The Cultured Traveller - Fifth Anniversary Edition, September-November 2019 Issue 27

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Decades of communist control bleached the colour from life in the Polish capital, but 30 years since independence, the city is rising again. Today, up-and-coming areas are being revitalised by urban renewal projects, riverside parks provide space to breathe for the city’s upwardly mobile population and award-winning museums and galleries are dedicated to exploring Polish culture and identity. Joe Mortimer uncovers the heart of 21st century WARSAW


Perched at the tip of Cape Cod, PROVINCETOWN combines small-town charm with big‑city culture. Alex Benasuli makes the 90-minute crossing from Boston to explore the colourful seaside hamlet nestled amongst miles of peaceful dunes yet seemingly at the end of the earth


When he isn’t launching supermodels down the runway attired in his trademark sparkling gowns, JULIEN MACDONALD loves nothing more than to travel the world. The Cultured Traveller catches-up with the globetrotting fashion designer


There’s absolutely no doubt that ‘mother’s ruin’ is the spirit of the moment and we’re still in the middle of a full-on gin renaissance. Nicholas Chrisostomou visits the first private distillery to open in the Finnish capital for over a century



On the remote southern tip of the Maldives archipelago, Raffles Maldives Meradhoo is as far removed from the rhythm of everyday life as it possibly could be. One lucky reader will win a four-night half board stay in a private beach villa for two at this paradise resort

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We round-up the most fascinating cultural experiences and unmissable festivals happening around the world in the coming months, including the BRAEMAR GATHERING in Scotland, attended by British royalty; India’s ONAM harvest festival in Kerala; Niger’s spectacular male beauty parade, CURE SALÉE; Greece’s animation festival, ANIMASYROS 12; Ireland’s world famous opera festival in WEXFORD and New York City’s 46th annual VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE.


The Cultured Traveller checks into space station-like KACHI LODGE on the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia; glamorous new SINNER hotel, in the heart of Paris’ charismatic Marais quartier; Urban Resort Concepts’ striking new property, THE PUXUAN, located on the edge of Beijing’s Forbidden City; understatedly groovy SIR VICTOR hotel, a stone’s throw from Gaudí’s Casa Milà in Barcelona, and recently revamped MASSERIA

TORRE MAIZZA estate, on the Adriatic coast in north-eastern Puglia.


Proudly standing in a prime position on the western side of Inner Alster Lake, commanding the attention of Germany’s handsome second city, Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten is a true grande dame in every sense of the phrase. Treading in the footsteps of some of the world’s richest 20th century shipping magnates, Nicholas Chrisostomou drops anchor in one of Germany’s most opulent hotel suites.


There was a time when flying was considered glam and exclusive and boarding a jet cost an awful lot more than it does today. The Cultured Traveller steps back into the Golden Age of Travel at retro-chic Eero Saarinen-designed TWA HOTEL, which instantly became the world’s coolest airport hotel when it opened a few months ago at JFK.


In the very south of Sri Lanka, crystal clear seas, magnificent beaches, a wealth of archaeological sites and an opportunity to witness first-





hand some of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular wildlife make this part of the island worthy of closer inspection. Using Shangri-La’s sprawling resort as a base, Carolyn McKay explores the lesser trodden region surrounding HAMBANTOTA.


Such is the draw of dark tourism, that long before the HBO drama Chernobyl appeared on our screens, more than 10,000 people had already visited the former nuclear site, despite the fact that it had only been open to the public since 2011. Carl Roberts is drawn to the strikingly haunting exclusion zone surrounding the site of the world’s greatest nuclear disaster.


Exploring its cobbled streets and narrow pends from the luxe surrounds of The Kingdom Of Fife Suite at Fairmont St Andrews resort, Nicholas Chrisostomou discovers that there is much to do in of one of Scotland’s oldest towns aside from playing golf.


Alex Benasuli joins Miami’s hipsters at ALTER in Wynwood, for some serious eating at a restaurant which

is redefining modern fine dining.

160 TASTE & SIP NEWCOMER Alex Benasuli dines on top notch Greek fare at Costas Spiliadis’ newest MILOS restaurant, located slap bang in the centre of one of the planet’s most highly anticipated urban regeneration schemes: Hudson Yards in Manhattan.

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Adrian Gibson chats to the men’s fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman, BRUCE PASK, about working with Annie Leibovitz, styling the cast of Friends to look like a ‘30s circus troupe and his favourite European fashion week destinations.


A titan of a scene that has brought EDM from the fringes into the mainstream over the past decade, superstar French DJ DAVID GUETTA talks to The Cultured Traveller about his life and career, collaborating with Sia and his favourite places in Paris.




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Clockwise from left to right, Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg: TWA Hotel; Warsaw; St Andrews; Provincetown.



ho would have thought, thirty odd years ago, that the wasteland surrounding the now defunct Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant would become a tourist destination? As well as attracting inquisitive visitors, Chernobyl recently announced that it would begin producing its own Atomik vodka, made from crops grown in the exclusion zone. I’ve no doubt it will be priced as a premium product and quickly become a best seller, if only for its novelty value. Herein lies one of the reasons I am so fascinated by travel, increasingly so as I visit new places, meet new people and discover new and incredible sights: the travel landscape is constantly evolving to feed the curiosities of an increasingly well-travelled population. There has never been a better time to adventure to that country you’ve always wanted to explore, or plan a trip to that faraway island so-and-so told you about, not least because something new and fascinating is always just around the corner.

In this, the fifth anniversary edition of The Cultured Traveller, we endeavour to reveal the extent of our ever-expanding travel canvas, journeying from Provincetown in the States via Chernobyl in Eastern Europe to Hambantota in Asia. Along the way, we chat with British fashion designer Julien Macdonald and superstar French DJ David Guetta, roadtest restaurants in Miami and New York, and feature a space-age hotel on Bolivia’s salt flats and a new Parisian property situated within the 1300s buildings of the Marais.

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We step back into travel’s golden age at Eero Saarinen’s retro-chic TWA Hotel at JFK airport (page104) and explore the cobbled streets of St. Andrews, one of Scotland’s oldest towns (page122). Joe Mortimer uncovers the cultured heart of 21st century Warsaw as the reinvigorated city rises again (page44), while I tread in the footsteps of some of the world’s richest 20th century shipping magnates at one of Germany’s most historic hotels (page94). Every issue of a global travel magazine should be a celebration of all the incredible places to see around the world, but a birthday edition demands even more. I hope you enjoy taking this epic journey with us and I thank all readers of The Cultured Traveller for your loyal support during the past five years. Here’s to many more years dedicated to uncovering the places, people and destinations that make this planet so extraordinary.

Nicholas Chrisostomou Editor-in-Chief



A U.K.-based writer who specialises in luxury travel and high-end hospitality, Joe has visited 60 countries and stayed in more than 100 luxury hotels, as well as having dined in some of the world’s best restaurants and interviewed a number of legendary chefs including Pierre Gagnaire and Nobu Matsuhisa.



A professional fashion buyer for more than two decades, Adrian is an avid shopper and enjoys nothing more than visiting stores, meeting designers and supporting new talent wherever and whenever he’s travelling the globe, as well as keeping a keen eye on the latest trends for The Cultured Traveller, both on the world’s most fashionable streets and online.



London-based Alex has been traveling the world his whole life. A twodecade career in finance took him to Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, India, Indonesia and all over the Far East. Today, Alex has a keen appreciation for combining luxury, highbrow urban adventures with alternative, off-the-beaten-track destinations plus yoga and wellness experiences.



Carl is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, music lover, club DJ and travel enthusiast based in Muscat. When he’s not planning his next trip, you’ll find him running, paddle-boarding, exploring the mountains around Oman with his dogs or simply enjoying good food and quality time with friends.



Via her teaching, photography and writing, Carolyn has lived in Jakarta, London and New York and travelled to numerous destinations in between. Currently based in Sri Lanka and using her Indian Ocean base to explore Asia, Carolyn loves nothing more than exploring markets, quality coffee and people watching.

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19th century Fort Punta Christo, perched over the dazzling Adriatic Sea close to the historic city of Pula in Croatia’s northern region of Istria, party goers can chose to let rip in a collection of truly spectacular locations set in and around the fort, including a dungeon, a courtyard, a moat, a boat, the beach or the festival’s main stage set on a harbour. Outlook combines a heady mix of fun in the sun and under the stars sound sensations. Headlining Outlook’s final year at Fort Punta Christo is hugely successful British electronic music duo Chase & Status. 4-8 September 2019


Offering something for pretty much everyone, in recent years Croatia has become one of the most popular festival destinations in mainland Europe. During five days towards the end of summer and billed as “the largest sound system culture festival in Europe”, Outlook brings together some of the biggest names from the most vibrant and cutting edge hip-hop, grime, reggae, techno and dub music scenes in a celebratory fusion of musical genres. Held in the abandoned


Attended by HRH Princess Anne and the Duke of Fife, these old military exercises remain the same as they have for hundreds of years yet have grown into a worldwide exhibition. Everything from traditional tug-of-wars and caber-tossing to dance competitions and solo bagpipe performances are used to determine the skill, prowess and endurance of those competing. Often divided into categories of heavyweight competition, dance 14 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

and music, the burly strongman esque events have evolved into something of a Scottish rite of passage. The caber toss is considered by many to be Scotland’s signature event and sees logs of more than a dozen feet long carried by hulking men and women. Other more inventive ways of pitting man against man include the Maide Leisg, when two men sit on the ground, with the soles of their feet pressed against each other and, holding a stick between their hands, pull back and forth until one of them raises off the ground. 7 September 2019



Stretching for just under 600 kilometres along the Malabar Coast and isolated from the Indian interior by the Western Ghats, the slender coastal state of Kerala is defined by its varied and layered landscape, not least hundreds of kilometres of glorious coastline and beaches fringed by the Arabian Sea. Having been exposed to so many foreign influences, Kerala is a world away from the rest of India and has developed a unique culture, not only with its own language, Malayalama, but also a diverse religious tradition. 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. This is a time when, 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 generally rejoice. Traditional activities during Onam are centered around worshipping, music, dancing, sports and, above all else, eating good food. The most impressive part of the festival is a grand, nine-course feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruvonam, consisting of more than a dozen dishes. 11 September 2019

The end of the rainy season is an incredibly important event for Saharan pastoralists, whose lives are wholly concerned with the raising of livestock, namely, the care, tending and use of animals such as goats and cattle to affect their environment. Every midlate September, towards the end of the rainy season, clans gather at the salt flats and pools near the tiny West African town of In-gall, in the Agadez region of northeast Niger, to refresh their herds and prepare for the trip south so they can survive the dry season. But before heading south, tens of thousands of nomads converge on In-Gall to celebrate Cure Salée - an annual gathering that serves as a harvest festival, marketplace and tribal gathering. Plus, most importantly, a spectacular male beauty parade. Here the roles are reversed, since it is the men who paint their faces, don ceremonial costumes and sing and dance to impress the female judges, in an effort to be named the most attractive man of their clan. The talent portion of the show, known as Yaake, is akin to line dancing, with men swaying shoulder-to-shoulder, singing and chanting in a hypnotic fashion, fuelled by a stimulating tea made of fermented bark, rumored to have a hallucinogenic effect, enabling them to dance wildly, often non-stop, for hours on end. Mid-late September 2019


For a quiet slice of genuine Greek island bliss minus the crowds, Syros is hard to beat. One of the smallest Cycladic islands and located roughly 125 nautical kilometres south-east of Athens, Syros is easily accessible from the Greek mainland via fast ferry craft during the summer months. Syros’ international animation festival is the largest of its kind in Greece and one of the twenty most important globally. Animasyros started in 2008 and is wholly dedicated to Europe’s animation narrative. Held in Hermoupolis, the capital of the Cycladic islands, Animasyros comprises special screenings; tributes to international animation festivals, artists and studios; media literacy activities for children, youngsters and adults; parties and numerous parallel events. This year, Animasyros launches an Agora animation market section, which the festival organisers hope will become a hub for creative professional networking. More than 200 animation films will also be screened, plus the festival features three separate international competition sections, for professional, student and feature films. Animasyros is free and takes place at the imposing Apollo Theatre (pictured), the Hermoupolis Cultural Centre, the University of the Aegean, Miaouli Square and other locations within the beautiful neoclassical town of Hermoupolis. 18-22 September 2019 Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 15


BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL U.K. Featuring 225 films hailing from 77 countries screened in 14 cinemas over twelve days just about sums up the 63rd annual BFI London Film Festival, which showcases original movies by both world-renowned and emerging filmmakers. This year’s opening night gala will be The Personal History of David Copperfield, directed by the multiaward-winning writer, filmmaker and broadcaster Armando Iannucci, who was born in Glasgow to Italian parents and is one of the most talented and original filmmakers in the U.K. today. Billed as a fresh take on Dickens’ classic autobiographical tale of one young man’s journey into adulthood, juggling his ambitions to become a writer with his conscience about poverty in Victorian London and his duty of care towards his eccentric aunt, the film boasts a stellar British cast led by BAFTA Award winner Dev Patel as David Copperfield (pictured). Starring alongside Patel are Academy award-winning Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Paul Whitehouse and Gwendoline Christie, many of whom are expected on the red carpet at the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square for the movie’s European premiere on Wednesday 2nd October 2019. 2-13 October 2019 16 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Bisected by the River Danube, which separates the hilly Buda district from flat and sprawling Pest, one rarely needs an excuse to visit the beautiful Hungarian capital of Budapest. Yet, the 28th incarnation of CAFe Budapest festival offers an opportunity to attend more than one hundred events at over forty venues across the Hungarian capital, including the city’s enormous cultural complex, Művészetek Palotája. Spanning seventeen days, besides the work of Béla Bartók, this year’s festival focuses on the worth of another major Hungarian composer, Péter Eötvös. The festival program always covers an incredibly wide spectrum and showcases a range of musical genres and performance art, from classical music to theatre premieres, popular music and jazz, to dance and visual art, as well as providing a platform for contemporary dance, circus acts, fine arts, design and photography. For 2019, CAFe Budapest affiliated events will again include the Budapest Ritmo world music festival, the Art Market Budapest and the Margó Literary Festival and Book Fair. 4-20 October 2019


A hotbed for technology, start-ups and innovation, and one of the best cities in the States to start a new business, the Texan metropolis of Austin has repeatedly been voted the best place to live in America based on affordability, job prospects and quality of life. Once a year, all of Austin’s many qualities come together at Zilker Metropolitan Park in the south of the city – a beautiful recreational area of more than 350 acres at the juncture of Barton Creek and the Colorado River – for the hugely popular ACL Music Festival. Founded in 2002, the festival spans two, consecutive three-day weekends annually and boasts eight stages upon which musical groups from a variety of genres, including rock, indie, country, folk, electronic and hiphop, perform to around half a million fans. In addition to the countless live performances, the festival showcases local foods, art, crafts and the work of charitable organisations. This year’s line-up is headlined by none other than legendary American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. Also performing, on both weekends, will be iconic British indie rock band The Cure, featuring original lead singer Robert Smith. Foodies will also be well catered for by the ACL Eats Food Court, offering tacos, brews, vegan options and more from Austin and the surrounding area’s best restaurants. 4-6 + 11-13 October 2019


lift off together into the morning sky) are held on all four weekend mornings plus one day mid-week, but only after a dawn patrol carefully examines the weather conditions. When the dawn patrol gives the green light, balloons from all over the world rise together in a harmonious lift off as dawn breaks over the Sandia Mountains. The sight of so many colourful balloons in the sky, is as breathtaking for first-time visitors as it continues to be for veteran attendees. Over the weekends, laser light-shows and firework displays bring the nights to a spectacular close. 5-13 October 2019

U.S.A. Now in its 48th year, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta brings together pilots, crews and hot air and gas ballooning enthusiasts from more than fifty countries and draws a crowd of up to 100k. With hundreds upon hundreds of brightly coloured balloons taking off, the fiesta is an impressive visual spectacle. Mass ascensions (when hundreds of balloons

WEXFORD FESTIVAL OPERA IRELAND Since the first Festival of Music and the Arts took place in October 1951, Wexford Festival Opera has grown into one of the world’s leading opera festivals. For 68 years, the festival has breathed new life into forgotten or neglected operatic masterpieces, establishing a reputation for high-quality productions that every year bring thousands of opera lovers flocking from all over the world to the beautiful harbour town of

VOODOO MUSIC + ARTS EXPERIENCE U.S.A. The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience started out small and has, over time, grown into a mega-event spanning several days and drawing some massive music industry names. Over the course of its 18-year history, this weekend festival (whose motto is “worship the music”) has hosted thousands of artists and legions of fans from all over the world, attracting mystics, madmen, femme fatales, gods, goddesses

Wexford, in the southeastern corner of the island. All operas are performed at The National Opera House, Ireland’s first custom-built opera house. The gala concert on 27th October, featuring a collection of favourite party pieces performed by members of the company, will undoubtedly be a festival highlight. The festival’s 90-minute ShortWork daytime opera productions have become a popular feature. Intimately staged in a nearby hotel, they offer audiences an opportunity to enjoy a one-act opera performed by cast members of the evening operas. 22 October - 3 November 2019 and music lovers of all kinds under one collective consciousness. Across the festival grounds of New Orleans’ City Park, Voodoo hosts interactive and immersive large-scale art installations; the Brew Dat Beer Hall; a handcrafted shopping experience at the Market Place, and much more. This year’s festival is headlined by a range of big names including Brandi Carlile, Interpol and Bassnectar. The night before the festival starts, gourmands are invited to a oneof-a-kind dining experience in the middle of the festival courtesy of award-winning American celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez. 25-27 October 2019 Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 17

BRISBANE GOOD FOOD & WINE SHOW AUSTRALIA The capital of Queensland is a large, modern metropolis brimming with entrepreneurial zeal, cosmopolitan young people, bohemian nightclubs and world-class restaurants, so it’s little surprise that Brisbane hosts one of the country’s top food and wine shows. Celebrating regionally sourced and locally-produced foods and vino, and showcasing artisan and homegrown produce from within the state

and across Australia, Brisbane’s Good Food Show offers everything from master classes hosted by leading chefs to “The Smelly Cheese Project” presided over by a cheese expert taking visitors on a sensory cheese appreciation. Learn how to become a wine master at the Riedel Drinks Lab and watch the best interstate chefs cook up a storm at the live Princess Cruises Theatre. For a more exclusive experience, buy a ticket for the Cape Mentelle VIP Lounge to sip unlimited wines from the Margaret River region plus lunch designed by Matt Moran and desserts by Maggie Beer. 25-27 October 2019


hope over despair and the freedom of Guru Hargobind Ji from imprisonment in 1619 by Mughal Emperor Jahangir who at the same time released 52 political prisoners from Gwalior Fort. Hence, Diwali is the cause for much reverence and good cheer. An important tradition in India, participants clean their homes before the festival and celebrate with friends and family by sharing food and exchanging gifts. Houses are festooned with electric lights and at night, candles, lamps, torches and fireworks are lit, providing a spectacular display of light that symbolises the awareness of inner light and the triumph of good over evil. 27 October 2019

INDIA India is a land of festivals, which form an integral part of Indian culture and are at the heart of people’s lives throughout the nation. Held throughout the year, these vibrant and often colourful events offer visitors a chance to see and experience Indian culture at its best and more spiritual. The country’s biggest annual celebration – commonly referred to as The Festival of Lights – is an ancient five-day festival celebrated on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartika. It marks the victory of light over darkness,


New York City’s 46th annual Village Halloween Parade is a vast and vibrant event which sees more than 50,000 costumed party goers on a mammoth parade, attired in ghoulish fancy dress, led by master puppeteers Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, together with hundreds of puppets, bands of varying musical styles, dancers, circus performers and floats. Founded in 1974 18 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

by mask-maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee, this massive public participatory gathering attracts millions of spectators and embodies a different theme each year, this year’s being “Wild Thing”. USD 25 buys you into the themed costume section, including a secret entry point for early admission, no queues, a special DJ soundtrack for an in-parade party and the chance to meet other crazy costume fiends! Alternatively, if you’re visiting New York and don’t have time to find an outfit, pay USD 100 to join a band, parade up 6th Avenue with them and you don’t need to dress-up! 31 October 2019


DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS MEXICO 280 miles southeast of Mexico City and nestled in a Y-shaped valley in the Sierra Madre mountain range, beautiful Oaxaca City has a rich indigenous heritage, boasts a number of restaurants run by some of the country’s most famous chefs and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. And every November, Oaxaca City is probably the best place in Mexico to experience 3-day 3,000year old Día de los Muertos, which dates back to pre-Colombian times. During these 72-hours, the dead are honoured and their souls welcomed home as a blessing, while images abound of animated skeletons called calaveras, which were invented by 19th century printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada and popularised by artist Diego Rivera. 31st October is a day of preparation, when the women clean the house and get food ready while the men build clay altars. Día de los Angelitios (Day of the Little Angels) on 1st November is dedicated to children. The main event on 2nd November – Día de los Muertos – is a more adult affair, with bigger and more elaborate costumes, more complex rituals, spicier foods and plenty of tequila. 31 October - 2 November 2019 20 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

A British Overseas Territory and the most notorious tax haven on earth encompassing three islands in the western Caribbean Sea, the Caymans are renowned for their beach resorts, varied scuba diving, multitudinous snorkelling sites and rich local culture. But once a year the pirates take over! So, if you enjoy the revelry of swashbuckling combined with a western Caribbean climate, Pirates Week is undoubtedly the best time for you to visit the Caymans! Every November, pirates run amok throughout the islands in this family-friendly festival of Cayman culture and pirate folklore that brings to life the famous Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with simulated pirate invasions, parades and fireworks displays, street dances, costume contests, parties and fancy dressed revellers at the end of every gangplank. Whilst festivities take place on Cayman Brac (1-3 Nov) and Little Cayman (15-17 Nov), the main event happens on Grand Cayman (7-11 Nov) where five fun-filled days will mark Pirates Week’s 42nd year. Immediately following the Grand Cayman festivities, special “District Days” on each island celebrate the various aspects that make these beautiful islands so unique. 1-17 November 2019

PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR INDIA Celebrated on the full moon day of the auspicious Karthika month of the Hindu lunar calendar, the religious festival of Kartik Purnima is immensely important for Hindus, since it is the only month which is dedicated to the worship of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. In the Ajmer region of the northeastern Indian state of Rajasthan, the somewhat sleepy lakeside town of Pushkar which borders the Thar Desert, springs to life every year for a unique and incredibly colourful camel fair which coincides with Kartik Purnima. Whilst the festival sees thousands of devotees bathe in Pushkar Lake on the pageant’s last day, close to 50,000 camels are trimmed, coiffured and decorated in order to be entered into beauty contests and raced. Adorned with silver bells and bangles around their hoofs, and embellished with all manner of vibrant adornments, they are paraded past the golden sand dunes to an excited crowd and intense scrutinisation and judging. Aside from the thousands of camels also traded during the course of the fair, other livestock are haggled over, bought and sold, as well as local textiles, arts and crafts, saddles, jewellery and a variety of camel finery and embellishments. 4-12 November 2019





A mountainous country with a rich history that stretches back 10,000 years, the Southeast Asian country of Laos boasts literally hundreds of Buddhist monasteries, temples and stupas in just about every city. Located on the north-eastern bank of the Mekong, Vientiane’s relaxing atmosphere is a rarity amongst the world’s capitals. Its grand stupa, Pha That Luang (pictured), was built over an ancient stupa in the 16th century by King Setthathirath when he moved the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. It has since become the national symbol of Laos and is profoundly revered by all its countryfolk. Once a year for three days, That Luang stupa is the focus of a three-day religious festival celebrated at full moon in November, beginning with a pre-dawn gathering of thousands of pilgrims from Laos and Thailand who listen to prayers and sermons chanted by hundreds of monks all representing Lao wats. There follows a grand procession to pay homage to Lady Si Meuang, who was crushed to death as the city’s foundation pillar was about to be planted and has since become the protector of Vientiane and its inhabitants. The procession ends with a giant firework display which symbolises an offering of flowers of light to Lord Buddha. 12 November 2019


In the Eastern Free State on the edge of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, in the foothills of South Africa’s Maluti Mountains, lies the unassuming town of Ficksburg. Surrounded by undulating hills, set against a spectacular mountain backdrop and well known for its sandstone architecture, scenic game farms and local hiking trails, Ficksburg is a popular stop for holidaymakers touring the rainbow nation. Visitors hiking into the mountains surrounding the town can see various species of indigenous plants and animals as well as ancient San rock paintings and carvings in caves and on rock shelters. But, what makes Ficksburg stand out even more, is that it is apparently the “Cherry Capital of the World”. To reinforce this title, every year the town hosts a three-day cherry extravaganza, which also happens to be the longest running crop festival in South Africa, dating back to 1968. The festival’s varied programme usually offers something for everyone, including sampling the region’s famous Ionia Cherry Liqueur. Wine and chocolate pairings are also multitudinous during the festival, which, as you can imagine given the country’s superb wines, are very popular indeed. 21-23 November 2019

Not far from the nation’s capital of Manila is the artistic town of Angono in Rizal, where buildings don’t crowd the skyline, the vegetation is greener and the streets are a little less hostile. Arguably the arts capital of the Philippines, as well as being the site of the Angono Petroglyphs (the country’s oldest known work of art), Angono has continuously attracted art lovers from across the nation, not to mention globally. Originally scheduled to coincide with the festival of Pope St. Clement, the town comes alive every year during Higantes, when towering 5 or 6-metre tall papiermâché giants (designed to express a person’s character or a unique idea and painted in vibrant colours) parade through the streets much to the joy of vivacious crowds. According to the locals, this practice began when locals in Angono created a dummy to portray a mean landlord who was best recognized by his foul mannerisms and imposing height. For tourists visiting Angono, a detour to the Blanco Family museum gives an insight to the origins of this fascinating festival, including a large collection of giant higantes created by renowned higante designer Argana Tori. 22-23 November 2019

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KACHI LODGE Situated at the confluence of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in the Daniel Campos Province of southwest Bolivia and lying at a nausea-inducing altitude of 3,656 meters above sea level, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and one of the most extraordinary sights in all of South America. Stretching for more than 12,000 square kilometres, the salar was originally part of a prehistoric salt lake, Lago Minchín, which once covered most of southwest Bolivia. When it evaporated long ago, it left behind a few seasonal puddles plus several salt pans, one of which is Salar de Uyuni. Here, a thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, blanketed by quilted, polygonal salt patterns rising from the ground which make for an awe-inspiring spectacle. The salar’s famed mirror effect occurs during the wet season, after heavy rains, between January and March. The first luxury lodge of its kind on the Bolivian Altiplano and unveiled just a few months ago at the foot of Tunupa olcano, Kachi Lodge is a unique property resembling a space station, made up of six deluxe geodesic domes designed for optimal stargazing, each with a centrally positioned bed to provide the best possible views through transparent panels. Offering the creature comforts of a typical hotel room yet in the middle of an otherworldly landscape, each dome contains everything a discerning traveller needs to make the most of staying in this remarkable part of the world. Top notch fare is provided by celebrated restaurant Gustu in La Paz helmed by Latin America’s best female chef Kamilla Seidler (so even the most discerning of gourmands will be happy!) and Kachi Lodge’s inclusive rates include soft drinks, wines, spirits, local airport transfers and local activities. Feasting on delicious Bolivian food and wines, hiking to the lower lip of a volcano crater, exploring an island covered in giant cacti, visiting archaeological sites and biking on the salt flat make staying at Kachi Lodge an inimitable all-round experience and so much more than mere gazing at the beautiful star-studded sky.

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Rest Your Head




One of Paris’s oldest, trendiest and most intriguing neighbourhoods and the quartier Parisians like to keep for themselves, Le Marais oozes old world elegance and is the closest you can get to the feel of medieval Paris. By day and night, its narrow, cobbled streets and crooked lanes are alive with bars, restaurants, fashion-forward boutiques, trendy shops, hip designers, fashionable art galleries and great museums, all crammed into a relatively small space. In the heart of this happening melange, new 43-room hotel Sinner recently swung open its glamorous doors, dramatically blending 1300s religious buildings with an indulgent Parisian aesthetic. The third Parisian addition to French hospitality group Evok Hotel’s portfolio, the former having been designed by Jean-Louis Deniot (Nolinski Paris) and Philippe Starck (Brach Paris), Sinner’s designer Tristan Auer worked closely on the concept with Emmanuel Sauvage, the hotel group’s co-founder, to forge a look which blends the beauty and grandeur of religious buildings with the sensuality of religious art. This has been achieved to great effect throughout the property by the use of vaulted ceilings, towering columns, tall stained-glass windows and antique wooden doors, which combine to give Sinner a unique, different and cutting-edge look which also exudes quintessentially Parisian style. In the hotel’s ground floor restaurant, Sinner’s executive chef Adam Benthalha has fashioned a menu of ethnic and warm cuisine that draws influences from North Africa and South America. Upstairs, 43 airy rooms include four decadent suites, all of which were individually crafted by Auer and feature a range of colours, patterns and statement pieces. For those who need to recuperate after a busy day exploring the fascinating surrounding neighbourhood, the hotel also features a decadent spa and hammam, complete with a beautiful pool inspired by Greek and Roman baths in which to relax in supreme yet sinful fashion.

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BEIJING, CHINA THE PUXUAN HOTEL & SPA Located on the edge of Beijing’s Forbidden City, Büro Ole Scheeren’s strikingly cool Guardian Art Center elicited waves of appreciation when it was unveiled last year in one of the world’s most significant historical areas, where it neighbours governmental buildings, the National Art Museum of China and Beijing’s most popular shopping belt, Wangfujing. Billed as the world’s first custom-built auction house, the massive structure is something of a hybrid between museum, gallery and market, accommodating a variety of facilities ranging from art galleries and art conservation facilities to event spaces and public transport infrastructure. A few months ago, the 92-key PuXuan hotel opened in the upper part of the building formed of translucent glass bricks, adding a hospitality element to the center. The fifth property from Urban Resort Concepts and conceived as a pure, modern and authentic hotel that goes beyond conventional luxury, The PuXuan’s polished interiors were designed Shanghai-based MQ Studio which opted for a rich colour and material palette balanced with a combination of handcrafted and artisanal furniture and antique and contemporary art pieces. The result is a slick, calm and beautifully executed hotel that skilfully balances past and present and acts as a bridge between patrons and the auction house should one wish to purchase an artwork while in residence. Lined in walls of light timber, bedrooms and suites juxtapose Beijing’s charm and heritage with a luxurious and contemporary aesthetic. The finishes are second-to-none throughout. State-of-the-art technology prevails. Intelligently-designed bathrooms can be seamlessly integrated into the room experience or enclosed as an entirely private space. Every room features a full-sized walk-in wardrobe. PuXuan houseguests can check in and out at any time of the day or night. A private TV channel is available for proxy bidding. And every guest room contains a safe large enough to contain a couple of small artworks. Elsewhere within The PuXuan the legacy and creativity of Chinese culture are channelled through all of the hotel’s facilities, from the spa where ancient healing techniques are employed, to the fine cuisine served at Fu Chun Ju restaurant which pays resolute homage to traditional Cantonese flavours, and the Tea Room which goes way beyond the mere serving of tea to positively celebrate Asia’s rich tea history.

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CHICAGO, U.S.A. THE HOXTON, CHICAGO Bounded by West Madison Street to the south, West Fulton Street to the north, Ogden Avenue to the west and the I-90/94 expressway, the Windy City’s Fulton Market District was historically home to food packers and distributors and was a largely industrial area dating back to the late 19th century. But this has all changed in the past decade, fuelled by the opening of the Morgan Street subway stop in 2012, which caused a surge in new restaurants in the district, followed by increased interest from companies looking for non-traditional loft-style office space. Almost gone are the warehouses and meat-packing factories that contributed to Chicago’s economic boom. Now it’s an edgy neighbourhood brimming with funky boutiques, one-of-a-kind art galleries, trendy cafés, new office buildings (including Google’s Chicago headquarters), desirable apartments and some of the most popular eateries in the city. Slap bag in the middle of all this inner-city rebirth is The Hoxton, built within a gritty former meatpacking warehouse. Right in the heart of Chicago’s cultural buzz, the hotel couldn’t be more “now” if it tried, surrounded by a hive of round-the-clock activity and urban coolness, and is perfectly located for visits to Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and the Art Institute of Chicago. 182 rooms offered in three basic types from snug to roomy, are designed to echo the building’s industrial past with panelled leather headboards and warehouse-style floor-to-ceiling windows allowing plenty of light to flood in. Bespoke bed linen, mid-century-inspired furnishings, locally sourced art, a selection of books and a Marshall bluetooth speaker complete the retro-urban aesthetic. Free wi-fi, free international calls “to anywhere but the moon”, free light breakfast bags and late checkouts for just USD 10 per hour make the Chicago Hoxton’s offering super travel savvy and tourist friendly.

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SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO HOTEL AMPARO When Hotel Amparo opened at the beginning of this year in the heart of the Spanish-colonial cobblestoned center of San Miguel de Allende, it set a cool new standard in a town previously known for being somewhat stuck-in-time when it came to places to rest one’s head. Occupying a 300-year-old former mayoral residence, Amparo is the brainchild of first-time hoteliers Mariana Barran de Goodall and Taylor Goodall who married in the town five years earlier, having fallen in love with its vibrancy, thriving arts scene and stunning architecture. When the characterful building came on the market, they positively leapt at the opportunity to give it a new lease of life by creating a residential-style hideaway influenced by their travels and offering amenities and experiences hitherto unavailable in San Miguel de Allende. Texan designer Aaron Rambo was enlisted to help transform the historical property into a five room boutique hotel, by refreshing original architectural detailing and adding mid-century furnishings sourced from countries including France, India and Denmark, together with Aztec-inspired murals by local artist Lucas Rise and traditional textiles by Hibiscus Linens, Barran de Goodall’s own brand. The public spaces are punctuated by Belgian-wood panelling and concrete fireplaces and hung with vintage crystal chandeliers. The individually designed guest rooms are all different, with king beds dressed in handmade linen, Bang & Olufsen bluetooth speakers, cool bathrooms and Le Labo toiletries. All have working fireplaces and double doors opening on to patios. The biggest room boasts a separate sitting area and an over-sized bathroom complete with double sinks and a deep soaking tub. The nightly rate includes homemade breakfast, happy hour on the terrace and a cutesy dessert hour in the evening. Also onsite are a state-of-the-art chef’s teaching kitchen and an upscale full-service coffee shop, boasting the town’s first (and only) La Marzocco espresso machine. Meanwhile on the roof of the hotel at Bar Margaret, Latino-Caribbean small plates and an à la carte menu, served for lunch and dinner, fuse local ingredients, dishes and cooking styles from the southeastern United States, Mexican gulf coast and the chef’s Peruvian heritage. A wine list with a heavy emphasis on European small producers of low intervention wine, and a cocktail menu that reflects mixologist Gabriel Avila’s passion for herb infused mezcal and tequila cocktails complete Hotel Amparo’s bijou but perfectly formed food and beverage offerings, undoubtedly making it the coolest place to unpack your suitcases to explore everything that colourful San Miguel de Allende has to offer.

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Rapidly capturing the hearts of discerning travellers with its thoughtfully curated one-of-a-kind hospitality experiences, positioned in prime European city locations, Sir Hotels group is slowly but steadily expanding its portfolio. Its latest offering, Sir Victor, was formerly Hotel Omm and is set just off of Passeig de Gràcia (Barcelona’s grand, humming shopping boulevard) a stone’s throw from Gaudí’s Casa Milà and close to the Avinguda Diagonal, home to many of Barcelona’s designer boutiques. Famous for its unique limestone façade designed by Catalan architect Juli Capella, which orientates the windows in such a way as to allow maximum sunlight in yet maintain the privacy of hotel guests, the Omm was innovative in Barcelona when it first opened in 2004 and Sir Victor has gone some way to maintaining this uniqueness. Tel Aviv-based designers Baranowitz + Kronenburg, renowned for their clever design of W Amsterdam hotel across two historic buildings, were engaged by Sir Hotels to work their architectural magic on the property’s multifaceted ground floor space. The result is a journey through contrasting landscapes, inspired by the seaside and the mountains, that engages when you first enter the building’s bright and playful lobby, and changes as you delve deeper into the hotel, where earthier tones create a more intimate and intriguing ambiance. Upstairs, 91 rooms and suites ooze understated grooviness and are laden with the kind of uber-cool mid-century modern designer trappings that one expects of a hotel with such style-led credentials, including a drinks trolley for whipping-up a cheeky pre-dinner cocktail and a selection of booked inspired by Catalan author Victor Català, after which the hotel is named. Crowning Sir Victor is a secluded rooftop bar, restaurant and pool where guests can swim, eat and sip whilst drinking in captivating views of Gaudí’s Casa Milà and La Sagrada Familia to a backdrop of funky sounds provided by some of the city’s hippest DJs.

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RAFFLES SHENZEN Just 30 years ago Shenzhen was a small seaside town. Today it is an economic powerhouse, one of China’s largest and most important cities and the mainland’s coolest metropolis. Upon closer inspection it’s not hard to see why. The city’s urban sprawl and cloud-piercing towers make for an imposing metropolitan silhouette. Connected to Hong Kong via bullet train means that tourists can reach Shenzhen from downtown Kowloon in around 20 minutes. And what Shenzhen lacks in ancient temples and historic monuments to typically lure cultured travellers, it more than makes for with strikingly modern architecture, artsy pedestrian districts, excellent cocktail bars and exceptional Cantonese cuisine. Shenzen also boasts an array of luxury hotels, the newest of which, Raffles, opened just a few months ago in prestigious One Shenzhen Bay tower in Nanshan District, topped with a helipad for VIP access and helicopter sightseeing tours of Shenzhen Bay. Occupying floors 33-45 as well as 70-71 of the 72-storey tower (which also contains Raffles residences), arriving guests check-in on the 34th floor which serves as a veritable lobby in the sky. As with every Raffles property, the service is attentive and discreet. Occupying floors 35 through 45, the hotel’s 168 sumptuous and overly spacious rooms and suites offer breathtaking views across the sea and cityscape. At 60 sqm, entry level rooms are larger and more decadent than many European hotel suites. Meanwhile, spanning a whopping 434 sqm, the immense lounge area of the sprawling 2-bedroom Presidential Suite connects to a private dining room, full kitchen, steam room and fitness area. Every guest room in the hotel is served by Raffles’ inimitable 24-hour butler service, providing everything from morning newspapers to freshly brewed coffee at the touch of a button. The onsite Raffles Spa is a welcoming haven of relaxation after a busy day on Shenzhen’s bustling streets and offers a range of rejuvenating treatments to restore mind, body and soul. Atop the hotel, Raffles’ six sky-high food and beverage venues include top notch Yun Jing restaurant which showcases Cantonese fare and boasts 10 private dining rooms, and Kokoni which offers a Japanese culinary adventure spanning everything from kaiseki and premium steaks to sushi and sashimi. Also at the top of the hotel is a Raffles signature Long Bar (pictured). Because some things never go out of fashion, here one can sip an iconic Singapore Sling, created in 1915 at Raffles Singapore by Chinese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.

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SAVELLETRI DI FASANO, ITALY MASSERIA TORRE MAIZZA Facing the Mediterranean from the centre of an extensive estate, Masseria Torre Maizza is just a few kilometres away from the charming seaside fishing village of Savelletri di Fasano in north-eastern Puglia on the Adriatic coast, just 45 kilometres from Brindisi. A small fishing port, sandy beaches, small rocky reefs and a variety of excellent restaurants make that this corner of Puglia perfect for a relaxed vacation away from crowds of holidaymakers. Surrounded by ancient olive groves and skilfully blending local heritage with contemporary luxury, recently rebranded as a Rocco Forte property and having just undergone a major refurbishment at the hands of talented designer Olga Polizzi, Masseria Torre Maizza is brimming with thoughtful design accents and beautiful detailing which come together to provide a special hospitality experience in a unique place. The original 16th century masseria (fortified farmhouse) buildings at the centre of the sprawling property house the reception, a Rocco Forte Spa, Bougainville bar and a new Torre Suite in the original tower, offering sensational views over a sweeping expanse of Puglian countryside, out towards the Adriatic beyond. The rest of the hotel’s 40 rooms and suites typify elegant Italian living, exquisitely marrying contemporary style with a carefully curated collection of local art and objets d’art. Polizzi excels at soft furnishings, accessorising and ensuring that Rocco Forte properties feel warm and welcoming while also smart and sophisticated. While sumptuous king-sized beds, stone bathrooms and state-of-the-art amenities are de rigueur throughout Masseria Torre Maizza, the hotel’s pièce de résistance is its stylish private beach club on the shores of the Adriatic where guests can lounge, sunbathe, eat, drink and enjoy aperitivo hour from the comfort of their luxe sunbeds while being waited on hand and foot.

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PUNTA MAROMA, MEXICO CHABLÉ MAROMA Sharing much of its history with the neighbouring states of Yucatán and Campeche, the “Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo” (as it’s officially known) was made for vacationing and in the past few decades its Caribbean shoreline has grown into a major tourism destination. Not only does this divine little corner of Mexico lay claim to hundreds of kilometres of white sugar-sand beaches, but it is also home to wildlife-rich jungles, coral reefs and mysterious underwater cave systems, small communities oozing local Mayan-Mexicano character and fascinating ancient ruins and archaeological sites. Due its proximity to the world’s second largest reef, Quintana Roo also boasts some of the world’s best snorkelling and diving. A magnificent assemblage of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and coastal lagoons, the Mesoamerican Reef extends for several hundred kilometres from the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula to Belize, the eastern coast of Guatemala and the northern coast of Honduras. Name-checked by The Travel Channel as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, no doubt due to its vast strip of white sand fringed by the stunningly turquoise Caribbean, Punta Maroma is located 30 kilometres south of Cancun International Airport and 10 kilometres north of bustling Playa del Carmen. Quiet and chilled with minimal waves make Punta Maroma ideal for a relaxing holiday of sunbathing and reading. Designed for guests to reconnect with the beauty of Mexico, surrounded by tropical jungle and set on an exclusive 200-metre stretch of beach, sublime all-suite resort Chablé Maroma is a secluded hospitality gem that honours its beautiful location with its back-to-nature approach to healing and wellness focus. Served by three members of staff per room, every thatched villa at Chablé comes with its own private pool, outdoor living area and sun deck. Bedrooms are contemporary, calm and pampering with huge beds bedecked in sumptuous linens by Paulina Moran and headboards hand-woven from palm leaves. Vast, super-luxe bathrooms stand-out for their indooroutdoor showers, towelling-covered daybeds, walk-in wardrobes and all-natural amenities custom-made for Chablé. Two onsite dining options offer delectable MexiCali fare there’s a rooftop bar perfect for mescal sundowners to a backdrop of incredible views. Completing Chablé’s leisure facilities are a bijou glass-walled gym, a schedule of fitness classes and a blissful spa with seven thatched treatment rooms and a trio of hydrotherapy pools. Healing treatments are based on ancient Mayan therapies. A typical day at Chablé begins with a hamper of freshly baked pastries, strong coffee from Chiapas and mountain spring water delivered to your door, followed by an à la carte breakfast. After sunbathing, swimming in the crystal-clear waters and flicking through a novel, indulge in a herbal massage before sipping handcrafted sundowners on the terrace at Raw Bar by Bu’ul. Post a dinner of sopa de lima, octopus ceviche and the freshest local catch of the day, retire to your private, candlelit villa in the jungle to sleep like a baby. Getting into the swing of things at Chablé is the easy part. It’s the leaving which is tough.

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Hyatt’s lifestyle brand celebrates the individuality of every guest, and each Andaz hotel reflects the destination’s culture in the uniqueness of the property. Located in close proximity to Vienna’s main train station, within the city’s rapidly emerging new Quartier Belvedere, Andaz’s fourth property in Europe opened in April 2019 offering more than 300 rooms and suites inspired by the man behind the iconic Belvedere Palace, Prince Eugene of Savoy. A collaboration between celebrated architect Renzo Piano and renowned interior designers Claudio Carbone and Gabriel Kacerovsky, the pet friendly hotel comprises two separate buildings connected by interwoven bridges, sharing a voluminous lobby lounge on the ground floor. The cool cat interior design aesthetic smoothly blends the classic and the contemporary, resulting in a warm and inviting yet fun and energetic hospitality experience from the get-go. Lit by floor-to-ceiling windows and infused with a variety of local touches and artistic detailing, guest rooms are crisp, modern and function efficiently, are well laid out and straightforward to use, and are amply equipped to suit both leisure and business travellers. A huge state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness center, looking out towards the green space fronting the hotel, boasts every conceivable piece of gym equipment needed to stay fit whilst on-the-go. And a small onsite spa offers a limited range of treatments. But where the hotel really excels is in its food and beverage venues. Inspired by the Northern Lights, the hotel’s popular rooftop bar on the 16th floor, Aurora (pictured), offers sweeping panoramic views of Vienna together with a reasonably priced Scandinavian-inspired cocktail menu and a good range of bar snacks. On street level, contemporary Austrian tavern Eugen21 skilfully combines classic and modern cuisines in a comprehensive menu inspired by what Prince Eugene would have dined on, with added modern twists. Offering something for everyone in a spacious and comfortable dining room, delicious, hearty fare and good portions are matched by excellent service in Eugen21 undoubtedly making it a destination restaurant for the Viennese and visitors alike. Also on the ground floor but offering healthy food to take-away, Cyclist has already become an urban meeting spot for visitors, athletes and anyone health-conscious. Offering flexitarian food, sandwiches, salads and grilled dishes alongside daily specials served by friendly staff, Cyclist’s food is scrummy and filling and its fresh homemade smoothies and coffee specialties are worth cycling across town for. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU

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COMPORTA, PORTUGAL SUBLIME COMPORTA For decades, the 60 kilometres of uninterrupted Atlantic Ocean beach, verdant rice fields and estuary-fronted nature reserves known collectively as Comporta were a closely guarded secret among the wealthy, who made the area their off-the-grid summer place to escape to. But such jaw-dropping natural beauty could only be kept a secret for so long. Comporta now regularly features on lists of the planet’s most coveted travel hot spots, with the 2016 opening of the drop-dead-gorgeous Sublime Comporta country retreat playing an instrumental part in the area’s increased visibility, not to mention finally providing an accommodation option worthy of Comporta’s breathtaking charms. Pine, olive and cork trees along with herb and flower beds combine to create a veritable Portuguese Garden of Eden throughout Sublime’s grounds of 17 hectares. Meanwhile, the extensive and clever use of natural materials to create modern structures are in total harmony with the resort’s setting. And the liberal use of glass walling in the public spaces ensures plentiful views of the mesmerising landscape. While the design alone justifies visiting Sublime, it is the excellent service, warm hospitality and luxe amenities that persuade one to stay. The property has two swimming pools, tennis courts and a stand-alone spa housed in the owner’s original ranch-style home. A state-of-the-art fitness centre will open soon. Foodies will love Sem Porta, the property’s main dining venue, which, under the stewardship of chef Tiago Santos, has become a destination restaurant, serving contemporary Portuguese cuisine with a focus on the local Alentejo region. All of the room categories at Sublime - from Friends Rooms located in the main house to the recently inaugurated lakefront Bio-Pool Suites - combine a chic, pared-back aesthetic with nods to local culture. A signature of the Sublime experience, all rooms have private outdoor spaces ensuring that guests are connected with nature. ALEX BENASULI

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LONDON, U.K. SOFITEL LONDON ST JAMES Sofitel’s flagship London property is in the throes of a sweeping GBP 16.5 million transformation, including an update to all 183 guest rooms by Parisian designer Pierre-Yves Rochon which is introducing a contemporary British flavour to the French art of living. Upon entering the hotel’s grand lobby, the immediate and most exciting change is directly to your right. In early June, one of London’s most respected chefs, Anthony Demetre, launched Wild Honey St James (in the space previously occupied by The Balcon), with a focus on English-influenced contemporary French cooking fashioned from the best quality in-season produce and a commitment to nose-to-tail sustainability. Underlying the serious business of gastronomy and the overarching emphasis on allowing fresh flavours to shine, there is a playfulness in the culinary mix of French and Anglo influences, and Wild Honey’s spacious new 110-seat dining room is a statement in old-fashioned grandeur blended with modern design. Boasting doubleheight ceilings and huge arched windows looking out to the majestic architecture of St James’s, the grand room is set over two levels punctuated by long velvet banquettes, striking lighting and a smattering of contemporary art, including two huge portraits by Scottish artist Elliot Killick. Next door, the refurbishment is also complete of St James Bar, where a marble bar top, deep blue velvet banquettes and new lighting have updated the ambience of the classic space inspired by Coco Chanel’s 1920s apartment. The hotel’s ladylike Rose Lounge, decorated as the name suggests in a romantic mix of blush pink and florals and the venue for indulgent afternoon teas, will undergo a makeover by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the guestrooms are being infused with a sense of swinging London amid specially commissioned pop art works and abstracts: think Andy Warhol prints of Debbie Harry and Twiggy, along with objets d’art carefully selected to enhance the colour scheme of each room and coffee table books to lend a cultured homeaway-from-home feel. Original oversized headboards, classic black and white bathrooms with art deco mirrors and marble-topped vanities have not been touched. Opulent SoSPA, which has won a string of awards, is genuinely in no need of improvement. Opened in 2009 in a neighbouring building, it features treatment rooms across three levels, a private hammam, state-of-the-art spa bath and a dark oak pavilion space used for private functions. By retaining the best of the old and introducing some welcome new touches which add to its overall offering, Sofitel London St James is masterfully reinventing itself in the best possible way. And the addition of Wild Honey St James is particularly exciting in this match between French savoir faire and English class. Long may this international hospitality liaison continue in the heart of London’s West End! DAWN GIBSON

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Competitors performing in a dance contest at the annual Braemar Gathering highland games, which have been taking place in Scotland for hundreds of years 7 September 2019


On the remote southern tip of the Maldives archipelago, Raffles Maldives Meradhoo is as far removed from the rhythm of everyday life as it possibly could be.

Surrounded by crystalline Indian Ocean waters and unspoiled reefs, the resort is a veritable beach island haven, offering 21 beach villas and residences; Raffles Butlers seamlessly meetings every guests’ needs; Marine Butlers revealing underwater wonders; Children’s Butlers for younger guests, and an overwater Raffles Spa where treatments combine age-old Eastern practices with local influences. Two on-site restaurants and bespoke private dining options, ranging from sandbank breakfasts to champagne cruises, ensure that even the most discerning gourmands are satisfied. Meanwhile, sundowners, wines from around the world and delectable cocktails are served at the resort’s Long Bar.


Win a four-night half board stay in a Beach Villa at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo for two people, including welcome cocktails, Raffles’ signature butler service, roundtrip speedboat transfers and a couples’ spa treatment. To enter, email your contact details to The draw will take place after 30th November 2019 and the winner will be notified via email. This prize can be used any time before 30th June 2020 subject to availability when booking. Blackout dates apply. This prize is not transferable to another person. The Cultured Traveller will not share your details with third parties. Multiple entries will be disqualified and completely excluded from this draw. Entrants will be added to The Cultured Traveller’s mailing list Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 43


Museums, galleries and restaurants are breathing new life into the most unlikely corners of the Polish capital, where Joe Mortimer ďŹ nds a city bursting with a newfound lust for life




ake a walk along the left bank of Warsaw’s Vistula River on a sunny afternoon and it’s hard to imagine that just 75 years ago, the city lay in ruins. Couples whizz past on bicycles and electric scooters as families stroll along the promenade, and groups of youngsters pose for selfies in front of the floating bars that line the riverbank. The Copernicus Science Centre cuts a modern silhouette against the bright blue sky and the inviting murals of the Museum on the Vistula, Warsaw’s newest contemporary art space, reveal a playful and whimsical side to the city that was long smothered by Soviet rule.

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It’s a peaceful and vibrant scene, one increasingly common in Warsaw, where a new generation are transforming the city into a hotbed of creativity. Here in the Powiśle neighbourhood, where new apartment blocks are rising up along the river front, the streets are lined with coffee shops, wine bars, design stores and vegan restaurants, and symbolic street art roars from the sides of buildings. Looking out towards the far side of the Vistula from the garden-covered rooftop of the University of Warsaw Library, a sea of greenery separates the right bank from the Praga district, where pockets of prosperity are raising the profile of the long-neglected


neighbourhood. Here, urban renewal projects are breathing new life into crumbling buildings that are now home to arts and cultural spaces, awardwinning restaurants and world-class museums. The same story is unfolding all over town. A cloud of cranes hovers on the skyline in the Wola district and new downtown hotels like the storied Raffles Europejski Warsaw and the recently opened Hotel Warszawa are paving the way for a wave of affluent international visitors. Though tourism is still nascent in this restive city of 1.77 million souls, visitor arrivals are on the rise, and it’s only a matter of time before that trickle becomes a deluge.

Though the scars of recent history remain fresh, young Varsovians are turning their attention to the future and reinventing the city’s cultural and social scenes

A BRIEF HISTORY OF OPPRESSION Warsaw’s urban renewal is not simply a story of repurposing old buildings, but a continuation of the shift in values that began when the country became a democratic republic in 1989. Quietly and confidently, Warsaw has been adapting to independence for the past 30 years and, in doing so, coming to terms with its own identity. To understand modern Warsaw, it helps to know a little about its past. Stanisław II Augustus was the last monarch to rule over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which covered a sizeable part of ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 47

central Europe from the 1300s until its dissolution in the late 18th century, when the territory was carved up between the Russian, Prussian and Austrian empires. Effectively, Poland ceased to exist from 1795 until the end of World War I, when the Second Polish Republic was formed and the country entered a period of rapid cultural and economic evolution: a golden era when businesses thrived and dancehalls thrummed. Independence was obliterated again at the outset of World War II, when Germany and Soviet forces invaded and occupied the country. Following the unsuccessful Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, in which the Polish resistance attempted to seize control from Nazi overlords, the Germans drove the remaining citizens out of the city and began the systematic destruction of Warsaw’s buildings, which would lead to the obliteration of 85 per cent of the city.

When the country joined the European Union in 2004, it kick-started Warsaw’s rejuvenation, and in the 15 years since, a new generation has begun to make its own mark on their capital. Though the scars of recent history remain fresh, young Varsovians are turning their attention to the future and reinventing the city’s cultural and social scenes.

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD Unlike other European capitals, you don’t have to battle with crowds of tourists in Warsaw. Major performances at the Grand Theatre and National Opera tend to sell out weeks in advance and the city’s top restaurants are often fully booked, but one can walk through the cobbled streets of the Old Town at any time of day and not feel overwhelmed by the volume of human traffic. The Old Town is Warsaw at its fairy-tale best, a warren of narrow streets surrounding the charming Market Square, which was once the medieval heart of Warsaw. The 15th century buildings were rebuilt from scratch in the years following the war, using original ► 48 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


Life didn’t get much better for the Polish people when the war ended. Though the government-in-exile attempted to maintain continuity of rule from London, the reality was that post-war Poland was very much under the thumb of the Soviet Union, which kept the country firmly behind the Iron Curtain until Poland achieved independence once again in 1989.


When the country joined the EU in 2004, it kick-started Warsaw’s rejuvenation, and in the 15 years since, a new generation has begun to make its own mark on the capital

materials salvaged from the rubble. Today, the rows of colourful townhouses surround the cobbled square, filled with ice cream parlours, souvenir shops and restaurants selling traditional Polish fare. It’s hard to resist the rustic charms of local dining. Most of the restaurants in the Old Town tout their homemade pierogi – the ubiquitous fried or steamed dumplings packed with sweet or savoury fillings – or bigos, a rich and hearty game stew, usually served in a hollowed-out loaf of rye bread. These traditional dishes are best washed down with a flagon of wheaty Polish beer or a glass or two of Polish vodka, served ideally at six to eight degrees centigrade, as per the collected wisdom of six centuries of vodka production. Warsaw bartenders will proudly explain that vodka was first invented in Poland (a fact hotly contested by Russia) and that Poland is the world’s fourth largest vodka producer. For a truly unique experience, connoisseurs should treat themselves to a glass of two of aged potato vodka or a good quality rye.




The Old Town’s streets are home to a trio of churches: the unusual façade of St. John’s Archcathedral stands next to the strawberry and cream-coloured Shrine of Our Lady Grace Jesuit Church. And a block away, the baroque façade of St. Martin’s Church overlooks the fortified wall that encircles this ancient enclave. Walk towards the southern end of Old Town and you’ll come to the salmon pink Royal Castle, which serves as a reminder of the halcyon days of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, when the kings and queens of Poland ruled over a vast territory from this Warsaw residence. Painstakingly rebuilt between 1971 and 1984, the castle interiors contain royal chambers, elegant staterooms and reception halls, and a collection of art that includes pieces by Rembrandt and a 1685 Stradivarius violin ( From Castle Square, the so-called Royal Route extends for 11 kilometres through the city, past the glorious gardens of Łazienki Park and all the way down to Wilanów Palace and Park, the royals’ summer retreat and one of the most impressive buildings in Warsaw. Inside, visitors can explore the royal apartments, adorned with magnificent baroque art, elaborate wall tapestries and beautiful moulded ceilings, and view ► OLD MARKET SQUARE

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the superb art collection of Stanisław Kostka Potock, which became Warsaw’s first art museum in 1805. Antique treasures from Egypt, European ceramics and hand-made furniture from the Orient fill the salons, and works of art from across Europe continue to dazzle visitors now as they would have in the early 19th century ( Some of the city’s grandest buildings line the upper end of the Royal Route. Take the time to wander past the Presidential Palace and the Holy Cross Church, where the heart of Fryderyk Chopin was laid to rest (his body is buried in Paris). Then admire the grandeur of Staszic Palace, outside which stands a monument to another 52 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

of Warsaw’s favourite sons, Nicolaus Copernicus, whose 16th century research revolutionised our understanding of the universe. A few blocks from here stands the Palace of Culture and Science, the divisive icon and lasting legacy of the communist regime that looms over the city. Today the hulking tower is surrounded by a collection of gleaming new offices and apartment buildings: some of the most expensive real estate in the city. The irony that this communist symbol, a gift from Stalin in 1955, is now surrounded by new towers born from free market capitalism is not lost on the population, many of whom think the palace should be torn down ( ►

Like it or not, the Palace of Culture and Science has become a symbol of the city. Locals jest that its 30th floor observation deck is the nicest spot in town, because it’s the only viewpoint from which you can’t see the building. But for visitors and locals alike, the colossal palace provides context for modern day Warsaw.

ART & IDENTITY Relics of the Soviet era are met with mixed views in the city; some see them as a painful reminder of a dark past, while others accept their value as part of the Polish identity, for better or worse. For those in the latter camp, beauty can be found in the methods by which Warsaw creatives – artists, filmmakers and other artisans - found a means of expression in an era where individuality was quashed. Polish poster art was born at the end of the 19th century but came into its own as a recognised art form in the interwar years from 1918 until 1939. Graphic artists and typographers embraced the medium, which was used to promote everything from agricultural products and dance halls to important meetings and tourism. Under communism, poster art was institutionalised and became an important propaganda tool, used to promote socialist ideals and political goals. But it was in the mid 50s that the genre flourished, thanks in part to the film industry. Artists were given free reign to recreate posters for the state-owned film distribution business, using their own artistic license rather than images of actors provided by studios. Since posters were the only artistic medium permitted under the regime, their creativity manifested itself in magnificent works of art, many of which have found their way into museums and private collections. The Polish Poster Museum at Wilanów, established in 1968 to preserve and display these unique works, contains a trove of 36,000 Polish posters and 25,000 foreign pieces, making it one of the largest collections in the world. Works by early masters of the genre, like Wojciech Zamecznik, are on display alongside other champions of what became known as the Polish School of Posters, and regular exhibitions are dedicated to individual artists or specific subject matter ( 20th century Polish poster art from various well-known movies 54 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Since freedom of expression and individuality were throttled in the soviet era, Polish poster art is one of the few genres to have existed in the 20th century and its value as such is priceless, regardless of its connotations. The same is true of neon lighting, an American advertising model adopted by the Polish People’s Party and used for propaganda purposes to promote state-owned enterprises and party-friendly institutions. Though its purpose was utilitarian, its execution was taken seriously, with some of the best artists in the land commissioned to create detailed neon signs for car factories, cinemas and libraries amongst other things. Though many of Warsaw’s most iconic neon signs were scrapped after the fall of communism, many have been salvaged and restored, and are today on display at the Neon Muzeum at Soho Factory ( Over the years, Poland’s borders have been redrawn numerous times by encroaching conquerors, a fact manifested in a thought-provoking piece of artwork in the lobby of Raffles Europejski Warsaw. One of more than 500 pieces in the hotel’s collection, Borders, by Polish artist Włodzimierz Jan Zakrzewski shows how the Polish territory has transformed over time via series of jagged neon lights representing the outline of these endlessly shifting borders. Art has been an important part of the guest experience at Hotel Europejski since it first opened in 1857; a tradition continued when the hotel reopened to much fanfare in 2018. Today, its magnificent collection, some on loan from billionaire co-owner Vera Michalski-Hoffman, is perhaps the best showcase of modern art in Poland. Throughout the Cold War era, artists found ways of expressing themselves despite the oppression. Filmographer Kazimierz Urbański, founder of the Film Drawing Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, won acclaim for his documentary and educational films, commissioned by the Polish People’s Republic. But in his spare time, Urbański used footage and cuttings to create his own abstract works, which blurred the boundaries between film and art: borders categorically imposed by the state. Urbański is one of many Polish artists celebrated at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, which celebrates contemporary art from the 20th century up until the modern day with a calendar of rotating exhibitions set in a spectacular 1900 neo-Renaissance style building. Situated on the southern side of the vast ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 55



Piłsudski Square (home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and the beautiful Saxon Garden, Zachęta was one of the few buildings that survived the war, thanks in part to the fact that it was appropriated by the Nazis and converted into the House of German Culture for the duration of the occupation ( Along with the Museum on the Vistula and the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Zacheta is one of the most important institutions in Warsaw for contemporary art. It is through art that many young Varsovians are able to express their feelings about identity and history, creating an important body of contemporary work that will

come to characterise the first three decades of independent Poland.

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT If the reconstructed left-bank of the Vistula is a celebration of the glory days of pre-Partition Poland, then the right bank is the stage on which the future of this city is being choreographed. Towards the end of the war, the working class Praga neighbourhood was occupied by the Soviet army, so it was spared the wanton destruction rendered by the Nazis on the left bank of the river. Though the infrastructure remained largely intact, post-war investment focused mostly on rebuilding central Warsaw and Praga was largely ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 57

Though tourism is still nascent in this restive city of 1.77 million souls, visitor arrivals are on the rise, and it’s only a matter of time before that trickle becomes a deluge

forgotten. When director Roman Polanski sought a filming location to stand in for the Warsaw Ghetto for his film ‘The Pianist’, he found the depressing streets and crumbling tenement buildings of Praga to be the perfect setting. But as the cost of living crept up in the centre over the past 15 years, artists and creatives made the move across the river to take advantage of cheaper rent and studio space. Today, Warsaw’s upwardly mobile are also drifting across and snapping up flashy new apartments and office space, in a rapid gentrification process reminiscent of Brooklyn in New York City or London’s Shoreditch in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 58 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

The whole length of Praga’s Ząbkowska Street is now lined with restaurants and bars and the new Praga Museum of Warsaw is dedicated to the history of the area ( Further along Ząbkowska is Koneser (‘Connoisseur’), a major regeneration project that has turned a collection of former distilleries into one of Warsaw’s hottest urban lifestyle enclaves that’s home to the Polish Vodka Museum and a handful of upscale bars and restaurants. Across the railway tracks, investment has also breathed new life into Soho Factory, a collection of warehouses that are now home to fine dining restaurants, galleries and creative event spaces, as well as the excellent

Neon Muzeum. New luxury real estate springing up in the area looks set to cement this as one of Warsaw’s hottest new addresses. Whichever side of the river you look, the welfare of Warsaw’s population is front and centre of new development plans. Parks and green spaces cover a fifth of the city, which is criss-crossed with cycle lanes and a gleaming new Metro network. Black marble benches dotted around the city play Chopin concertos at the touch of a button and information boards in Polish and English tell locals and visitors what kind of flora and fauna to look out for in spaces like the riverside Discovery Park and other public areas.

Locals are serenaded by free Chopin concerts in Łazienki Park every weekend during the summer, while the rightbank beaches are filled with healthy young Varsovians having picnics or practicing yoga. Meanwhile, here on the left bank promenade, the waters of the Vistula continue to glide by, just as they have since time immemorial. The sun shines over the Polish capital and the people enjoy the simple things in life, like friendship, freedom and forgiveness. One thing is clear: after the long dark years of the 20th century, the spring has finally arrived – and Warsaw is rising again. (



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RAFFLES EUROPEJSKI WARSAW Most globetrotters know Raffles’ story, or have visited Singapore’s legendary Long Bar to sip a Sling, crunch monkey nuts and toss the shells on the floor. The famous cocktail was developed at Raffles Singapore in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, has since become an inherent part of the hotel’s rich heritage and crowns the food and beverage offerings at Raffles properties worldwide. But uniquely for a Raffles, it is a huge collection of Polish modern art which takes centre stage at this 160-year-old city landmark, culturally embedding Raffles Europejski Warsaw in its historic location. First opened in 1857 as Hotel Europejski and occupying a beautiful Enrico Marconi-designed neo-Renaissance palace, back in the day this grand edifice on Warsaw’s Royal Route was the favoured hangout of the city’s elite. Rarely does a full-scale hotel renovation return a once gleaming hospitality grand dame to its former glory without sacrificing something. But when careful attention to detail has been paid and a renovation is a resounding success, hospitality classics are reborn for generations to come and true hotel greatness is achieved. This is the case with Raffles Europejski Warsaw, which, when unveiled last summer after a painstaking four-year refurb, instantly became the finest hotel in Poland, if not all of Eastern Europe. And some 160 years after it first opened, Europejski’s new-found grace, poise and tranquillity have seemingly captivated today’s Varsovian movers and shakers. The massive building's classic exterior façades, complete with typically Polish rounded corners, modest columned portico and relatively unpretentious entrance, give little clue as to the hotel’s glamorous interior. But once inside it is immediately obvious that Raffles Europejski Warsaw is a rather special property. An elegant street-level foyer, peppered with custom-designed furnishings, is where guests first encounter the hotel’s art collection. A few 62 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

steps up, and guests find themselves on a long Leon Tarasewicz striped carpet and beneath an undulating series of 160 large hand-blown glass pebbles by Filip Houdek, each of which signifies a year of the building’s life. It is these statement pieces which set the contemporary artistic tone that permeates the entire building and make an emphatic design declaration that is utterly unique in Poland. Art also features heavily in the hotel’s food and beverage venues, which skilfully revive and marry old gastronomic traditions with new culinary trends. In Europejski Grill, warm interiors fashioned by Spanish designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán are skilfully juxtaposed with cuisine that is both loyal to Poland’s culinary heritage and re-imagined with a modern twist. Warsaw’s Long Bar is a swanky incarnation of the world-famous original Singaporean venue and has become a go-to destination for the city’s hip and upwardly mobile. Leather club chairs, movie posters and moody lighting create a warm, members’ club-like space in Humidor, for guests to hideaway and relax with a cigar and sip quality spirits in louche luxury. And for those with a sweet tooth, Lourse Warszawa Patisserie pays homage to the illustrious history of the Europejski, when a café of the same name was a well-known haunt of artists, writers and poets of the day. Upstairs, Raffles’ famous butlers preside over 106 exquisitely appointed rooms including 40 super-luxe suites. Some are accented in turquoise and cream. In others, rich reds, muted golds and bronze prevail. Even entry-level rooms are very generous. Bathrooms are elegantly appointed and beautifully detailed and every room is hung with original Polish art. Europejski’s bedrooms and suites are arguably the best in the city. Rarely does staying at a landmark grand dame not only satisfy all the usual requirements of a five-star hotel but also feed the senses, please the eye and provoke the mind. Yet Raffles Europejski Warsaw achieves all of this and more, and with an incredible amount of style and panache. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 63


Standing tall on Świętokrzyska Street, Hotel Warszawa is one of the most storied buildings in the Polish capital; a proud Art Deco monument that embodies the tale of renewal and rejuvenation unfolding all across the city. Inside, 142 rooms and suites and a collection of eminently Instagrammable restaurants boast a modern, industrial design that fuses past and present, setting the scene for a new wave of affluent travellers looking to explore modern Warsaw. Designed by architect Marcin Weinfeld, when the building opened its doors to great fanfare in 1934, it was the tallest building in Poland and the fourth tallest in Europe: a symbol of the country’s growing economic might. Following the outbreak of war, the Prudential Building (as it was then known) became an obvious target for the German artillery. In the aftermath of the Warsaw uprising of 1944, a barrage of more than 1,000 shells saw the exterior reduced to a crumbling steel ruin. The building was rebuilt and remodelled in the socialist realism style and reopened as the 375-room Hotel Warszawa in the 1950s, operating continuously until 2002 when it fell into neglect. After a 10-year renovation, Hotel Warszawa reopened in 2018, boasting a new façade that honours the original 1930s designs, plus achingly cool interiors that fuse past and present. In the lobby, a vast reception desk carved from a single piece of wood stands before walls of brushed copper, and exposed steel beams reveal the building’s original skeleton. Light installations by Dutch firm Quasar hover above a wood and marble floor which leads into a vast atrium that doubles as a pre-function area for events. One level below, Warszawska Restaurant sports a pared-back aesthetic that reveals more of the building’s concrete foundations. The glass-fronted show-kitchen uses uniquely Polish produce to present modern, elegant dishes, and meats are cured in the venue’s own smoke-room. Chef de cuisine Dariusz Barański also oversees Szóstka Restaurant on the sixth floor, a glass-covered fine-dining venue bathed in natural light, that offers a small but triumphant menu of modern Polish cuisine. The fried potatoes with black garlic are to die for, and you’ll never look at a baby carrot the same way again after trying Szóstka’s dish with butter and ricotta. Guestrooms are designed in a medley of warm American walnut and raw industrial elements, with exposed concrete walls and original vaulted ceilings. Brushed copper air conditioning vents reinforce the industrial vibe, while stylish leather armchairs and chrome-accented furniture create a polished, modern aesthetic. Minimal but functional bathrooms with freestanding tubs and walk-in rain showers are clad in acres of gorgeous patterned marble, with Acqua di Parma amenities. The hotel’s upper levels are home to its top suites, including a two-bedroomed penthouse with an enormous terrace that covers the entire roof of the building. Hotel Warszawa’s pièce de résistance is its spa and indoor pool. A welcoming haven of rich marble and low lighting that feels worlds apart from urban Warsaw, it’s the perfect place to end a day spent exploring the city. JOE MORTIMER Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 65

MAMAISON HOTEL LE REGINA Uniquely located in Warsaw’s charming Nowe Miasto (New Town), whose origins date back to the 15th century and was completely rebuilt after its destruction in WWII, 61-roomed five-star boutique Mamaison Hotel Le Regina sits on delightful, cobbled Kościelna Street, surrounded by ancient churches, galleries, beautiful market squares and unpretentious eateries. The city’s visually entertaining Multimedia Fountain Park is located at the end of the street, which in turn leads to the River Vistula which divides Warsaw in two. Handsome, baroque St. Kazimierz Church is within a stone’s throw of the hotel and the neighbouring Old Town is just a few minutes away, with most of the city’s main touristic sights – including the Old Town Market Place and Royal Castle – within easy walking distance. Warsaw’s Chopin Airport is half an hour away by taxi. Housed within historic Mokrowsky Palace, which was largely destroyed during WWII but faithfully restored in the style of an 18th century palace and kitted-out with modern amenities, the hotel’s terracotta-coloured arcaded façade provides a lovely spot to pause with a latté and people watch as the world goes by. Inside, the hotel’s interiors are in keeping with its heritage, with frescoed walls, dark woods and velvet couches adorning a spacious, marble-lined lobby. Staff are friendly and the service is efficient and warm. 58 guest rooms, 2 suites and a 116 m² two-bedroomed Presidential Suite are spread across three floors, with none being a long walk from reception. Airy, mid-range superior rooms are just the ticket for a long-weekend in Warsaw, are decorated in a neutral colour palette and are well-equipped with large flat screen TVs and spacious bathrooms with twin sinks. Breakfast is a fine affair with à la carte options and an impressive buffet featuring local hams and cheeses plus organic produce from small farms outside the city. During the summer months, guests can also breakfast al fresco in the hotel’s pretty, tree-lined private courtyard.. The hotel’s La Rotisserie restaurant helmed by chef Piotr Szulc is renowned for its tradition fare with contemporary flavours, made using the highest quality fresh local produce. Start with the beef tartar with homemade mustard and follow with Szulc's delicious panfried turbot, served with courgette flowers stuffed with olives, baby artichoke and asparagus. Sweet-toothed guests are amply catered for by a range of scrumptious desserts, and one of Poland’s best sommeliers, Andrzej Strzelczyk, expertly presides over a very good wine cellar and happily suggests pairings for special dinners and tasting menus. The perfect place to retreat to after a busy day treading the town’s cobbled streets, the hotel also boasts a Roman-style spa, sauna, indoor pool and gym. Utilising premium Spanish skincare products by Natura Bissé in all the treatments on offer, guests can indulge in a relaxing professional massage before adjourning to their rooms to sleep. The exceptional location of Mamaison Hotel Le Regina make it the perfect base from which to explore Warsaw’s old and new towns, perhaps as part of a two-centre citybreak. ADRIAN GIBSON Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 67





Warsaw is blanketed by parks, but there are few nicer places to spend an afternoon than this sprawling 76-hectare space peppered with lakes, palaces and ornamental gardens. The jewel in the crown is the Palace on the Isle, a neoclassical edifice acquired by King Stanisław August for use as a summer residence in 1764. Fashioned after the great Italian villas of the 18th century, the palace sits on its own private island and is today home of the Royal Picture Gallery of Stanisław August. Across the park, the Old Orangery, originally built to house exotic flora, is home to the Royal Sculpture Gallery and the Royal Theatre, where grand performances were held for the court and high society guests. For the last 60 years, Łazienki Gardens have provided the backdrop for open-air Chopin performances every Sunday from late May until late September, when local and international orchestras perform free concerts at midday and 16:00, weather permitting. JOE MORTIMER


Built on top of a fortified bastion a few blocks from Nowy Świat at the upper end of the Royal Route, Ostrogski Palace is one of the most unique buildings in Warsaw and a fitting tribute to the nation’s beloved composer, Fryderyk Chopin. The museum houses a charming collection of Chopin paraphernalia and nine salons in the magnificent baroque palace are dedicated to different aspects of his life, including one focused on his personality and sense of humour and another dedicated to his many female acquaintances. Down in the basement, behind the fortified walls of the castle, Chopin’s collected works are available for guests to listen to, alongside original manuscripts and a bronze cast of the composer’s very talented hand. When Chopin died in Paris in October 1849, his heart was removed and brought back to Warsaw, according to his dying wish, and remains in a place of honour in the Church of the Holy Cross. JOE MORTIMER


Legend has it that when the Jews first arrived in Poland some 1,000 years ago, they stumbled upon a forest where voices on the air whispered the word ‘Polin’: Hebrew for ‘rest here’. So began the story of what became the largest Jewish community in the world, a society that faced both harsh prejudice and fond favour throughout the ages, until growing anti-Semitism culminated in the murder of more than three million Polish Jews during WW2. Voted European Museum of the Year in 2016, POLIN charts the history of the Polish Jews from those early years up to the present day. Among the prized collection exhibited across eight immersive galleries, highlights include a 17th century wooden synagogue, painstakingly recreated by more than 300 craftsmen using traditional methods and tools, and a harrowing recreation of the Warsaw Ghetto in the 1940s. Situated opposite the Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto in Muranów, the pre-war home of the Jews in Warsaw, the building itself is a work of art: a vast cube of glass panels created by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki. JOE MORTIMER


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The red brick warehouses of Soho Factory were once munitions manufactories, where weapons of war were produced for the defence of Poland. Today, it’s Polish culture that is protected here, thanks to a collection of innovative enterprises breathing new life into the neighbourhood. Chefs are reinventing Polish fine dining while local fashion brands, art galleries and offices abound. Central to the area’s revival is the Neon Muzeum, home to a collection of Soviet-era signs that once bathed Poland’s cities in a fluorescent glow. Founders David Hill and Ilona Karwinska began the project in 2005, setting out to document some of Warsaw’s iconic signs, which were often discarded as worthless relics of the communist era. Today, the museum showcases 70 original pieces created by some of the most talented visual artists of the time during the ‘Polish Golden Age of Neon’ between 1957 and 1970. More than just a collection of signage, the museum captures a snapshot of communist-era Warsaw and celebrates an important period in 20th century Polish design: a visual history told through the bright glow of neon light. JOE MORTIMER



Despite the loss of countless works of Polish art during WW2, the contemporary art movement is alive and well in modern Warsaw, thanks to a collection of institutions celebrating the work of the nation’s artists. Chief among them is Museum on the Vistula, the newest exhibition space of Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art. Within its lofty interior, rotating exhibitions explore contemporary themes and modern Polish culture. One of its inaugural exhibitions in 2017 entitled ‘140 Beats Per Minute’ explored rave culture and art in 90s Poland and the most recent, ‘Paint, Also Known as Blood,’ was devoted to female artists addressing sexuality, submission and domination in popular culture. Surrounded by two other iconic buildings - the Copernicus Science Centre and the University of Warsaw Library - the eye-catching museum (designed by Austrian architect Adolf Krischanitz and painted by local artist Sławomir Pawszak) is a focal point for the Vistula River’s left bank promenade, which is lined with bars and cafés and is a great place to stroll, cycle or zip along on one of Warsaw’s ubiquitous electric scooters. JOE MORTIMER


Nestled among the streets of edgy Praga district, a walled compound of century-old buildings is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in Warsaw. Fringed by gleaming new office blocks and premium real estate, Koneser is made-up of former factories fused with contemporary architecture; magnificent red brick buildings and towering chimneys with modern glass and steel additions. Today, the vintage buildings are home to an unusual mixture of enterprises: restaurants, design stores, galleries and Polish clothing brands, plus a Google for Startups Campus and the gleaming new Moxy Warsaw Praga hotel. Bright young Varsovians and foreign visitors alike are lured by the Polish Vodka Museum, which opened in 2012 in a distillery dating back to 1897. The museum charts the 600-year history of Polish vodka using multimedia and other interactive exhibits across five galleries, with an exhibition of traditional distillation apparatus and documents foraged from scrapyards and libraries all across Poland. The tour starts with a short video in a fabulous cinema clad in brushed copper and ends with a tasting of three Polish vodkas. Don’t miss the excellent collection of vintage bottles. JOE MORTIMER


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BELVEDERE Almost certainly the most glamorous place to dine in all of Warsaw and having been graced by everyone from Barack Obama and Jacques Chirac to Claudia Schiffer and Mick Jagger, beautiful Belvedere restaurant is located within the 150-year-old cast iron and glass palm house in Royal Łazienki Park, where tropical plants surround diners creating an utterly unique ambiance. Following a modish 2014 renovation courtesy of celebrated interior designer and National Opera scenographer Boris Kudlička, the dining space inside the orangery is a carefully curated mix of modern, elegant design and lush greenery, which combine to create something of a magical atmosphere, especially in tandem with the lamp-lit park beyond the soaring windows. Top-notch sophisticated Polish fare with a contemporary twist comes courtesy of creative chef Sebastian Olma, who has toiled in Gordon Ramsey's and Tom Aikens’ kitchens. Meanwhile, an exceptionally good wine list is presided over by knowledgeable and affable sommelier Piotr Zieliński. If you must choose just one place in Warsaw to have a celebratory dinner, let it be Belvedere – of an evening the setting is simply wondrous. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


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Located in the former bookshop of the State Publishing Institute, five minutes’ walk from Piłsudski Square in the city centre, Florenceborn chef Flavia Borawska capitalises on her Polish, Italian, English and Swiss roots, coupled with stints at Noma, The Clove Club (London) and Cibreo (Florence), to produce utterly delectable modern takes on Polish cuisine boasting complex flavours yet simple, delicate presentation. Easily one of the best places to eat in Warsaw, Opasły Tom is spread over two floors which have been designed with great attention to detail and complement the dining experience perfectly. The restaurant’s large street-level dining room especially strikes a beautiful balance between designed, cool and comfortable. Featuring terrazzo floors, corrugated steel walls upholstered with teal-blue velvet and burl wood detailing, the room is hung with beautiful bespoke lamps comprising stacks of glass spheres. The beef tartare with truffle paste starter is unmissable, and the main course dish of zander and leek dumplings, served with a butter sauce, is a contemporary Polish culinary triumph. Don’t rush a meal at Opasły Tom – the food is just too good not to savour every delicious mouthful. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


As you alight your taxi on the corner of Hoża and Poznańska, for a moment you could be fooled into thinking you’re in Paris, such is the character of the elegant streets surrounding this trendy, boutique-like restaurant and wine bar, where what’s in your glass is as important as what’s on your plate. Akin to a chef’s kitchen with a luxe wine bar attached and literally translated as ‘Glasses on Hoża’, fresh and creative interpretations of traditional Polish cuisine made from locally-sourced produce are served alongside an impressive wine list of more than two hundred vintages, all of which are available by the bottle or glass. Order a few small plates to share (the cod croquettes are scrummy) and follow with the excellent foie gras pâté. While a menu of half a dozen mains runs the gamut from cottage cheese dumplings to chicken, perch, veal and lamb, be sure to leave space for some local Polish cheeses. The best tables in the house are up the stairs to the right of the entrance, where diners can observe the antics in the kitchen as they eat. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


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A vast, multi-cuisined restaurant established since 1990, encompassing a variety of individually themed rooms on different levels including a large al fresco courtyard, Der Elefant has been satisfying the appetites of everyone from Varsovians, families and tourists to businessmen, politicians and celebrities for more than twenty-five years, thanks to its unpretentious styling, no nonsense menu, reasonable prices and good quality food served warmly and efficiently by an excellent team. If time is on your side, do as The Cultured Traveller did and begin your Der Elefant experience in the fish market at the front of the restaurant on street level. Offering a range of fresh fish plus oysters, crabs and more in a colourful dinerstyle setting, the octopus carpaccio is to die for and the Alaskan crab legs are a must. Then move to a high-top table in front the bar in the main restaurant (a good vantage point for people watching) and order a meaty main course. The filet mignon and lamb chops are both excellent choices, as are the burgers. For those with room for more, the mini dessert set comprising small portions of crème brûlée, malabi and chocolate mousse should satisfy even the sweetest tooth, and is served with a complimentary espresso to round-off the meal in Italian style. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


Set within a smart, restored 1800s building on Plac Bankowy that was a hotel in a former life, this bright, buzzing and somewhat retro Italian cantinetta serves quality and affordable fare in polished surroundings with its pizzas being the shining stars. Created by established restaurateur Artur Jarczyński out of his love for Italy, Otto Pompieri uses high quality produce to deliver a simple menu exceptionally well via an open kitchen, so diners can see their pizzas being made and baked in authentic Italian ovens. Service is universally friendly and efficient. Start with the rather good Burrata di Bufala, served on a medley of tasty tomatoes, and be sure to follow with a pizza: either a classic margherita or a quattro formaggi. Both are scrumptious and each is large enough to feed two people. The restaurant’s daily changing weekday lunch Menu del Mezzogiorno is an absolute bargain: homemade soup to start, followed by the pasta or risotto dish of the day, accompanied by water, all for just PLN 21 (EUR 5). This makes Otto Pompieri perfect for a refuelling stop in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing in the Polish capital. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


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Located in a gentrified part of Powiśle district on an unpretentious corner behind Warsaw’s spectacular public gardens in Rozbrat Street, this much-celebrated restaurant serves modern Polish cuisine fashioned in a formal style, served within a semi-relaxed environment. Indeed, with a menu that changes eight times per year according to the seasons, the most formal part of Rozbrat 20 is the food. Diners may order à la carte or chose between 6 or 8-course tasting menus. For aficionados of fine dining cuisine, Rozbrat 20 is probably one of the best places in Warsaw to splash out on a degustation experience complete with wine pairing. Chef Bartek Szymczak delivers beautifully presented food created with flair, executed with panache and bursting with flavours. An intricately arranged green asparagus starter, surrounded by curls of Polish aged kumpiak ham, pickled white and green currant capers, cashew nuts, herbs and edible flowers, topped with a poached quail egg, was a gastronomic triumph. The sixth course of The Cultured Traveller's Rozbrat 20 experience – fried New Zealand lamb loin and Polish lamb belly cooked with garlic, rosemary, thyme and mint – was also standout. Be sure to arrive with an appetite if you’re planning to opt for a tasting menu and leave space for dessert, which, for me, was the unexpected star of the show. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


As is often the case, the most surprising dining experience of The Cultured Traveller’s trip to Warsaw was Sunday lunch at a restaurant preceded with the least fanfare. Located on the sixth floor of Hotel Warszawa and occupying a vast, modern conservatorylike structure with a curved glass ceiling and a large open kitchen, Szóstka is the second restaurant in the property and has been garnering much praise for its chef, Dariusz Barański. And quite rightly so, for the unpretentious and exquisitely executed dishes which come out of his kitchen are quite simply superb. Szóstka’s short, seasonal à la carte menu is based upon the availability of quality produce from trusted suppliers, so you can be sure that what you’re eating is made from the finest local ingredients. Not that this isn’t evident in the food - it is: the fried potatoes with black garlic are incredible, and you will have never tasted tomatoes like the carefully curated selection served as a starter at Szóstka. Main courses are equally impressive, and the wine list matches the exceptionally good food. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


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A unique cocktail-driven venue combining the art of bartending and mixology with Polish flavours and creativity, it would be unfair to label The Roots as simply a bar because the concoctions created within its walls are highly considered, and the team which produces them is one of the best in Warsaw. Helmed by three talented bartenders led by Tomasz Małek, who has won dozens of flair bartending awards not least the WFA Roadhouse World Championships four times, when The Cultured Traveller visited The Roots the team was served by Arnold Skiba, who has a passion for adding Polish herbs and spices to cocktails. Skiba's bespoke, tailor-made cocktails, derived from years of working with alcohol and encompassing bartending’s newest trends and techniques, are nothing short of beverage masterpieces. Just watching Skiba work is akin to art in action. Customers choose from two menus at The Roots; one featuring cocktail classics and another offering a range of signature drinks based on seasonal Polish enhancements. Choose from the latter and taste a little bit of Poland as you sip your designer drink. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


Inspired by Warsaw’s 1920s-30s ‘Golden Era’, awardwinning Woda Ognista is a celebration of pre-war Polish lifestyle. Wood and bare brick walls are adorned with black and white photographs of local celebrities; barmen are smartly dressed in waistcoats and ties; and vintage soda fountains and other period paraphernalia line the shelves above a glowing bar. Drawing upon traditional 19th century recipes and cocktail favourites, the menu changes every three months to make the most of seasonal ingredients. Signatures are given a modern twist but tailormade according to taste. During The Cultured Traveller’s visit, the menu was themed after the female stars of interwar Polish cinema, with silver screen greats like Pola Negri and Ina Benita honoured with their own creations, featuring unusual ingredients like young pine bud liqueur and homemade acacia flower bitters. A beautiful menu featuring illustrations, photos and stories accompanies each new theme, which have included the districts of Warsaw, pre-war newspapers and the city’s most famous venues. Peat whisky fans should order an Old Fashioned for a dramatic and emphatically smoky experience. JOE MORTIMER


Reminiscent of a New York style speakeasy, Charlie is a hidden drinking gem in the heart of Warsaw, located through the inconspicuous, unmarked archway of an old residential building on Mokotowska Street, atop a flight of stairs. Once inside, a rabbit warren of inviting, interconnected rooms lead to a central space ►


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dominated by a long, elegant Gatsby-esque bar, presided over by polite and attentive bartenders sporting waistcoats and ties, directed by charming stage manager Ewa, who delightfully flits around the venue chatting with guests and playing hostess with the mostess. Cocktails are expertly prepared and lovingly executed with something of a kick. The addictive toe-tapping background music is reason enough to order a second or even third drink. Charlie is the kind of place you say you’ll go to for one but end up staying all night and it’s all the better for it. Open until 2am Tuesday through Saturday, head to Charlie for a few nightcaps after dinner and you’ll be loathed to leave. Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the bar’s themed parties. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU



Part of a distinctly vodka-themed restaurant, bar and museum complex in the heart of Warsaw’s city centre, ELIXIR is a smart, upmarket venue with attentive and highly knowledgeable staff, where one can just as easily sip a cocktail or enjoy a vodka flight as sit down for a hearty meal of modern Polish cuisine paired with tall shots of the clear white nectar. Boasting more than 600 varieties hailing from Poland and around the globe, ELIXIR's incredible collection of vodkas ranges from Polish People's Republicera classics and the produce of small batch distillers, to artisanal, designer, flavoured and infused vodkas, crowned with a prized selection of rare and super-premium vodkas. You will be amazed how the taste of vodka varies from bottle to bottle depending upon the grain used or the distillation process. If you have time, do spend a memorable afternoon at ELIXIR, sampling the different varieties in the luxe surroundings of the venue’s stylish bar. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


Dark, moody and intimate, Weles is a veritable temple of liquid indulgence. Descending the stairway to the speakeasy style bar feels like entering a crypt, where a custom-made chandelier glittering with crystals illuminates bare cement walls and a hammered zinc ceiling. Many of the clientele, mostly well-dressed young professionals and couples, are seated around a cross-shaped table that occupies the centre of the room, an altar of mixology at which libations are worshipped. Based around the Slavic zodiac, the menu is wildly creative, each cocktail embellished with homemade infusions and cordials, unlikely ingredients and liberal helpings of herbs and spices. ‘Svarozhich’ delivers on its promise of ‘citrus smokiness’ with a blend of 12-year-old Chivas and organic mescal with egg white, citrus and a dose of homemade smoked pear infusion. Themed for the Slavic deity Weles – a god of mischief, magic and music – an evening at Weles is accompanied by a soundtrack swinging with 60s tunes from Shirley Bassey and Peggy Lee. But the venue really comes to life when the DJ takes his place at a pulpit salvaged from a Swedish church, positioned on a mezzanine level, to lead his flock in a cocktail-fuelled musical sermon. JOE MORTIMER


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A huge tiled mural ‘Blessed Relief’ by celebrated Polish artist Jarosław Fliciński and a long sleek Carrera marble bar top, echoed in a white circular marble fireplace close-by, combine to set the sophisticated tone in Long Bar, Raffles Europejski Warsaw’s elegant yet inviting incarnation of the world-famous original Singaporean venue. Here, a cool fusion of daytime culinary classics, skilfully hand-crafted cocktails, an extensive spirits list and a chic Asian evening menu – which includes fried lumpia, traditional laksa and bao buns – has made Long Bar a go-to venue for Warsaw’s most hip and discerning spenders. Drawing upon local flavours such as quince, gingerbread and Polish nalewka liqueur in the bar’s ginbased Warsaw Sling has also positively engaged young, upwardly-mobile Varsovians, and contributed to making Long Bar one of the city’s hottest venues. Long Bar even serves a limited-edition Chopin vodka, made from locallysourced Augusta potatoes and estate-distilled especially for Raffles Europejski Warsaw. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


Located in the once densely populated Jewish district near Grzybowski Square, cobblestoned Prózna Street is the only former Warsaw ghetto street still in existence today. Every year in late summer, the street is the epicentre of one of Warsaw's most dynamic cultural events, Singer’s Warsaw Jewish Culture Festival, during which the climate of the old quarter is revived ( During the festival, jazz, pop, cabaret revues, theatre, visual arts and more fill Prózna Street and the surrounding area. Slap bang in the middle of this action is wine bar Kieliszki na Próżnej, its name coming from more than 1,000 Riedel glasses that hang chandelier-like over an uber-cool bar. An extensive, largely European wine list, sourced from prominent smalland medium-sized vineyards, focuses predominantly on Italy vintages. Every wine is available by the glass. While a small but ample menu of modern interpretations of culinary classics is well executed and beautifully presented, this venue is really all about the wines. Sophisticated yet unpretentious, Kieliszki na Próżnej is probably Warsaw’s best wine bar. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


Unveiled in mid-2018 in former Koneser vodka factory in Praga, while Zoni is both a drinking and dining venue, The Cultured Traveller recommends you visit for post work drinks on a Friday night at the venue’s visually stunning and inordinately long bar, because it’s the buzzing hub of the place and positively rocks at the start of every weekend. Helmed by an impressive collection of fine vodkas, not just from Poland but also from around the world, Zoni excels at producing delectable, hand-crafted cocktails based on using its own infused spirits. Try a ‘Kurpini’ made with Żubrówka infused with amber and Pedro Ximénez sherry and you almost certainly won’t stop at one! NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU


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Literally translated as ‘you weren’t standing here’, Pan Tu Nie Stał is a reflection of the irreverent style of its founders, Justyna Burzyńska and Maciej Lebiedowicz. The concept started life in 2006 in Łódź as a blog which celebrated local Polish designs and the style of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Today, Pan Tu Nie Stał is a clothing brand and has three stores, including a large outlet at 34/50 Koszykowa in the heart of the Polish capital. The first thing you’ll notice is the eye-catching entrance and decorated staircase, fashioned out of old off-cuts of printed plywood and decorated with reclaimed printed and neon signs, which leads up to the shop floor. On sale is a youthful selection of modern retro clothing for men, women and kids, plus a wide variety of accessories and homewares, all presented in a slightly chaotic but somewhat engaging manner. Almost everything in the store is designed and produced in Poland, making Pan Tu Nie Stał a great place to find something unique, hip and design-focused from Warsaw to give as a gift. ADRIAN GIBSON



Located at 17 Paryska Street, a wide, tree-lined residential boulevard in Saska Kępa, one of Warsaw's coolest districts, Cloudmine may be a little away from the city’s main shopping districts but it’s worth making the effort to visit. Founded by Marianna Grzywaczewska, who herself designs a range of womenswear and accessories exclusively retailed in the store and online, Cloudmine is an elegant yet unpretentious shop that sells a carefully curated selection of beautiful clothing for ladies, designed by young, independent and up-and-coming Polish designers. A great boutique to browse for a new outfit or a present for someone special, the constantly changing displays include jewellery by Anna Ławska, Marcelina Jarnuszkiewicz, Animal Kingdom and KOPI; ceramics by Fenek and JAD; framed graphics and photos, lingerie by Rilke, small pieces of furniture and tableware. Check out Cloudmine’s website for information about regular art exhibitions and special fashion events. ADRIAN GIBSON


Set up by Izabela Czyżak, who left her job in IT to open shop in the very centre of Warsaw, five minutes’ walk from Raffles hotel tucked behind Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Porcelanowa is a bijou, minimally-designed outlet dedicated to showcasing the very best contemporary porcelain created by Polish artists, including pieces by a variety of cult, internationally recognised brands, such as Aoomi and Fenek. Whilst the store is small, it is literally brimming with all manner of gorgeous pieces, ranging from the small to the very large, all of which were designed and manufactured in Poland. A number of limited editions and small-run pieces are also available to purchase. While the stunning, huge vases by Malwina Konopacka and Monika Patuszyńska are probably too large to take home, the sets by worldrenowned ceramicist Marek Cecuła (for Modus Studio) are popular with visitors from overseas and easily packed in hand luggage! ADRIAN GIBSON


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When architects Ewelina Moszczyńska and Marta Puchalska-Kraciuk couldn’t find the right interior elements to suit their architectural designs, they started designing and producing their own, in tandem with local Polish craftsmen. These beautiful items can now be purchased at Collage, together with some carefully selected pieces by Danish designers. Situated a few doors down from much-celebrated restaurant Rozbrat 20 and adjacent to lovely Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły Park in Powiśle district, Collage may be a little off the beaten track when it comes to shopping in Warsaw, but it’s worth the EUR 5 cab ride to browse the store’s tastefully displayed range of original products for women, which includes natural beauty products and cosmetics, furniture, accessories, ladies clothing, jewellery and nightwear. ADRIAN GIBSON



Reset was founded in 2011 by Agata Hasiak who started out by renovating 1950s, 60s and 70s furniture. In due course, this led to her opening a store in the Mokotów district (south of the city centre) to showcase her renovated furniture together with pieces produced by local artists and craftsmen. Located next to cult Relaks Café, Hasiak's tiny store is literally an Aladdin's cave filled to the brim with craft, art and design-led products. Fully-stocked with items from both Polish and international designers, spanning everything from vintage furniture to toys, posters and prints line the walls, shelves are piled-high with crockery and gift items and books are strewn across the shop. But it’s all displayed in a creative, artistic fashion, obviously arranged by a well curated eye, which encourages shoppers to browse, explore and find unique pieces which appeal. ADRIAN GIBSON


A relatively young company founded by a family with a broad understanding of handicrafts, having brewed beer, produced cheese and made clothes previously, parents Dusia and Tomek started Mydlarnia Cztery Szpaki by making completely natural soaps without chemicals, fixatives or unnecessary dyes. When everything they were producing was being snapped-up by friends and family faster than they could produce it, they realised that they had a potential business on their hands, and stopped making beer and cheese to focus on soap! Within a few years their range had expanded to include body oils, peels, deodorants, bath and hair products, all produced in the same spirit of the soaps, without any needless ingredients and certainly no chemicals. Shop for Mydlarnia Cztery Szpaki products in the brand’s recently opened store in hip Koneser. ADRIAN GIBSON


Located between Three Crosses Square and Charles de Gaulle Roundabout, inside a semi-industrial tenement building which was previously a communist-era censorship office, Mysia 3 is a stylish mini mall spread across three floors. While the ground floor is taken by wellknown brands Muji and COS, things get more interesting as you move upstairs, where an eclectic mix of small, independent Polish shops fill the upper levels. From handmade shoes, fashion wear, jewellery, cosmetics and apothecary beauty products, to shops specialising in art, books and photography, Mysia 3 offers something off the high street for everyone, all delivered with a contemporary Polish edge. Mysia 3 is also home to the only store in Poland that offers the full range of cameras, lenses and binoculars by legendary photographic brand, Leica. Atop the building is a gallery, café, conference area and sprawling events space, the latter having been designed in the style of a white loft, making it perfect for the fashion shows it frequently hosts. ADRIAN GIBSON Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 89



Body painted locals perform a traditional tiger dance as part of the annual Onam festivities in Kerala, India 11 September 2019


Treading in the footsteps of some of the world’s richest 20th century shipping magnates, Nicholas Chrisostomou drops anchor in one of Germany’s most opulent hotel suites, in the port city of Hamburg


o you know that feeling one gets, when one’s especially excited about an experience that’s about to happen? Like looking forward to a good Sunday roast, or meeting-up with a long-time friend for lunch which might get a little, cheekily boozy. In a traveller’s world now awash with overly-designed five-star hotels and all-singing-alldancing resorts brimming with all manner of hi-tech wizardry and thread-counts of close to 1,000, such feelings of excitement are becoming rarer in advance of a hotel experience, and are increasingly only provoked by very special properties that in some way connect with us emotionally. In a day-and-age when unique personalities in the hospitality industry are becoming rarer, many having been replaced by faceless career-driven types moving between hotels, so too are truly grande dame properties becoming fewer and far between. For me, this is one of the few, true downsides of the fastevolving travel industry. Hotels need characters to genuinely connect with guests.

Vegas, for instance, is crammed with vast hotels, where even if you stay for a week, you will probably leave not knowing the name of any staff member who assists you or speak with. And they will almost certainly not remember you either. This is a sad reality of 21st century tourism. Refreshingly, this scenario couldn’t be further from the truth when staying at Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg. Proudly standing in a prime position on the western side of Inner Alster Lake, commanding the attention of Germany’s handsome second city, the Vier Jahreszeiten is a true hotel grande dame in every sense of the phrase. From the bell boys and housekeepers through to the chefs and managers, all are universally committed to the cause, work as a team, pool their acres of experience and are constantly driving towards the same goal of hospitality excellence. This is evident ►

from the moment one checks into the Vier Jahreszeiten, the anticipation of which sends tingles down my spine, as my BMW 7 Series ride glides along one of Hamburg’s grand tree-lined venues en route to the hotel. It’s 8am on a Bank Holiday morning and the streets are worryingly devoid of all cars. Nevertheless, a liveried bellman is standing in front of the hotel to welcome guests and the front desk is fully staffed and primed for early check-ins. These may sound like basics, but you’d be amazed how many flashy new hotels have no idea how to properly handle guests and hence elicit little loyalty in the travellers staying within their portals. This is not the case at Vier Jahreszeiten, where every guest is treated like an individual, irrespective of what room category they’re staying in, and front of house staff take a personal interest in the well-being of arrivals from the get-go. Like all of the world’s great hotels, Vier Jahreszeiten has a storied past. In 1897, on the day of his fortieth birthday, South-German entrepreneur Friedrich Haerlin bought a small, nondescript and bankrupt 11-bedroomed 3-bathroomed house, then known as “Hotel zu den Vier Jahreszeiten”, at auction. Since running his own hotel had long been a vision of his, Haerlin spent the necessary funds to furnish the property appropriately. It didn’t take long for his investment to start paying off. 96 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Within just a few years, the hotel was regularly hosting members of the international jet set and celebrities from the entertainment world, as well as politicians, statesmen and European royalty. Not to mention shipping magnates and esteemed members of Germany’s high society. Over time, Vier Jahreszeiten’s popularity allowed Haerlin to purchase the neighbouring houses, until he had acquired much of the street. As adjacent buildings were bought and walls were removed, more guest rooms and new restaurants were added. By 1911, the hotel had a total of 140 bedrooms and 50 bathrooms. In 1912, the hotel’s former reception was reconfigured as its Wohnhalle (The Living Room). In 1919, Haerlin’s eponymous restaurant opened. Today, Haerlin has two Michelin stars and the restaurant’s culinary creativity is renowned way beyond Hamburg. In 1925, the first dish was served within the rich Art Déco confines of refined Jahreszeiten Grill. Almost one hundred years later, both of these venues – Haerlin Restaurant and Jahreszeiten Grill – are still staples of Hamburg’s flourishing foodie scene. During the early 1930s, around the same time as Friedrich Haerlin gave the hotel to his son Fritz, the Vier Jahreszeiten was crowned with its distinctive copper roof. ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 97

The hotel remained family-owned for over a century, until 1989 when it was sold to Japanese husband and wife hoteliers Chieko and John Hiroyoshi Aoki. Such was the quality of the furniture that Haerlin and his son had installed in the Vier Jahreszeiten during the 100 years their family owned the hotel, that it continued to be used until the turn of the millennium. Today, owned by entrepreneur Kurt Dohle, Vier Jahreszeiten’s 156 effortlessly classy guest rooms including 30 suites, together with multiple bars and restaurants, a splendid spa, a state-of-the-art gym and even an al fresco summer terrace which seemingly floats on the lake in front of the hotel, welcome both regulars who have been patrons for decades alongside discerning younger money with taste. With my luggage already in the Presidential Suite, I travel in one of the hotel’s two antique elevators to the fourth floor and make my way towards the end of a wide, regal corridor to explore my deluxe accommodation for the next three nights. At more than 260 square metres, Vier Jahreszeiten’s Presidential Suite is one of the largest in Hamburg, yet feels decidedly inviting and comfortable, thanks in large part to beautiful light oak flooring by Schotten 98 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

& Hansen which covers much of the vast space, plus an abundance of warm soft furnishings in velvets and tweeds, and plush curtains dressing every window. Each of the three bedrooms are accessed from the suite’s main entrance foyer, as are a large living room bathed in plenty of natural light and boasting views directly across the lake; a stately boardroom cum dining room known as the Alster Salon, which easily seats 12; a butler pantry and two guest cloakrooms. Interior designed by Vier Jahreszeiten’s general manager Ingo Peters in tandem with his wife Christiane, in honour of Fritz Haerlin who took over his father’s hotel in 1934 and was a passionate horseman, the Presidential Suite is fittingly accessorised with a variety of horse riding-themed artworks. Some original awards and prizes won by Fritz Haerlin in show-jumping competitions are also on display in the Alster Salon. The same theme subtly extends to the overall colour scheme and many of the textiles in which key furniture pieces are upholstered. A pair of statement Lladro chandeliers designed by Bodo Sperlein, decorated with dozens of small handmade fairies in matte white porcelain with gold wings and lit by fibre optics, hang above the huge ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 99

polished mahogany dining table in Alster Salon, adding a whimsical touch to what might otherwise have been an austere room. Gorgeous Jan Kath-designed hand-knotted rugs woven in Kathmandu, which combine classic oriental carpet elements with modern, minimalist design, complete the timeless and diplomatic yet contemporary and fresh design aesthetic throughout the social areas of suite. The three bedrooms are unsurprisingly super-luxe and cosseting, each with its own chic black and white-themed bathroom en suite. Pillow menus and black-out blinds on every window ensure that the suite’s inhabitants enjoy the best possible sleep. Whilst not super-sized, the well-proportioned master bedroom enjoys stunning views directly towards the lake, a walk-in closet and a large HOESCH whirlpool tub which gives the bathroom a private spalike feel. A TV hanging directly opposite the computerised loo makes the total number of screens in the suite at least six, possibly seven, married with enough techy gadgets to keep even the most geeky of kids contented. 100 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


Skilfully combining antique furniture with luxe fabrics, rich materials and contemporary décor elements endears Vier Jahreszeiten’s Presidential Suite to its inhabitants in a way like no other. To say “user friendly” would belie its hefty price tag, but the suite is just that: majestic yet utterly usable. As I look out towards Inner Alster Lake, I wonder what Vier Jahreszeiten’s founder Friedrich Haerlin might make of such a sprawling, sumptuous suite occupying so much floor space of his hotel. I find it hard to imagine that Haerlin wouldn’t be jubilant at the thought of world leaders spreading out in lavish apartment-like lodgings, in the very same building which 120 years earlier started its hospitality life as an inconspicuous house on a lake in Germany.

Nicholas Chrisostomou stayed in The Presidential Suite at Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in June 2019. The suite’s nightly rate in September - November 2019 is EUR 8,000, including breakfast. Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 101

You’ve been very busy! What drives and motivates you to get involved in so many different projects Julien? Travelling to far-away places, seeing exotic lands and experiencing different cultures, people and wildlife hugely motivate me, inspire my designs and keep me busy doing what I love. What’s the most exciting thing happening in the designer fashion scene at the moment? The super brands are definitely back and creating excitement and the power of the designer logo has never been greater, not least the Gucci G, the Fendi F and Chanel’s opposite-facing and interlocking C’s. Harking back to the golden days when super brands ruled the fashion world, people are currently obsessed with wearing their logos, on everything from t-shirts to bags. What prompted you to enter the swimwear industry and tell us about your new range for Matalan? I feel that fashion should be affordable to everyone. For my range of “LOVE” swimwear for Matalan, I took inspiration from one of my favorite things: animal prints. It was a particular joy to shoot the campaign with Victoria’s Secret model, Georgia Fowler. What’s your next fashion-orientated Julien Macdonald project? One of our current ongoing projects is the costumes for Queen vocalist Adam Lambert. Adam is wearing Julien Macdonald originals throughout the current Queen tour, which will take in Korea, Japan and New Zealand before finishing up in Australia next year. You recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Royal Welsh College Music and Drama as a guest of Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. How did it feel to be Welsh that night? I’m very proud to be Welsh and honestly think that being Welsh has kept me grounded over the years! I have a longstanding relationship with the Duchess of Cornwall, since she is president of the National Osteoporosis Society for which I staged a charity fashion show last year. She’s an incredible lady. Over the years I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Prince Charles many times. We chatted about my love of Wales and what being Welsh means to me. Tell us about your 300-mile charity cycle ride earlier this year? I cycled from Zagreb to Split to raise money for The Felix Project, which collects surplus food and re-distributes it to charities and schools where needed. It’s a simple model that contributes to reducing food waste and food poverty. I enjoyed the challenge and really believe in the cause. The cycle ride was particularly challenging since we had to start at 4.30am due to the heat. But I was thrilled ► 102 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019





when I completed it. I enjoy participating in charity events because they give me an opportunity to raise money for worthy causes and meet inspirational people. When you’re not working, you’re renowned for travelling as much as you can. Where are your favorite perennial destinations? Bali has always been an inspiration for me, particularly the island’s rich culture, rice paddies, textiles and traditional values. Soori Bali is my favourite place to stay – it’s a divine resort designed by renowned Chinese architect Soo K. Chan ( I can never get enough of Miami, especially during Art Basel, which brings together an incredibly diverse mix of people and Soho Beach House puts on the best parties every night ( I especially love eating out in Miami - some of my favourite restaurants are Komodo in Brickell (, STK steakhouse in South Beach ( and NaiYara for the best sushi in town ( Somewhere you’d like to visit but haven’t had the chance to yet? I enjoy visiting ancient places rich in culture and I am particularly interested in monasteries, temples and old churches. I have never been to Japan and would love to see the cherry blossoms and learn about Japanese culture. Also, I have never been to Australia and have always wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef since I’m sure that the bright colours and sea life would be a great source of inspiration. Your favorite hotel in the world? Frégate Island in the Seychelles is a favourite and undoubtedly one of the most exclusive destinations on the planet ( Any tips for arriving looking fabulous after a long flight? Wear a huge pair of sunglasses as you disembark the ‘plane and try to sleep as much as you can during the flight. It is important to be comfortable whilst travelling – I change into a cashmere track suit, cashmere socks and put on a cashmere eye mask. I spray all of my chair and bedding with a lavender infused Elemis relaxing mist which helps me sleep. Just before I get off the ‘plane, I pat a little NUXE body oil on my face and arms (, apply Murad moisturiser over the top ( and lastly spray some Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin scent for an instant pick-me-up! ( How do you relax after putting on a fashion show? I get away somewhere different. Pretty much any tropical island will do, where I can relax on a beach, recover and forget about the stress of it all.

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The Cultured Traveller steps back into the Golden Age of Travel at retro Eero Saarinen-designed TWA HOTEL, which instantly became the world’s coolest airport hotel when it opened at JFK

There was a time when flying was considered glamorous and exclusive and stepping aboard a jet cost an awful lot more than it does today.

visual look of the cabin, to stewardess’ uniforms and even the silverware – was fastidiously fashioned by some of the world’s top designers.

Before airlines were deregulated in the late 1970s, carriers such as Pan Am and Trans World Airlines (TWA) flew passengers around the world in supreme comfort, their every need attended-to by flight attendants dressed in designer uniforms serving food prepared by the likes of Maxim’s of Paris.

By allowing passengers to purchase flights in discounted packages and offering extended payment plans, TWA was a key player in the development of commercial air travel after the Second World War, making it much more accessible to America’s burgeoning middle classes.

This halcyon era of flying was a period of sumptuous design, both pre-flight and in-flight, and a time during which the flying experience – from the

In 1954, with air travel on the rise, the Port of New York Authority instigated a plan to expand Idlewild Airport (JFK today), to allow the airport

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to handle considerably more air traffic in and out of New York City. The plan called for each major airline to design, construct and operate its own independent terminal. This included TWA.

open interior to the wing-like concrete shell of the roof, Saarinen designed much more than a functional terminal. In essence, he designed a monument to the airline and to aviation itself.

Intending from the outset for its terminal to provide the airline with advertising, widespread publicity and media attention, in 1955, TWA approached Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen with a project to design something special for the apex of the airport’s main access road.

Saarinen passed away in 1961 having only seen the superstructure of his unique building completed. Little did he know that it was to become an icon of the Golden Age of Travel.

Capturing the sensation of flying in all aspects of his futuristic structure, from its fluid and

Dubbed the Grand Central Station of the jet age and epitomising the glamour and optimism of the time, the stunning mid-century modern TWA Flight Center opened to great acclaim in 1962 ►

as the airline’s headquarters, at the very moment that the American carrier reigned supreme. Unsurprisingly, the TWA Flight Center was designated a New York City landmark in 1994. However, since its design was largely completed before 1958, when the first jet planes began to supersede their propeller-driven forerunners, TWA’s beautiful terminal was ill-suited to support the size of modern aircraft. And despite many upgrades, the TWA Flight Center was never really able to keep pace as jet planes grew in size and number. After TWA was acquired by American Airlines amid financial struggles in 2001, sadly the terminal closed its doors. 108 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places in 2005, save for the occasional tour and other miscellaneous events, Saarinen’s masterpiece building sat largely unused until conversion work commenced in 2016. Restoring the beloved building, constructing two brand new wings behind it to house the hotel’s guest rooms and building a massive new conference center was a massive endeavour involving 22 government agencies and more than 170 firms. Around 450 tradespeople worked on site every day for more than two and a half years, to create a refined guest experience in complete harmony with Saarinen’s air travel tour de force.

Something of a time traveller’s dream, TWA Hotel has been consciously and skilfully designed to make visitors feel as if they’ve slipped through a time portal and landed back in the early days of the Jet Age, complete with all the nostalgia and glamour of the time. Designed by New York City firm Stonehill Taylor and set in two low-rise buildings designed to defer to Saarinen’s terminal, the hotel’s 512 ultra-quiet 1960s-inspired guest rooms feature authentic midcentury modern furnishings and gleaming terrazzotiled bathrooms, complete with Hollywood-style vanities and bubble lights inspired by Philip Johnson’s iconic ladies’ lounge in New York City’s former Four

Seasons restaurant. Accessible through Saarinen’s iconic flight tubes made famous by the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, all guests rooms are accented with warm timber elements to soften the spaces. Furnishings include Saarinen’s iconic Womb Chair, upholstered in red Knoll fabric, which sits beside a classic round Saarinen pedestal tulip side table. Meanwhile, an armless Saarinen executive chair, wrapped in tan leather, is tucked into a custom walnut, brass and glass desk. A walnut entryway unit includes storage, a mini fridge and a concealed safe. Ensuring that guests can watch planes take-off ►

without hearing them, the hotel’s rooms are separated from one of the busiest airports on the planet by full-width windows made from the second-thickest glass in the world (after the U.S. Embassy in London), comprising seven panes totalling 4.5 inches thick. Guests can make unlimited free international and local calls on a retrofitted 1950s Western Electric 500 vintage rotary phone. Every room features a glamorous martini bar, custom built from brushed brass, walnut, glass and mirrors and stocked with all the ingredients one might need to facilitate the perfect cocktail hour. Beds are lined in brushed brass and a quilted headboard features a glass ledge to hold overnight accessories. Being a guest at TWA Hotel goes a long way to recreating the level of excitement for and pride in aviation that travellers once felt during the rise of the industry. Staying at the hotel also provides a serene refuge from which to enjoy inimitable views of Saarinen’s terminal and JFK airport, not to mention being super-close to your next flight! Elsewhere within the sprawling hotel, which is not unlike a 21st century global village, multiple restaurants and bars cater to the needs of busy travellers, including a food hall featuring multiple NYC culinary institutions; a café and bar helmed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and an original Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner nicknamed “Connie”, which has been repurposed as a cocktail lounge. The last in the line of Lockheed Constellations, the L-1649A Starliner was first designed for TWA, so it is only fitting that one should sit right in front of Saarinen’s terminal today, positioned on the tarmac between the TWA Flight Center and Terminal 5. Also, on property, is a museum focused on the Jet Age, the mid-century modern design movement and TWA, complete with vintage air hostess uniforms by Valentino, Ralph Lauren and Stan Herman on display. A rooftop pool, 10,000-square-foot observation deck overlooking runway 4L/22R and a massive fitness center complete TWA Hotel’s range of leisure offerings, should a short layover turn into a short stay. Conceived as a posthumous collaboration with Eero Saarinen and delivering copious quantities of high-performance nostalgia and retro glamour, the reborn TWA Flight Center delivers on every hospitality level and is almost certainly reason enough to stopover at JFK on your next visit to New York. 110 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


Hundreds of hot air balloons from dozens of countries simultaneously mass ascend into the skies above the Sandia Mountains in the United States 5-13 October 2019



Using Shangri-La’s luxurious Hambantota resort as a base, Carolyn McKay discovers the stunning, relatively unexplored southern coastline of the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka



t 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 island 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 the island became known in 1972, has since captivated the hearts of explorers, bohemian wanderers and discerning travellers, many of whom visit the teardrop isle in search of a soulful connection with the intangible. 116 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

To the very south of the island, approximately four hours’ drive from Colombo’s international airport and surrounding the port city of Hambantota, crystal clear seas, magnificent sweeping sandy beaches, a wealth of archaeological sites and an opportunity to witness firsthand some of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular wildlife make this part of Sri Lanka worthy of much closer inspection. Historically seen as a thoroughfare en route to some of the country’s most well-known national parks means that the south of Sri Lanka boasts some of the most untouched areas of the island, including some rather beautiful hill country. In the past few years, the gradual addition of new infrastructure is gently opening-up the area to adventurers with a yearning for something a little more authentically Sri Lankan.

a stretch of the island’s coastline as yet not overrun by tourism development, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort is genuinely a palm-fringed retreat and the perfect deluxe base from which to explore nearby Bundala and Yala parks and the temple complex at Kataragama.

As one travels further east, the rural landscape becomes sparser, until one enters a noticeably more remote and semiarid region that seemingly boasts its own micro-climate. When we leave behind the traffic and take a discreet turning onto a narrow, dusty track, calm immediately prevails.

Having opened just three years ago and filling almost 60 hectares, it is the country’s largest resort, with 300 rooms and 21 suites housed within two wings cascading away from the centre. Filled with 4,000 king coconut trees, Shangri-La’s Hambantota property has the lush, earthy feel of an eco-resort, resplendent with riotous tropical gardens and guest rooms situated along cooling breezeways with constant sightlines to the ocean. It is from this luxurious beachfront haven that I plan to discover more of Sri Lanka. ►

Nestled between a peaceful lagoon and the everchanging tidal activity of the Indian Ocean, and set upon the grounds of a former coconut plantation hugging


A distinct sense of adventure infuses the air when travelling along the sometimes-chaotic main thoroughfare that edges the south of the island. Traditional fishing villages and verdant green rice paddies bordering the road provide an insight into everyday life.

From left to right, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa

New arrivals are welcomed into a large open-air pavilion that serves as a supremely laidback lobby. The décor is earthy and tropical with wooden floors, a multitude of inviting seating, hand-woven rugs and cerulean splashes of blue that draw your eye outwards towards rambling gardens brimming with colour, verdant vistas of the resort’s golf course and uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. After a cool lemongrass-infused towel and a zesty mint and mango juice, I relax and take in the spectacular panorama. It is monsoon season but there is little rain. However, the turbulent sea adds a sense of wild and unchecked beauty to the proceedings. Crossing the threshold into a Premier Ocean Room, my shoes come off and I am immediately drawn to an oversized balcony offering panoramic views. Natural 118 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

materials are liberally used throughout the space, interspersed with Sri Lankan art and handicrafts. I can’t decide whether to soak in the oversized tub with a glass of vino or sit outside and gaze at the sun slowly descending over the ocean. I opt to recline on a chaise on the balcony, close my eyes and take a deep breath, to a soothing soundtrack of waves crashing on the shore. An evening stroll takes me through the gardens and along curved pathways where preening peacocks parade. On the beach, sea spray dampens my face and my toes sink into sand still warm from the day. I wander back into the heart of the resort and chance upon Gimanhala Lounge. With its sprawling deck and elevated views, this is obviously the place to sip a sundowner at golden hour in Hambantota.

Dinner is served in a candlelit gazebo positioned on a slight rise overlooking the ocean, under clear skies awash with twinkling stars. Lights from local fishing boats form a string of pearls along the horizon. Freshly caught tuna cooked to perfection is the highlight of a sumptuous seafood platter prepared by a personal chef and served with a tangy tomato salsa. I sleep divinely well, having chosen the perfect pillow from a menu. In the early hours of the next day, my breakfast is packed to-go and we depart the resort for Yala National Park as dawn is breaking. Passing through a natural elephant corridor, the sun’s rays shimmer on the salterns and I delight in the birds’ morning chorus. Yala can get a little crowded, but at this time of the year (June) there are few other jeeps in the park, which bodes well for spotting wildlife.

Originally a hunting ground for the British during colonial rule, Yala’s grassy plains, lagoons and tangled forests are now a playground for a healthy leopard population as well as sloth bears, crocodiles, deer and a plethora of birdlife. Ranging from a small honeyeater sitting at the end of a narrow branch to a large Malabar pied hornbill looking like he might topple over at any moment, we observe a dazzling array of birdlife. A lumbering sloth bear making a rare appearance for a good ten minutes makes the early morning call utterly worthwhile. Back at the resort, I spend a blissful afternoon at Shangri-La’s first CHI Ayurveda Spa – a holistic retreat where treatments are tailored to each guest’s individual well-being requirements, ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 119

after consultation with an in-house ayurvedic doctor. A signature shirodhara treatment clears my mind leaving me relaxed and rebalanced. Afterwards, I sip ayurvedic tea in the spa’s overwater relaxation terrace and revel in the peace and quiet of the space. The next day, after a lazy afternoon by the pool, I jump in a tuk-tuk to nearby Walawe River, which winds its way for almost 40 km from Adam’s Peak to the Indian Ocean. An evening boat safari, organised by the hotel, is another opportunity to engage with Sri Lanka’s wonderful flora and fauna. We gently meander through the graceful twists and turns of the waterway with chattering monkeys, graceful ibis and jungle fowl for company. As the sun begins to the set, the riverbank foliage creates stunning silhouettes in the sky. 120 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

One of Sri Lanka’s most important, sacred and popular pilgrimage sites, dating back to the 2nd century BC, Kataragama is but a one-hour drive from Shangri-La Hambantota and most certainly worth visiting, especially if you happen to be in the area in July and August when the annual festival draws thousands of pilgrims. During this blessed time, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Vedda people, together with fire walkers and Kawadi dancers, combine pomp and ceremony with devotion and religious excess as they process around the shrine. It’s a truly spectacular sight. Committed to preserving the island’s rich cultural heritage, Kadamandiya village at the Shangri-La offers a glimpse into the traditions of Sinhalese culture. Here, visitors explore the studio huts that house painters, potters, weavers,

Marking the jewel in the property’s crown is its par-70 18-hole golf course designed by Rodney Wright. The course takes players through water features and lush fairways complete with breathtaking ocean views. 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 re-introducing birdlife. Shangri-La’s tantalising array of dining options ensures that guests never go hungry! Far from it, I feast like a

queen throughout my stay, enjoying alfresco breakfasts at Bojunhala and dinners at Sera amid a veritable southeast Asian hawker’s market of street food. Spending time in the south of the island reminds me that Sri Lanka continues to be a balm for the soul. The British author James Hilton described the lost world in his 1933 novel as ‘Shangri-La’ – a mystical earthly paradise full of harmony and wonder. Hidden away on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Shangri-La’s idyllic Hambantota resort is undoubtedly one of the country’s most wonderful properties, not to mention the perfect base from which to explore some of the many natural jewels that the enchanting island has to offer.


sculptors and other artisans, whose wares are available to purchase. In the evening, the space is transformed into a performance area for traditional dance and Angampora displays – a martial art indigenous to the island.

TRAVELLER LOWDOWN Exploring its cobbled streets and pends from the luxe surrounds of The Kingdom Of Fife Suite, Nicholas Chrisostomou discovers that there is much to do in of one of Scotland’s oldest towns aside from playing golf


ome to one of the oldest championships in the world, St Andrews in Fife is as synonymous with golf as haggis is with bonnie Scotland and Glasgow is with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. But who knew that as well as sporting some of the finest golfing facilities on the planet, St Andrews also boasts a beautifully unspoilt Scottish town, complete with the ruins of a medieval cathedral and castle and a picture-postcardperfect harbour? I, for one, did not. But now I do, I’m somewhat enamoured with the place. ► 122 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


A four-hour train ride or short flight from London will get you to Edinburgh, northeast of which the seaside town of St Andrews is just a 60-minute drive, on Scotland’s magnificent east coast. It’s easily doable for a long weekend and, as I discovered, there’s oodles to keep even a non-golfer happy. Not least, the wonderful countryside surrounding St Andrews is quite simply stunning, sufficiently so to silence me from chatting to my affable driver Gordon, as I am being whisked in the back of an S-Class to my lodgings at Fairmont St Andrews resort. Surrounded by more than 500 acres of prime seaside and golfing real estate and embraced by two championship golf courses, The Kittocks and The Torrance, the somewhat unpretentious facade of Fairmont St Andrews belies a dramatic and spacious interior within, deftly fashioned to reflect its unique, elevated location surrounded by lush green fairways and the North Sea beyond. Restrained luxury best describes the design aesthetic throughout the hotel, from the huge open fireplace in the reception area, complete with tartan accents, to the cavernous 50-metre cathedrallike atrium, lit by massive triple-height windows at either end. A sophisticated colour palette of deepsea blues and sandy browns echoes the hotel’s location and surrounding topography and lends a sense of calm to the space. Crowning the room is a considerable, glittering, chandelier-like sculpture ‘Zephyr’, by artist George Singer, which undulates above guests, its multiple layers of lighting casting soft kinetics and shadows below. This extravagant yet restrained overall feeling of space and light extends throughout the hotel to its 211 guest rooms and suites, multiple drinking and dining options, and extensive spa with 10 treatment rooms. While many of the guest rooms at Fairmont St Andrews benefit from spectacular vistas across the great sweep of St Andrew’s Bay, the best hotel suite in the county is almost certainly also the property’s crowning hospitality glory: The Kingdom Of Fife Suite. The panoramic, sweeping views from the suite’s private balcony quite literally take one’s breath away, and are reason enough to part with GBP 750 to spend the night in such luxury. After unpacking, I head into town to tread St Andrews’ cobbled streets and adventure through its concealed pends. It’s not long before I discover a treasure trove ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 125

of hidden architectural gems and I am at once entranced. Age-old streets and passageways passing through buildings, yield everything from courtyards and quaint shops to traditional Scottish vernacular architecture and historic ruins shrouded in secrets. One could spend days exploring St Andrews’ streets, pausing to admire its buildings and learning about its architectural landmarks. Commanding its own Wikipedia page, sightseeing fuel doesn’t come much tastier than one of Fisher & Donaldson’s famous fudge doughnuts, filled with creamy custard and topped with fudge icing. Such is their cult following, that the secret recipe has been passed down through four generations, is split into two parts and hidden across five locations. ( Roaming around the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, which dominated Scottish religion until 1560, one can only imagine how spectacular it was in its heyday. Once the largest cathedral in all of Scotland and headquarters of the medieval Scottish church, in centuries past it attracted pilgrims from far and wide. Even in its ruinous state today, St Andrews’ imposing cathedral exudes a sense of stateliness and charm. Predating the cathedral but located within its grounds, for a fiver you can climb to the top of 12th century St Rule’s tower and take in spectacular views across St Andrews and Fife.

Founded in 1413 by a papal blessing and where Prince William famously met Catherine Middleton, St Andrews is very much defined by its prestigious and aesthetically attractive university which is steeped in history. As diverse as its 8,000 students which hail from more than 100 countries, the university also plays hosts to a harmonious mix of architectural styles, which spans everything from Gothic revival to brutalist, so a stroll around its campus is a must. But avoid visiting St Andrews completely during the graduation ceremonies in June and November, plus the weeks either side, since you’ll struggle to find a place to rest your head at a reasonable price! ► 126 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


Named Scottish Pub of the Year in 2018 and established since 1874, the small family run Criterion in the heart of St Andrews is the perfect place to pit stop for lunch or a cocktail. Sit outside and people watch on South Street while tucking into a steak and ale “CRI PIE’ topped with the puffiest pastry, or choose from more than 70 Scottish gins to sip the perfect G&T. (

Every Sunday during term time, look out for hundreds of undergraduate students walking St Andrews Harbour pier, wearing the university’s traditional red gown in different ways, depending on which year they are in. And every year on April 30th, in a tradition known as ‘The Gaudie’, students led by a piper process by candlelight to the East Sands, where they lay a wreath at the site of the shipwreck of the Janet of Macduff. Part of a stretch of natural undefended coastline and famous for the opening scenes of the internationally acclaimed film Chariots of Fire, West Sands is the most famous of St Andrews’ three beaches and extends for almost two completely uninterrupted miles, bordered by a large expanse of sand dunes and the world-renowned Old Course. When the tide’s out, there is no better place to stretch your legs in St Andrews and let the North Sea breezes clear your head, and once the sand is at your feet, the sense of getting away from it all is absolute. At one time the very life-blood of St Andrews, when the town’s early inhabitants would go about simple lives of fishing and farming, its picturesque harbour is inextricably linked with the life of the coastal town it serves and small fishing boats still bring in fresh shellfish daily. Bordered by a row of colourful buildings and stacks of lobster pots on the quayside, the harbour is the perfect place to pause after a busy day of sightseeing and enjoy the fresh sea air. On your way out of town, heading back to Fairmont St Andrews, be sure to stop at Balgove Larder. A butchery, café, farm shop and steak barn all rolled into one, Balgove is a treasure trove of delicious foodie goodies which showcases the best local produce under one roof like nowhere else in Scotland. ( Stroll along miles of unspoilt sandy coastline where an Oscar-winning movie was filmed. Follow old paths, explore ancient streets and marvel at magnificent ruins. Wander along winding trails and explore botanical gardens. Feast on delicious fare and sample locallymade gins. Gorge on doughnuts or catch a show at the theatre. Or play a round of golf on a world-famous championship course. Everything is possible in one of Scotland’s oldest towns. An effortless, unspoiled combination of ancient and modern, traditionally local and international, St Andrews is truly a town like no other. ( Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 129



ncestral home of numerous Scottish monarchs, world famous for its golf links and boasting some of Scotland’s best scenery, Fife is a proud and historic region with its own distinct identity and terrain that varies from gentle hills in the rural hinterlands to windswept cliffs, rocky bays and sandy beaches. The seaside town of St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast, together with the surrounding hills and hamlets, have always evoked a dramatic yet comforting and traditional feel. It is this same sense of ancient, inviting and inspiring natural geography which is reflected in Fairmont St Andrews’ recently refreshed Kingdom of Fife Suite.

Situated in the north wing of the property and the largest accommodation in the building, this veritable presidential suite’s generous square meterage offers magnificent views of the resort’s two golf courses, rugged coastline and the town of St Andrews in the distance. Comprising a huge bedroom with decadent marble-lined bathroom en-suite; over-sized dressing room with separate butler entrance; spacious dual-aspect open-plan living and dining room, and guest cloakroom, the Kingdom of Fife Suite is crowned by a private terrace offering panoramic, sweeping vistas towards the North Sea and beyond, accessed from both the lounge and bedroom. The suite has also been configured in such a way as to optionally add a second connected bedroom en-suite, which opens into the main living space as well as having a separate entrance from the corridor outside. The interior design aesthetic of the Kingdom of Fife Suite is heavily influenced by the history and topography of St Andrews and features a traditional yet sophisticated mix of textures and materials that link its rooms to the striking landscape beyond their walls. The location of St Andrews and the fishing villages that surround the town are specifically referenced via a rope design in the carpets and knotted tie-backs complimenting fulllength pure wool curtains. To further anchor the suite in its location, a number of Scottish suppliers provided its main décor elements, including wallpapers by avant-garde Glaswegian textile designers Timorous Beasties. Meanwhile, the suite’s furniture is upholstered in fabrics produced by a number of celebrated Scottish companies, including Andrew Muirhead. Overall, the effect is one of warmth and comfort, imbuing the suite with an intensely cosy and inviting atmosphere to contrast the sometimes-dramatic weather of St Andrew’s Bay. To complement this inviting ambiance of understated luxury, new artworks were commissioned for the suite in tandem with Peter Millard and Partners. These include a mixed media collage-like piece hanging above the fireplace, which combines local historical elements and maps to make an eye-catching centrepiece and cultural focal point in the suite’s lounge. In its new incarnation and boasting such a breathtaking location and splendid outlook, the Kingdom of Fife Suite is almost certainly the county’s most outstanding accommodation and the perfect place from which to explore the stunning surrounding countryside and gorgeous town of St Andrews. Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 131


Hundreds of Filipinos wearing ornate masks and elaborate costumes perform in the streets of Bacolod on the northwest coast of Negros Island, at the city’s world-famous annual MassKara festival 6-28 October 2019





While visiting Ukraine, Carl Roberts is inexplicably drawn to the haunting exclusion zone surrounding the site of the world’s greatest nuclear disaster

The Chernobyl monument and beyond it the New Safe Confinement encasing reactor 4


here’s something about leaping off a cliff attached to land by only a piece of elastic, or launching oneself from a mountain attached to some large plastic sheeting. We all know that we really ought not to bungee jump or paraglide, but the perceived thrill derived from such extreme sports usually far exceeds the risks.

The same is true of visiting forbidden lands or venturing to places where Mother Nature clearly has the upper hand. More people have visited North Korea or attempted to climb Mount Everest in the past year than ever before, but the number of deaths on the slopes of the world’s tallest mountain have never been greater. Whilst one’s feet stay firmly on the ground when entering the area surrounding the site of the world’s greatest nuclear disaster, in many ways it is no less dangerous than visiting any number of volatile nations around the planet, especially if one doesn’t follow instructions. Such is the draw of dark tourism these days, that long before the HBO drama Chernobyl appeared on our screens earlier 138 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

The entrance to Pripyat town near Chernobyl

this year, more than 10,000 people had already visited the former nuclear site, despite the fact that it had only been open to the public since 2011 when authorities deemed it safe. One of the worst man-made catastrophes ever to befall our planet, a corner of the Ukraine has been locked in time for more than three decades since reactor number four of Chernobyl’s Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant exploded overnight on 25-26 April 1986, raining smoke and debris across half of Europe. Such was the power of the explosion, that it sent 400 times more radioactive material into the Earth’s atmosphere than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima. Around 30 percent of Chernobyl’s 190 metric tons of uranium eventually ended up in the air. Following the incident, the Soviet government evacuated almost 50,000 people from a 30-kilometre exclusion zone around the blast area, including the nearby town of Pripyat, 100 kilometres from the Ukrainian capital. The area is likely to be uninhabitable by humans for many generations to come. But since more than 30 years have ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 139

passed since the explosion, local tour companies insist that the site is safe to visit. And, just a few months ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree changing the fortunes of the disaster area into a tourist attraction, which will see walking trails and waterways added, mobile phone reception improved and filming restrictions lifted. By comparison, Ukrainian officials have suggested that Pripyat will not be habitable for another 20,000 years. Just a two-hour drive from Kiev, Chernobyl is indeed an easy and fascinating day trip. But in light of the potential hazards, it is essential to book an organised tour with an official operator, such as Chernobyl Tours ( Unapproved tours are simply not worth the risk! Our Chernobyl adventure begins at 8am on a cold February morning at Kiev’s main train station where we meet our guide. On the 2-hour drive in a cosy minibus, heading north of the capital towards the exclusion zone, we watch a video which provides background about the disaster and are furnished with personal Geiger counters. Meanwhile, our guide explains the dos, don’ts and the hazards we are about to face. While there are still radiation hot spots within 140 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

the exclusion zone, official tours steer clear of these, and we are informed that the levels to which we are about to be exposed are the same as a transatlantic flight. Saying this, the form we must sign is a tad alarming: “I understand and fully realise staying in the area with high levels of ionizing radiation can cause potential harm to my life and health in the future.” In addition to the city of Chernobyl and nearby Pripyat, it was surprising to learn that some 160 smaller villages within the zone were also forcibly abandoned, although it took 36 hours before buses turned up to move people. Evacuees were told to take only the bare necessities, because they would be able to return a few days later. It would be a year before the first elderly residents were allowed to return to their villages and stay, most of whom have since passed away. Before arriving at the first of two check points, we are warned not to touch dogs and other animals, because their movement was not restricted to the safe areas and their fur may carry radioactive material. A veritable state within a state with its own rules, entry to the exclusion zone is strictly monitored (as one would expect), and secured by ►

camouflaged military personnel carrying automatic rifles, with checks at 30km and 10km out. At both points we disembark and are escorted into bland rooms with huge radiation scanners. We are scanned on the way in and on the way out. Needlessto say, nothing can be removed from the zone. Since the people were evacuated, nature has reclaimed the area and wildlife has flourished. Some even suggest that, as a result of years of minimal human impact, the zone may have a bright future as a nature reserve. We were fortunate in that our visit coincides with the first major snowfall of the year, so the entire area is carpeted with a blanket of fresh, clean snow. Our first stop is an old village which had been home to an elderly resident who passed away last year. Houses are hidden by the dense vegetation. The buildings are standing but their wooden floorings are no more. Newspaper pages are strewn about one of the houses, while the furniture and apparatus within an old doctor’s surgery is wasting away. In the fresh snow the scene is both surreal and serenely peaceful. 142 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Back on the main road we proceed to Pripyat, just over a mile from the nuclear plant, stopping at an old nursery school on the way. The simple crayon drawings pinned to the wall have the children’s’ names in Cyrillic below. The artists would be in their 30s and 40s by now. Formerly a model Soviet metropolis, erected especially to house Chernobyl’s workers, barbed wire encircled Pripyat until 2000. Today, its football stadium is filled with nothing but poplars and the now famous amusement park appears eerily abandoned in the freezing air. The fair should have opened for the May Day celebrations. It never welcomed a single child. Hospitals, schools and homes are still filled with communist iconography and the possessions their former inhabitants left behind, and the decayed village serves as a time capsule-like reminder of Ukraine’s past. One wonders how much longer it will take for nature to fully reclaim Pripyat. In a couple more decades, there may well be little left worth seeing. Chernobyl’s three remaining RBMK reactors continued to produce energy until 2000, when the plant was decommissioned under international pressure. Today it still employs thousands, who have built and are maintaining the massive ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 143

EUR 810 million sarcophagus-like ‘New Safe Confinement’ (NSC). At 105 metres high and spanning 257 metres, the NSC is taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger than Wembley stadium. In November 2016, the behemoth 35,000 tonne structure was slid over the reactor no. 4 building, finally securing its safety for at least another hundred years. It is estimated that the reactors will be dismantled by 2064. Our school dinner-style lunch in the plant canteen is a surreal experience. Served to us on trays by Ukrainian babushkas, we sit and eat barely 100m away from the failed reactor, on the other side of huge windows. The ghost city of Chernobyl is our next stop. Founded in 1193, Chernobyl was home to 14,000 people before the accident. Today, although there are some designated areas with essential services, power plant workers’ residences and even a hotel for visitors, large parts of the city are still no-go zones. A fascinating pit stop is the fire station where many of the first responders were based, most of whom became 144 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

irradiated and lost their lives. A modest monument “to those who saved the world”, paid for by public donations, serves as a stark reminder that were it not for their critical intervention, the consequences could have left much of Eastern Europe a nuclear wasteland. Our last stop is perhaps the most intriguing of all. An immense soaring wall of metalwork, spanning hundreds of metres, the huge top secret Soviet Duga-1 radar array installation near Chernobyl was one of two such facilities within the former USSR (pictured). The structure still dwarfs the surrounding landscape. Some have speculated that the Chernobyl accident was a plot to cover up the existence of this very installation. As we pass through the radiation detectors at the 30km checkpoint, on our way out of the exclusion zone, we wonder, for just a moment, whether we will be given the all clear. For, whilst the dark tourism industry is growing in Chernobyl, its waters are decidedly murkier and we don’t really know whether the entire truth has been told, or whether it ever will be.


ome to a variety of towns, fishing villages and shellfish marinas, Cape Cod extends 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of the American state of Massachusetts and boasts more than 400 miles of coastline. At its very end lies Provincetown. Approaching Ptown (as it is affectionately known) on the 90-minute ferry crossing from Boston, the town in many ways looks like a quintessential New England coastal community. Period grey, brown and red shingle homes line the beachhead. Small sailing and fishing boats bob and up and down in the harbour. Piers and wharves of varying lengths jut out into the bay. And there is a distinct sense of calm and remoteness to the place, akin to being at the end of the earth. Essentially a speck of civilization surrounded by water, pine forests and sand dunes, a lone lighthouse at the end of a promontory, framed on both sides by water, is the first distinctive landmark one sees upon alighting the ferry. It was right here, at Long Point, that the Mayflower delivered the Pilgrims to America almost four hundred years ago.

Whilst New England is peppered with quaint towns and historic monuments, few places can claim such bona fide credentials as Provincetown, much of which dates back to the 19th century and early 1900s, when it grew wealthy on the back of fishing and whaling.


Postage stamp-sized shingled cottages fronted by white picket fences and immaculately landscaped gardens are twoa-penny. Imposing churches and grand civic buildings are dotted about. Around every corner are stunning water views. Aesthetically, this combination of harbour vistas and classic Cape Cod architecture is somewhat otherworldly. From dawn through to dusk, on cloudy and sunny days and across all four seasons, the light in Provincetown is magical. Combined with a unique sense of freedom that comes from being at lands’ end, led to Provincetown becoming the country’s first summer artists’ colony at the turn of the last century, an inherent part of the community which is still important today. Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie in a rustic cottage in Ptown, overlooking the water. The same reasons that artists and writers originally flocked to Provincetown are why it remains such a popular summer destination to this day. The seamless coexistence of small-town friendliness and an eclectic cultural scene is second to none. Summers in Cape Cod are about long days spent on the beach and relaxing. Provincetown is no different. The beaches in ►


Alex Benasuli catches the ferry from Boston to explore Cape Cod’s cultured and colourful seaside town seemingly at the end of the earth


Ptown may be smaller but they are plentiful, and it’s easy to access the waterfront. Find a quiet spot, roll out your beach towel and watch the world go by as the tides ebb and flow. The public has access to every dockside in Provincetown, making them excellent sunbathing and swimming platforms. A little outside the town centre, the beaches and scenery becomes wilder, especially in Cape National Seashore Park which begins at the tip of Ptown’s West End. An area of outstanding natural beauty, the park is made up of wetlands, pine forests, sandy hills and mile upon mile of bays and ocean beaches. It’s a must for nature lovers. Herring Cove is particularly popular with locals for its warmer waters and easy parking. Race Point offers wider and longer beaches. Those seeking more privacy frequent the beaches that surround Long Point, which are a walk of several miles from town. Be careful to time your walk to avoid high tide in order to be able to traverse the causeway that connects it to the mainland. Alternatively, take the Long Point Shuttle and get there in a fraction of the time ( The payoff is seal encounters, abundant bird life and a real sense of leaving it all behind. There is something very special about being in the middle of the ocean, at the very tip of Cape Cod, at the exact spot where the Pilgrims first landed. Traversing the cycle paths that connect Ptown to its beaches and crisscross Cape National Seashore Park is pure bliss. Taking in the sand dunes, ocean views and the more-shady parts of woody Beech Forest - while coasting up and down undulating hills and around gentle curves - is not to be missed. A full circuit from town out to Race Point and returning via Herring Cove takes less than an hour, including a few water and vista breaks. Be sure to ask for a map of the trails when renting from Ptown Bikes ( In some summer resorts there is little to do apart from relaxing by the pool or hitting the beach. This is not the case in Ptown. For a relatively small place, the cultural, shopping and dining possibilities bordering the town’s three-mile main drag, Commercial Street, are superb. At its heart is MacMillan pier, from which the ferries arrive and depart as well as fishing and whale-watching charters. As you leave the center, towards Ptown’s east and west districts, the crowds quickly thin out and everything quietens down. Whilst weekends, national holidays and mid-August’s carnival are busier, one of the real joys of visiting in Ptown is its small scale and innate village feel. And there’s no need for a car, since end to end is roughly an hour on foot or twenty minutes on a bicycle. ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 149

Provincetown’s East End is the traditional hub of its artist colony and where dozens of galleries are located. Rice Polak specialises in mixed medium contemporary art ( and Egeli Gallery focusses on Cape Cod-inspired impressionist paintings ( The East End is also home to Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM). Established in 1914 it is one the best small modern art museums in the country, a fixture in the town’s cultural life and and features exhibitions year-round ( In Ptown, daytime flows seamlessly into night and spending time at the beach leads into sunset drinks at one of many waterfront bars and lounges. Dining options are equally plentiful, with pretty much everywhere in Cape Cod excelling at seafood. Eastern oysters from nearby Wellfleet, world famous New England lobster and Cape Cod clam chowder, as well as a large variety of fresh locally-caught fish, can all be found across the town. Baie offers a refined gastronomic experience in an intimate setting complete with bay views (, while The Lobster Pot has been around for generations and serves classic New England cuisine and Portuguese seafood specials in an unpretentious waterfront setting ( For simple but scrumptious fare from morning ‘til night, order at Canteen’s counter and wait for your food to be delivered to your table on a sandy plot facing the harbour, festooned with surf boards and fishing nets ( After dinner, piano bars and cabaret clubs beckon, although a 1am closing time for all venues ensures that (despite Ptown’s colourful nightlife) nothing gets too out of hand.


You won’t find a hotel chain in Ptown and lodging options are generally small and charming. Overlooking the harbour and Cape Cod Bay, each of Red Inn’s eight rooms offers spectacular views ( On the other side of town, awardwinning White Porch Inn’s nine rooms combine modern luxury with seductive views towards the bay ( Eben House ( and Salt House Inn ( are two newer boutique properties, that offer more contemporary interpretations of the traditional bed and breakfast concept. Provincetown’s breathtaking natural setting, surrounded by water on three sides, a national park and beaches, combined with the charming qualities of a historic New England coastal village and a thriving cultural scene, make it an utterly unique and colourful seaside hamlet. A carefree enclave where everyone is welcome and encouraged to be themselves, there is truly is no place in the world like Ptown. 150 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019




Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 153


Food Atmosphere

Alex Benasuli joins Wynwood’s hipsters for some serious eating at a restaurant which is redefining modern fine dining


hile Miami Beach has been a popular holiday destination since the 1920s, metropolitan Miami - America’s seventh largest city - is now having its time in the sun. Having always been international in its outlook not least due to its longstanding ties to Latin America, Miami is now bristling with arts, culture, shopping and dining scenes that are not only cementing its place as a global hot spot but also as one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. From shimmering high-rise Brickell south of Downtown, up north to the Design District’s new luxury flagship stores, entire neighbourhoods are being created in Miami, each with their own distinct personalities and characters. Ten years ago, Wynwood was an unloved stretch of concrete parking lots and half-abandoned buildings. Today it is Miami’s creative hipster hub and one of the city’s hottest areas, akin to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg or London’s Shoreditch, and has been made Instagram famous by Wynwood Walls, a collection of outdoor spaces decorated by some of the world’s leading graffiti artists. Though some trendy brands and tourists have arrived in Wynwood, at its heart the area continues to evolve as Miami’s creative and artistic heart. And a world away from Miami Beach yet a mere 20 minutes across Biscayne Bay, Wynwood is an inherent part of the new Miami, a thriving city marching to its own tropical beat abounding with nightlife options for creatives looking for funkier options beyond those which the city is commonly known for. Never really renowned globally for its standout world class cuisine, part of Miami’s ascendance has been its recent emergence as a foodie destination. Critically acclaimed restaurant openings - in varying formats and showcasing a multitude of cuisines - have helped to propel the city to the top of the country’s culinary leagues. Never before has Miami boasted more exciting and diverse places to dine and Wynwood has been at the forefront of this trend. While by day Wynwood can be steamy and sultry, at night the area bursts with activity. Art galleries throw open their doors; music from passing cars, bars and restaurants spills onto the streets; sidewalks hum with hip Miamians and visitors commingling with gritty urbanites to create a fun, relaxed and truly distinctive vibe. ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 155

When Alter opened in 2015, it significantly elevated Wynwood’s already impressive selection of dining establishments by skillfully combining gastronomically innovative and seasonal tasting menus with casual and hip surroundings. Tasting menu-format establishments can tend towards being overly formal and a tad stuffy. Not at Alter, where a youthful post-industrial former warehouse design aesthetic creates a fun and intimate setting in which to engage in a new American culinary adventure. Concrete floors, white cinder block walls and exposed ceilings are offset by moody lighting and a vibrant, open kitchen. Servers clad in denim jeans, blue shirts and denim aprons positively exude Miami cool-ascucumber confidence and style. Meanwhile, the relative snugness of the venue, which can seat no more than fifty diners, lends an air of nonchalant exclusivity to Alter. With the overall ambience so easy and sexy, there really is no need to rush an Alter experience. Best to start with one of the many delectable cocktails on offer, such as Mango Clove which combines Hendrick’s gin, raspberry liquor, mango syrup and lemon juice. Executive chef Bradley Kilgore is very much the brainchild behind Alter. Formerly exec chef at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Grill in Bal Harbour and having worked at some of Chicago’s finest eateries, in 2016 Kilgore won Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award at Alter. Numerous other accolades have been bestowed upon Kilgore since then. Kilgore has clearly realised his dream at Alter, at the same time hitting upon a winning formula by serving sophisticated fine dining fare in a casual and ambient environment. Freshly sourced ingredients from local farms and fishermen are at the heart of the regularly changing menus. Kilgore excels at ingeniously reinventing classic dishes with unusual add-ons and funky preparations. Tasting menus are offered as five or seven courses with accompanying wine flights reasonably priced. Sumac and dill seed-encrusted bread, served with umami butter, sets the tone for a culinary journey that hits multiple taste and texture highs. ► 156 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

A cooling palette cleanser of asparagus chowder served with parmesan foam and watercress and green peanut garnish followed. Visually, courses are literally as stunning as they taste and servers passionately explain each dish as they are delivered, clearly loving their work and taking pride in everything carefully transported from the kitchen. A bay scallop crudo with green tomato aguachile, black lime, maracuyá and radish deftly brought together Middle Eastern and tropical flavours. The next course of Arctic char appeared floating within a chorizo-coconut emulsion and was served with carrot veil and wild ramp - the holy grail of wild edibles from the leek family which grow during the spring months in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Other ourses came and went that similarly cleverly combined the local and well-known with the wild and exotic. Even if it’s not on your tasting menu, be sure to ask for the divine soft egg dish with sea scallop espuma, truffle pearls, chives and Siberian caviar. It is a classic Kilgore concoction and one of Alter’s signature dishes. Alter’s wine pairings are some of the best curated and forward-thinking you may ever have sampled. New and old-world wines hailing from around the globe are showcased side-by-side. And while some vintages from better known makers are served, most come from relatively small and unheard-of vineyards. Oenophiles will undoubtedly delight at some of the hidden gems they will sip at Alter. My nest-like dessert of 72% Araguani chocolate (made from rare Venezuelan cocoa beans) and combined with variations of pear, young spruce and chestnut would have alone been worthy of a visit to Alter. Usually, such a high level of culinary expertise is paraded in a much more formal or pretentious setting. But not at Alter, where the hip and cool engage in some serious eating in easy, breezy and edgy Wynwood. Alter is not only helping to put Miami on the American culinary map as a foodie destination but is also redefining for the modern age what fine dining should really be all about. 158 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

ALTER Food: Atmosphere: Executive chef: Address: Telephone: Email: Website: Cuisine: Lunch: Dinner: Dinner price: Ideal meal: Reservations: Wheelchair access: Children: Credit cards: Parking:

Brad Kilgore 223 NW 23rd Street, Miami, FL 33127, U.S.A. +1 305 573 5996 Refined New American Closed 19:00 - 23:00 Tuesday - Sunday (closed Mondays) Five or seven-course tasting menus at USD 79 and USD 99 Nine-course “chef’s counter” experience USD 165 + wine pairings USD 100 Essential Yes No high chairs. No kids’ menu All major On the street

Reviewed by Alex Benasuli for dinner on 25th April 2019 Ratings range from zero to five stars and reflect the reviewer’s feedback about the food and service, and separately the atmosphere in the dining room.

With a decades-long reputation for the highest quality seafood, prepared simply and served in elegant spaces with excellent service, Alex Benasuli dines on top notch Greek fare at Costas Spiliadis’ newest MILOS restaurant, located slap bang in the centre of one of the planet’s most highly anticipated urban regeneration schemes: Hudson Yards in Manhattan 160 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


fter more than a decade in the making, New York City’s newest neighbourhood and one of the planet’s most anticipated urban regeneration schemes is finally open. Hudson Yards - which spans Manhattan’s far west side between 30th and 34th Streets from 10th Avenue to the Hudson River - has transformed a derelict former industrial area into a 14-acre bastion of luxury high-rise apartment buildings, high-end shopping, public plazas and cultural spaces. What was once a wasteland is now buzzing with cafés, restaurants, art galleries and pedestrianfriendly boulevards. Open since late spring 2019, Hudson Yards is teeming with visitors who are flocking to experience for


themselves this future forward exercise in architecture and design-oriented urban planning geared towards residents, tourists and the countless businesses in and around the area. The best way (weather permitting) to approach Hudson Yards, is from the south on the High Line, the elevated former railway track that has been converted into a pedestrian walkway and urban prairie-style park. The mile-long route from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards is a promenade of urban cool. Views towards the Hudson River and Empire State Building are framed by buildings designed by some of the world’s most famous architects. The Hudson Yards skyline is equally impressive. Already, the 16-storey copper-coloured honeycomb-

shaped Vessel structure, which encompasses more than 80 viewing platforms, is being referred to by some as New York’s equivalent to the Eiffel Tower and has become the city’s newest Instagram hot spot. So, when beloved gastronomic temple to refined Greek and Mediterranean dining Estiatorio Milos was looking to add a new location, Hudson Yards was an obvious choice. When the original Milos opened in Montreal in 1979, founder Costas Spiliadis took Hellenic cuisine to the next level and established a reputation for serving only the highest quality seafood, prepared simply and served in elegant spaces with excellent service. Back then, Spiliadis would drive eight hours each way, twice a week, from Montreal to Fulton Street Fish Market in NYC to ensure ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 161

that only the best and freshest fish was served in his restaurant. A New York outpost opened in 1997, followed by Athens in 2004, Las Vegas in 2010, Miami in 2012 and London in 2015. Milos’ carefully curated relationships with Greek islandbased fishermen, Greek wineries, cheese makers and produce growers forged a farm-to-table ethos long before farm-to-table became commonplace in the culinary world. All Milos establishments have a particular look and feel about them, akin in many ways to contemporary Greek temples to food. Earth tones dominate with a generous deployment of stone, marble and timber throughout. 162 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Aegean blue tiled open kitchens create splashes of colour and drama within sanctuary-like dining settings. When one enters a Milos restaurant it is clear that no expense has been spared. Courtesy of a bevy of maître d’s, hostesses, waiters, sommeliers and support staff, service at every level is also close to flawless. Being “well taken care of” takes on new meaning at a Milos restaurant and the brand has become synonymous with superb food, well-considered design and impeccable service. Hence, it makes total sense that Milos should take its place on the top floors of the six storey luxury retail and dining emporium within Hudson Yards, with Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany and other similarly illustrious brands as its neighbours. ►

Milos’ Hudson Yards outpost does not disappoint in the design stakes. From its lofty perch, floor-to-ceiling windows in a semi-circular curve along the whole restaurant front reveal a spectacular vista of the Hudson River and Vessel almost dead centre. The view faces due west and the sunsets are epic. As is the Milos way, the space, while remaining open, is subtly divided into sections. Raised and submerged platforms and steps create different levels and experiences. The tables around the front of the restaurant boast the best views and are flooded with natural light. They are also somewhat calmer and more date friendly. The central area is a cacophony of larger family-friendly tables ringed by smaller tables 164 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

in cleverly arranged ribbons of seating. To date, bookings have far surpassed expectations. Much like Hudson Yards in general there is a strong buzz about the newest Milos. And while there is always a sense of theatre at Milos restaurants, this one feels even higher octane and more dramatic. However, the highlight of the Milos experience is always the food and Milos aficionados should rest assured that all the classics are expertly turned out here. The challenge at Milos is not to over-order as everything sounds, looks and tastes so good. The ever-popular signature tower of lightly fried zucchini and eggplant is as scrumptious as ever. The hummus, taramasalata

and htipiti dips, served with toasted pita, are some of the best you will ever taste. However, the highlight of every Milos ordering process is a visit to the fresh fish counter, where handwritten signs advertise the catches of the day which are displayed market-style on ice. You can never go wrong with fagri (red porgy), sargos (sea bream) or levraki (sea bass), simply grilled with a dusting of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, served with steamed wild seasonal greens and a Greek salad. Finish the meal with cinnamon-infused baklava or fried, honey- coated loukoumádes of Greek decadence. In addition to the main restaurant, Milos has inaugurated a new concept in its Hudson Yards location in the form of a separate wine bar which occupies its own floor within

the complex. Here, Greek wines are served by the glass alongside small tapas-style plates. Greek olive oils, honey and sea salts are also on sale. As perfect for an informal dining experience as it is for a shopping pit stop, the service and food quality at Milos Wine Bar is the same as the restaurant. In its new Hudson Yards location, Milos has undoubtedly grown its status as a global culinary force. With new restaurants planned in Dubai and Cabo San Lucas, Milos is proving that quantity can be matched with quality and consistency when carefully and considerately executed. Great brands engender fierce loyalty while attracting new converts all the time. Milos achieves both with panache and ease. Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 165


here’s absolutely no doubt that ‘mother’s ruin’ is the spirit of the moment and we’re still in the middle of a full-on gin renaissance. Sales of the juniper-flavoured spirit show no sign of waning, with distillers falling over themselves to release fresh craft expressions to keep up with the growing worldwide demand for new gins. But where did it all begin? Many historians label the rise of gin as England’s first real drug craze. First concocted as a medicinal tonic in the early 1600s, in the 18th century, gin was considered such a blight on society that various acts were introduced in an attempt to restrict its consumption. The introduction of the 1736 Gin Act which imposed a high tax on gin retailers, was hugely unpopular with the working classes and caused widespread riots in London. As a result, the tax was significantly lowered within a few years. Fifteen years later, the Gin Act of 1751 prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants; restricted the issuing of retail licenses and charged high fees to those who were eligible to retail the spirit. And in an attempt to replace gin in the cups of the masses, the importation of tea was encouraged as an alternative. Of course, the somewhat crude and cheap gin of 18th century England was very different to what we drink these days. Whereas today’s gin is generally 40% ABV (alcohol by volume), it’s likely that the homemade distilled concoctions of the 1700s were much stronger, possibly as high as 50%. Cheap, widely available and legal, highly-intoxicating gin proved to be an addictive, irresistible and lethal combination, not forgetting that for many, this was a time when alcohol was safer to drink than mains water. And because gin wasn’t taxed initially, it was even cheaper than beer. Some say that gin was the 18th century crack cocaine of England’s poor, since its powerful depressant qualities (its USP if you like!) were a cheap means for the working classes to forget their worries. Ingrained in the very foundations of society at the time, a noticeable increase in female gin addicts in the 1700s led to its various feminine nicknames, including ‘mother’s ruin’. It’s even widely believed that the humble gin and tonic was the reason the British were able to rule India for as long as they did. Essentially a method of medical advancement, the first gin and tonic was first developed in the 19th century as a way to make the anti-malaria drug quinine more palatable for British officers in India at risk of catching the deadly disease. But the original quinine-based mixture was extremely bitter to drink and so lime, sugar and gin were added to make it more appetising. Then the descendants of a German jeweller based in Geneva, Johann Jakob Schweppe, used their newly-patented bubbling device on a mixture of oranges, water and quinine. They called their product Schweppes Indian Tonic and the rest (as they say) is gin history. Today a traditional G&T remains the most popular way to consume gin, but the spirit’s use is also surging in cocktails and as a neat drink served over ice, especially when enjoying a high-quality or craft gin. ► 166 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


Nicholas Chrisostomou visits the ďŹ rst private distillery to open in the Finnish capital for over a century

Whilst large multinational drink manufacturers are meeting much of gin’s increased demand by upping their mass-produced output, a growing number of small distillers have sprung up to offer consumers quirky, high-end, small batch and exclusive higher ABV alternatives to the big brands, a trend which follows that of craft breweries and whisky distillers in recent decades. Founded in 2013, The Helsinki Distilling Company (HDCO) was the first private distillery to open in Helsinki for over a century. It produces premium gin, whisky and other spirits using the best local ingredients, many of which are unique to Finland, making HDCO’s spirits rather special. The distillery is located in Teurastamo: a former abattoir and now the food culture heart of Helsinki. HDCO’s two-storey building has a fascinating history of its own, having been used as a power plant for thirty years, then a soap factory, meatball factory, car wash, wine cellar and lastly as an architect’s office. HDCO’s spirits are produced by master distiller Mikko Mykkänen together with Kai Kilpinen and Séamus Holohan. A big believer in learning more about what I consume, I visited HDCO in the Finnish capital to meet with brand ambassador Marietta Kuivanen and stillman Mike Byars to find out more and sample their wares. Gin is produced by using juniper berries and other botanicals to flavour an already-distilled neutral alcohol. In the case of cold compound gins, after any botanical solids have been removed, the liquid is diluted and bottled. Many budget (or supermarket) gins are made this way. The costlier but far more flavoursome way to make gin, is to redistill the alcohol after the botanicals have been added. This is how HDCO produces its superior gins, after a long maceration process, using Finnish ingredients. Blended with the purest Finnish water, 47% Helsinki Dry Gin is made using nine hand-picked botanicals including the Arctic lingonberry, creating a well-rounded and smooth spirit which has its own subtle yet sophisticated personality. It tastes just as good on the rocks without a mixer as it does as part of a G&T garnished with lingonberries and a slice of pink grapefruit. After being walked through the distilling process by Mike and having a tasting session with Marietta, it was not difficult to distinguish the delicate characteristics of HDCO’s different gins, especially aromas of the Nordic forest and the floral, citrusy notes. An hour at HDCO turned into three and I left the distillery better educated and a tad merry. It’s said that life is a journey of continuous learning. What better way to add to one’s knowledge than by learning how premium gin is produced and how to assemble the perfect Finnish G&T. 168 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

music & NIGHT LIFE


A titan of a scene that has brought EDM from the fringes into the mainstream over the past decade, the superstar French DJ talks to The Cultured Traveller about his life and career, collaborating with Sia and his favourite places in Paris WHEN DID YOUNG DAVID FIRST FALL UNDER THE SPELL OF DANCE MUSIC? I discovered dance, actually house music to be more specific, during my time working at a nightclub. Right away I was intrigued by how it made me feel and the effect it had on the crowd. When I started to delve in, I fell in love.

WHICH ARTIST HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE ON YOU MUSICALLY? It’s hard to pick just one. I grew at a time of incredible artists who changed the music industry forever: Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie and Marvin Gaye, to name but a few, all really knew how to translate a story into a track. And Stevie Wonder’s still going strong! These are just some of the musicians who inspired me to do what I do today. Many people also influenced my dance music, of course.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST CLUB YOU EVER PLAYED AT? I was seventeen when I started DJing and my very first experience behind the decks was at the Broad Club in Paris, which is still going today.

YOU WERE VERY INVOLVED IN THE PARIS NIGHTCLUB SCENE AT THE START OF YOUR CAREER? Paris is where it all started for me - I played at many clubs in the French capital. I also owned Le Palace club for a while and organised parties there, which is where my passion for music really developed.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PARISIAN NIGHTCLUB TODAY? Les Bains-Douches, which was the most famous nightclub in Paris in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I played there a long time ago and saw everybody from David Bowie to The Rolling Stones party there. The city shut it down in 2011 but it re-opened as a cool hotel with a club in the basement. Playing there today brings back many good memories. (

WHAT DEFINING MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER PROPELLED YOU TO WORLDWIDE FAME? For sure my collaboration with the Black Eyed Peas on I Gotta Feeling. That track was such a huge success, that it enabled me to crossover to the States as well as reach many other audiences globally.

I GOTTA FEELING ESSENTIALLY KICK-STARTED THE EDM REVOLUTION A DECADE AGO. WERE YOU READY FOR WHAT FOLLOWED? All I wanted to do was to share my music with the world and truly live my dream. Doing what I’m most passionate about for a living was absolutely what I was ready for. Of course, it was crazy and overwhelming when it happened. But I loved and still love every second of it. I have the best job in the world. ►

YOU LIKE TO MAKE HUGE SONGS WITH BIG HOOKS THAT PEOPLE LOVE TO SING ALONG TO. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TO DATE? I’ve made so many tracks with so many amazing artists that it’s really difficult to pick just one. But if I had to choose one, Titanium would be in my top. When Sia and I made Titanium, she was working as a songwriter and I was working as a producer. We were supposed to make the record for another artist. When we finished the record, we were listening to it and I said, “There is no way I’m giving this away, this is going to be on my album and I don’t wanna give it to anyone else”. I already knew that no one could have sung it the way she did, so I asked her to stay on the record. But she said that she didn’t want to be an artist anymore, she just wanted to be a songwriter. So I promised her that I wouldn’t ask her to do any promo for the track or tour with me. I just wanted her voice! She eventually agreed, saying that it would be her last record. Then, right after Titanium was released, Sia became one of the world’s biggest artists. It’s a pretty crazy story but all true!

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A TRACK AS SUCCESSFUL AS GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING WHEN LOVE TAKES OVER? I’m still very grateful and it meant a lot me. Receiving awards such as these puts a crown on top of your hard work.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO PUT OUT YOUR TRACK THE DEATH OF EDM AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT EDM TODAY? When I made that record four years ago I was effectively predicting what actually happened. There was a moment when every record seemed to be 120bpm, in F minor and all EDM was sounding exactly the same. EDM became more formulaic than pop and people got tired of it. The Death of EDM was about the need for a new sound. People will always want to dance, so we need to make music in different ways, at different tempos and using different sounds to move music forwards.

AS A PIONEERING DANCE MUSIC DJ AND PRODUCER, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO MOVE MUSIC FORWARDS? Music and the way we can produce changes all the time and I think that it’s important for artists to keep up with what’s happening around us. So, yes, I think our role as DJs and producers is to make music go forward, and to think forward. I started to make dance music because it was a type of music where there would be more freedom than within the pop structures commonly heard on the radio. Today, there is so much happening on the ground in progressive house and in tech house. The past few years especially have been very interesting musically, especially with the explosion of so many different subgenres. I love working with artists from other genres and also learning from young and new artists. They can have a fresh look on things which can inspire me.

YOU HAVE COLLABORATED WITH NUMEROUS ARTISTS. IS THERE ANYONE YOU WOULD STILL LIKE TO WORK WITH? There are many artists I admire and would love to make music with. But Adele is really high on my wish list. It would be amazing to make a track with Adele.

WHO IS JACK BACK? My alias! I’m Jack Back. It represents a different side of me, where I can express my more underground side and share the type of music where I came from. It’s all about the love for music, with no commercial aspect to it. ► 172 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019


TELL US ABOUT YOUR DOUBLE ALBUM ‘7’, RELEASED TOWARDS THE END OF LAST YEAR, WHICH FEATURES EVERYONE FROM POP STARS JUSTIN BIEBER AND NICKI MINAJ TO DJs STEVE AOKI AND MARTIN GARRIX. The first disc is completely pop, with all the big hits and big names. The second disc is all about my alias Jack Back and is completely underground. Instead of trying to do a little bit of everything on the same record, I decided to make two to show the different sides to my music and also represent my musical journey. Releasing ‘7’ was very much a full circle moment for me.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO COLLABORATE AGAIN WITH NICKI MINAJ AND SIA? Nicki Minaj and Sia are like old-time partners and I really appreciate that they are so loyal to me. We made records together that were really life-changing. They became such huge stars, so I really appreciate that they’re always here from me.

IS IBIZA STILL AS MAGICAL FOR YOU TODAY AS IT WAS WHEN YOU PLAYED YOUR FIRST DJ SET THERE? Definitely. The energy on the isle is so radiant. My first set on Ibiza was obviously very special, but it’s still magical to play on the island today. For sure. Especially having my own residencies, that keep evolving. I don’t think I will ever leave Ibiza.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE VENUE TO PERFORM IN THE WORLD? This is a difficult question because so many venues have impressed me so much. But Ushuaïa and Hï on Ibiza are definitely two of my favourites. I always have so much fun when I play there during the summer. My residencies BIG and F*** Me I’m Famous take place in these magical clubs.

YOU ROUTINELY CRISS-CROSS THE WORLD’S SKIES, PLAYING ON MULTIPLE CONTINENTS. WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST WHEN YOU’RE AWAY FROM PARIS? Time with my friends and family mostly, of course. When I am feeling naughty there is nothing better than French pastries and there is nothing naughtier than pastries from Paris. The best probably come from Odette in the Latin Quarter ( I love having brunch at Les Bains. And strolling around the Latin Quarter which retains so much authenticity and history and is brimming with independent cafés and shops - it’s a wonderful place.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUDDING DJs AND UP-AND-COMING PRODUCERS? Keep going! Work on your own sound and try to figure out how to stand out from the crowd. Only those that never give up and carry-on working ever make it.

TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THE LONGEVITY OF YOUR CAREER? I think it’s difficult to really put a finger on it. Because I love making music and it really is my passion has a lot to do with it. My passion for music makes it possible for me to work ten times harder than others. And I like to think that I share my passion with other people.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR DAVID GUETTA? I don’t have huge ambitions because I don’t need to make more money, I have enough. I just want to make more of the music I love and share it with the world. Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 175



What awoke the creative spirit in young Bruce? My mother was an elementary school teacher as well as the owner of a children’s shoe store in our hometown of Yuma in Arizona, so she always emphasised education and was very supportive of our artistic explorations. I attended some shoe shows with her and always felt that my opinion was valued and seen as important and relevant. This, in itself, was huge and very empowering. My twin brother and I were, after all, her target market, so it was great that my mother really valued our input and appreciated what we liked.

While growing up, what inspired you to forge a career in fashion? To be honest, I didn’t even know a career in fashion was a possibility! This was way before magazine and fashion careers were regularly seen on TV together with any awareness of these worlds having job opportunities. So, looking at magazines (Interview, GQ) was my main connection to what was happening in the outside world, far from the Arizona desert. What did you enjoy about working on shop floors during your college years? I loved being of service to, engaging with and helping customers of the Gap and ESPRIT where I had jobs during my college summers. It was also fascinating to learn about clothes and spend time with the people I worked with who seemed so worldly. I was quite fastidious and was always given the responsibility of folding the denim wall at the end of the day. I was pretty proud of how I left the store looking in the evening! And your college studies? I wanted an aesthetically beautiful environment as well as a rigorous scholastic experience, so I went

from the deserts of Arizona to the ivy-covered colonial bricked College of William and Mary in Virginia. I went planning to study accounting. But, after my first class, I realised that finance was not my path and was grateful to have found the fine arts school. In a quest for balance, I majored in art history, which was creatively inspiring, while also studying economics which appealed to my practical nature.

What did your first NYC job at Paul Smith teach you? I found the job in the back of the Village Voice newspaper. It was exciting working with a fascinating crew of people at a cool store which was frequented by fun clients and customers during the hey-day of Paul Smith. I loved all the prints and patterns and learned a lot about fabrics, cuts, silhouettes and fashion in general. Interacting with magazine editors from time-to-time also opened my eyes to opportunities in the fashion world.

Tell us about your time at GQ magazine which culminated in you becoming associate fashion editor? I got very lucky. My supervisor at Paul Smith very generously told me about an opening at GQ for a fashion assistant and encouraged me to interview. I started out by booking clothing in and out for shoots. Eventually I worked my way up to shooting assistant and worked on set with the associate fashion, celebrities and models, preparing the clothes, learning about art direction and the role of a fashion editor. It was all so fascinating that I just learned and absorbed as much as I could. I eventually started doing my own shoots for the magazine, travelled to Europe each season for the fashion shows and was promoted to market editor. I was associate fashion editor for almost a decade. It was all incredibly rewarding. ► Sep-Nov 2019 The Cultured Traveller 177

Your stylist and costume work included prominent campaigns as well as covers and features in many magazines. What did you enjoy most about this work?

You have now been with Bergdorf Goodman for more than five years and are currently men’s fashion director. What does your role entail?

Styling is a very different way of looking at clothing, with naturalism, character and how a person can really live in and inhabit clothing all being factors. I loved the research involved in the costume work and how my fashion background really influenced how I interpreted clothing and character.

As men’s fashion director for both Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus my role is incredibly varied. I’m always on the hunt for new and exciting brands for our customers; constantly looking for ways to engage and excite the customer both in store and online; and working to identify and articulate trends and newness in the marketplace that will be compelling for our customer. I also work on the concepts and style the shoots for our magazine, the “Goodman’s Guide”, which comes out twice a year. I’m also always thinking of ways to expand the meaning of what we do inside the store’s physical space, including find new ways to engage and stimulate the customer. I enjoy immensely how wide and varied my responsibilities are.

Your favourite campaign? Undoubtedly my campaign for The Sopranos TV show, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. It was amazing to really be able to dive into researching the costuming, spend weeks shopping for the characters and work with the costume design team to come up with a concept for an image of all the actors around a restaurant table, complete with lots of hidden meaning.

Which celebrity feature was the most fun to work on? This is a toss-up between the Vanity Fair cover for the 2003 Hollywood Issue which featured the leading male actors of the time (including Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Brad Pitt etc.), and a photograph I styled of the cast of Friends dressed as a 1930s circus troupe. Both were photographed by Annie Leibovitz. For the Friends image, I scrambled to pull together clothing and costume pieces, since we had changed the concept and spent the day fitting the actors while they were filming. We dressed each of them individually. Then Annie and I waited for them. They arrived together, truly looking like the troupe I had imagined, and it was quite a special, rewarding and overwhelming moment. I was incredibly proud of that shot.

After such an illustrious career in print, what prompted you to move into fashion retail? I had always enjoyed every aspect of fashion retail. While working in editorial I also styled a variety of projects, including the Bergdorf Goodman men’s magazine for quite a few years. Consequently, I spent a fair amount of time interacting with the buyers and merchant team as well as being in the store which I grew to know very well. I loved the people and the environment and always hoped, in the back of my mind, that someday the right opportunity would arise there. Ultimately it did. 178 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

Is it stressful to constantly travel the world looking for fresh menswear and streetwear for the stores of such iconic American retailers? Gratefully I absolutely love to travel and have a virtually insatiable curiosity. I have been called a cultural omnivore by a fellow journalist which I thought was very apt. I am interested in most everything and am always just naturally on the hunt for things that are new, exciting, compelling and interesting, whether it’s a new store, new brand, a recently opened restaurant, a gallery, a museum exhibition or a musical. Everything I see informs my point of view and I never know from where that next exciting idea may arise.

Tell us about your new shop-in-shop at Bergdorf Goodman, B.? On the third floor of the men’s store, developing B. has been a really fun and satisfying experience and it has been exciting to see it resonate with customers. It’s a multi-vendor concept shop for the Bergdorf Goodman customer, filled with wardrobe items and style-minded pieces that I’ve seen on my travels, plus items I’ve developed in collaboration with favourite designers. It is a way for me to showcase clothing that is a little more quiet and personal style driven. It is merchandised like a closet, with items placed next to each other as outfit suggestions to assist customers as they shop. ( ►


We understand that B. was kitted-out by your set designer brother Scott? My brother Scott is a triple Tony award-winning set designer and an incredible talent, so it was natural to involve him in the design concept of the shop. We wanted it to feel welcoming and warm and a place where people enjoy spending time, so we took elements from a cottage I have on Long Island, like shingles and peg boards, to give it a very residential and comfortable feel. Which Fashion Week destinations do you most enjoy visiting? I love London very much and I never miss a dinner at the Marksman pub in Hackney, with its beautiful private dining room designed by Martino Gamper ( I enjoy staying at the recently refurbished Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan, because everything is positioned exactly where it makes the most perfect sense in its guest rooms ( In Paris, I am always on the lookout for a good new restaurant, with Clown Bar being a favourite (, as well as the more discrete Chez La Vielle where I can have a delicious dinner at the bar ( Copenhagen is filled with amazing restaurants. I love 108 run by the Noma folks ( as well as Relae (, Manfreds ( and the Mikkeller bars (

antique fabrics such as Victorian quilts. Her quilted and printed shirts are terrific ( Matt Williams’ Alyx collection of technically-minded tailored sportswear is looking really good ( A-COLD-WALL* out of London (

How important do you think social media is in the modern retail environment? Social media has been a great way for me to connect directly with people around the world who have an interest in menswear and fashion. Messages I received on Instagram definitely helped solidify my feelings that there would be interest in a B. concept shop based on items I wear and things I love. I really enjoy the accessibility and the ease with which I can share images, ask for opinions and engage with readers and followers. I think the personal connection that social media facilitates is very important in the modern retail world and the feedback provided is vital. @brucepask Somewhere you’d love to visit? Surprisingly, given how much I travel, I have never visited Greece and would love to. I would also like to visit Portugal and go on safari in Africa. I am so curious about everything I would actually travel almost anywhere!

Which country or region of the world talks to you most in terms of fashion creativeness?

Six things you wouldn’t fly without in your carry-on?

Asia has some of the most fascinating and inventive retail experiences. Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong are always exciting places to travel to and explore.

My vintage Helmut Lang denim jacket, Orlebar Brown swim shorts, Le Mont St Michel chore coat, CLOSED x B. collaboration khakis, a converter and phone charger, and a Thom Browne tie, since you never know when you may need to unexpectedly dress up!

What are your favourite labels to wear? I wear a sort of uniform, incorporating a few key elements which balance between dressy and casual. I wear Le Mont St Michel chore jackets a lot, with Comme des Garçons striped shirts and Atelier & Repair khakis and jeans. Atelier & Repairs is a small workshop in LA where they take vintage denim and khakis and upcycle them, applying tonal patches and embroidery to make each pair unique ( Any up-and-coming designers we should be looking out for? Emily Bode’s line BODE, which produces one-of-akind, handcrafted clothing in New York, cut from 180 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 2019

From top left, clockwise, The Marksman’s private dining room; Excelsior Hotel Gallia; Clown Bar; Chez La Vielle; 108 restaurant; Bruce in London


A young man in the Ajmer region of the Indian state of Rajasthan is ready to parade his coiffured and decorated camels, in front of tough judges and an excited crowd at Pushkar’s annual camel fair 4-12 November 2019

On these two pages you’ll find the web addresses for every place mentioned in this issue of The Cultured Traveller magazine












184 The Cultured Traveller Sep-Nov 20192019 2 The Cultured Traveller Dec 2018 - Feb
































2019 The Cultured Traveller 185 DecSep-Nov 2018 - Feb 2019 The Cultured Traveller 3

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