One thing I have quickly learned about Africa is that once you visit, it steals your heart. It’s not a “once in a lifetime experience” as there are so many things to see and do, you’ll want to come back again and again. I had the pleasure of returning to South Africa this month to experience the Golden Triangle with Sunlux International, starting my journey with The Palace of The Lost City in Sun City, two hours west of Johannesburg.
First Impression: Upon arrival to The Palace of The Lost City, the grand entrance makes you feel like you’ve arrived to a palatial hotel, perhaps even a bit of Las Vegas meets Africa. I noticed immediately the majestic lobby complete with its beautiful grand dome, impressive columns and exquisite mosaic tiles was an near replica in architectural design of the Atlantis in the Bahamas. This is no coincidence as the resort once had the same owners. It was not Africa as I had ever experienced, but I was open to new experiences.
The Vibe: The rooms and décor can feel a bit kitschy but fun with an excess of African décor, zebra hides and leopard prints. My room was comfortable and handsome in décor. Once you relax and have fun with the highly African themed rooms and hotel grounds, you feel like you are in South Africa’s playground. The likes of Oprah and the King of Pop have all been guests of The Palace.
Wow Factor: This was African hospitality at its finest. Every staff member I encountered was warm, service-oriented and hospitable. I was blown away at just how welcoming everyone was and for me, this made the experience a memorable one.
Food For Thought: Enjoy a romantic dinner at Plume showcasing some of the best Afro-French fusion cuisine. While the resort has a large feel, this intimate setting makes for a special evening for couples and the service was unobtrusive yet attentive. Those in the know book a private dinner at the top of the Royal Tower overlooking Sun City. It’s the pinnacle of romance.
Perfect For: Families. There are so many things to do from safari, wave pools, bird sanctuary, world’s longest zip-line, Gary Player designed Lost City Golf Course, and The Maze of the Lost City. Couples will feel like big kids experiencing all the activities and can unwind at The Royal Salon Health Spa. My husband felt like Superman on the World’s Tallest and Fastest Zipline within the resort grounds.
What to Skip: Avoid excursions that take you to lion breeding centers nearby to pet cubs and walk with lions. There is much controversy that surrounds such reserves as to how the animals are acquired and where they are then sold, and it’s best to see the animals in their natural habitat. Get your fix of lions and the Big Five on a true African safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
Fun Fact: The Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler movie “Blended” was filmed here, but don’t expect it to be anything like the movie. It’s much more sophisticated than portrayed as the hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. You’ll recognize an elephant like this from the movie.
Out of Africa Moment: Seeing a mother and baby hippo on the side of the road, a group or “crash” of rhino and other African animals was a highlight on the afternoon game drive on the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Schedule a Balloon Safari (weather permitting) for the ultimate view of the Big Five.
Getting There: Fly to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) – 11 hours from London Heathrow (LHR). It’s then a two hour car drive to The Palace in Sun City. En route you’ll notice a plethora of platinum and chrome mines, the largest producers of these metals in the world.
People often ask me how I stay so fit traveling as much as I do while jetsetting around the world. While I do believe that to have a full cultural experience you should indulge in the local cuisine, it’s also important to have a good balance by eating healthy and exercising. It combats jet lag, but also gives you extra energy to explore.
Zurich is one of my all absolute favorite cities in the world, and I must admit, I have a penchant for fresh Swiss pastries, some of the very best in the world. But there’s one special hotel that I absolutely adore visiting, and it’s the Park Hyatt Zurich. Not only is the hotel conveniently located steps from the famed Bahnhoffestrasse for some of the best shopping in the world, it also has one of the best culinary dining experiences of any hotel in the world. On top of it, I recently discovered the Park Hyatt Zurich’s new Beauty, Brain and Mood menu, and I can’t seem to get enough.
The chic Lobby Lounge has become the place to fill up on brain food, beauty food and feel-good cuisine. This unique menu makes you feel good, look good and keeps you full of energy. Executive Chef, Frank Widmer and his team have collaborated with acclaimed nutritionist Marianne Botta to create this special menu claiming the dishes will make you healthier, put you in a better mood and make you more beautiful. You feel good for the rest of the day (Translation: lots of energy to shop ’til you drop and explore all that Zurich has to offer!)
Botta explains: “Perfect ‘brain food’ is easy to digest and increases blood sugar levels both slowly and moderately, which not only creates a feeling of satisfaction, but is also perfect for concentration and mental performance”.
The brain food and beauty menus only contain a small amount of carbohydrates. Wheat flour and sugar are only used in minimum quantities, if at all. Ingredients such as bread, rice, muesli, potatoes and sugar are avoided as much as possible, or only served in minimum quantities.
Each food concept has it’s benefits:
The aim of beauty food is to keep you looking young and attractive. The beauty menus contain valuable fatty acids for toned skin, as well as all the ingredients needed for wonderful connective tissue and shiny, healthy hair. It goes without saying that these menus also combine the findings of anti-aging nutrition research. Anything that makes you look old doesn’t get a look in in these dishes. At the end of the day, everything you eat and drink has a direct impact on how you look. You are what you eat, as the saying goes.
Mood food, which puts people in a good mood, is just the right thing for people who suffer a moderate amount of stress and occasionally experience a bout of the blues. Nutritional science has already identified a whole range of different diet factors that are mood boosting and have a controlling effect on emotions. The body’s own psychoactive substances such as the hormone, serotonin, or the messenger, dopamine, have already been the focus of extensive research. These can only be produced in sufficient quantities if the right food has been consumed. Frank Widmer also makes sure that his team works with food that has a calming effect or that lightens one’s mood. Stimulating chilli, for example, is a favourite ingredient in the mood menus and so is food rich in the B group of vitamins, which is known for their effect on the nerves.
Brain food, as its name suggests, nourishes the grey cells. This type of food is the perfect choice to avoid concentration problems, tiredness attacks and slumps in performance. At the end of the day, a quarter of our daily food intake serves as brain food. Only those who eat properly provide their grey cells with what they need to be able to perform at their peak. Taking a break for brain food certainly pays off because the link between the working of the brain and diet is one of the most researched and tested fields of nutrition to date.
One thing is for sure, you are never hungry, and it’s so delicious, you’ll keep going back for more. I always do!
Luxe Tiffany’s Tip: Order the Jetlag smoothie. The perfect way to recover after a long flight!
As if its location steps from Harrods and Harvey Nichols wasn’t enough to lure fashionistas to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, the luxury hotel has just announced an exclusive partnership French high-end luxury Maison Chloé, just in time for London Fashion Week.
Your taste buds will feel every bit luxe when you indulge in the limited-edition Afternoon Tea at The Rosebery, complete with cakes inspired by Chloé’s French fashion designs. A bevy of coveted Spring Summer 2015 Drew handbags will be on display, even a Chloé style mannequin in the lobby, enough to tempt you for a personalized visit to purchase one at the exclusive Sloane Street store.
You can explain to your spouse (and point to the mannequin) that “she made me do it” when you saunter back to the hotel with your designer bags. Either that or you can blame it on the buzz-worthy Chloé Fizz cocktails being served in the evenings at The Rosebery’s champagne bar.
The Chloé Debuts accommodation package is available from Thursday 12th February 2015 to Monday 9th March 2015. Starts at GBP1,722 and includes:
- One night’s accommodation for two in a Knightsbridge Turret Suite with sweeping views of the UK’s fashion capital
- À la carte breakfast for two people overlooking Hyde Park
- Personalised service at Chloé on Sloane Street to purchase the Drew handbag
- Chloé Love Story perfume
- Chloé-inspired afternoon tea for two people in the enchanting tea room, The Rosebery
Traveling First Class or Business on American Airlines this month? Get ready for a new retro chic perk for the luxury traveler. American Airlines is introducing new, limited-edition heritage amenity kits that pay tribute to American Airlines heritage airlines. The collectors’ items will revive the colors and logos of nine airlines, past and present with retro-branding including: American Airlines, AirCal, Allegheny, America West, Piedmont, PSA, Reno Air, Trans World Airways (TWA) and US Airways.
Inside each will be the eco-friendly “red flower” amenities from New York used in some of the world’s most famous spas. The heritage amenity kits in international Business Class contain fabric lining, a pair of socks and an eye mask styled with the colors of a specific airline, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Scope® mouthwash, covers for Bose® QuietComfort® Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headsets provided with each seat, earplugs, a pen, tissues and hand lotion, lip balm and wipes by red flower.
What’s even cooler is the felt case inspired designer bags can be sized specifically to be re-used as a mini-tablet computer case. Customers can experience the retro-themed heritage amenity kits through January 2016 when they travel in international Business Class or transcontinental First Class. Frequent travelers will have the chance to collect them all as the legacy themes will debut in batches every three to four months.
One more reason I’m loving the “new” American!
If you are a spa maven and want to have an entirely luxe experience, head to the Vanderbilt Spa at the new Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan for the authentic Vanderbilt Ritual of the Hamman, the very first in Puerto Rico. Popular in Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, this was my first experience in a Hammam. I have been to many spas that boast Hammans, however, many are just hydrotherapy treatments with vichy showers — today’s experience at The Vanderbilt Spa was the real deal.
The spectacular Italian marble Hamman with domed starlit ceiling is a visually stunning setting reportedly costing over $400,000 to build and every bit aristocratic in design. The treatment is 80 minutes of total bliss performed in a spectacular marble room where you relax on a goebek tas (a marble table heated to 108 degree.)
I must admit, laying on the majestic marble table in my pestemal (large fringed cloth draped over me) and waiting to be exfoliated to release stress, impurities and tension, I couldn’t help but feel like I was either an Arabian princess ready to experience the royal treatment or being prepped as a sacrificial lamb.
After the scrub with a kessa (a rough cloth mitt made from natural plant fibers), a copper tas (copper shallow pan) is used to warm the body in a water dance poured over you to rinse away the toxins and dead skin cells.
Then a cotton torba (muslin or cotton pillow case to aerate and create bubbles) is used to aerate olive oil soap to create magical bubbles in a kazan (ornate silver bucket that is filled with warm water and used with the torba to create the bubbles that are massaged onto you.)
The room gets quite warm, so Alicia, my therapist, kept draping my head in icy cold cloths, a welcome relief. I swear I lost a few pounds from the soothing cocoon like warmth of the marble room.
The finale of the treatment was a rain shower rinse in the hydro-shower with various aromas and sounds to complete the Hammam experience. Within a push of a button, I was under a polar mist, in a Caribbean storm with sounds of thunder crashing and then blasted in a summer monsoon. I felt like a kid who wanted to push the buttons six more times but knew my wonderful treatment had come to an end as refreshing mint tea awaited me. It’s a totally regal experience at the hottest new hotel in San Juan.
Individuals: 80 minutes $280 | For two: 80 minutes $560 USD
The 87th Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning, and I was thrilled to hear that my favorite film of the year, Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest was nominated for Best Picture, leading the pack with nine nominations. For those of you who appreciate luxury hotels, Grand Hotel Budapest is a quirky trip through a grand hotel chronicling the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel.
If this movie has inspired to pack your bags and enjoy a grand escape of your own, here are three European luxury hotels where you can experience the glamour of a bygone era.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy
Set on breathtaking Lake Como, Grand Hotel Tremezzo is one of the oldest and loveliest family run luxury hotels in Italy. This Art Nouveau palace was originally built in the early 1900’s, and today it remains one of the most magnificent hotels in Europe with its grand historic suites overlooking Bellagio, a newly expanded T Spa and some of the best fine dining in Italy. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Belle Epoque. No wonder it was a favorite of screen legend, Greta Garbo.
Hotel Adlon – Kempinski, Berlin, Germany
This hotel is a quintessential grand hotel in Europe located in the vibrant heart of Berlin next to the world Brandenburg Gate. Founded in 1907, Hotel Adlon Kempinski is legendary for its old world luxury, opulent rooms, four outstanding restaurants, and indulgent spa. You can picture the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Charlie Chaplin frequenting this glamorous hotel.
Corinthia Hotel Budapest, Hungary
If there ever was an inspiration for the Grand Hotel Budapest movie, look no further than the Corinthia Hotel Budapest in Hungary. It’s one of the grandest hotels in the city and perfectly situated to enjoy the vibrant art scene and nightlife of Budapest. This five star luxury hotel first opened in 1896 as the Grand Hotel Royal, and after a beautiful renovation, today it’s exudes modern elegance at its finest. A swim in the indoor 15-meter pool originally built in 1886 will feel like a royally romantic experience.
Whenever I visit The Eternal City, Rome, I can’t help but think of one of the most romantic film scenes ever: Swedish screen goddess Anita Ekberg gallivanting and bathing in the Trevi Fountain with Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” It is the combination of recklessness, love, romance and desire in one of the world’s most romantic cities that still sweeps me off my feet.
Whether it be a James Bond 007 movie film set in the seductive Swiss Alps (Goldfinger) or the alluring Lake Como (Casino Royale), Hollywood’s ability to romanticize travel has been remarkable. Who doesn’t love a great Pink Panther movie with Peter Sellers or the more recent Midnight in Paris set in the City of Light to trigger your wanderlust? While today’s popular box office movies are often a combination of digital tech and epic explosions, films that take us traveling provide a beautiful escape, and you don’t even need to pack or find your passport.
What are some of your favorite films that make you want to travel?
Wouldn’t it feel great to spend your holiday in some of the world’s most incredible places knowing they are doing their part to preserve and protect the planet? National Geographic Society Unique Lodges of the World has just announced its 24 founding members, a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world selected for their commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence. From French Polynesia to South Africa, sustainability meets splendor at hotels and resorts where the standard is set for responsible travel. Stir your wanderlust with the complete list below!
The complete list of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World charter members are:
- Fogo Island Inn, Canada
- Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
- Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
- Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
- Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
- Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
- Lizard Island, Australia
- Longitude 131°, Australia
- Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
- Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
- Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
- Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
- Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
- Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
- Sayari Camp, Tanzania
- Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
- Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
- The Brando, French Polynesia
- The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United States
- Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
- Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
- Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
- Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
- Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan
Fresh back from International Luxury Travel Marketplace (ILTM) in Cannes, France, the world’s premier luxury travel event, here’s what’s HOT on my radar for 2015 from New York to Paris and Milan. Check into these hotels next year to experience La Dolce Vita!
Baccarat Hotel and Residences, New York
Let’s cut right to the (fine crystal) chase… The new Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York City will be one of the most glamorous hotels in the world when it opens in February 2015. I had the privilege of taking a tour this December of this gorgeous new hotel perfectly located across from the Museum of Modern Art and steps from Fifth Avenue. It’s modern elegance at its finest with Paris-based interior design duo Gilles & Bossier creating luxury living down to every last exquisite detail. There will be a curated art collection throughout the hotel and stunning Baccarat chandeliers worthy of any museum (so beautiful they actually made me cry.) Its restaurant Chevalier will add a French gastronomic experience to the NY dining scene. There’s everything gorgeous to be said about sipping cocktails at The Bar in endless Baccarat crystal glassware.
Mandarin Oriental, Milan
I’m counting the days for the opening of Mandarin Oriental’s newest luxury hotel, Mandarin Oriental, Milan, the sexiest new addition to the luxury hotel scene in Milan, Italy. The location of the hotel is fabulous, only steps from the famous La Scala on Via Monte di Pieta, one of Milan’s most prestigious addresses, and occupies four elegant 19th century buildings. There are 104 sleekly designed rooms and suites, several choices of restaurants and a luxurious spa. It will be all the buzz during Milan Fashion Week and beyond, and the perfect reason to pack your bags (empty) for a week of shopping in one of the prominent fashion capitals in the world.
The Ritz Paris
Joie de vivre! César Ritz’s dream was to open the ideal hotel offering “all the refinements that a prince could wish for his own home”. With its multi-million dollar renovation to revive its old world glamour, the new Ritz Paris, (opening mid to late 2015) overlooking Place Vendôme, will no doubt be a royal experience. There are 72 suites and 71 rooms restored and recreated by internationally renowned interior designer Thierry W. Despont including 15 historic one-of-a-kind prestige suites including the Coco Chanel suite. Mademoiselle Chanel moved into the Ritz Paris in the early 1930’s. I can’t wait to practice my culinary skills at the Ritz Escoffier cooking school, sip something bubbly and indulge in fine French cuisine at three restaurants, three bars, including the famous Bar Hemingway. After all, Coco Chanel did say, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
After a year of travel to over 20 countries, these three spas stand out as the best of the best for their array of advanced and effective treatments, sleek design and exceptional service making each the ultimate luxury hotel spa experience.
Peninsula Spa at The Peninsula Hong Kong
After a 15 hours flight and arriving at the iconic Peninsula Hong Kong, the first thing I do is schedule an evening spa appointment at the 12,000 square foot Peninsula Spa with spectacular views of Victoria Harbour. The Oxygen Inhalation Therapy is the perfect treatment for jet lag to help you maintain proper oxygen levels in the body, not to mention it’s great for detoxification of the body. Spa treatments are highly personalized and will make you feel totally rejuvenated. During the day, start your stay with a swim in the hotel’s 8th floor swimming pool overlooking Hong Kong’s iconic skyline follow by a healthy spa cuisine lunch on the outdoor terrace on warmer days. This spa will exceed your expectations and more.
The Spa at The Dolder Grand, Zurich Switzerland
No matter how busy my travel schedule is, I always find time to renew myself at The Spa at The Dolder Grand in Zurich, Switzerland. It is 4,000 square meters of total bliss, and total relaxation for the mind, body and soul. The spa uses, products by La Prairie, Kerstin Florian, Horst Kirchberger and Amala, a fabulous and effective Certified Organic spa line. Check into the spa early to unwind by the extraordinary Aqua Zones with its eye-catching swimming pool, outdoor whirlpools, steam bath and snow paradise for those who need to chill out a little further. Don’t miss zoning out on the heated pebbles in the Japanese-style sunaburo. After a Caviar Lift facial by La Prairie, take a fitness class with Johannes following by a healthy lunch at the Spa Café. I may live 6,000 miles away, but I fancy myself a regular.
The Spa at The Mandarin Oriental, New York
For one of the most authentic and indulgent spa experiences, check into to the Spa at The Mandarin Oriental, New York for the ultimate in pampering. I had just returned home from traveling around the world on private jet, and the body needed a little TLC. The VIP Suite is the first of its kind in New York, resembling an Oriental-style home complete with warming fireplace, sumptuous bath, dual massage beds (for couples treatments) encompassing 650 square feet of heaven. Bespoke “Time Rituals” are customized to your needs. After 2 hours of treatments, I felt like a completely new person. The treatments are so exceptional with highly trained therapists customizing your experience, it’s worth a visit to NYC just for this spa alone.