talks to The Cultured Traveller about his musical journey to international stardom, what inspires his music and lyrics, his humanitarian foundation Mi Sangre, and singing in English. 180 LITTLE BLACK BOOK

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here’s a palpable sense of excitement as the warmer months approach, both amongst The Cultured Traveller team and everyone we work with to put together our summer edition. When the weather picks up and the sun starts shining, people’s moods noticeably lift, emails have a spring in them and even the quality of our writers’ output steps up a notch! Whilst we carry few memories from childhood through our teens and into our hectic adult lives, having a summer break is such an in-built ritual that it warms our minds and virtually dominates the middle of each year. So, there’s a need to make it count. Few pastimes span the past and the present in such a positive way, other than birthdays and anniversaries, which is perhaps why travel publications have become such an inherent part of 21st century culture. It used to be all about wedding, house and garden magazines. Nowadays, the travel mag takes centre stage at the local newsagent’s, especially right about now when some of us are still deciding where to go! 

In this our twenty-second issue, Alex Benasuli visits America’s charismatic capital, during cherry blossom season no less (page 58). First time contributor Carolyn McKay explores an 18th century warrior fort in Rajasthan, which has been painstakingly transformed into a stunning boutique hotel (page 130), and our resident fashion guru Adrian Gibson chats with swimwear queen Melissa Odabash about her career and collaborating with Julien Macdonald (page 174). Ashlee Starratt gets stuck into a mud crab feast at Sri Lanka’s most famous eatery (page 156), while Dawn Gibson visits the new London outpost of a famous Indian restaurant brand (page 150). I am lucky enough to kick back on idyllic Banana Island in the Arabian


Gulf (page 116) and, at the other end of the excitement spectrum, spend a fun weekend in buzzing Brickell – Miami’s slick new beating heart (page 138). We’ve made sure there are some interesting and different ideas in this issue of The Cultured Traveller so that you, our valued readers, can make memorable new life markers during the coming months. After all, it’s all about the summer holiday.   Bonnes vacances!


Nicholas Chrisostomou Editor-in-Chief



Alex has been traveling the world his whole life. Growing up in New York City, he would accompany his family every summer on visits to relatives in Spain, France and Germany. A successful two-decade career in finance often took him to Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, India, Indonesia and all over the Far East. Today, as an avid yoga practitioner and part-time teacher, Alex has a keen appreciation for combining luxury highbrow urban travels with off the beaten track alternative destinations and experiences.



Carolyn McKay grew up in Australia, taking her first overseas trip when she was 16. This trip sparked an intense passion to travel. In the last twenty years, via her teaching, photography and writing, she has lived in Jakarta, London and New York and travelled to numerous destinations in between. Based in Sri Lanka for the past few years, she uses her Indian Ocean base to travel regularly within Asia Pacific. Carolyn especially loves exploring markets, and is always on the lookout for a quality coffee and a comfortable spot to people watch and absorb her surroundings.


STYLISH GLOBETROTTER Adrian worked as a professional fashion buyer for some of London's leading department stores for more than two decades, including Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. More recently Adrian has been working in the Middle East selecting designer threads for both Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales in Dubai. An avid shopper, he enjoys nothing more than visiting stores, meeting designers and supporting new talent where ever and whenever he’s travelling the globe, as well as keeping a keen eye on the latest trends, both on the world’s most fashionable streets and online.


TASTE & SIP NEWCOMER Dawn Gibson is a globe-trotting journalist who boarded her first plane at the age of four. After a childhood of camping trips in the Australian desert, she did the traditional coming-of-age tour to Europe and has been travelling ever since, visiting more than thirty countries and living in three. She particularly enjoys writing about food and has yet to meet a cuisine she doesn’t like. Her work has appeared in many leading publications, including the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, in-flight magazines for Qatar Airways (Oryx) and Garuda Indonesia (Colours), The Age and The West Australian.

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GALUNGAN INDONESIA Galungan symbolises the victory of virtue (dharma) over evil (adharma), whilst honouring the creator of the universe (Ida Sang Hyang Widi) and the spirits of ancestors. Since no records have been found which mention Galungan, its origins still remain a mystery. Nevertheless, this is the most important annual feast for Balinese Hindus. The holiday is symbolised by the fitting of tall bamboo poles called ‘penjor’ on the right side of the entrance to every house, splendidly decorated with woven young coconut leaves, fruit, cakes and flowers. At each gate you will also find small bamboo altars,

REGATTA OF ST. RANIERI ITALY The first regatta was held in Pisa in 1292, during the Palio of Our Lady of the Assumption. Since then, every year Pisa stages a 1,500 metre dash up the River Arno in celebration of the feast day of San Ranieri, or Saint Rainerius, the city’s patron saint. In remembrance of the

DUANWU JIÉ CHINA The sight of China’s rivers filling with colourful crafts decked out to look like dragons - from their fearsome snouts to their scaly tails - can only mean one thing: the annual dragon boat festival. This colourful, yearly event may be a lot of fun, but the festival’s roots lie in tragedy. It commemorates Qu Yuan, 10 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

city’s nautical traditions, four, narrow rowing boats, each differently coloured to represent the city’s four districts, challenge each other. Each boat resembles a large

a revered humanitarian politician, who drowned himself in the Miluo River in 278BC to protest against the Qin state’s invasion of his patch, Chu. The dismayed common people took to their boats and tried to keep the fish and evil spirits from Qu by splashing their oars and beating drums. Qin eventually conquered all its rival states and created China, but the patriotic poet is nonetheless honoured. If you happen to be in Beijing on 18th June, Xiadu Park hosts

each one bearing woven palm-leaf offerings for the spirits. People are attired in their finest clothes and jewels on the first day of Galungan. The festivities go on for ten days, ending with Kuningan, bringing the holiday period to am close with a special, ritualistic ceremony, held for the ancestral spirits as they ascend back to heaven. 30 May – 9 June 2018

gondola, is fashioned in the style of the frigates of the Medicean Order of the Knights of St. Stephen founded in 1561, and is crewed with 8 oarsmen, a helmsman and “montatore”. The race - against the river’s natural current - starts near the bridge used by trains to cross the river and ends in front of the Palazzo Medici near the Ponte della Fortezza. The entire day is an Italian celebration of food and drink with festivities throughout the city. 17 June 2018

the city’s biggest celebration, with Beijing university’s students going head-to-head in an annual interuniversity race. 18 June 2018

STONEHENGE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL UNITED KINGDOM The prehistoric site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of the summer solstice for

thousands of years. The solstice (which means a stopping or standing still of the sun), is when the sun is directly above the northern hemisphere, indicating midsummer. The summer solstice has been celebrated by everyone from ancient druids performing rituals at stone circles, to new-

age, neo-Pagan, hippie revelers and modern-day scientists. Held within the vicinity of Stonehenge, this increasingly popular annual four day mini-festival is the one and only camping and live music event within the vicinity of the world heritage site, and a rare chance for members of the public to walk among the ancient stone circle. By sunset, a few thousand people have usually congregated to keep vigil. By sunrise, numbers have invariably swelled to more than 20,000 people ready to greet the sunrise. 18 - 21 June 2018 solstice_festival

PRIDE NEW YORK USA Early in the morning on 28th June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s West Village. The ensuing Stonewall riots lasted several days and are considered to be the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. The first gay pride march was held in 1970 and has become an annual civil rights demonstration around the world. Over the years its purpose has broadened to include recognition of the fight against AIDS and to remember those the community lost to illness, violence and neglect. Pride New York is now a massive celebration, attended by tens of thousands and watched by even more. A full week of activities, festivities, concerts and shows culminates in a show-stopping, carnivallike march through the streets of New York on 24th June. This year’s march undergoes a slight change, with the 2018 route refocusing on the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ movement to a place of prominence at the beginning of the march. 24 June 2018

INTI RAYMI PERU Peru is famed for its spectacular festivals featuring traditional brightly-coloured clothing, dancing and foods, and Inti Raymi is no exception. In Quechua “Inti” means Sun and “Raymi” celebration. The ancient Inca so feared the diminished effects of the sun during winter, that they would fast, create lavish banquets to honour the sun and sacrifice llamas to ensure a bountiful crop. This important annual recreation brings multitudes of visitors to Cusco for a nine-day winter solstice celebration worshiping the Incan god, Inti, in the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The ceremony marks the beginning of a new year, and sprawling food spreads, festive music, historical

MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL CANADA Montreal is a city where a heady mix of innovation, musical appreciation, joie de vivre and public celebration are all important ingredients of the civic cocktail. It’s a city that loves the tradition and history that jazz represents, but also respects the flexibility and

recreations and much dancing praise the Inca, celebrate traditions and will for a fruitful season of harvest. Rituals are accompanied by dances and sounds of shells and musical instruments. The festivities culminate

in an epic, day-long event on June 24th, in a royal procession to the ancient fortress, watched by thousands. 24 June 2018

improvisation implicit within the genre. The city’s inaugural jazz event in 1980 was headlined by none other than the great Ray Charles, who helped invent soul and R&B music. Since then - aided by the resurgence of jazz in the 1980s - the Montreal International Jazz Festival has grown into the largest jazz festival in the world. Headliners for the 39th edition include multi award-winning international singer and songwriter Seal (pictured), and jazz giant Herbie Hancock. Hancock helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section, was

one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound, and will be back at the festival eight years after his last appearance. 28 June - 7 July 2018

Meanwhile, traditionalists opt for gourds, buckets, bottles and even old boots! Rather than a common-or-

garden feast day, locals refer to this messy event as La Batalla de Vino de Haro, or, quite simply, the “Wine Fight”. All of this happens on the day of the patron saint San Pedro, and the liquid madness starts the previous night on the evening of June 28th. As the proceedings unfold pretty much all of the townsfolk gather outside from children to grandparents - and party the night away in Haro’s cobbled streets and jumping bars. 29 June 2018

BATTALA DEL VINO SPAIN Every year on St. Pedro’s Feast Day in Haro - capital of northern Spain’s Rioja-producing region - thousands of thirsty locals, together with wine-loving tourists, climb a mountain and literally throw vino all over each other. Some tote water pistols loaded with wine. Others are armed with pump-action supersoakers or spray cans filled with wine.

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GION MATSURI JAPAN Running the entire month of July every year, Gion is probably Japan’s best-known festival and one of the longest. Named after Kyoto’s Gion district, it is by far the country’s best event for geisha enthusiasts and photographers seeking candid photos of Geisha and Maiko. Traditional rituals and events related to this wonderful celebration are held throughout the month in Kyoto. The biggest events of the festival are the

Yoiyama (the pre-party of the parade) on 14th - 16th July, and the two processions of traditional parade floats called Yamaboko-Junko held on 17th and 24th July which follow a 3km route along Shijo, Kawaramachi and Oike streets. Two types of float “Yama” and “Hoko” (collectively called Yamaboko) are used in these processions. A typical Hoko is about 25 metres tall, can weigh up to 12 tons and 30 - 40 people are needed to pull it! Unsurprisingly, Gion is rife with an abundance of incredible photo opportunities. July 2018


each other until past midnight when both died of exhaustion. When the remaining army had conquered Edirne, the victors referred to the forty soldiers in the name of Kirkpinar, where the wrestling competition has taken place every summer, near Edirne, since 1346. The idea is to prevent your opponent from getting a good grip, so more than 100 barrels of oil are used during the tournament. This really is no-holds-barred wrestling, with contestants grabbing anything to win. With a solid gold belt awarded to the victor, there’s everything to play for. 2 - 8 July 2018 kirkpinaroilwrestling

CANADA This long-running tradition was reportedly conceived by Ottoman raiders, whose military commander, Süleyman Pasa, would let his bored soldiers unwind between bouts of actual battle by wrestling. According to legend, on one particularly memorable occasion, as the Ottoman army was returning to the Ottomans’ Asian stronghold in Bursa after conquering parts of Thrace, forty men scuffled at once, with the two fiercest fighters going at

RATH YATRA INDIA One of India’s largest and most important Hindu festivals, Rath Yatra draws more than a million pilgrims and devotees to the streets of Puri. Over the years, poets, saints and scriptures have consistently praised the good fortune associated with attending this “festival of the chariots”, since it is one of the only times annually that the deities leave the temple of Jagannath, allowing 14 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

non-Hindus and visitors to see them. The three figurines that make the trip are Jagannath, his older brother Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra. They travel more than a mile in elaborately constructed 45-foot-tall wooden chariots along Bada Danda (Puri’s main street), from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple where they remain for nine days. During the procession - as drums beat, gongs bang and conch shells blow - pilgrims vie for even a glimpse of the gods, since they’re associated with extreme good fortune

and the righting of wrongs. 14 July 2018

CAMEL CUP AUSTRALIA Held at Blatherskite Park in Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory, which is normally a dusty outback outpost with the feel of a pioneer town, every July the place explodes with belly dancing, bands, rickshaw rallies and, most importantly, camel races. The sport’s appeal lies in the beasts’ unpredictability and stubbornness. Camels snarl, gurn, bite and are known to spit for metres. At the start of a race they might move forwards,

stay right where they are or even reverse. But, when they get going at full speed, jockeys have a serious job to stay aboard. This desert extravaganza offers all sorts of trophies in addition to the main Imparja prize, and when you add food stalls and families it all has the feeling of a county fair. The Afghanistan Cup is presented by the country’s ambassador to Australia, commemorating the Afghans who first brought camels to the outback in 1840. 14 July 2018


ESALA PERAHERA SRI LANKA One of the oldest, grandest and most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar, Esala Perahera is held in the revered UNESCO World Heritage city of Kandy, the country’s second largest metropolis, located in the middle of the island. The festival is based on an ancient legend, that a tooth, stolen from the Lord Buddha’s funeral pyre during the 4th century AD and smuggled from India to Sri Lanka, is now kept in Kandy’s Sri Dalada Maligawa, The Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic. Famous for its large processions of dancers, flag bearers, drummers, fire eaters, acrobats and colourfully-adorned silk-costumed elephants, with each night this ten day festival gets more animated and the crowds get bigger. Esala Perahera ends with a “water cutting” ceremony at the Mahaweli Ganga River, ritualising the divide between pure and impure and honouring the water gods for a good year ahead. 18 - 28 July 2018

SWITZERLAND Founded in 1994 by Martin T:son Engstroem, the Verbier Festival has a worldwide reputation for artistic excellence and is now considered one of Europe’s most important music gatherings. Every July, the greatest names in classical music circles gather for two weeks amongst the breathtaking landscape of the Swiss Alps, for an exceptional series of some 60 or more concerts and recitals featuring choirs and orchestras. In addition to showcasing world-renowned performers, promising new artists and talented young musicians are invited to perform alongside their grand masters. In an opening concert worthy of the 25th Verbier Festival, celebrated Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, will give his first performance as musical director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra on 19th July, and no doubt set the tone for what classical music lovers should expect in years to come. 19 July - 5 August 2018

WAY OUT WEST SWEDEN Billed as “multi-genre madness in Sweden” and favouring musical ingenuity over mainstream success, for three days and nights every year, an idyllic parkland setting in southwest Gothenburg welcomes artists from the worlds of rock, pop, urban and electro music to perform on five stages around a duck-filled lake. Founded in 2007, Way Out West has won multiple awards for its atmosphere and ecofriendly programs, making it one of Scandinavia’s most respected annual happenings. Festival-goers spend their days kicking back in the sun and enjoying the live performances, before spilling out into the city’s throbbing bars and clubs for Stay Out West’s infamous after parties. This year’s proceedings are headlined by celebrated English rock band Arctic Monkeys, “Godfather of Punk” Iggy Pop and American rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar. Meanwhile film screenings, art exhibitions and lectures seek to re-energise minds amidst all the rampant partying. 9 - 11 August 2018 Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 17



ITALY Deeply rooted in religion, for two days every year Italy’s most famous annual sporting event, Siena’s Palio, takes over the city with its epic horse race. As much about pageantry, civic identity and Sienese pride as it is about bareback horse racing, whilst the three-lap race lasts for barely a minute-and-a-half the celebrating lasts for days. But the sight is truly epic and worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. The 16th August race - Palio dell’Assunto - has been held almost uninterruptedly in Siena’s civic hub, Piazza del Campo, since 1644. Ten of the city’s seventeen districts are represented in the race. The seven districts that didn’t race in the previous July or August compete by right, and are joined by horses from three lucky repeat districts drawn by ballot. More than half the riders get bucked, which greatly entertains the 40,000-strong Sienese crowd squeezed into the piazza on race day. 16 August 2018

SPAIN Now in its 73rd year and attended by approximately 30,000 people annually, La Tomatina basically involves participants hurling more than 100 tons of overripe Spanish tomatoes at each other until everyone is pretty much soaked through! Held in the pretty Valencian town of Buñol, on the east coast of Spain, La Tomatina is essentially a giant food fight held on the last Wednesday of August. The firing of a water canon heralds the start of the tomato throwing, and exactly one hour later a second firing signals the end of the messy mayhem. There are conflicting stories about how the festival first began: some say it happened when two boys got into a fight during a parade and began lobbing tomatoes from a vegetable stand at each other. Others believe that the tomatoes were thrown to protest about an unfavourable decision by the city council or launched at a particularly bad musician! 29 August 2018

ONAM INDIA According to popular legend, Onam harvest festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the beginning of Chingam, the first month of the Hindu Malayalam calendar. At this time of year, after three months of heavy rains in India, the skies become clear and blue again, forests turn a lush deep green, lakes and rivers overflow, and lotuses and lilies are in full bloom. People put flower mats in front of their houses to welcome the King, reap the harvest, celebrate and rejoice. Activities during Onam are centered around worshipping, music, dancing, sports, boat races and above all else, eating good food. The most impressive part of the festival is the grand nine-course feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruvonam, consisting of up to 13 essential dishes and served on banana leaves. People sit on mats laid on the floor to partake of vast Onasadya meals. 24 August 2018

WORLD BOG SNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS WALES The small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells set among the Cambrian Mountains - has played host to the World Bog Snorkelling Championships for more than thirty years. This rather unusual and somewhat dirty competition, requires individuals to swim two lengths of a 55-metre water-filled trench - cut 18 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

through the middle of the weedinfested Waen Rhydd peat bog - in the shortest possible time. Not your average sporting event, but nevertheless one that is fast growing in popularity. Bizarrely what started as a fundraiser in 1985 has grown

into something of a global curiosity, with last year’s event seeing more than 150 hardy competitors pay to throw themselves into the filthy, murky waters. The rules stipulate that competitors must wear a snorkel and flippers and complete their swim without using any conventional swimming strokes. The fastest in the ladies and mens categories at the 33rd championships on Sunday 26th August 2018 will be declared the winners. 26 August 2018 events/1566409010081037/


Young Balinese Hindu girls, attired in their finest clothes, honouring ancestral spirits during the annual Galungan festival which symbolises the victory of virtue over evil. 30 May - 9 June 2018

Rest Your Head



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HAMBANTOTA, SRI LANKA SHANGRI-LA HAMBANTOTA RESORT & SPA It was while on an expedition commissioned by Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan to retrieve the tooth of the Buddha, that 13th century explorer Marco Polo first laid down his moorings on the isle of Ceylon. Enamoured by its ivory coastlines and emerald jungles, its port markets laden with fragrant spices bound for the trade routes of Asia and the resplendent abundance of its mineral heritage, he found fit to proclaim it “undoubtedly the finest island of all its size in the world.” He wasn’t wrong. Ceylon - or Sri Lanka as it became in 1972 - has captivated the hearts of explorers and bohemian wanderers for centuries; and today, countless more still come to the teardrop isle in search of a soul connection with the intangible. Set upon the grounds of a former coconut plantation and hugging a stretch of island coastline not as yet overrun by tourism, Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort is a retreat towards rediscovering Sri Lanka’s wild heart. Sprawling across almost 59 hectares it’s the country’s largest resort, with 300 rooms and 21 suites. With two main wings cascading away from the central reception lodge it has the lush, earthy feel of an eco-resort. 4,000 king coconut trees strong and resplendent with riotous tropical gardens, guest accommodation is situated along cooling breezeways with constant sight-lines to the ocean. Décor is earthen and tropical, with wooden floors, hand-woven rugs and cerulean splashes of blue that draw your eye outwards towards the horizon. Where possible, natural materials are used throughout the space married with Sri Lankan art and handicrafts. The property also boasts the brand’s first CHI Ayurvedic Spa – a holistic retreat where treatments are tailored to each guest’s individual well-being requirements. Here, guests can indulge and rebalance with a signature herbal treatment in one of a dozen treatment rooms, before sipping a cup of Ayurvedic tea on an overwater relaxation terrace. Committed to preserving the island’s rich cultural heritage, Kadamandiya (a traditional artisan village at Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort) offers a unique glimpse into the traditions of Sinhalese culture. Visitors can explore the studio huts that house painters, potters, weavers, sculptors and other artisans whose wares are available for purchase, while in the evening the space is transformed into a performance area for traditional dance, music and Angampora displays – a martial art indigenous to the island. ►

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Marking the jewel in the property’s crown is its par-70 landscaped 18-hole golf course designed by Rodney Wright – the only one on the entire island. The course is laid out over a coconut palm plantation, taking players through water features and lush fairways complete with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Unique in its attention to detail in the realms of biodiversity and protection of natural habitat, the course was crafted with sustainability in mind – repurposing an abandoned sapphire mine, restoring vegetation and reintroducing birdlife to the area. Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort offers a tantalising array of dining options that hero the best of Sri Lankan culinary traditions. Enjoy alfresco dining at Bojunhala and indulge in a classic island breakfast of Sri Lankan hoppers, alongside an array of international delicacies. Head to Sera for dinner amid a hawker’s market of the most vibrant street-food from across Southeast Asia. Or, pull your caddy up off the green and make directly into Ulpatha, the resort’s signature clubhouse and bar, to quench your thirst on an unparalleled selection of malt whiskies. For the resort’s best views, Gimanhala Lounge at golden hour is the place to be. With its sweeping vistas across the ocean and the resort’s garden terraces, it’s the perfect spot for a sundowner cocktail before dinner, or a Sri Lankan high tea experience, complete with a tutorial from the resident tea sommelier. Sri Lanka continues to be a balm for the soul, and Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort may just be its most opulent hospitality contender yet.

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MONTECITO, U.S.A. ROSEWOOD MIRAMAR BEACH Rosewood manages almost two dozen one-ofa-kind luxury properties in a variety of countries, each hotel embracing the brand’s “A Sense of Place” philosophy to reflect the individual location’s history, culture and sensibilities. The Rosewood collection includes some of the world’s most prominent hotels and resorts, not least The Carlyle in New York and Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, as well as new classics such as Rosewood Beijing and Rosewood London, both award-winning properties in their own right. Located around 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, which is slated to open this summer, will be the brand’s third property in California. Montecito is situated within the county of Santa Barbara and is one of America’s most affluent and exclusive areas. The region is renowned for its stunning landscape, amiable year-round climate and spectacular residential architecture. Rosewood’s resort will open on the site of the former Miramar Beach Hotel - an important 100-year-old landmark in the local community, and a once-cherished destination for bygone beach getaways - and will serve as both a world-class destination and a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Spread over nearly 16 acres of prime beachfront real estate, Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito will offer 122 guestrooms and 48 suites, many of which will be located within single-story cottages and bungalows. Guests will be treated to every service and luxury they have come to expect from a Rosewood property, including an oceanside bar and restaurant with an outdoor terrace, a signature restaurant, four further eateries, two swimming pools, a deluxe spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, beach club and screening room. And whilst early morning yoga on the beach and sunset walks by the sea will be the norm, the most exciting part of Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, is that it will be the first resort in Santa Barbara to offer beachfront suites, allowing guests to walk directly from their lodgings onto the pristine sand.

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NEW DELHI, INDIA ANDAZ DELHI The vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Delhi - the traditional and presentday capital of India - is regarded as the heartbeat of this diverse nation. It is a bustling and heady mix of new and old, holding onto centuries of traditions and heritage, yet challenging stereotypes with modern technology, colourful nightlife, world class shopping and an emerging food and restaurant scene. Upon arrival one is always struck by how fast paced and densely populated this ever-sprawling city is. It is truly a feast for the senses. With an incredible array of historical monuments and fascinating sites to visit, as well as bustling local markets and a diverse range of festivals and celebrations happening throughout the year, Delhi has now become a travel destination in its own right. As such there is no shortage of accommodation options for discerning travellers. But with the opening of Andaz Delhi in Aerocity 18 months ago, a new high standard was immediately set. Andaz’s motto ‘Global in scale while local in perspective’ is evident in the unique ambience and philosophy of each Andaz property, and the brand’s Delhi outpost doesn’t disappoint. On the contrary, Andaz Delhi truly reflects the vibrancy and energy of Delhi, its contemporary and pared back design aesthetic, complete with clever touches and chic detailing, perfectly illustrating the heritage of its diverse location and making the hotel itself a worthy destination. Upon arrival, hosts welcome guests with the story behind the book that sits in each of Andaz Delhi’s 401 rooms and suites - ‘401 Reasons to Fall in Love with Delhi’. Written by travel writer Fiona Caulfield it is the hotel’s tribute to Delhi. ►

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Every guest room is hung with its own original piece of artwork representing one of the reasons to fall in love with Delhi. It soon becomes apparent that local inspirations are dotted throughout Andaz Delhi and are an intrinsic part of every stay. Wooden floors, crisp white linen, thoughtfully positioned lighting, an oversized day bed, a generously proportioned desk and closets that resemble travel trunks from a bygone era make guest rooms feel like cool loft-styled apartments. Large soundproofed windows, kitted-out with black-out blinds, offer arresting views over the busy airport. Andaz Delhi offers several dining and drinking options, each with its own unique ambience. Fashioned in the style of a European food hall, yet utilising locally sourced ingredients and artisanal products, AnnaMaya is a colourful option for all day dining and offers a varied menu of international and Indian dishes. Meanwhile, live music, an inviting lounge, a well-stocked cocktail bar and a sumptuous interior design scheme combine to make the hotel’s Hong Kong Club a unique multi-level nightlife destination. For a more relaxed drink, Juniper - India’s first gin bar - is the perfect spot to socialise with friends, or while away few hours being entertained by mixologists and their home-infused gins. To unwind, the onsite Andaz Spa with six treatment rooms offers innovative treatments using an apothecary approach based on guests’ Chakra energies. A 24hour fitness centre, pool and sundeck complete the hotel’s leisure offerings. A vibrant and lively addition to the city’s hotel scene, Andaz Delhi is infinitely more than an airport hotel, offering guests memorable stays that both embrace the energy and cultural diversity of Delhi and cleverly showcase the Indian capital’s inimitable spirit.


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GRINDAVIK, ICELAND THE RETREAT AT BLUE LAGOON ICELAND Located in the heart of an 800-year-old moss-covered lava flow on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland’s unique manmade geothermal spa - Blue Lagoon - is famous the world over, and routinely billed as one of earth’s health-giving wonders. Just a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik in the island’s southwest, Kim Kardashian has swum in its clear blue mineral-rich waters, as has Justin Bieber and Beyoncé, all of them basking in its unique composition which features three active ingredients: silica, algae and minerals. But Blue Lagoon is also one the country’s most crowded attractions, with one million visitors descending upon its geothermal waters last year alone - a number which is only set to increase as Iceland’s tourist industry continues to grow. Bill Gates sidestepped the lagoon’s overcrowding issue when, in 2015, he reserved the entire lagoon for a private swim. But not everyone has Gates’ financial clout. Until recently, discerning travellers and the celebrity crowd had never had a five-star place to rest their heads in the vicinity of Blue Lagoon, but this has all changed with the opening of The Retreat. A 62 all-suite luxury hotel within the Blue Lagoon complex, The Retreat it a hospitality gamechanger for both the world-famous spa attraction and the country. Furnished in tasteful Scandinavian style, all suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows so that travellers can best take in the destination’s unique setting, complete with deep freestanding tubs overlooking the surrounding volcanic landscape. There are five types of suite to choose from, ranging from four layouts of junior suite all at the same price point, to the top-of-the-range 60sqm “Moss Suite” complete with a separate lounge and 26sqm private balcony. Suites on the hotel’s lower level have private terraces facing the lava fields and surrounding waters. Many also have direct access to the geothermal waters via private terraces. Upper level suites have private balconies and benefit from dramatic, sweeping vistas of the moss-covered lava fields. Unsurprisingly, wellness is a big component of the onsite Retreat Spa, which offers a range of deluxe amenities including a steam room, in-water massages and a cold well, plus a full-service restaurant serving sushi and fresh-pressed juices. Spa guests staying at The Retreat can also take part in a Blue Lagoon Ritual, whereby guests travel through a series of interconnected rooms, covering their bodies with healing silica, algae and minerals as they go. And if all the healing and pampering gets too much for you, beyond the lagoon complimentary yoga classes are also available, as are guided hikes and bespoke tours to see the Northern Lights.

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CHICAGO, U.S.A. THE RITZ-CARLTON, CHICAGO When the established elder statesman of Chicago’s luxury hotel scene reopened late last summer after an 18-month USD100 million refurbishment, general manager Peter Simoncelli said of the Ritz-Carlton property that takes up a decent chunk of North Michigan Avenue’s marble-clad Water Tower Place, “What this hotel looks like today is nothing like it was before.” Simoncelli wasn’t wrong. Whilst the 434-room hotel had gone through a series of refreshes since opening in 1975, the most recent major renovation marked the first true overhaul of the property’s high-profile public areas, the guiding principle being to give the Ritz-Carlton Chicago a better sense of place, at the same time weaving in nods to the city’s status as a pioneer of modern architecture and creating more harmony between the building’s grand interior and historic exterior. Designing beautiful and functional spaces where people live or stay is what BAMO does best, and the San Francisco design firm excelled at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. As the elevator doors open onto the 12th floor of Water Tower Place - the hotel’s reception level - it is obvious that the property has been reborn. Guiding the eyes upwards are two rows of soaring 19-foot American walnut-clad fins that reference the vertical forms of Chicago’s skyscrapers. There, a splendid, floating wave-like sculpture by Czech company Lasvit, crafted from 616 orbs of hand-blown glass in four shades of blue, evokes nearby Lake Michigan. The biggest piece of art in the property, “Flying Wave” is one on a long list of the hotel’s new art collection, which plays a major role throughout Chicago’s revitalised Ritz-Carlton. A massive piece called “Wallpaper with Blue Floor Interior” by Roy Lichtenstein is fittingly located in the groundfloor lobby, not far from the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Upstairs, on accommodation floors 15 through 30, in addition to creating new modern yet minimalistic earth-toned guest rooms - each of which comes equipped with a decent desk, sitting area, well-stocked mini-fridge and a Nespresso machine - the renovation included upgrading the bathrooms in all ninety suites to give them a tranquil, spa-like feel, with rain showers and deep soaking tubs. Refashioning the fitness center to make the gym bigger and create a new large, window-lined space that looks out on the lake, has created a fantastic space for guests to work out whilst enjoying views of the Navy Pier. This is assuming, of course, that one has time for gym in the windy city: Chicago is renowned for being a friendly city, hails visitors with a very Midwest welcome, and hasRITZ-CARLTON repeatedly been voted the number one place in the THE world for having fun and enjoying metropolitan life. CHICAGO, U.S.A

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KINIGI, RWANDA ONE&ONLY GORILLA’S NEST There can’t be many hotels on the planet which can offer guests an audience with mountain gorillas. Yet, the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, slated to open in late 2018, will do just that. Known primarily for its luxury beach resorts, One&Only is actively evolving its brand with the introduction of nature resorts - two of which are in Rwanda. Located near the village of Kingi and set within the enchanting mists that surround the foothills of the Virunga volcano range, this new grass-thatched traditionallystyled Rwandan lodge, will guarantee an hour-long encounter with one of the eight local families of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Guests will also be able to explore the Virunga conservation area, which consists of eight major volcanoes, most of which are dormant yet known far and wide for these endangered mammals. Virunga conservation area ranges from Northwestern Rwanda covering Volcanoes national park, southwestern Uganda covering Mgahinga gorilla national park and eastern Congo covering part of Virunga national park. Whilst this region is well known for its endangered mountain gorillas as well as its golden monkeys, there are many other authentic experiences that nature lovers and adventure tourists can enjoy while visiting the Virunga Mountains. These range from forest walks and volcano hiking, to trekking, birding and visiting Dian Fossey’s original scientific base, Karisoke, founded in 1967 to study endangered mountain gorillas. After their gorilla encounter, guests at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest will be able to refresh in their simple, en-suite, rusticallyfurnished lodgings, take a long hot shower, feast on farm-to-table cuisine served in the lodge’s restaurant, and relax in an onsite spa which draws on traditional African elements to provide a range of unique therapies.

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MALDIVES BAGLIONI RESORT MALDIVES Established in the mid 1970s, when Roberto Polito - working with his wife Lisa - opened his first hospitality establishment in Tuscany, Baglioni is a family-owned business which prides itself on taking guests on a journey through Italian style, culture and tradition in each one of its nine exclusive hotels, which are mainly housed within period buildings located in the historical centres of Europe’s major cities of art. Opening this summer, Baglioni Resort Maldives will be a departure for the upscale Italian hotel brand, in that it will usher in a less formal and more subtle vision of elegance and hospitality. This fresh new direction is courtesy of the family’s younger generation, namely Guido Polito, the group’s CEO, who is guiding the company towards innovative new international projects which will inject a youthful glow into the Baglioni brand. Just a 40-minute hop by seaplane from the Maldivian capital of Malé and set on the bone-white sands of secluded, private Maagau island in Dhaalu atoll, Baglioni’s first tropical resort will feature 96 garden, beach and over-water villas, including a two-storey three-bedroom presidential villa. All will be ocean-facing. Some snake out towards the enticing Indian Ocean. All will be decked out in the finest linens and decorated with supreme Italian taste and style thanks to close attention to detail, the careful selection of materials and a skilful balance between tradition and modernity. Four restaurants - including an al fresco Japanese eatery serving up fresh sushi under the stars will cater to guests’ every gastronomic need. A dive centre with resident marine biologist will offer childfriendly scuba experiences in addition to the vast range of traditional Maldivian aquatic offerings. Guests will be able to burn off cocktail calories in the yoga pavilion or a beach gym set on the sands. And for those for whom no vacation is complete without a little pampering, a deluxe spa will offer Ayurvedic and Thai therapies utilising indigenous Maldivian ingredients. Awash with natural beauty, oozing luxury and finished with Italian flair, Baglioni’s new paradise isle looks set to provide the brand’s exclusive international clientele with unforgettable stays seamlessly blending relaxation, sport and gourmet dining.


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AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS THE HENDRICK’S HOTEL Named after mischievous Prince Hendrick - a colourful character who married into the Dutch Royal family and whose love of women was well known - boutique hotel flair and eccentric elegance exude at this quirky 25room hotel, located on the Prins Hendrikkade in the city centre, facing the IJ waterway and just a stonesthrow from Central Station. Housed within two 18th century buildings which are joined together internally but appear as separate houses to passers-by, the property was formerly occupied by Twentsche Bank. The buildings then fell into disrepair and were inhabited by squatters, until a few years ago when the current owners were able to purchase the properties, and, in conjunction with Fusion Interiors, set about converting them into a funky boutique hotel. The designers’ creative approach to the hotel’s decor and theming is what sets apart The Hendrick’s Hotel from Amsterdam’s other boutique properties. Individually designed guest rooms are themed around trade, travel and romance - all major players in the world of Prince Hendrick. The lobby has been designed in the style of Prince Hendrick’s living room, complete with bookshelves brimming with eclectic antiques from the Prince’s personal collection. Ropes reimagined as light fittings and a huge yacht wheel hanging on the spiral staircase add a nautical feel to the proceedings, create a unique atmosphere and bring-to-life the Prince’s interesting and slightly playboy-esque world. Whilst every bedroom is different they are separated into eleven room types. “Royal” rooms feature ceilings with exposed beams and are decorated in silvery greys and royal blues with gold accents. Two have deep red freestanding baths. The Vault Suite is the hotel’s largest room and very much one-of-a-kind in Amsterdam the characterful, open-plan space occupying the area that was once-upon-a-time a 17th century bank vault. Today, double-glazed windows and privacy curtains keep wondering eyes from seeing what goes on inside the suite. And even the hotel’s Do Not Disturb signs say that the guest inside is busy “having way too much fun”. The Hendrick’s Hotel is outwardly an establishment where one can enjoy both the cultural highs and naughty lows of the famed Dutch capital. But what goes on behind it’s closed doors is another story.

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COTAI, CHINA MGM COTAI More than two years late and millions of Dollars over budget, MGM Resorts International’s second Macau offering finally opened a few months ago, just off the main Cotai Strip, in the heart of the former Portuguese colony taken over by the Chinese in 1999. MGM’s striking new 1,390-room, 35-storey, US$3.4 billion resort-hotel-casino is designed to resemble a giant, glittering tiered gold, silver and bronze jewellery box. It is nothing if not incredibly eye-catching. The eastern side of MGM Cotai looks out toward the airport and South China Sea, and at the property’s main entrance, the largest lion in the MGM collection (over 36 feet tall) is gilded entirely in gold leaf. But the massive gilded Panthera leo that welcomes guests off the strip isn’t a patch on what’s going-on inside. The hotel’s main lobby (featuring gold ingot-shaped tables), is a mere vestibule for the impressive four-storey high atrium named “The Spectacle” located at the centre of MGM Cotai. The size of a football pitch, the immense space features 25 LED walls displaying natural settings, China’s cities, artworks and even visitor-generated content, and is bordered by vertical gardens and a bevy of restaurants. In fact, it is MGM Cotai’s strong culinary focus, including an impressive line-up of internationally celebrated chefs - including television star Graham Elliot and famed alchemist Mitsuharu Tsumura - coupled with a stunning interior design aesthetic, which gives the mammoth property a sophisticated edge over its hospitality neighbours on the Cotai Strip. Add to all this a superb, predominantly Asian 300-piece art collection (that encompasses 28 Qing dynasty carpets, collages and abstract paintings), and an atelier courtesy of Chinese fashion designer and haute couturier Guo Pei (she designed the trailing yellow gown Rihanna wore to the 2015 Met Ball), and the result is almost certainly the most elegant and refined casinoresort complex in Cotai. And this is without going upstairs to check out the hundreds of pastel-hued rooms and suites, which include Lofts in the main building and Villas in The Mansion - an invitation-only hotel within the hotel.

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LONDON, U.K. THE CURTAIN HOTEL The London members’ club landscape has changed drastically in recent years. Previously they were mostly generally centred around the West End, Belgravia and St. James’s, with a smattering of private haunts outside these hubs. But today the City of London - the United Kingdom’s’ financial epicentre - is home to a concentration of new, upscale members’ clubs, many with bijou onsite hotels. Designed specifically to cater to the capital’s high-spending business fraternity and upwardly mobile creative types, these clubs offer facilities, space and hotel rooms hitherto unavailable at most of their West End counterparts, and they are proving to be so popular that more are being planned and launched in the City to feed the growing demand which shows little sign of abating. Everyone knows about the Soho House group. If you want to climb London’s social ladder, eavesdrop about the hippest local happenings and rub shoulders with East London’s fashionistas, Shoreditch House is still the place to do it. Occupying a converted biscuit factory in a street-art-strewn East End alleyway, roughly-hewn semi-industrial Shoreditch House was the original City of London members club, and to a great extent the forerunner of (and started the snowballing demand for) the plethora of members’ clubs which exist today within the City’s square mile. But Shoreditch House it too large, too brash and too in-yourface for many, who have veered towards to joining members’ clubs which cater more acutely to their business needs and entertaining clients, rather than partying through the night. One such newish members’ club is The Curtain, unveiled a year ago by renowned party king and New York hotelier Michael Achenbaum. Outwardly more hotel than members’ club, The Curtain boasts over a hundred guest rooms of varying shapes and sizes, all of which feature a king-sized bed, gorgeous marble walk-in rain shower-cum-steam room and undoubtedly the best in-room mini-bars this side of the Atlantic. Granted the smallest are more akin to crash pads, but the super-fast wi-fi is free and rooms are laden with cutesy yet functional touches such as bluetooth Marshall speakers. The Curtain also has one of the best 24-hour gyms in the square mile. Guests booking The Curtain Suite (at around one thousand Pounds per night) even get free use of a Porsche Boxster for the duration of their stay, subject to booking direct with the hotel. Now that’s a swishy perk that any discerning Cultured Traveller would be hard pushed to pass up.

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LOS ANGELES, U.S.A. H HOTEL LOS ANGELES Hotels are evolving all the time and are becoming more about convenience, location and functionality than fancy frills, roominess and luxuries. Hilton’s new Curio brand is a case in point. Created for travellers who seek to discover their local surroundings and enjoy authentic experiences, Curio is a global collection of distinctive four and five-star hotels that aims to connect guests with their destinations via well-considered and functional properties. Just as the word “curio” can refer to something of interest, unique or even rare, each Curio property is different from the next, with just individuality being a common thread, along with the quiet reassurance of the iconic Hilton brand name behind every location. Just steps from the terminals of LAX - the fifth busiest airport on the planet - H Hotel is a cleverly curated hospitality experience which has gone a long way to rewriting the traditional American concept of an airport hotel, without compromising the convenience of its super convenient central location. Denver-based interior design firm Design Force drew inspiration from the hotel’s location with a design scheme that recreates the flight experience, whilst offering a modern reprieve from the stresses of 21st century air travel. A modern, industrial façade, appointed with azure hues, accentuates the hotel’s mid-century architectural style. Inside, eight individual gravity-defying works fashioned by American artists across many mediums, and curated by NINE dot ARTS, gently evoke flying and frame Los Angeles’ relationship with air travel, both historically and in the abstract. At reception, digital work “Blue Yonder” by Moodspace depicts the changing sky during the course of the day, inviting guests to check in and let go. Upstairs, most of the hotel’s 168 guest rooms and suites feature soaring 3.5m ceilings and huge windows that offer a fascinating overview of the bustling LAX grid in full swing. Lush paints and neutral tones add to an uplifting sense of hovering in the clouds. In fact, H Hotel is very much a window into a world suspended in mid-air - akin to having a peaceful, luxe and unrushed transit break. Temple Spa toiletries, Nespresso machines and large TV screens equipped with Google Chromecast complete the premium preflight experience.

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DOHA, QATAR THE WESTIN DOHA The Qatari capital’s Westin is very much a contemporary 21st century incarnation of the wellknown American hospitality brand’s mainstream hotel offering, and, certainly in the case of Doha, a veritable haven from the downtown scene outside the property’s manicured grounds. Located slap bang in the middle of the city in Bin Mahmoud, directly across the road from the Radisson Blu (one of Qatar’s longest-established hotels), The Westin Doha complex is positioned on one of the city’s busiest routes, Salwa Road, offering easy access to all parts of the sprawling Qatari capital. Embodying literally everything a discerning businessman or seasoned leisure traveller could possibly want in one convenient, central location, somewhat unusually for Doha, it is very obvious that a lot of time, care and consideration went into the design of the Westin’s 365 uberchic rooms, suites and villas. Yet, despite the hotel’s size, the property is well laid out and easy to navigate, via various swimming pools (indoor and outdoor plus a wave pool) and an array of leisure facilities including squash courts, a fitness studio and a generous “Heavenly Spa” with separate male and female wings and nine treatment rooms. Reminiscent of mini slick, NewYork apartments, deluxe rooms boast giant heavenly beds each topped with an expansive stitched headboard in mink leather, above which a backlit etched metal screen is hung with contemporary Arabic artwork. At the foot of the bed, a cool tweedupholstered 2-metre chaise faces a gloss curved TV console ►

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and surround that lends another complementary finish to the cool overall design aesthetic, which is more than a little Tom Dixon-esque. The bathroom-cum-wardrobecum-dressing area is a luxurious affair, bedecked with mosaic walls, Travertine tiling, marble surfaces and dark wood flooring. The spacious walk-in shower has a marble bench and offers a variety of showering options, with a giant sliding glass door adding a semi-industrial edge. Brushed and glossy brass touches throughout add a classy, Deco-like feel to The Westin Doha’s vast range of utterly comfortable and supremely functional accommodation. If you can have all of your business meetings in the hotel there is really no need to venture outside The Westin Doha until it’s time to leave for the airport. Everything you need is onsite, including a range of six restaurants, cafés and bars catering to a variety of gastronomic tastes. Stand out are Sabai Thai which serves the best authentic Thai cuisine in the country, and Hunters Room & Grill where you can select an excellent piece of meat and have it grilled to perfection by South African chef Bradley. Doha is generally a pricey place to eat out well, but this is not the case at the Westin, where menus are expansive, reasonably priced and refreshingly offer good value for money. Some of the best-designed and competitively-priced accommodation in the city, combined with the hotel’s extensive facilities and central downtown location, make The Westin Doha an ideal spot for business and leisure travellers alike to set-up base camp when visiting Qatar.

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The winner of this prize will stay for two nights in a Premier Ocean View room at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, including daily breakfasts plus one dinner for two at celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa’s famed new-age Sri Lankan restaurant, Kaema Sutra. Plus three nights in a Premier Ocean room at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa, overlooking the pristine southern coast of Sri Lanka, including daily breakfasts and a riverboat safari for two. Also included are complimentary airport and inter-resort transfers and wi-fi at both hotels. Inspired by the legendary land featured in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is one of Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel groups, and has grown to encapsulate a high level of serenity and service for which the brand’s properties are renowned worldwide. Combining modern luxury and genuine hospitality with authentic Sri Lankan charm, Shangri-La’s Colombo hotel is home to more than 500 guest rooms, 34 suites and 41 serviced

apartments, all boasting uninterrup skyline. All accommodations are deco palate of teal and brown to reflect the drapes, beautiful artworks and Sri Lan vistas and prestigious Galle Face loca

Set upon the grounds of a former coastline not as yet overrun by touris rediscovering Sri Lanka’s wild heart. largest resort, with 300 rooms and 2 guest accommodation is situated alo ocean, and the entire property has th


ted views of the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake or the city pted orated in a luxe and smart yet warm and inviting colour e coastal surroundings. Sumptuous soft furnishings, silk nkan touches abound, complementing the magnificent ation.

coconut plantation and hugging a stretch of island sm, Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort is a retreat towards Sprawling across almost 59 hectares it’s the country’s 21 suites. Resplendent with riotous tropical gardens, all ong cooling breezeways with constant sight-lines to the he lush, earthy feel of an eco-resort.


To enter this prize draw email your contact details (name, home city, email and mobile no.) to The draw will take place after 31st August 2018 and the winner will be notified via email. This prize can be used any time before 31st May 2019 and is subject to availability when booking. This prize is not transferable to another person. Blackout periods apply during peak season, Easter and Sri Lankan public holidays. The Cultured Traveller will not share your details with third parties. Entrants will be added as subscribers to The Cultured Traveller’s mailing list. Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 55


Colourful craft decked out to look like dragons lined-up on Tonghui River in Xiadu Park, Beijing, in readiness for the annual Chinese dragon boat festival. 18 June 2018


CITY FOCUS WASHINGTON, MAIN D.C. ARTICLE Visually stunning, with iconic architecture and breathtaking vantage points literally around every corner, ALEX BENASULI discovers that America’s compact capital positively hums with world class cultural offerings, beautiful green spaces and a burgeoning foodie and arts scene, making it one of the most delightful cities in the States to visit



evisiting the United States’ political nerve centre after more than two decades, during cherry blossom season no less (one of the best times of the year!), I am keen to both rediscover America’s capital and experience its more cultural side. Founded in the 1790s on a swamp plain, with broiling hot summers and freezing cold winters, as the capital of the ragtag group of thirteen original American colonies that established themselves as a fledgling republic after winning the War of Independence against the British, the District of Columbia (as D.C. was then known), had humble beginnings and few prospects other than hope

and dreams. Little did anyone know, that as the United States grew in population, size and stature to become the most powerful nation on earth, Washington, D.C. would take its place as one the world’s greatest cities. In typical, American visionary can-do spirit, Washington was designed from the outset to become a great capital. Well-known French architect and city planner Charles L’Enfant was commissioned by President Washington himself to plan the nation’s new capital. Broad streets and magnificent avenues emanating from rectangular squares, interspersed with monuments, museums, embassies, federal


buildings, parks and landscaping, were all set out in L’Enfant’s 1791 plan and still hold sway today. Even the city’s centrepiece – the grand avenue now known as National Mall – was envisioned from the start. Washington’s elegantly planned layout and lowrise cityscape, together with a prevalence of neoclassical, Georgian, gothic and Empire architectural styles, all combine to give the city a decidedly European flair, which is not unlike Paris and Berlin. Situated on the banks of the Potomac River and surrounded by pockets of forest and simply splendid countryside, Washington is also blessed with a

“Georgetown boasts some of the most expensive residential streets in the city and is one of the most charming areas for shopping, dining and sipping a cocktail.”

plethora of beautiful natural settings. This makes the American capital something of a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as providing many escapes from the heat and humidity of high summer. Washington’s original location was chosen, in part, as a bridge between the northern and southern states of America’s East Coast. Today, the city’s graciousness and slightly slower pace – especially compared to the hustle and bustle of the country’s more industrial northern urban centres – often causes Washington to be referred to as the most northern of the southern cities, or as having a “Southern Flair”. Whilst the city overall ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 61



has almost certainly moved figuratively northward in the past hundred or so years, Washington continues to reflect its Southern exposure in a number of ways, not least the magnolias, crape myrtles, dogwoods and cherry trees which soften its architectural contours. The most dominant feature of Washington’s grand and confident skyline, remains the eleven-storey white marble obelisk that is the iconic Washington Monument. Built to commemorate the first president of the United States, it is the tallest stone structure and the largest obelisk in the world. Since completion in the 1880s, it has been decreed that no building in the capital should rise higher. It is this that gives Washington its more lateral and relaxed perspective. Whilst elevator issues have shuttered the monument since August of last year, and a current US$2-3 million project will not be completed until the spring of 2019 when it is expected to re-open to visitors, I was lucky

is here, with your feet on terra firma, that you can get a proper feel for the stature of the imposing buildings which surround and dominate Washington’s center. From one end of the Mall to the other is roughly two and a half miles, so don some comfy shoes and enjoy the walk. There’s nothing like strolling around Washington on a gloriously sunny day. However, if you’re on a whistle-stop visit, touring the area on two wheels can considerably shrink the distances, and allow you to cover much more ground in a shorter amount of time. Flanking the eastern end of the Mall, the massive neoclassical United States Capitol remains one the world’s most ardent symbols of democracy. The sprawling building – which contains more than 500 rooms – is home to the United States Congress and is the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. This area of the Mall is also home to some the city’s most illustrious cultural venues, including the

“The newest addition to Washington’s cultural offerings and one of its most emotionally powerful, is the much-acclaimed Museum of African American History and Culture, designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye“ enough to gaze out from the top of the 555-foot structure a few years ago and can attest that the views are nothing short of breathtaking. On one axis, all of the National Mall up to the Capitol Building is clearly visible. Whilst on the other side, one can see way past the World War II Memorial and Reflecting Pool towards the Lincoln Memorial at the western end of the National Mall. The other axis takes in the White House and the Tidal Basin, home of the Jefferson Memorial and the throngs of cherry trees for which Washington has become famous. Whilst getting a bird’s eye view of the city and its grand architecture from atop a monument or the seat of a helicopter tour is memorable, the National Mall and all its glories are really best enjoyed on ground level. For it

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum (one of the country’s leading museums for contemporary art), and the museums of American History, Natural History, American Indian and so many more. Whilst it would take weeks to visit all the museums and exhibitions in this culturally-rich city, apart from private collections such as the Phillips (billed as America’s first museum of modern art), most of Washington’s museums are free to enter. (www. The newest addition to Washington’s cultural offerings and one of its most emotionally powerful, is the much-acclaimed Museum of African American ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 63



History and Culture. Designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, the striking bronze and rustcoloured tiered corona-shaped building offers a striking contrast to the more traditional stone and classical façades that permeate the Mall area. Though big, bold and awe-inspiring is the dominant style of the architecture and vibe in and around the Mall, there are countless other spots in close proximity that offer a more-gentle energy in which to quietly absorb the splendour of Washington. Many of the museums have courtyard or sculpture gardens that offer more intimate experiences of the magnificent

parade of the magnolia and cherry blossoms during spring, not to mention respites from the summer heat. Around the Tidal Basin, the lower key Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King memorials are as moving as they are beautiful. However, for some, Washington’s many war memorials are the most powerful, not least, the arresting black granite Vietnam War Memorial, which bears the names of 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Throughout the centre of Washington, ample park benches, picnic spots and vantage points offer incredible views and peaceful opportunities to digest


everything around you in whatever way and pace suits. Night-time is a particularly special time to view the city’s monuments. Lit up spectacularly and surrounded by far fewer people, wandering around Washington by night is an otherworldly and serene experience. Massachusetts Avenue is Washington’s impressive embassy row. Block after block of this elegant wide thoroughfare showcase some of the best architecture in the city. Georgetown, to the west of the city centre, is one of most historically intact neighbourhoods in the United States. Street after street of colonial and federalist-style buildings give Georgetown the feeling

of the pre-war and post-revolutionary independent town that it once was. Today Georgetown boasts some of the most expensive residential streets in the city and is one of the most charming areas for shopping, dining and sipping a cocktail. Bordered by leafy Rock Creek Park on one side and illustrious Georgetown University on the other, and fronted by the Potomac River, it’s hard not to fall in love with Georgetown. While Washington’s monuments, grand boulevards and corridors of power are as awe inspiring as ever, I soon discover that it is the leafy residential neighbourhoods - both well established and rapidly gentrifying - that are an unexpected source of ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 67

delight as I become reacquainted with this truly exciting city. Strolling beyond the imposing edifices of Washington’s grand centre, lies a city rich with attractive and vibrant communities, and a foodie scene on a par with the best in the country. The area between DuPont and Logan circles teems with late 19th and early 20th century houses with tidy front gardens, colourful window boxes and decorative iron gates and railings. This aesthetically pleasing area is a true joy to amble around without any particular agenda. Washington’s 14th Street scene literally has something

for everyone. A commercial district that connects the already gentrified streets on either side of Logan Circle towards the funkier neighbourhoods to the north, numerous bars, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, coee shops, music venues and vintage stores fill this vibrant area with energy and excitement, catering to locals and visitors alike. Up-and-coming D.C. lies to the east of the Capitol Building and Union Station. Decades ago, H Street was synonymous with race riots and urban blight. Today it

“Lit up spectacularly and surrounded by far fewer people, wandering around Washington by night is an otherworldly and serene experience.”

is increasingly a thriving hub for D.C.’s progressive classes, and is brimming with artisanal bakeries, independent coffee shops and a lively music scene. The H Street Festival in the autumn is a highlight of D.C.’s annual cultural calendar (www.hstreetfestival. org). The weekly farmer’s market is also very popular ( Washington used to be considered staid and boring. Whilst the city still oozes power and stature, times have definitely changed. 21st century Washington

is more dynamic than ever before and has a heart and soul away from its status as the capital of the most powerful country on earth. No doubt, the city universally inspires and humbles with its striking architecture and towering monuments. But it is in the city centre’s surrounding neighbourhoods that a more intimate and emotional connection to Washington is made. And it is here, when one scratches below the surface of Washington’s gleam, that visitors really strike hospitality gold.




STAY THE ST. REGIS WASHINGTON, D.C. Washington, D.C. is a capital steeped in tradition and prominence, and there is no better address to experience these qualities than the St. Regis, which almost certainly enjoys one of the city’s finest locations. Staying here – just across from leafy Lafayette Square and two blocks from The White House – really puts you in the centre of everything and close to the action. Built in the style of a Florentine palazzo, Washington’s 172-room St. Regis (formerly the Carlton) opened in 1926 and exudes old world class and luxury, while setting a high bar for slick service and attention to detail. During the ’30s, the property was a surrogate venue for the State Department when Secretary of State Cordell Hull took up residence. Since then, numerous presidents and celebrities, from pop stars and actresses, including Cher and Audrey Hepburn, have all stayed here. It is rumoured that President Truman and his First Lady would slip into the building through a French window to cut down on protocol, and apparently the hotel has hosted every American president since Coolidge. Today, St. Regis is frequented by foreign leaders and dignitaries as well as the most discerning business and leisure travellers. The Beaux-Arts and Neo-Renaissance interiors of the St. Regis truly dazzle. The cavernous open-air ground floor is a symphony of red, gold, polished woods and crystal chandeliers. The timber-beamed ceilings were hand painted by expert craftsmen and are particularly a site to behold. The sprawling lobby area and adjoining St. Regis Bar are reminiscent of a private English members’ club and abound with rich Chesterfield sofas and classic wood panelling. The intimate atmosphere in the bar makes it the perfect place to start or end an evening with a cocktail. Try the hotel’s take on a classic Bloody Mary: Inspired by the commercial and cultural heritage of Chesapeake Bay nearby, the base of a “Capitol Mary” is gin (the spirit of choice of D.C.’s social set, particularly when summering around the Bay), and the cocktail incorporates signature spices used in preparing a classic Chesapeake Bay crab feast. Designed by renowned architect David Rockwell to highlight many of the spectacular room’s original features, including the stunning ceiling, the hotel’s Alhambra restaurant features an innovative Mediterranean-inspired menu courtesy of executive chef Javier Cuesta, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alhambra also hosts the hotel’s much lauded afternoon tea ritual, every day from 2pm ‘til 5pm. Upstairs, guest rooms combine modern creature comforts with timeless luxury inspired by a bygone era. Outfitted in a variety of muted colour schemes, large Palladian windows and high ceilings hung with crystal chandeliers and damask curtains create a sense of regal theatricality. The furniture is carved and gilded. All rooms boast plush and superlatively comfortable pillow-top Sealy beds, bedecked in Pratesi linens and laden with soft furnishings. Bathrooms feature walk-in showers and deluxe Laboratoire Remède amenities. Guest relations is an area in which St. Regis always excels and the brand’s Washington property is no exception. In many ways, staying here is akin to lodging at a dear friend’s lavish mansion. Throughout the hotel service is discreet, attentive and warm. And if you’re lucky enough to be staying in a suite, you will enjoy St. Regis’ renowned butler service which is truly first class. After all, in a city as highlycharged and fast-moving at Washington, D.C., where there are so many people to see, who has time to unpack and re-pack their luggage? 72 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL, WASHINGTON D.C. Mandarin Oriental is synonymous with providing the highest standards of service and luxury, coupled with an Asian sense of refinement and attention to detail. The brand’s Washington property delivers exactly this and more, deftly reflecting Mandarin Oriental’s Hong Kong heritage. Although the Washington Mandarin is not situated as centrally as the city’s other high-end hotel offerings, its location on the edge of the Tidal Basin makes it the best address from which to appreciate the city’s famed cherry blossom season. And, whilst most of Washington’s attractions are centred around the National Mall and to its North and West, the Mandarin’s south city positioning offers a different yet equally rewarding perspective from which to appreciate the capital’s monuments. The Smithsonian museums as well as the Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial are all within easy walking distance. A pedestrian bridge takes guests straight to the buzzing Southwest Waterfront, with its plethora of restaurants, shops and music venues. And one of Washington’s newer and increasingly popular leisure and entertainment neighbourhoods, District Wharf, where there are plenty of al fresco dining options in warmer months, is but a short stroll from the Mandarin. Being a resident at Washington’s Mandarin is to experience luxury, comfort and style from the moment you enter the hotel’s grand marble lobby, with its elegant domed ceiling and Asian artwork, and the hotel’s 373 guest rooms and suites are no less well-appointed. All skilfully blend Oriental chic and traditional American design, curated to create a classy East-meets-West aesthetic. Even entry-level rooms are over-sized and enjoy city or waterfront views. Guests in rooms higher up and looking towards the city enjoy the Washington Monument as part of their vistas. Throughout the guest accommodations, décor is bright yet at the same time soft and elegant. All were recently renovated to provide a more comfortable residential feel. Massive beds and mountains of pillows invite deep sleep and extended periods of relaxation. Most rooms have some seating as well as a round mahogany table which serves as a desk. Marble-lined bathrooms are elegant and spa-like, with glass-enclosed showers and separate deep soaking tubs, not to mention a plentiful supply of luxury Atelier Cologne products. Rooms which overlook the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin boast the greatest views of the city’s blossoming Japanese cherry trees in the spring. What sets the Mandarin apart from its five-star peers are the hotel’s extensive facilities, not least arguably the best spa in Washington. The only Forbes four-star reviewed spa in the city features a Zen-like relaxation room, a 50ft heated indoor swimming pool and a multitude of treatment rooms. Therapies draw upon the millennia long traditions of Asian wellness, including traditional Chinese medicine and aromatherapy. Whilst treatments are a little on the pricey side, the surroundings, quality and service makes them worth every cent. Meanwhile, fitness junkies will love the huge state-of-the-art gym, which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can gaze at the Washington Monument while working-out. Coupled with some excellent food and beverage offerings which serve very palatable modern American cuisine with an Asian twist, Mandarin’s impressive leisure facilities, together with the chic yet relaxed atmosphere throughout, make it one of the most desirable hotels from which to be based when exploring the American capital as a tourist. Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 75

THE WESTIN GEORGETOWN The Westin Georgetown is incredibly well positioned for business and leisure pursuits across the capital. Located in the heart of Washington’s West End, the hotel is close to Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, DuPont Circle and embassy row on Massachusetts Avenue. Even the 14th Street entertainment corridor north of Logan Circle is walkable. Traffic in DC can be terrible at times, making the Westin’s central location an excellent choice for those short of time who plan to cover a lot! Away from the monuments and main corridors of power, Washington is an exceedingly handsome city. From the Westin’s Georgetown location this cane appreciated all the more, in every direction. The West End is equivalent to Washington’s midtown, and is an attractive and affluent part of the city, filled with upscale coffee shops and hip restaurants, the overall feel being that of a well-established neighbourhood. This, of course, adds a touch of “living” the city when visiting Washington as a tourist. Founded in 1890, 1,754-acre tree and stream-filled Rock Creek Park is a refreshing gem in the nation’s capital, and just a few minutes-walk from the Westin. What Westin does very well indeed, is provide the best elements of America’s upscale chain hotel experiences in each city centre location, the brand’s Georgetown property being no exception. Rooms are spacious, well-proportioned and strike the perfect balance between practicality and comfort. You will be hard pushed to have a better sleep in a hotel bed than you will at a Westin, which prides itself on its trademarked Heavenly Bed. Designed with a supportive pillowtop mattress, this superb bed provides a deeply revitalizing sleep. Most rooms come with some seating and a place to work. Desk chairs are ergonomically supportive. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood rooms with light. SPG members are routinely upgraded to one-bedroom suites, subject to availability. These are very spacious and well lit, encompassing two separate rooms as well as the usual bathroom and guest cloakroom. Being a full-service property, The Westin Georgetown offers a range of leisure facilities and business services, the latter being of utmost importance in Washington. A large fitness studio is well equipped, and the hotel hires out (inexpensively) brand new New Balance athletic gear just in case you don’t want to pack exercise clothes. There is a seasonal outdoor pool. The Westin Kids Club gives parents the option to have a night on the town without their children. Flexible, small group workspaces are readily available. And there are two pretty decent restaurants in-house. The Caucus Room is an American interpretation of a French brasserie and is open all day from breakfast through to dinner time. Meanwhile, fun and funky Boveda is a lively Latin-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant, designed in a warm style which is not dissimilar to a speakeasy, and serving hearty moreish food. Whilst not as swish as some of the city’s more fancy five-star offerings, The Westin Georgetown ticks every box for leisure and business travellers alike and offers better value for money than many other hotels in the centre of Washington. 76 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018



TIDAL BASIN Part of West Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin is a man-made reservoir that lies to the south of the National Mall. Every spring, the Tidal Basin erupts in a spectacular array of candy pink-coloured blossom, on cherry trees gifted to D.C. from Tokyo many years ago. This event that has become Washington’s signature annual moment. The paths that ring the Tidal Basin also offer countless staging points from which to marvel at the city’s monuments. The views over the water towards the Washington Monument are alone worthy of a visit. Thomas Jefferson was the nation’s third president, one of its founding fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The Jefferson Memorial is appropriately grand and inspiring. Also, on the banks of the Tidal Basin, is the lower key but equally inspiring memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who’s presidency spanned the Great Depression and of course World War II. For many the FDR Memorial is one of the most intimate and the cherry blossoms are best experienced from here. An early morning or moonlit night-time stroll around the Tidal Basin, when there are less people, is particularly memorable. LINCOLN MEMORIAL The image of an oversized President Lincoln enshrined within his own temple is one of the most enduring symbols of both Washington, D.C. and American democracy. And like Abraham Lincoln himself, his memorial is an enduring symbol of the country’s strength, wisdom and unity. Lincoln was the country’s sixteenth president, was responsible for abolishing slavery and presided over the defeat of the Confederates during America’s Civil War. Anchoring the western end of the National Mall with views over the Reflecting Pool – the National World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument beyond – the Lincoln Memorial is a must see in a city quite literally filled with must-sees. Try visiting the memorial at night for a different yet still powerful experience.


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NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE Washington is a city of culture and museums. One of the newest and most impressive is this acclaimed museum designed by celebrated British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, which offers a moving and encyclopaedic retrospective of the African American experience in the United States. Occupying a prime spot on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, this museum chronicles the origins and history of the horrors of slavery from the late 16th century, as well as the injustices of the post-Civil War era, segregation moving towards the civil rights era of the 1960s, through to the present day. The cultural sections are lighter-hearted and recount the significant contributions of African Americans to the country’s music, entertainment and sporting worlds. Though entry is free, and a limited number of same-day tickets are available daily, advance booking is recommended. THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION Founded in 1921 by great American industrialist Duncan Phillips, the nation’s first museum of modern art is an excellent set of intimate exhibition spaces, located within a distinctive building in D.C.’s vibrant Dupont Circle neighbourhood. Amongst others, works by Renoir, Rothko, Bonnard, O’Keeffe and Diebenkorn make up the museum’s impressive permanent collection. Renoir’s sublime Luncheon of the Boating Party is probably the most well-known painting in the building. Regular Sunday concerts, “Phillips After Five” events and family-orientated jazz happenings provide additional options to visit a museum that is invariably one of the most intimate in the city. DUMBARTON OAKS Discreetly tucked away in a residential section of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks is a stately home that houses a fine collection of Byzantine and Pre-Colombian art. However, it is the extensive gardens and woods that are really Dumbarton’s claim to fame. Designed in the 1920s by acclaimed landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand, under the patronage of the estate’s industrialist cum philanthropist owners Robert and Mildred Bliss, the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks consist of 53 acres of lush lawns, terraced gardens, Italianate courtyard gardens, a rose garden and woodland. This is a beautiful place in the heart of D.C. which offers a respite from hectic city life. While the throngs of magnolia and cherry trees blossoming in the spring are indeed a sight to behold, the well-planned programme of flowering from early spring through to autumn always makes a visit to Dumbarton Oaks worthwhile.




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TASTE ALHAMBRA The recently refreshed signature restaurant of Washington’s plush St. Regis hotel is very much worthy of a special visit. The dining room epitomises modernday elegance. The décor is literally breathtaking, with shades of silver, white and pearl lending a contemporary edge to the room’s soaring, renaissancestyle ceilings. Beautifully laid tables in the middle of the restaurant are complimented by private banquettes on the periphery, to allow Washington’s power brokers to dine more discreetly. Executive chef Sebastien Giannini’s team expertly produces exquisite modern Mediterranean cuisine. Tuna tartare accented with date purée, citrus pepper condiments and Marcona almonds is a standout dish, and indicative of Giannini’s flavour and texture combinations that inject new life into Mediterranean classics.

FIOLA MARE This 125-seat Georgetown favourite serves sophisticated Italian seafood in a modern luxurious setting, complete with stunning Potomac River views. Fiola Mare also has two bars, an outside patio and four private dining rooms, including the Aston Martin Room which contains the restaurant’s exclusive chef’s table. Though much of the menu changes regularly – preferring to focus only on the freshest ingredients – the star of the show is freshly-caught seafood simply and expertly cooked. Elegant and contemporary décor provides the backdrop for this superior dining experience. A hit since it opened in 2014, Fiola Mare is as ideal for lunch or dinner as it is for special occasions, and the beautiful waterfront vistas are only outdone by the sublime seafood. FIOLA MARE

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LE DIPLOMATE Whilst no passport is required, a visit to this popular venue will make you feel like you are in Paris. Located on the corner of 14th Street and Q - north of Logan Circle in the heart of the bustling 14th Street corridor - Le Diplomate is a pitch-perfect rendition of a classic Rive Gauche bistro. If you fancy dining on classic French dishes like onion soup, beef tartare and steak frites, served in a buzzy yet relaxed atmosphere, then you’re going to love Le Diplomate. The extensive wine list is comprehensive. Classic baguettes are baked in house. During the warmer months, the restaurant’s outdoor street-side terrace is the perfect place to people watch. Every city benefits from a little French café culture - in Washington you’ll find it in spades at Le Diplomate. IZAKAYA SEKI Japanese food aficionados, and those seeking a more intimate dining experience amongst Washington’s busy eateries, will love Izakaya Seki. Located on V Street, in the up-and-coming U Street corridor (in between Shaw and Cardozo) this tiny restaurant and sake bar run by a father-daughter team, serves small Japanese plates, a good selection of rice-wines and a variety of Japanese microbrews. The sushi and sashimi are incredibly fresh. Grilled meats and seafood on skewers, plus various noodle dishes, also feature prominently on the menu. Unadorned tables, wooden banquettes and a total lack of clutter places the focus squarely on the excellent food. Don’t miss Seki’s delicious circular (rather than triangular) rice balls, which come stuffed with pickled veggies or crunchy little balls of salt-cod roe. Unless you are a group of 5-8 people, arrive early or be prepared to wait. SALLY’S MIDDLE NAME Hipster D.C. is positively thriving in the eastern realms of the city. H Street particularly is bustling with cafés, petite restaurants and vibey music venues. Sally’s Middle Name (so called for an inside joke between owner-chef Sam Adkins and his sister Sally) is a husband and wife-run establishment serving simple yet innovative primarily American farm-totable cooking. Whilst the menu features an occasional Asian or Mediterranean influence, most dishes are uncomplicated and free of frills. The interior is as unfussy and cheerful as the food. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable. Daily specials are scribbled on a white wall. The wide-open kitchen is visible to all. A charming outdoor patio – open when the weather allows – augments the bijou dining room. Eat at Sally’s Middle Name to feel part of Washington’s young, creative and funky set.




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SIP POV This rooftop bar and lounge at Washington’s W Hotel is one of the hippest hangouts in town, and boasts unparalleled views of the cityscape, including the Washington Monument and White House. On warmer nights, the vistas of D.C.’s skyline from the terrace are simply spectacular. Throughout POV the vibe is smart, sophisticated and most of all, fun. Guys in suits is not an uncommon sight, since the city’s slickest lobbyists and coolest lawyers are often on prowl here. Drinks are good – especially the snazzy hand-crafted cocktails – but a touch on the pricey side. Seating ranges from communal high-tops to VIP banquettes perfect for schmoozing. Note that the music goes up more than a few notches after 9pm, when the sounds become funkier and the mood moves to partying. THE GRAHAM GEORGETOWN ROOFTOP Originally built in 1962 and known as the Monticello, the historic 57-room boutique Graham Georgetown Hotel is tucked into a quiet side street between the Potomac and bustling M Street shopping district. Almost hidden behind a red brick façade yet situated just three blocks from the White House, the Graham adds a dash of Art Deco flair to sometimes staid Washington. Nowhere is this flair more evident than the hotel’s hot rooftop, which wraps around three sides providing incredible views of Georgetown University, the Washington Monument and Memorial Bridge. Aviation geeks will enjoy watching planes follow the Potomac before landing at Reagan National Airport. Reserve one of the cushy couches for bottle service or sidle up to the bar for a shot of house bourbon from Kentucky’s Louisville Distilling Company, which is aged in port barrels for a fruity finish. QUILL Paying homage to founding father Thomas Jefferson with more than a few nods to the former U.S. president, the historic Jefferson boutique hotel is situated within a 1920s building, and charms guests with its an elegantly formal atmosphere, Michelin-starred restaurant, decadent library lounge and upscale cocktail bar, Quill. Smart yet a soothing place to network or to



unwind, the bar’s traditional design (inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello parlour) is softened by moody lighting and amber tones. Quill excels at serving signature hand-crafted cocktails, such as the “Route One Ricky” (Jim Beam rye, caramelized key lime shrub, and homemade cream soda). An extensive beverage list is complemented by quality American fare including Chesapeake Orchard Point oysters, Maryland crab cakes and bison sliders, and a talented pianist plays live jazz most nights.



OFF THE RECORD The hint is in the name. Off The Record has been the preferred watering hole for Washington’s movers and shakers for decades. Located below ground in The Hay-Adams Hotel - one of Washington’s most classic and prestigious lodging addresses, just across the street from the White House - Off The Record is in many ways quintessential D.C. The somewhat darky lit space, the gentleman’s club-meets-speakeasy vibe (replete with red velvet upholstery and wood panelling), and widespread hushed tones all conspire to create a rather unique and somewhat mysterious bar and lounge. Order a Manhattan or Old Fashioned and just imagine the backroom deals and political pacts being made with the devil, as you slowly sip your cocktail and eavesdrop on the hush-hush conversations happening close-by. SOTTO Named for its location beneath sister restaurant Ghibellina, this moody subterranean haunt takes its cues from D.C. history, thanks to its former incarnation as home of the HR-57 jazz club. Opened just over three years ago by Ari and Stacy Gejdenson, Sotto delivers great live music, hearty fare and classic cocktails to the hip 14th Street crowd. Nightly music is anything from jazz and blues to neo-soul, while cocktails concocted by bartender Daniel Barnes are inspired by the Jazz Age heyday and the corresponding scene in Washington. “The Groover”, for example, mixes gin, pineapple juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano, whilst a “Trolley Car” combines spiced rum, blood orange and bitters. All are so good it’s unlikely you’ll stop at one. Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 87

SPEND REDEEM The polar opposite of a stereotypical American fashion boutique, with an austere interior and a focus on edgy, monochrome clothing in mostly black and neutral tones, Redeem is an independent store specialising in up-and-coming talent and showcasing collections by less commercial designers, including Just Female, Collina Strada, Le Specs and Won Hundred. Preferring to keep things fresh, the owners regularly change the line-up of what is showcased. Geared towards both men and women, stores like Redeem dispel the notion that Washingtonians don’t embrace innovative fashion. On the contrary, the city’s fashionistas are very much on trend when it comes to the hippest designer to wear and the current looks to sport. AMALGAMATED CLASSIC CLOTHING AND DRY GOODS Those of you who thrill at the prospect of uncovering a gently used designer find will fall in love with Amalgamated, where plenty of second-hand treasures await in this vintage mecca which retails men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Operated by Shelley White and partner Gene Elm who’ve have been


dealing in vintage for decades, their well-organised emporium holds everything from swing dresses and vintage denim to fine men’s suits and costume pieces. Everything for sale here is high-quality and well-made in wearable condition and new items are added weekly. So, whether you’re looking for a ’20s drop-waist dress or a ’60s duster coat, you’re likely to find it here. RED BARN MERCANTILE Located just across the Potomac River on King Street in picturesque Old Town Alexandria, and having recently celebrated 10 years in business, Red Barn Mercantile works with local designers to offer something for everyone, and is a veritable one-stop shop if you’re visiting Washington and need to find multiple novel gifts quickly! Retailing everything from handmade furniture and divine linens to scented soaps and candles, cocktail mixers and cookbooks, Red Barn Mercantile also has one of the best stationery selections in the entire D.C. area (including greeting cards, art prints, notebooks, notepads and planners) not to mention a fantastic range of kids’ stuff.



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DRY SALT & SUNDRY This gorgeous urban bohemian home furnishing store is the perfect place to browse for gifts and sells everything from small-batch tonic and barrel-aged maple syrup to handcrafted dining room tables, rugs and textiles. Think candles that smell of blue spruce and spearmint, and bendy stainless-steel straws. With a special focus on tableware, barware, linens and pantry goods, Salt & Sundry has two very well merchandised retail outlets in the capital – in Union Market and Logan Circle – plus an easy-to-navigate online store if you prefer to shop online and have your goodies delivered to your hotel. EASTERN MARKET Nestled in the historic heart of rapidly gentrifying Capitol Hill to the east of the city, Eastern Market is the place to visit to experience Washington’s foodie and craft sights, smells, tastes and sounds all in one place. From farm-fresh produce to handmade crafts and live music, Eastern Market is a must for lovers of fresh, locallysourced food and drink, arts and crafts. Designed to serve as the neighbourhood’s town center, this popular community hub has attracted an eclectic group of shoppers since 1873, when it was originally designed by Adolf Cluss. Though open daily, the market particularly comes alive on the weekends when a farmers’ market and arty pop-up stalls add to the diverse mix. Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 91


Tens of thousands of people marching carnival-like through the streets of Manhattan to celebrate New York’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride festival. 24 June 2018

The Prinsengracht Suite Andaz Amsterdam

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f you have ever wondered how Alice in Wonderland meets the Dutch Golden Age could be interpreted in a contemporary hospitality design aesthetic, then look no further than the wondrous Andaz Amsterdam. Alex Benasuli wanders through the looking glass into the hotel’s indulgent yet fun presidential suite and is somewhat reluctant to re-enter the real world afterwards. When Andaz Amsterdam opened in late 2012 - slap bang in the heart of the city’s fabled canal belt, in a former library on Prinsengracht - the hotel reimagined the contemporary hotel bar with an interior design that evokes fantasy and romance, creatively linking past, present and future in a visual feast that stimulates every sense. In less capable hands the results could have been awful – tacky and ugly, trying too hard and not getting it right. However, in the hands of Marcel Wanders, the globally acclaimed Dutch designer, something magical and show-stopping was created. In Andaz Amsterdam Wanders turned form, function, colour and texture on its head in a truly original yet mind mending style, with enough nods to the past and convention to even keep the traditionalists amongst us happy.

The New York Times once referred to Wanders as the Lady Gaga of the design world and it’s not difficult to see why. There is a flamboyance and theatricality to his vision. He is truly a free spirit, letting his imagination run riot in forging an aesthetic that not only is a visual splendour to behold but also tells an enchanting story. Wanders first gained notoriety in the mid 1990s with his award winning Knotted Chair, constructed of aramid and carbon fibres, knotted into the shape of a chair and then impregnated with epoxy resin and hung in a frame to dry, leaving the final form in the hands of gravity. The chair brought together technology, innovation, lightness and durability in a cutting-edge piece that was both practical and pleasing to look at. Under Dutch design brand Moooi, which Wanders cofounded with Casper Vissers at the turn of the new millennium, and via various high-profile collaborations with the likes of Alessi, Bisazza, Swarovski and Puma, Wanders has been catapulted to the pinnacle of the design world, a perch that he has helped to define. Wanders was the perfect choice of design visionary to conceptualise Hyatt’s ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 97

Amsterdam outpost of its upscale boutique Andaz hotel brand. Andaz strives to bridge the worlds of creativity and luxury. Integrating and re-interpreting local culture through the interiors and artwork is a fundamental component of the Andaz DNA. Open common areas that seamlessly join lounges, restaurants and bars are designed to be reections of the cities and neighbourhoods in which they are situated. In Amsterdam - one of the most cosmopolitan, diverse and libertine cities on the planet, as famous for its highbrow culture and for its lowbrow sin - the incarnation of the Andaz brand is truly extraordinary. At 587 Prinsengracht, housed in the former library building designed forty years earlier and occupying almost an entire block of prime Amsterdam real estate, Wanders has realised a hospitality destination that is exciting and eclectic, indulgent and fun. And some six years after it opened, Andaz Amsterdam continues to hold its own in the city’s hospitality landscape, despite the recent addition of a much-hyped W Hotel and the uber-cool refurbishment of the famed Hotel Pulitzer very close by.

The reason for Andaz Amsterdam’s success (notwithstanding its impeccable central location) is that the hotel possesses all the design and exclusivity credentials of a boutique property, married with the creature comforts of a five-star global brand. Multiple lounging, eating and drinking areas, coupled with 122 guest rooms and suites, a spa and gym, event spaces and even a secret courtyard garden offer a decadent and fun all-round Amsterdam experience. Stepping off the Prinsengracht to enter though the hotel’s main doors, onto a gangplank-like platform, is akin to boarding one of the great maritime vessels that propelled Holland to the pinnacle of global trade. The feeling of being at sea continues in the front facing lounge area, with over-sized windows opening onto picturesque canal vistas. A giant constellation of planetary-inspired sculptural lighting hanging from the ceiling of the lobby area evokes the science and adventure of exploration. Dutch cartographers were the most revered in Europe - their maps powering the ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 99

navigation that helped to discover the New World. In reverence, Wanders has woven astronomical and terrestrial lines in-and-out of furniture, wallpaper and oor coverings throughout the hotel. Giant white ceramic cow bells, containing chandeliers, highlight individual high-top reception and concierge desks. The deconstruction of the famous blue and white Delft pottery style is also a theme that runs throughout and appears on carpets, upholstery and other fittings in forms for which it was not originally intended. This reimagining and incorporating of the traditional in new, contemporary purposes is classic Wanders. Ruby red high-backed tulip armchairs - an ode to this most Dutch of symbols - are another Wanders innovation that oset the blue colour tones and dark wood panelling that is prevalent in the public spaces. Life-sized crown prince sculptural eďŹƒgies - looking a little like court jesters - greet guests by the elevators. Just in case you were wondering which century you were in, a collection of video and digital art is liberally scattered on permanent display

throughout the property. Indeed, the sensory experiences at Andaz Amsterdam are alone worthy of visiting, there literally being something to gaze or wonder at around every corner. For me, the pièce de résistance is the mural spanning the length and height of the building, that can be viewed as guests ride the glassfronted elevator. It is actually bespoke hand-painted wallpaper, that begins with medieval illustrative depictions of hell and devils on the ground floor, becoming heaven and angels towards the roof of the hotel. In between are obvious and subtle references to the most important periods of Dutch history and heritage. Overall the installation is a mesmerising Wanders masterpiece of metaphor, visual imagery and story-telling. Heaven is certainly your destination if you are fortunate enough to be staying in the hotel’s top floor presidential suite. Like a posh Amsterdam apartment, decorated by one of the world’s leading designers (which it is), the Prinsengracht Suite is more than 140 square meters of perfectly proportioned space, liberally adorned with equal measures of elegance, flair and fun. ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 101

Dark herringbone floors, large elegant rooms and an oversized bookcase featuring photos of the Dutch royal family are the suite’s historical backbone, while Wanders’ creative use of materials, colour and funky accent pieces add the just the right amount of flamboyance and amusement. An embroidered sofa sounds formal, but when yellow threads combine to create delicate patterns of human faces the result is quite different. A statement ceramic chandelier hanging above the dining room table - with Delft pottery detailing and golden cherubs on each arc – is truly something to behold. The Delft followthrough to a blue living room carpet, depicting a giant map of the Netherlands, is pure genius. A classic Wanders-designed Alice in Wonderland-inspired metre-high crocheted mushroom lamp, with a dreamy lattice-style design, casts a slightly hallucinatory shadow over the conventional angles of the room. A floor-to-ceiling Dutch Golden Age-style still life painting - replete with wine goblets, a vase full of flowers and a dead pheasant, evocative of abundance,

prosperity and status - marks the beginning of a long hallway leading to the more private parts of the suite. To the right is a master bedroom with sleeping and sitting areas, separated from each other by a television console that swivels to face either the bed of the sofa. An over-sized goldfish-headed golden spoon, painted on to patterned wallpaper behind the bed, is a kaleidoscopic twist to the mostly white décor. Of course, anyone so privileged as to stay in the Prinsengracht Suite would surely have been born with a golden spoon in his or her mouth. To the left is a wall of wardrobes leading to a cavernous master bathroom, whose centrepiece is a huge, futuristic white part space capsule part egg bathtub. Red faucets, one of Wanders signature Delft blue ceramic chandeliers and the continuation of the golden spoon from the bedroom to bathroom add whimsical splashes of technicolour. A state-of-the-art double rain shower room and separate WC occupy one end of the master bathroom suite, while a wall of glass obscured by a retractable sheer curtain separates one side from the other. As if all this wasn’t enough, off the ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 103

main hallway, a pair of double doors reveals a stylish office cum library with all the AV accoutrements to host an intimate high-level board meeting. The icing on the cake of this truly fabulous suite is private outdoor space that runs the entire length of the apartment and can be accessed from the living room as well the bedroom. Fully landscaped and staged, with different seating areas and ambient lighting, this private penthouse garden looks out over Amsterdam’s rooftops and canals below. In mid-summer, when daylight lingers through to late evening, spending time on the suite’s terrace is a really special treat, as is spending time in any part of this super stylish Amsterdam pied-à-terre. The Prinsengracht Suite is, without doubt, the perfect place for a supremely decadent stay in the most decadent of capital cities. Does surreal and imaginative design exist that is both intelligent and luxurious? Can one respect classical forms and tradition yet innovate with fantasy and fun, whilst creating something ground-breaking without sacrificing function and comfort?

Wanders routinely achieves all of this and so much more. He pushes the envelope and takes risks, but not for the sake of shock value or ego. Andaz Amsterdam is Wanders’ love letter to the Dutch capital, and the world within the hotel is a psychedelic reinterpretation of what has made and continues to make the city so great outside its walls. There is passion and romance in every detail. Heart, soul and intellect as well as beauty and imagination are woven into every fibre of the hotel. Visitors to Andaz Amsterdam should be prepared to slide down the rabbit hole into a strange yet novel and wonderful hospitality world. Perhaps we should be referring to Lady Gaga as the Marcel Wanders of the performance art world. Alex Benasuli stayed in the Prinsengracht Suite at Andaz Amsterdam in February 2018. The average nightly rate for the suite June - August 2018 is EUR 2,800 including breakfast and airport transportation.

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The daily much-publicised bull run through the streets of the pretty Spanish town of Pamplona, to celebrate the week of festivities in honour of San Fermín. 6 - 14 July 2018


If the hype is anything to be believed, in a matter of months the first commercial space passenger will have his or her brief “vacation” out of Earth’s atmosphere, more than 100 kilometres above our planet. Sir Richard Branson, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are now in the final stretch to catapult fare paying tourists into space. Whilst it looks likely that Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic – boosted by a recent USD1billion Saudi investment – may be first to cross the finish

line, it seems to be a very tight race between the two front runners, Branson and Bezos. Both billionaires are hell-bent on being the first passenger over the Karman line (an altitude of 100km), which represents the official boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space, and are using their vast fortunes to propel themselves there. Whilst Branson recently said, “Elon is doing fantastically well getting cargo into space, and

he’s building bigger and bigger rockets”, the British tycoon believes that the commercial travel space race is between himself and Bezos, “I think we’re both neck and neck as to who will put people into space first” Sir Richard said. The 67-year-old Virgin boss has every intention of being the first to hitch a ride on his company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle. Having invested heavily in commercial space travel since 2004 when he founded

space tourism company Virgin Galactic, Branson has recently stepped-up his health regime and astronaut training in readiness for his first journey into space. “I’m going for astronaut training; I’m going for fitness training, centrifuge and other training, so that my body will hopefully cope well when I go to space” Branson said recently. As well as G-force training, which simulates the experience of lift-off and travel through Earth’s atmosphere, the Virgin founder is also taking part in gruelling centrifuge ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 111

training, which recreates the various pressures the human body experiences during spaceflight. Branson believes that the fitter you are the more you will enjoy a commercial spaceflight experience, which is great if you have time to play tennis four times a day (like him), but this is unlikely to be the case for most of the 700+ passengers who have put down substantial deposits to be one of the first into space aboard a commercial Virgin Galactic craft. Reports suggest that a number of celebrities including Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks

and Paris Hilton have each paid USD200,000 per person up-front. The price of a ticket was raised to USD250,000 five years ago. No doubt it will go up again once the programme is eventually underway. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo craft will carry six passengers and two pilots up past 328,000 feet altitude (100km), which is the point where astronaut wings are awarded. To get there, SpaceShipTwo will be carried to 50,000 feet altitude (15.5km) by

its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane. After separating, SpaceShipTwo will fire its rocket engine for 70 seconds to accelerate to 2,500 mph (4,000km/h). At this point passengers will be travelling at three and a half times the speed of sound. To put this into some sort of perspective, the maximum speed of an Airbus A380 passenger jet is 1,020km/h. When SpaceShipTwo reaches its highest altitude – 361,000 feet (110km) – passengers will experience five minutes of weightlessness. SpaceShipTwo’s variable-geometry rudders will be configured in “feathered” mode for re-entry into the Earth’s

atmosphere to increase drag and reduce heating from friction. At 70,000 feet (22.9km) the rudders will be de-feathered into a gliding configuration, enabling the craft to land on a conventional runway. Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic completed the first successful powered supersonic test flight of its newest SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Unity, following the 2014 break-up of its previous craft VSS Enterprise over the Californian desert in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other. Whilst the crash of VSS

Enterprise was a massive setback – delaying the program by many years until a new craft could be built – Branson is confident that Virgin Galactic is back on track and it won’t be long now before it is putting people into space ( Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently became the world’s richest man, with an accumulated net worth of USD105 billion, so appears to have more resources than Branson to fund his space program, Blue Origin, which is currently Bezos’ top financial priority. “The only way that I can see (me) deploying this much

financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” Bezos said recently. Currently funding Blue Origin to the tune of USD1billion of Amazon stock per year, Bezos intends to continue spending his staggering amount of personal wealth on funding his space program indefinitely. As opposed to Virgin Galactic Blue Origin is entirely privately funded, has been less public about its offering, and not announced ticket prices yet.

Just a couple of months ago, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard 2.0 space capsule to an altitude of almost 66 miles (107km), which was slightly higher than the company’s typical target of 62 miles (100km). Designed to fly six passengers on suborbital space tourism flights (trips that reach space but don’t orbit Earth) New Shepard 2.0 can also carry commercial payloads and experiments. The 530 cubic feet capsule has room for six paying passengers, with large windows to give occupants wide views of Earth from space, and “is large enough for you to float freely and turn weightless somersaults” Bezos’ company says.

The capsule is carried over 100 kilometres above Earth on a rocket, from which it then detaches. “As the main engine cuts off, your capsule will separate from its booster and perfect stillness will surround you. You’ll release your harness and experience the freedom of weightlessness,” Blue Origin says. The capsule will land back onto earth slowed by parachutes, and can be re-used up to 100 times, according to Blue Origin. Two days before their flight, space tourists will travel to Blue Origin’s ► suborbital launch facility Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 113

located in West Texas, to go through safety training, mission simulation and receive instructions on how to move in the weightless environment of space ( A sun-bleached stretch of the New Mexico desert, known as the Jornada del Muerto (the journey of the dead man), is an unlikely location for Earth’s first portal dedicated to commercial space exploration. Yet this barren location is where you’ll find the gorgeous USD200million Spaceport America, based on Foster + Partners’ stunning stateof-the-art design, which was conceptualised in close collaboration with Richard Branson. It really is a strikingly good-looking building – straight off the pages of Wallpaper*. There’s a two-mile long, three-and-a-half-foot deep concrete runway that continues into the distance as far as the eye can see. The futuristic Space Operations Center has acoustic tiling to prevent echoing. And there are multiple vast hangers designed specifically to accommodate Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier planes and SpaceShipTwo craft. But barring a few security personnel and ground staff, the first ever facility custom built as a hub for leisure travel to outer space is completely empty. You can literally hear a pin drop. This is because Spaceport America’s main tenant – Virgin Galactic – hasn’t taken up residence yet. When Branson’s team of more than 300 engineers, technicians and mission controllers will move from Mojave Air and Space Port in California to Spaceport America nobody knows, least of all the small New Mexico cities banking on its future. Given the Mexican state’s large and controversial investment in Spaceport America, its success or failure may well have a broad impact on the future of commercial space travel ( Space exploration has indeed come a very long way since Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, on 20th July 1969. Almost half a century later, the 700 or so passengers who have paid hundreds of thousands of Dollars for their Virgin Galactic space experience must be hoping that it will soon to be their turn next, and that the whole thing isn’t just pie in the sky.


Jockeys have a serious job staying aboard their unpredictable and stubborn camels at these annual races held in Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory. 14 July 2018

No Shoes Required at


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25-minutes off the coast of mainland Qatar, in the of the Arabian Gulf, lies an idyllic private paradise departure from the country’s capital. Nicholas Chr crossing from Doha to Banana Island for a thoroug luxury experience in one of the Middle East’s few o

e warm waters that’s a complete risostomou makes the ghly unique barefoot overwater villas.

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irst-time visitors to Doha, the capital of supposedly the world’s richest country, would be forgiven for thinking the city to be a little detached and aloof. For while its regional metropolitan peers have a clear semblance of what they are all about (just take one look at Dubai – positively oozing glitz, glamour and wealth and heading with vigour to its 2020 expo), the Qatari capital is, to some extent, still searching for its footing as both a credible tourist destination and a respected international power. Some would say that it hasn’t entirely succeeded in achieving either to date.

Since a June 2017 blockade and trade embargo against the tiny Gulf state was imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, U.A.E and Egypt, which accused it of supporting terrorism and hence severed diplomatic and transport ties, Qatar has been attempting to carve out a regional identity amidst a geopolitical climate that remains tense. Qatar, which used to have many of its imports trans-shipped from the U.A.E. and received the bulk of its fresh food across the Saudi border, vehemently denies the accusations made against it. But while its solitary land border with Saudi remains closed (one year on), Qatar remains isolated and is, for all intents and purposes, currently

an island-state at loggerheads with its neighbours. Despite the blockade, there is enough to keep cultured travellers occupied for a couple of days in Doha. Wander through Souq Waqif and you’d be fooled into thinking that you’re in the middle of an authentic Arabic bazaar, complete with a riot of sounds, sights, smells and even camels. Whilst the souq is not original it is indeed an atmospheric place to spend an evening. For those with an arty lean, the city’s iconic I.M. Peidesigned Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) stands slapbang across the street from the souq, located at one end of Doha’s graceful seven-kilometre waterfront corniche. Like something straight out of one of Europe’s

great cities of art, the MIA is a beautifully-designed, fastidiously-executed and lovingly maintained piece of modern architecture. Sitting on its own island close to the traditional dhow harbour, the MIA is currently Doha’s greatest artistic magnet – though the stunning, new soon-to-be-completed Jean Nouvel-designed Qatar National Museum, slated to open at the end of this year just down the road, which takes the tumbling shape of a desert rose, is likely to steal its cultural crown. Meanwhile, at Katara Cultural Village, the city’s planners have cleverly executed a snapshot of Qatari life, interspersed with Arabic history and a touch of ancient Rome. ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 123

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup looming, hospitality expansion and development continue at warp speed, although, with few exceptions, the city falls somewhat short when it comes to premium hospitality, since most of Doha’s five-star hotels lack personality and European service standards. And it has to be said that were it not for Banana Island, visiting Doha would really only be worthy of a 48-hour stopover. Banana Island by Anantara is unlike anything else on offer in Qatar. The prospect of spending time on the island is alone worthy of visiting Doha. Yes, it really is that special. OK, it’s a dry island, but alcohol isn’t

everything, and the absence of tipsy holidaymakers makes for a pleasant and welcome change, also adding to the feeling of being on a remote, idyllic paradise. There are eight restaurants, three pools, a stunning natural beach (yes, natural) and 141 villas, rooms and suites scattered along the 13-hectare 2-kilometre island, including the Middle East’s first overwater villas. On my visit to Banana Island it was apparently running at full occupancy but felt almost deserted. This is the beauty of the place and why it has proved to be so popular, especially with the locals.

Since Banana Island opened in 2015, Qataris have eagerly made the 11-kilometre crossing from the mainland like it’s the most exciting thing ever to have ever happened to the nation’s hospitality and entertainment scene. To a great extent, it is. Two years down the line, Banana Island’s room rates are some of the highest in Qatar, and the demand for its villas is so great (especially at weekends), that at one stage a limit had to be placed on the length of time guests could stay. When they couldn’t buy them outright, sheikhs tried to book the villas for six months at a time. Once you have stayed in one of the island’s overwater villas you will understand what all the fuss is about.

Visiting Banana Island begins with a 25-minute ride aboard one of the resort’s fleet of twelve luxury catamarans, which run every hour 24/7 from Al Shyoukh Terminal, located in the city’s downtown area. The terminal has a VIP lounge for overwater villa guests. Or you can take a 10-minute private helicopter ride from Hamad International Airport directly to the resort and completely bypass Doha. Banana Island is home to the Arabian Gulf’s own unique interpretation of overwater extravagance – namely eleven Maldivian-inspired bungalows with a twist. Clustered at one end of the island in their ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 125

own enclave, with one way in and one way out of the exclusive complex, and their own 24-hour security and private jetty for direct speedboat access, the two and three-bedroom villas (beginning at 200sqm) are overly spacious, accented with ornate contemporaryArabian design and equipped with every modern-day convenience imaginable. Each has its own 62-squaremetre cantilevered private swimming pool and selfcontained en-suite staff accommodation detached from the villa. The lounge, dining area, terraces and outdoor decks combine to create one sprawling indoor-outdoor living and relaxation space, complete with huge day beds and both al fresco and inside dining areas. I

have to say that I rattled around somewhat in my capacious and luxurious lodgings, although I much enjoyed the warm space. Two or three master bedroom suites per villa boast vaulted ceilings, walls of foldback floor-to-ceiling glass doors and massive bathrooms. Bose sound systems and huge screens in every room more than take care of guests’ AV needs. Linked to each other and the island via wooden boardwalks barely wide enough to accommodate buggies, I was more than happy to leave my shoes behind in the villa and stroll barefoot to get something to eat - the warm wood underfoot and fine sand ►



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between my toes a tonic to being in dusty soulless Doha, and instilling in me a carefree holiday spirit. Some days I jogged the 1.5km to the well-equipped yet deserted gym. The walk back was the perfect warm-down. If truth be known I’ve never been one to spend hours in a spa, switch-off and forget about the world. On the contrary, a 60-minute treatment is usually about it for me. Any longer and I get twitchy and tire of the attention. But this wasn’t the case on Banana Island. Literally like someone had flicked a holiday switch in me, I was game for pretty-much anything relaxation-

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related, and started each day with a one-on-one 8am yoga session on the terrace of my villa with the delightful Dana. Perfectly setting me up every morning, my days were then spent in the gym, spa, resting in my room, feasting on delicious food, catching some rays on the beach, swimming in the glassy turquoise waters or ambling barefoot along the sand, picking up shells. Yes, me, collecting shells. What I was going to do with them all I had no idea at the time, but it felt like the apt thing to do on Banana Island and I enjoyed every minute. Because the bulk of Banana Island’s guests are locals and the dress code for Qatari women is generally a

full abaya, the resort’s sweeping 800-metre-long private beach was virtually empty every day of my stay. I encountered maybe half a dozen expats. Almost certainly one of the best beaches in the Middle East, the serene waters ever-so-gently lapped the crescentshaped shoreline and tiny fish darted in-and-out of small rocks while uniformed beach boys periodically delivered chilled water to my sun lounger. I couldn’t have wanted for more – the scene was perfect. From unique cultural traditions to stunning natural beauty, the Anantara brand strives to provide its patrons with unforgettable holidays in unique locations,

drawing strength from rich local cultural traditions and the natural beauty of each destination to deliver a special experience. Anantara achieves all this and much more on Banana Island, providing guests with an indulgent Middle Eastern barefoot luxury experience in inimitable surroundings, complete with superb service, attention to detail and excellent food, with the island’s peaceful booze-free environment contributing a different yet welcome perspective to the overall experience. Don’t visit Doha but do visit Banana Island – it’s like nowhere else in the Middle East.


Every year 30,000 people gather in the Valencian town of BuĂąol to throw more than 100 tons of overripe Spanish tomatoes at each other until everyone is soaked through! 29 August 2018


Perched on a granite hill, with stunning 360-degree views of the Rajasthani landscape, CAROLYN MCKAY visits a remarkable 230-year-old warrior fortress of towering turrets and arched windows, which has been lovingly transformed into an utterly unique luxury boutique hotel



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or too long thought of as a backpacker destination, in recent years India has seen a tremendous growth in tourism and emerged as a destination for the more discerning traveller. With a renewed awareness of gracious hospitality and a focus on thoughtful design, a diverse range of upscale accommodation is attracting a wave of upwardly mobile visitors to this vast and diverse nation seeking a more cultural vacation experience. In the north west of the country, Rajasthan is India’s largest state and has a supremely proud and independent history. It maintained its autonomy during the era of the British Raj, only becoming a state of independent India in 1948. Known for its warfare and chivalry during Rajput and Mughal times, Rajasthan is attracting more travellers relishing the opportunity to explore a part of India that was once known as the land of kings and ruled by a variety of clans. All masterpieces of architecture influenced by Moghul and Rajput empires, some of the most spectacular forts and stunning palaces are situated across the famed Aravalli Mountain range, which stretches for around 300 miles from the northeast to the southwest, starting in Rajasthan and extending all the way to Delhi. Once towering forces of protection between fiercely strong and independent kingdoms, many of these forts and palaces still dot the landscape today, in varying states of majesty and decay. Some are now guarded by legions of monkeys and open to visitors, whilst others have sadly fallen into dreadful disrepair. Descended from Raja Shekhaji, the Manoharpur Shahpura family was one of the most prominent of Jaipur’s royal clans. Fierce and independent in their defence of the royal family, in the late 1700s the family’s knights used its spoils from previous battles to build Bishangarh Fort about 70km from Jaipur. Completed 230 years ago, purely to be the first line of defence against a possible Moghul invasion, ultimately the fort did not see a battle and subsequently fell into rack and ruin. During the 1970s, as the political and cultural landscape of Rajasthan changed, members of the remaining royal families moved into business and politics. As a result, a number of former palaces throughout Rajasthan were converted into stylish accommodation in order to provide sources of income. But it is highly unusual for a fort to be converted, not least due to the colossal amount of work involved. To date, Bishangarh is the only Indian warrior fort to have been transformed into a hotel. ►

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As my taxi left the Jaipur-Delhi highway, nothing prepared me for my first view of Bishangarh Fort. The sight is quite literally breathtaking. Perched atop a rocky hill, the ochrecoloured edifice is at once imposing and stark, whilst at the same time possessing a distinctive beauty in the midst of the harsh and unforgiving Rajasthani landscape. Overlooking Bishangarh Village and commanding 360-degree views of its surroundings, one can easily understand why the fort’s location was chosen. It took an intensive seven-year restoration of the abandoned and dilapidated ruin to sympathetically transform the fort whilst maintaining its architectural and cultural integrity. The result is a simply stunning hospitality haven, offering every conceivable 21st century convenience to meet the needs of today’s discerning travellers. 136 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

Alila properties are characterised by their refreshing design, elegant feel and personal service in unique locations. Whilst Alila means ‘surprise’ in Sanskrit and ultimately describes the character of all the brand’s hotels, the word couldn’t be more apt of Alila Fort Bishangarh. On arrival, one is somewhat overcome by a heady mix of wonder and intrigue, together with an uncertainty of what may be around the corner. A distinct sense of adventure, interspersed with a multitude of delightful moments, happily punctuated my Bishangarh experience and set it apart from any other hotel stay right from the get go. Upon checking-in, guests are welcomed into a large, traditional open-sided tent and immediately made to feel part of the fort’s revered community. The imposing lower arrival area of the property - with its inviting pool,

terraces, mansion-like haveli, lush green lawns and organic kitchen garden - is not only the perfect place for a spot of morning yoga, but also provides stunning views up towards the main fort. The gym and Teen Soldiers Play Club are also located here. Roofless jeeps on call 24/7 ferry guests up and down the driveway. Cold towels and fresh juices provide welcome refreshment in the heat of the day while I meet my host and discuss plans. Attention to detail and tailored itineraries are hallmarks of pretty much every stay at Alila Fort Bishangarh, and each staff member I meet goes above and beyond to make me feel at ease. Each of the fort’s 59 rooms and suites - in four categories of Heritage, Royal, Grand and Regal - faces outward and

has its own distinctive character. Linked by dimly lit atmospheric corridors scattered with large antiques, all are located in the main fort and obviously no two are the same. An oversized wooden door gives way to my surprisingly light and airy lodgings, decorated in a simple yet elegant style that is both luxurious and welcoming. The furniture is bespoke and fashioned from dark wood. Cool white marble floors are laid with hand-woven rugs. Carefully placed artefacts and handmade soft furnishings provide interesting twists and colourful accents. A comfy armchair sits invitingly by an oversized bed immaculately dressed in crisp white linen. A huge TV screen is concealed by a cupboard rather than dominate the tasteful verging-onminimal space. Common to all rooms is a window seat, filled with pillows, providing a cosy nook in which to recline or read whilst taking-in the incredible, ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 137

sweeping views as well as village life below. At sunset the whole world outside the fort turns an incredible shade of pink, and there’s nowhere better to enjoy this from than the privacy and comfort of your very own window seat. Oversized bathrooms feature massive deep soaking tubs (plenty big enough for at least two people) together with a walk-in rain shower, his and hers sinks and acres of space for toiletries. A separate dressing and wardrobe area completes the suite-like layout of even the entry-level rooms. Fit for a maharaja, the fort’s Regal suites are almost 100sqm of luxurious yet restrained decadence, complete with a circular bath akin to a small pool and enough space to host a cocktail party. Located on different levels within the main fort’s seven-

foot thick walls - which still retain their openings for cannons and guns - are a cluster of different dining options to satiate the appetite of even the most refined gourmand. All presided over by executive chef Nishesh Mani Tripathi, whose well-considered Indian-focused menus are clearly touched by a number of international influences, dishes are based on seasonally available locally-sourced ingredients and accompanied by home-grown produce. Be it a Mediterranean lunch in the haveli, an atmospheric dinner in Amarsar or supper under the stars at Nazaara, everything served within the confines of the fort is tasty, wholesome and presented with flair. Tripathi’s specialities particularly, inspired by the Silk Route, are a culinary delight. Irrespective, whichever onsite restaurant is chosen, every guest staying at Alila Fort Bishangarh

eats splendidly well on food veritably fit for a king. Carved out of granite in the old dungeon of the fort, Spa Alila provides a soothing environment in which to be indulged and rejuvenated. A range of treatments can be personalised to ease away worries and troubles from the modern world, and bring one’s mind and body into equilibrium. For those who wish to get better acquainted with the locale, the fort offers a range of curated Alila experiences ranging from a cookery class, temple visit or camel ride through the village, to lunch with a local family in a 100-year old haveli or a romantic sunset balloon ride. By offering these experiences to guests and involving the local people, not only is the fort consciously working to preserve local traditions, but it is also putting back

into the community and sustaining the environment. There can be few better places in all of India to be immersed in the nation’s fascinating history than from beneath an original Tudor-style ogee arch, looking out through the immense walls of a centuries-old fort across the Rajasthani landscape. That Bishangarh Fort’s historic past has been so beautifully woven into the present, encompassing architectural influences from the British and Mughal eras, is testament to the incredible transformation of this unique property, the results of which will undoubtedly see the fort welcoming visitors for hundreds more years to come.




hen visiting Miami and able to choose anywhere to stay, these days I almost always plump for Brickell over the beach. I completely understand why tourists visiting Florida’s party capital head directly to South Beach – micro bikinis, strappy sandals and tanning oil in hand. SoBe is undoubtedly Miami’s trendiest district, and is lashed with enough sun, sea, music and nightlife to keep even a partying pro entertained for days, if not weeks. But, as any seasoned Miamian will tell you, the beach can get a little overwhelming at times, not least due to the sheer number of tourists or incoming festival goers crowded onto Miami’s sands. And whilst fashionled and art-centric Design District and Wynwood are uber-cool (especially the latter), sadly there aren’t yet any great places to stay in these neighbourhoods. Nestled between Coral Gables and Miami Beach and just a quick drive north of the Design District and Wynwood, the construction of a massive new mixeduse complex of luxury condominium towers, premium office buildings, a five-star hotel and a sprawling open-air shopping centre has transformed Miami’s urban core from a dullish banking ghetto into a vibrant living, working, shopping and dining hive. In the past few years, this gleaming new neighbourhood has shone the light on the city’s downtown heart, and somewhat stolen the show from Miami’s beaches when it comes to shopping, culture and eating-out. At the centre of Miami’s new downtown heart is the billion Dollar Brickell City Centre complex, covering more than five million square feet. The project was conceived and designed to re-imagine the central business district, elevate the downtown Miami pedestrian experience and breathe new life into this previously uneventful neighbourhood. It has achieved all this and much more. Compared to seven or eight years ago, Brickell is now virtually unrecognisable. Not least, the entire area is now positively overflowing with social electricity. And in light of developer Swire Group’s proven track record of success – both Stateside and in the parent company’s Hong Kong home – the odds are very much in Brickell’s long-term favour. Outwardly Brickell might seem a tad sleepier than other downtown areas (and its residents would probably like to keep it that way), but Miami’s new city centre is actually home to a hugely vibrant cultural and restaurant scene, with more venues opening regularly to fuel. ►

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the growing demand of an increasing number of residents moving into their swanky new apartments. Whilst the neighbourhood’s original condo buildings have long lined the water, during the past decade, more and more residential skyscrapers have sprung-up a little inland. The first was Reach – a deluxe 43-storeycondo building of almost 400 units. This was soon followed by a second residential tower of the same size: Rise. A massive upscale office building was finished shortly after. In recent years the construction and unveiling of swanky new living accommodation and business premises has showed little sign of slowing-down. Of course, as Brickell’s resident numbers have swelled, so the area’s culinary and entertainment offerings have morphed along with them. Residents of Reach and Rise need only head downstairs

to be in the middle of a sprawling new half-million sq. ft. multi-level entertainment and retail area, spread over four levels. Anchored by a massive Saks Fifth Avenue and a VIP CMX cinema, this complex is very much the heart of new-look Brickell, from which everything else branches off ( Here, high-street and designer shopping, upscale food halls and world-class dining are interconnected over three city blocks and linked to the city’s main transportation network by Metromover. A 4.4-mile electrically-powered fully automated people mover system, Metromover is free to use and operates seven-days-a-week from 5am until midnight. In a city which is often log-jammed, the Metromover is a god-send for people who need to be whisked around Brickell and its surrounding areas. Pretty much all of Brickell City Centre has been designed

by Miami-based architecture, interior design and planning firm, Arquitectonica, founded in 1977 and winner of more than 200 awards for its iconic projects. Unifying the new shopping and entertainment heart of Brickell with adjacent city blocks, via platforms that allow pedestrians to stroll from one building to the next without crossing a street, is all Arquitectonica’s doing. Above all of it is a world first USD30million “climate ribbon” covering the shopping centre’s open concourses. This 150,000 sq. ft. undulating canopy of insulating glass and steel was created via a collaboration between a Paris-based design firm and the universities of CarnegieMellon in Pittsburgh (U.S.A.) and Cardiff in the U.K. Not only is the wonderfully artistic structure a passive cooling system that offers shade for pedestrian shoppers, but it also collects and stores rainwater that is re-used to

irrigate Brickell City Centre’s green rooftops. The structure also doubles as an eye-catching architectural installation. Without this unique assembly – suspended above the open-air space – the retail element of the complex would feel just like another mall, which Arquitectonica obviously didn’t want. With the “climate ribbon” hovering above the center of Brickell, the space feels instinctively Miami esque and anchored in the middle of the city. lap bang in the middle of all this exciting metropolitan development is upscale 352-room multi awardwinning hotel EAST. With its calming, contemporarystyled interior – accented with Asian influences carefully arranged by a feng shui master – EAST introduced a new style of lodgings into the Miami hospitality mix when it opened two years ago. ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 145




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In a city where so many of the resorts are overtly showy, and one can often worry about what to wear just to cross a hotel lobby, EAST is aimed at unconventional travellers looking for a fun and relaxed place to stay. As such, EAST doesn’t take itself too seriously, with street-level staff attired in shorts, polo shirts and sneakers, setting the laid-back tone as guests checkin. The views from EAST’s guest rooms towards Fisher Island, and south toward Brickell’s financial district, are nigh-on spectacular ( EAST is Swire Hotels’ first venture in North America, following the openings of similarly branded properties in Hong Kong and Beijing. Unlike most hotels where top floors are reserved for pricey suites, EAST Miami features meeting spaces, lounges and restaurants on high floors

so more people get to enjoy the killer views. Fine dining and drinking options abound within the hotel, including rooftop oasis Sugar (undoubtedly one of Brickell’s best bars) which serves an array of hand-crafted libations and Asian-inspired tapas. Here, lights twinkle, oversized chairs beg to be sat in and Brickell’s dazzling urban landscape sprawls out below ( Also on the top floor of EAST, is contemporary 359-seat Uruguayan restaurant and bar Quinto La Huella, which was brought to Miami by the creators of Uruguay’s famed beachside eatery, Parador La Huella. Very much the Miami incarnation of its globally-acclaimed José Ignacio sister, Quinto La Huella serves a meat-heavy menu of charcoal-grilled and wood-fired fare, in a raw wood and tanned leather-clad dining room and

terraces, accented by rough pottery and orange lamps. Whilst the food and service are superb throughout Quinto La Huella, the best place to eat is the restaurant’s grill room, where a dozen or so high seats are set around a stunning bar fashioned from a single tree trunk. Be sure to book well in advance ( There are dozens of cool places to taste superb food and sip delectable cocktails in Brickell. The aforementioned Quinto La Huella at EAST is a must, as are Italian Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz at SLS Brickell, and Zuma Miami, situated in a cavernous beautifully-designed waterfront space at Epic hotel. Zuma chef-owner Rainer Becker’s internationally-acclaimed style of modern Japanese cuisine is as popular in Miami as it is around the world,

so be sure to make reservations. For a more flamboyant affair, book a table at El Tucán, a Latin-American restaurant with a nightly Cuban-inspired cabaret show. A visit to El Tucán is always a lot of colourful fun. Round off a night out in Brickell at Sugar. Or, if you’re well connected, the secret speakeasy-styled bar on the top floor of EAST, which is invitation-only and hidden behind a concealed door. It’s so secret that it doesn’t have a name and you will be escorted in, but once inside you’ll be surrounded by one hundred or so of Miami’s coolest creatures, all gently swaying to the funky beats. Because, whether downtown in Brickell or on the sands of South Beach, there’s no getting away from the fact that Miami is Florida’s most happening city.



Daw Europe

wn Gibson dines on opulent Rajasthani cuisine with a ean twist at a playful new restaurant in South London Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 151

It’s Friday evening in London and we are sitting snugly in the sumptuous surrounds of a semi-circular burnt orange banquette, sipping tropicallyhued cocktails. I am savouring a Dhaniya - a pale green muddle of Tanqueray Gin, coriander, cucumber and lemon. The drink is smooth and strong. Behind us is a colourful mural of richly-attired Indian figures, some in howdahs atop elephants, marching in procession towards the bar. In front of us is a scattering of lavishly carved wooden tables and chairs, the latter featuring jungle animals as armrests. Meanwhile, the opposite wall is flanked with glass-fronted cabinets showcasing jewellery and ornaments for sale – chunky statement necklaces, a padlock shaped like a turtle, and, of course, elephant sculptures. From the moment you walk in past the two-ton life-size bronze elephant, it’s blindingly apparent that more is more at the new London outpost of Chokhi Dhani. The massive elephant is in fact just one of numerous bespoke artworks adorning the establishment, all fashioned by renowned Indian artisans. Situated in south London, in a rapidly gentrifying although once off-limits part of Battersea (the new US Embassy is close-by), Chokhi Dhani is the first overseas venture for an Indian hospitality icon. Founder Gul Vaswani opened the original Chokhi Dhani near Jaipur in 1990 as a celebration of Rajasthani cuisine and culture. Whilst it has expanded to include a five-star resort and event park, five more Chokhi Dhani restaurants have since opened across India, all garnering much acclaim. The London restaurant is the concept of Gul’s daughter, chef, hotelier and entrepreneur Kriti Vaswani. Obviously mindful of the number of Indian brands opening restaurants in London recently, Kriti has put together an impressive team: head chef Vishnu Natarajan, previously at Soho’s renowned ► 152 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018


Centrale Restaurant-Bar, opened in August 2001 in an early 20th century traditional house, after two years of renovation. The restaurant is located on the ground floor with an impressive wine cellar containing more than 1500 bottles, Centrale serves French cuisine prepared by French Chef Mickael Gantner. The menu changes in spring and autumn to take advantage of seasonal produce. The garden welcomes you throughout the year, surrounded by gardenias and honeysuckle, air-conditioned in summer, heated and covered in winter. On the first floor is the bar with its retractable roof, for a drink or dinner with lounge music and a different DJ every night. Centrale Restaurant-Bar is open 7 days/week starting 8 pm. Address: Mar Maroun Street – Saifi – Beirut – Lebanon Centrale Beirut

For reservation: 915925 3 961+ Centralebeirut

Website: Email:


01273 673 891





Carom; sous chef and Rajasthani cuisine expert Bhagwan Singh; and general manager Dan Jelensek, whose high-profile roles have included managing London’s Michelinstarred Vineet Bhatia. Chokhi Dhani’s recent April launch, attended by singer-songwriter Pixie Lott, rapper Professor Green and radio personality Roman Kemp, further underlined its fashionable credentials. The playful street-level lounge and bar is more than a touch eccentric. Inventive and delicious cocktails, featuring ingredients like masala tea, betel leaf and mango purée, are accompanied by a trendy Indian street food menu. Think chicken lollipop pakoras, veggie samosas, ragada patties and the like. In line with Chokhi Dhani’s ethos of promoting Indian culture, there are regular appearances by traditional dancers, palmists and henna artists. On Thursdays and Fridays one can catch Magic Junior – a smooth talking ‘mind reader’ and illusionist who has performed for the Beckhams and Robbie Williams. If it all sounds a bit gimmicky, it is, but this is just the lounge vibe – the serious business of eating is the focus of the restaurant upstairs. We are taken there by Alexa, an elegant young lady who seats us at a window table overlooking house boats bobbing on the Thames. Do request one of these tables – the view is not exceptional but very pleasant, especially on a long summer’s evening. Alexa leaves us to consider the menu, which combines the richness of Rajasthan’s traditional royal cuisine with European embellishments, in the company of Romano and Ellanie who are friendly and helpful without being annoyingly ever present. While the menu is Rajasthani themed, dishes from other parts of the subcontinent also feature, together with techniques and ingredients borrowed from French kitchens. Amongst them, foie gras with chilli, tamarind and pumpkin, and a venison biryani. Everything is reasonably priced by London standards, with most mains coming in at GBP15 - GBP20. We start with Gosht Champien – a dish of tender Cornish lamb cutlets with betel leaves, ginger, clove and cardamom – accompanied by the more adventurous Shuturmurgh Tikka of ostrich with black ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 155

pepper, yoghurt and mace. The latter proves to be the stand-out dish of the night - every intensely flavoursome bite-sized morsel perfectly paired with a tangy mango sauce. The must-have main course is the thali – either vegetarian (Maharani) or meat (Maharaja). We opt for the Maharaja – a groaning wheel of small portions of variously prepared chicken, lamb and fish, dhal, breads and rice. A reasonably generous chunk of sea bass is sweet and scrumptious, and I particularly enjoy the creamy, comforting millet and yoghurt soup. The Safeed Maas (slow braised yoghurt lamb) is delightful, but it would have been nice to have been substituted, since this was also ordered as a main. My only real quibble is that some elements of the thali meant to be served hot, while delicious, were lukewarm. It is a teething problem that the restaurant will no doubt rectify swiftly. Given that Rajasthanis are known for their love of all things sweet, we simply had to sample the chef’s dessert selection. The artfully arranged indulgent treats were a perfect symphony of Indian and European flavours – the mango panna cotta with cardamom being the clear favourite, although the delicate rose crème brûlée with honeycomb was a fierce contender. After coffee we roll into the night, content to have experienced a memorable and highly enjoyable evening. While there were a few wrinkles, and the Nine Elms location will be new territory for many cultured travellers, Chokhi Dhani has the potential to become a much soughtout venue. The combination of friendly and polite service, exuberant décor and inventive cuisine should ensure that this spicy Indian newcomer enjoys a warm British welcome. Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 157




Ashlee Starratt dons an apron and grabs some crab crackers to find out what makes the nation’s most famous eatery the ultimate celebration of Sri Lankan seafood


The Indian Ocean has rushed forth to spill its bounty on the shores of Ceylon for long millennia; offerings such as sprats, cuttlefish, prawn, and lobster the backbone of maritime offerings that find their way from net to table. But venture further inland, to the mangrove pools and fecund lagoons that punctuate the island of Sri Lanka, and you’ll find the elusive species that holds pride of place – Scylla serrata, the Sri Lankan mud crab. In a nation replete with natural resources, to think that its most prized delicacy has practically become a scarcity on the island is met with raised eyebrows. But the staggering reality is that the bulk of catches of these succulent crustaceans are exported abroad to satiate the appetites of Singapore – sometimes up to a half tonne per day. That being said, if there’s one thing that the Sri Lankan spirit is renowned for – it’s resilience. In the aftermath of the country’s 26-year civil war which began in 1983 and ended in 2009, the nation has jockeyed to find its centre once again in an attempt towards a fragile new unity – from the reclaiming of ancestral lands, to a resurgence of culinary tradition. At the forefront of this movement of reclamation, is chef Darshan Munidasa and Ministry of Crab – one of the only restaurants on the island nation dedicated to


the celebration of Sri Lankan mud crab, and heroes the island’s seafood tradition. Culinary craftsman and storyteller, Munidasa brings Sri Lanka’s culinary tale to the plate at this award-winning restaurant, which he opened in 2011 with cricketing legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Repeatedly name-checked as one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Ministry of Crab ranked 29th on the 2017 list, alongside Munidasa’s flagship Japanese restaurant Nihonbashi, which came in at number 49. Situated in the capital’s historic Old Dutch Hospital district - one of the oldest buildings in Colombo Fort - Ministry of Crab’s location dates back to 1677 and the Dutch colonial era. What was once the home of Colombo’s old apothecaries, the area was a hub for the Dutch East India Company and a stone’s throw from the harbour teeming with ships and heaving with trade. Today it has gone through somewhat of a gentrification. While the original structure remains, once where seafarers and villagers trod among its cobbles, its open-air courtyards and alley-ways now swell with eclectic shops and restaurants, street music, art exhibitions and rooftop bars, that draw both tourists and Colombo’s upscale socialites alike.


With a prime location in the main, central courtyard of the Old Dutch Hospital, Ministry of Crab is packed with throngs of devotees at any given time of day, claw crackers in hand and decked out in ‘Keep Calm and Crab On’ aprons. The restaurant offers nine sittings every day just to accommodate the rush. Needless to say, reservations are an absolute must. Despite its numerous accolades, Ministry of Crab remains unpretentious at its core. The focus is on simplicity and quality of local ingredients – namely its hero crustaceans. For the uninitiated, expect to get messy. Very, very messy. But that’s part and parcel of a Ministry of Crab experience. A “jumbo” crab starts at just over a kilo, whilst the largest on the menu – a “Crabzilla” – weighs-in at 2kg and above. The restaurant’s ethos is based on freshness, quality and sustainability. Only the best catch of the day is served – always fresh, never frozen – and Ministry of Crab prides itself on being one of the lowest ‘food-mile’ restaurants in the world, in terms of distance from net to table. The interior of the space reflects a rustic warmth that honours the heritage of the building in which it resides. A bar that would be at home in any seafaring speak-easy anchors the space at one end, while the

open-plan central kitchen and crab holding tanks dominate the other, with additional outdoor seating spilling out into the stone courtyard for al fresco diners. These are especially choice spots to roost in the evenings and bask in the streetscape bustle over a half-kilo of the restaurant’s signature Chilli Crab. Without a doubt the dish that put Sri Lanka in the spotlight when it comes to satiating the appetites of South Asia, Ministry of Crab’s chilli variety is not to be passed up. Using a calefaction of Sri Lankan chilli varieties, its rich depth of flavour will send a lusciously fiery tingle across your tongue that’s nothing less than moreish. Alternatively tuck into some Garlic Chilli Crab for an unctuous blend of Japanese and Mediterranean sensibilities that hit the palate with every morsel thanks to the liberal use of olive oil and Japanese soy sauce, that marry perfectly with lashings of fresh garlic and Sri Lankan chilli flakes. For newcomers, there’s nothing quite like seeing your order making its way towards your table, legs and claws akimbo. Some tips to keep in mind before you tuck in: male crabs are larger and will have more luscious claw meat to tease out of the shell; meanwhile, whilst female crabs may be smaller, their meat is sweeter. ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 161

Here, perhaps the most important tip of all – don’t be afraid to eat with your hands and sop up every last succulent mouthful with slice after slice of toasted, buttered Sri Lankan kade bread. Other menu standouts include the Pepper Crab which honours Sri Lanka’s age-old spice tradition using hand-crushed peppercorns, and the Butter Crab – which requires 6 hours notice as the crabmeat is served chilled with warm butter for dipping. If there’s one menu item that could stake its claim as a supporting act to the restaurant’s crab offerings, its king prawns from the rivers of Sri Lanka. These definitely give the crabs a run for their money! Plump, sweet, and bursting flavour, prawns feature on the menu in a variety of sizes, with preparations much the same as their crab counterparts. Accompaniments include Ministry of Crab RESTAURANT staples such as garlic or leek fried rice, kade bread, and a host of sides that speak to Munidasa’s Japanese and 162 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

Sri Lankan heritage and influence – think Japanese-style Kani Chahan crab fried rice, to traditional preparations of Garlic Kankun – a leafy green native to the island. For those looking to branch out, there are countless other tempting offerings, including Clay Pot Prawn Curry, King Prawn Bisque, a flight of six oyster shooters, a fiery Pol Sambol hand-scraped and ground to order and served with Maldivian fish, Japanese Ebi Shioyaki and salt-grilled prawns. What Munidasa and his team have skillfully and lovingly attained at Ministry of Crab is a redemption of Sri Lanka’s culinary identity – where ancestral ingredients and methods of preparation are reacquainted amid flavours steeped in the tides of heritage. Ministry of Crab is almost the certainly the best place on the planet to feast on Sri Lankan mud crab. Not to mention the most fun!

music & NIGHT LIFE



WHAT WOULD YOU SAY INFLUENCED AND SHAPED YOU MUSICALLY? I was very into metal music growing up. Playing metal music helped me develop my guitar skills. I also grew up listening to a lot of folk music, but I also love rock music and hip hop. So I try to combine all these elements. My music is some place between reggae music, funk, hip hop and rock.

WHAT FUELLED YOUR PASSION FOR MUSIC? A family home filled with singing and instruments and the political turmoil that raged around me back then. If you take a picture of Colombia from the 80s, it is different if you took a picture of what is happening right now. Colombian culture is very rich. We grew up surrounded by many different problems and violence, but now that’s changed a lot.

YOU LIVED THROUGH THE VIOLENCE OF THE DRUG CARTELS THAT ROCKED COLOMBIA IN THE 1980S. THE COUNTRY WAS THE HUB OF COCAINE TRAFFICKING AND PRODUCTION. REBEL KIDNAPPERS KILLED YOUR COUSIN. HOW DID ALL OF THIS AFFECT YOU? Thirty years ago there was no family that didn’t have violence around them. I think art, in my case, was like a salvation, because through art I put all my energy, positive and negative. And I just used music as a way to escape from reality but, at the same time, as a way to express myself.

DID YOUR EXPERIENCES, IN COLOMBIA, IN THE 80S, INFLUENCE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS AND MUSIC? I love my country so much, and I feel so proud to be from Colombia. To go everywhere around the world, talking about my country and singing my music.

WHAT INSPIRES YOUR LYRICS MORE, POLITICS OR THE LOVE OF THE COLOMBIAN PEOPLE? Both, but I am mostly inspired by love. Love of 166 The Cultured Traveller Jun-Aug 2018

my country, my family, of human beings. Love is the most powerful energy we have in this life. Everything is about love and particularly with my 2014 album Loco De Amor, I wrote songs as if observing a ray of love through a prism and its approach to relationships, how love sometimes takes us through stages that are extremely wonderful or extremely terrible and how after that, there is an immense feeling of emptiness - and everything has to do with that feeling of love. That’s why I wanted to make an album about that topic.

HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO LEAVE YOUR BAND EKHYMOSIS AT POSSIBLY ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL POINTS IN YOUR CAREERS? It was not difficult because we had learned and grown together for a long time and decided to each follow our own individual dreams and projects. Our first show took place in Envigado, a little neighbourhood in Medellín on the 17th March 1988, and in our twelve years together I learned a huge amount and we achieved a lot.

YOUR BAND WAS ARGUABLY ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF LATIN ROCK, INFLUENCING MANY OTHERS. DID THE CHANGE BETWEEN BEING IN A ROCK BAND AND GOING SOLO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON YOUR OWN MUSICAL INFLUENCES AT THE TIME? No. I have always liked many different types of music. The first show I ever went to, when I was 6 or 7 years old, was Argentinian band Los Hermanos Visconti. They sang popular, folkloric songs. I also went to see Dueto de Antaño – a ballad group from Medellín. As a young teen I got into heavy metal bands such as Kraken and Reencarnación, and although I moved from folklore to metal, my tastes have always remained varied. I grew up listening to (tango legend) Carlos Gardel and then became obsessed with Metallica! ►

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AFRAID OF PUTTING CERTAIN LYRICS OUT PUBLICLY? Of course, because writing music is very personal. There is something curious…fear is our worst enemy and if you create something based on fear, it will always end badly. With the Loco De Amor album it was totally different: from the moment I started to write the songs, no fear ever entered my mind.

HOW WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TOUR IN COLOMBIA DIFFERENT TO PREVIOUS ONES? My hope was to connect with places I’d not visited before, and I took the show that gave me so much inspiration to do that. At the same time, I wanted to know more about each region, know its concerns and wishes, but above all, unite hearts through music. I wanted to get closer to Colombia through art and music; to give dignity, importance and relevance to other areas of the country, and break with the established touring schedules.

WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN YOUR HOMETOWN OF MEDELLÍN? I love Parque Lleras: it is beautiful and has some great restaurants. My true favorite place is my home right outside of the city.

OUTSIDE OF COLOMBIA WHERE HAVE YOU ENJOYED YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES? I have been lucky enough to go to many amazing places. Touring Israel for the first time was an amazing experience. We visited Jerusalem and it is a place so full of spirituality, it was very moving. I also had a great time when I visited McFarland in the US. I wrote music for the film (of the same name) which was released in 2015 and met local people, out on the street, that were extremely happy and thankful that the film was going to put McFarland on the global map.

LA CAMISA NEGRA GENERATED A LOT OF CONTROVERSY FOR DIFFERENT REASONS IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES: POLITICAL IN ITALY, SEXUAL IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. HOW DO YOU INTERPRET THESE REACTIONS TO THE SONG? I think the lyrics lend themselves to be interpreted in different ways. I see how people find different messages in it. I have been a solo artist since 2000 and I have ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 169

enjoyed an incredible career. I’ve experienced so many amazing things and I’m so grateful to my fans for their support: (the song is also used in Spanish language classes across the United States). I think it’s awesome.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO COMPROMISE YOUR BELIEFS OR POLITICS IN ORDER TO SUCCEED? I have always been public with my beliefs and politics, so I do not think I have had to compromise them to succeed. I live my music intensely and through my music I express my feelings - the good and bad. There is always a fine line and you sometimes cross it, sometimes not, I try to avoid making mistakes but equally we are all here to learn. I believe in music and I believe in its culture as a means to create peace.

IN 2005 TIME MAGAZINE NAMED YOU AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE. HAS THIS TITLE HAD ANY EFFECT IN YOUR LIFE? It made it clear to me that people are watching what I do, made me look at myself as a role model, and made me step back and see how my actions may influence others.

YOUR FOUNDATION, MI SANGRE, IS AN ORGANISATION DEDICATED TO ERADICATING COLOMBIA’S LAND MINES AND SUPPORTING VICTIMS OF LAND MINE ACCIDENTS. JUANES PEACE PARK – WITH SPECIAL FACILITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES – OPENED IN MEDELLÍN IN 2008. WHAT DRIVES YOUR HUMANITARIAN WORK? Growing up in Colombia, I saw a lot of pain and suffering from the effects of land mines. What is happening in the world today is something difficult to look at, and music is something that can be used as a tool to send powerful messages. The foundation is in the best place it has ever been, we have a great leader and spectacular team, and are continuing our strong work not just in relation to mines but also to bring to the forefront of people’s minds everything that is related to peace. We are working with adolescent mine victims and connecting with them through art. Now more than ever we believe that it’s worthwhile and important to focus on the arts as a way to build peace in our societies.

DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE SINGING AT THE DECEMBER 2007 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE CONCERT AND WHAT IT MEANT TO YOU? It was a very beautiful experience. Being surrounded by these influential people all sending a message of peace was quite moving. I hope that music will always continue to be used to hightlight peace, unity and tolerance in our societies.

YOU HAVE PERFORMED WITH CARLOS SANTANA, TONY BENNETT AND JOHN LEGEND. HOW WAS SHARING A STAGE WITH THEM? It is always an honour sharing the stage with such talented musicians. But for me, the gift that music gave me to express myself and connect with all these incredible people is the most I think about it. The opportunity to perform in front of many millions of people and just sing songs, even in different languages, like English for example, is another journey which I enjoy a lot.

WITH WHOM WOULD YOU LIKE TO DUET NEXT? There are a lot of people who I would like to sing with, especially Ed Sheeran or Maroon 5.

YOU WON YOUR TWENTY-FIFTH GRAMMY AWARD FOR YOUR MOST RECENT ALBUM, MIS PLANES SON AMARTE. TELL US ABOUT THE ALBUM. The album is a very visual album, 12 songs and 12 videos, and it’s kinda like a movie. It’s the story of a Colombian astronaut who lands in Colombia in the current time, looking for the love of his life. So, all of the songs are going through this visual in a very organic way.

MIS PLANES SON AMARTE SEEMS TO MUSICALLY TAKE YOU BACK TO YOUR ROOTS? This album did a lot for me as a musician. The vocals were very important for this record and we wanted to recuperate that sweetness to my voice from previous albums like Un día Normal. We made sure my voice was in a comfortable state; we dedicated a lot of time to that. The album reunites previous experiences from my past albums. ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 171

HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT SINGING GOODBYE FOR NOW IN ENGLISH? After many years and many exercises, I finally found a beautiful song that I fell in love with, that I wrote with Poo Bear from Los Angeles, and I just felt that it was the right moment to do it. I’m not planning to record a whole album in English, it was just one song, I just wanted to try it.

WILL YOU BE RECORDING MORE SONGS IN ENGLISH? For me, to sing in Spanish is very important because it makes me feel close to my roots. But definitely I am learning the language, my kids were born in the United States and I love Anglo music, so maybe in the future I will record some more songs in English. But for me I will keep singing in Spanish.

DO YOU FIND THAT SINGING IN SPANISH IS MORE EMOTIONAL? Yes, when I sing in Spanish I just close my eyes and feel, I feel the music. When I sing in English, I have to think a little bit more about the pronunciation and the words. But definitely music is a universal language, and I can play guitar in English for example!

WHERE WOULD YOU TELL A TRAVELLER THEY COULD FIND COLOMBIA’S BEST KEPT SECRETS? They should visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. It is beautiful. Also, if they like the ocean, to go to the Islas del Rosario where they will find the most beautiful beaches.

OUTSIDE OF MEDELLÍN, WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN COLOMBIA AND WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL TO YOU? I love Cartagena. I have many great memories of going there with my wife and kids, paddle boarding and enjoying the old city.

WHAT COLOMBIAN SOUVENIR IS A MUSTHAVE FOR VISITORS TO YOUR HOMELAND? A traditional Colombian hat, sombrero vueltiao. Also, visitors must watch the unmissable documentary, Magia Salvaje, because it showcases the very best of our country.

LASTLY, WHERE DO KEEP ALL YOUR GRAMMYS?! We have a place in Miami where we rehearse and record our music, and all the Grammys are kept there, in the studio.

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The designer, CEO and figurehead of a highly successful, eponymous international swimwear label, with a jet-set lifestyle to suit, deftly balances being a wife and mother with crisscrossing the globe, pool-side appearances and keeping her A-list clientele happy. MELISSA ODABASH takes time out of her hectic schedule to chat with Adrian Gibson about her modelling career, what inspires her designs and collaborating with Julien Macdonald. WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU WANTED TO DESIGN SWIMWEAR? My passion to design my own line of swimwear came about when I was modelling. At the time, almost twenty years ago, the cuts and prints were not really reflecting the demand in the market. I thought I could deliver something new by designing my own pieces which showcased everything I loved and learnt about the industry.

S/S 2018

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AS A CATWALK MODEL? For much of my modelling career I lived in Italy and worked with a range of different fashion houses, including Valentino and Fendi. I was also a fit model for Prada and several other designer brands. It was from modelling that I learnt all about different fabrics and their quality, and how the smallest details could add so much to a garment.

HOW DO YOU THINK BEING A MODEL HELPS WITH THE DESIGN PROCESS? As a catwalk and fit model, I was often in meetings when buyers selected their pieces. This taught me much about what was in demand and also what was lacking in the industry. More importantly, I also learned how to sell to some of the biggest retailers in the world!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BRAND’S ETHOS? I strive to empower women to feel beautiful and confident in my swimwear, when they are essentially at their most vulnerable. It is much harder than you think - to create a garment out of little material that needs to make a lady look and feel her best. I also design for many women with different body shapes and aim to offer something for all of them. ►

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WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO DESIGN A NEW COLLECTION? Throughout my life I have always had the opportunity to travel a great deal, and I am constantly inspired by different things whilst on my travels. I really enjoy being immersed in different cultures and visiting local markets. Watching vintage movies also sometimes inspire me.

DESCRIBE THE TYPICAL MELISSA ODABASH CUSTOMER? My clients come from all over the world and many of them travel everywhere from beach resorts to tropical islands and even far flung destinations. They all want good quality swim and beachwear that is going to last longer than just one summer, so that’s what I try to provide.


Growing up with four sisters I always noticed that we wore different things and had individual styles. I also have an office full of girls who have different body shapes, and I make them try on samples so I can understand what suits them. This, in turn, helps me to come up with designs for everyone. A designer will always have his or her own vision, but what has helped my brand to evolve is listening to feedback from my team, clients and even my sisters.

WHAT ARE THE KEY SWIMWEAR TRENDS THIS SUMMER? From our sales this year we can see that cut-out one pieces are really popular and when one is designed properly they can be so flattering – they help create an hourglass appearance to your body shape which people love. I know that most ladies may shy away from this style, but with the right cuts they can actually help accentuate your assets rather than look completely awkward. Bright colours are now also a must - yellow and apricot are our go-to colours this summer, since they help accentuate a tan.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PIECES FROM YOUR S/S 2018 COLLECTION? Because of my body type I love smaller bikini designs, since I find that too much fabric just doesn’t suit me. My favourite swimwear styles from our SS18 collection are the Montenegro and the Indonesia, although this year I have to say that my Apres Beach collection is currently my ‘go-to’ for pretty much everything! I find myself walking around town, going to parties, hanging out on a boat or having dinner in these pieces. I enjoy clothes which are versatile and après beach wear is very much the direction my brand is going in.

DO YOU HAVE A MUSE? Every woman who wears my collection is my muse and I enjoy seeing my designs on different people. This inspires me to continue designing and doing what I love. Many women inspire me, but my biggest inspiration and constant source of support is my mother. Elle MacPherson and Cindy Crawford are also hugely inspiring and have been close friends for years.


I have an incredibly hard-working team supporting me and, thanks to them, have been lucky to win retailer of the year for three consecutive years now. My team is dedicated to the brand, knows all of our clients and has learnt everything there is to know about the collections, and so can offer considered, bespoke recommendations for individuals. My team is undoubtedly the secret to the success of our retail outlets.

YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH BRITISH FASHION DESIGNER JULIEN MACDONALD FOR A UMBER OF YEARS. HOW DID THIS COLLABORATION COME ABOUT? Julien (pictured left with Melissa) and I met 15 years ago, have become close friends and produced seven collaborations together. We have many of the same inspirations and collectively strive to empower women and make them feel amazing in our clothing, so working together is a great fit.

PLEASE TALK US THROUGH THE CREATIVE PROCESS OF WORKING WITH JULIEN. It is quite simple really, we both come up with the silhouettes – I love elegant, simple shapes and Julien loves the bling. So, I usually design the kaftan and then Julien adds his magical embroidery and embellishments to create a unique statement piece that is truly covetable.


I am always working on a collaboration with a designer or an individual who inspires me in some special way. My brand’s twentieth ► Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 177

anniversary is coming up soon, and I have designed a special collection to mark the occasion which I am very excited about.

IF YOU COULD WORK WITH ANY DESIGNER, ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD IT BE? I would have to say Tunisian-born couturier and designer Azzedine Alaïa. I always admired his work, loved his designs and found his brand incredibly inspiring. His death last year was a huge loss to the fashion industry (

WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU, AND THE BEST AND WORST THINGS ABOUT LIVING THERE? My home is London. The British capital has so much to offer and I love the eclectic mix of people and the vast amount of creativity that happens here. Whether it be fashion, food, theatre or music, there is always something amazing going on in London. But whilst I love London, a little more sunshine would make it so much better!

HOW DO YOU JUGGLE BEING THE DESIGNER, CEO AND FIGUREHEAD OF A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL INTERNATIONAL SWIMWEAR LABEL, WITH BEING A WIFE AND MOTHER OF TWO DAUGHTERS? My family always comes first, for instance I will always stop a meeting if my kids call. I have tried to never miss a school event and I never read e-mails on weekends. My husband and I also try do some sport together as a family, where the kids can’t be distracted by their phones, so we enjoy more one-on-one time.

YOUR WORK FOR VARIOUS WORTHWHILE CHARITABLE CAUSES IS TRULY ADMIRABLE. WHAT HARITY IS CURRENTLY IMPORTANT TO YOU AND WHY? I love being able to give back to people, work with a number of charities and strive to support good causes wherever I can. I feel like you’re only as good as what you give back. I recently designed a mastectomy swimwear line for the charity Future Dreams, to help raise money to open a centre for women touched by breast cancer. I really wanted affected women to feel like nothing had changed in their lives and they could still look incredible on holiday (


S/S 2018

Earlier this year I visited Copenhagen for the first time and I truly fell in love with the Danish capital. It really is the epitome of Scandinavian cool! I especially loved the excellent restaurants and markets to rummage through, not to mention Copenhagen’s beautiful historic centre. (

WHAT FOUR ITEMS CAN YOU NOT DO WITHOUT IN YOUR BEACH BAG? Dr Rita Rakus Protect Moisturiser SPF 45, my ‘phone, sketch pad and lip balm. I simply cannot go to the beach without these basics!

IF YOU HAD TO NAME YOUR FAVOURITE HOTEL ON THE PLANET WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? There are many hotels I love, and because I get to travel so much for work and with my family I have been lucky enough to stay in some incredible places. However, the best (so far!) is the One&Only Reethi Rah resort in the Maldives. Arriving there is quite literally like being dropped off in paradise - this is really the only way I can explain it ( Recently I stayed at the Capri Palace in Anacapri which was an amazing find. The food was some of the best I had ever tasted and the hotel’s location, in the heart of delightful, laidback Anacapri town evokes a truly authentic Italian island feel (

DO YOU HAVE ANY IN-FLIGHT TIPS FOR OUR READERS? Always take a long scarf so you have something tactile to snuggle up with, and 111SKIN’s hydrogel eye masks work miracles on a longhaul flight. When I sleep on a ‘plane I wear them under a silk eye mask and land with great-looking hydrated skin! (

WHAT TRAVEL PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE REST OF 2018? My next stop is Ibiza to host a fashion show, followed by Sardinia and Greece to open new stores.

HOW DO YOU KICK-BACK AND RELAX? When I’m feeling stressed I enjoy getting massages or facials at a good spa. I also love just hanging out with family and friends. If I really need to chill out I fly to my house in Florida and spend all day playing sport – the beach and sea are really the best detox for me!

YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO PARTY? I have had a lot of fun in Miami with my party partner in crime Julian Macdonald. South Beach especially has some fantastic hotels, fun bars and superb restaurants, all with the best atmosphere.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR MELISSA ODABASH? I am launching a much larger ready-to-wear range and more accessories to grow Odabash into a proper lifestyle brand. I am also planning to open more retail stores, including a shop in Russia.

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Jun-Aug 2018 The Cultured Traveller 181

The Cultured Traveller, June-August 2018 Issue 22  

The Cultured Traveller stylishly globe-trots through the worlds of travel, culture, music, fashion and food in every captivating edition, di...

The Cultured Traveller, June-August 2018 Issue 22  

The Cultured Traveller stylishly globe-trots through the worlds of travel, culture, music, fashion and food in every captivating edition, di...