Itsukushima is an island in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, located in the northwest portion of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima which in Japanese means “Shrine Island”. The island is one of Hayashi Gahō’s Three Views of Japan designed in 1643.
What a thrill to see.
Sasayuri-Ann is one of about 8 small villas and Ryokans we are going to experience. Owned by a village Buddhist priest, Tetsuji Matsubayashi, the villa was surpassed all expectations! Hosted by he and his family, we were most pleasantly surprised to have a flute serenade by his teacher- who plays all over the world. Then the topper was having dinner prepared by another friend, a Michelin Chef.
One checks in and gets an immediate sense of Kyoto. Japanese culture is on display in every corner. Rooms are luxurious with a floor to ceiling window view of the city. Japanese design with an extreme sense of luxury. Both 5 Star hotels in Kyoto, the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons are superb choices for an experience in Kyoto.
Japan- amazing ancient culture!
Polite, respectful, serene. We are finding the people of Japan to be warm and welcoming! I am privileged to be on a 16 day journey planned by Windows to Japan. Today we are in Kyoto at the incredible Four Seasons Kyoto. Typically the FS service is over the top, and this hotel was perfect.
Seabourn Odyssey -Cruise heaven!
Where do I start? Food, Spa and Dr Andrew Weil wellness focus, elegant, attentive service, large suite sizes, and great off ship excursions are all top notch. I could go on and on, and on. There are some great cruise lines out there, but Seabourn has the edge.
So many activity options for Edinburgh!
Touring Edinburgh Castle, sunrise at Arthur’s Seat- the highest peak of the hills in Edinburgh, walking Old Town and the Royal Mile, visiting the underground streets of Mary King’s close, sampling scotch whiskey,having a kilt made in your family pattern are all interesting experiences.
Visiting the Royal Britannia after hours is a special experience- we toured the ship and had tea.
Extraordinary private visit to Broomhall House was amazing!
The principal seat of the Earls of Elgin and Kincardine, Broomhall House and its surrounding estate has been looked after by 13 successive generations of the Bruce family, lineal descendants of King Robert the Bruce. The Earl of Elgin was famous for bringing the Elgin Marbles to Great Britain. Recently opened for private events, Broomhall House is a must see.
Rocco Forte Balmoral Hotel is a no brainer for one’s hotel choice in Edinburgh
The stately five star Grand Dame opened in 1903 and has been greeting Queens, Kings, statesmen and celebrities ever since.
Situated by Waverly Station, hotel porters meet guests at the train station, and whisk them from the station hall to the reception desk in the hotel in no time. The award winning hotel is brilliantly managed by Richard Cooke. Mr. Cooke has the hotel spinning like a top. Staff is happy, enthusiastic and completely engaged in providing each guest with a top notch experience. No wish is too difficult to accomplish. The tireless Mr. Cooke seems to be everywhere. The standard starts at the top and it is quite evident this hotel is run beautifully.
Interesting aside- JK Rowlings wrote her last Harry Potter book on premises, and her suite is marked by a purple door. She was a regular guest.
With artifacts found as early as the 1st Century. Edinburgh was established under Scottish rule in 960. To JK Rowling fans, Edinburgh has many structures that draw inspiration in Harry Potter movies. She has a home in Edinburgh, and wrote most of her Harry Potter books in Edinburgh.Edinburgh is a beautiful ancient city filled with clever shops, pubs, churches, charming gothic spires, castles, monuments and loads of amazing restaurants – from Michigan starred to simply good food. We were never disappointed.
Opening in 1815 and welcoming Kings and Queens since 1855, Le Meurice is considered one of the most beautiful and opulent hotels in Paris. The decor of every bedroom and suite are unique, many with views of the Eiffel Tower. Located across from the Tuileries, the position is perfect. Philippe Stark recently renovated the public rooms and Bar 228. We found the staff and service to be outstanding.
Hotels we love in Paris. While there are hundreds of options for hotels in this spectacular city, we wanted to look at the top iconic properties. We aimed for Virtuoso hotels, because Virtuoso standards and amenities give our clients the cream of the crop and the best value with their amenities. Among the multiple Virtuoso choices, our favorites were Le Meurice, Peninsula Paris, Mandarin Oriental, and Shangri La.
Thank you Africa Inscribed!
Our Safari was the most memorable experience of Will’s, Lily’s and my life.
The plan went like clockwork. Not one misstep. Dylan, Bernadette and team Africa Inscribed created and planned a spectacular experience from the minute we got off the plane till we got back on.
A big shout out goes to Warren Wright, our private label guide. He was so attuned to the children, they loved him. They learned so much and a huge part of our amazing experience was because of Warren. For a family traveling with children, I heartily recommend Warren as your private label guide.
No words to thank Team Africa Inscribed enough. Treasured memories for a lifetime.
Probably the most unique hotel in the world, Giraffe Manor was created by Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville. They were very interested in animal conservation, and bought the faux Scottish hunting lodge, in 1974. That year, the amiable giraffes, who kept poking their heads interestedly through the first-floor bedroom window were about to be dispossessed, their habitat lost to farmland development and their lives threatened.
Betty persuaded her husband to allow the giraffes to live on their 15-acre estate, and the couple began the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, based in Kenya and Maryland, which later bought an additional 105 acres for the giraffes. They adopted Daisy, one of the highly endangered Rothschild’s giraffes—which can be as tall as 20 feet, making them the tallest of the species. Daisy’s descendants have since proliferated, and the Leslie – Melvilles added the Giraffe Center, open to the public, on the southern part of the property.
Dramatically set on the ridge overlooking the Masai Mara, Angama Mara brings glamour and extraordinary comfort to the vast Park. The Camp is within walking distance to the burial place of Denys Finch Hatton, a fittingly romantic overtone to one’s sense of Out of Africa.
Here you can live it.
The Staff is well prepared to welcome us and tries to accomplish our every request.
Meals and drinks on the vast deck is just sublime. Rooms are huge with glass windows- floor to ceiling -to capture that dramatic view.
Waking up to a kind voice saying Jambo and bringing hot chocolate, African sunrises and sunsets in that unlimited sky, rain storms rolling across the plains, almost running over a sleeping lion in the tall grass, learning about animal alarm calls when a predator is near, smells of a night fire, adopting orphan elephants, feeding Giraffe from your hand, learning polite words in Swahili, making bows and arrows with a Masai warrior, learning to build a fire from dung, visiting a Masai village, seeing the joy on children’s faces when giving mosquito nets to a school, visiting Karen Blixen’s home, sundowners, hearing the sounds of thousands of wildebeest in the migration, experiencing new food and tastes, the list can go on for days.
Learning and understanding wildlife in their habitat, watching them up closely in their daily activities is the ultimate thrill. There is so much the children expeiienced that cannot be listed. The enrichment was immense and incredibly satisfying to experience. A window in time that will never be recaptured. Traveling with children is priceless.
Sirikoi Lodge- Heaven on Earth – Lewa Downs Conservancy, Kenya
Beautifully managed by Tom and Nikki Hartley, Sirikoi aims to please. We think it is our favorite Camp. The staff is so warm and welcoming, food is amazing, and the setting is unforgettable. Main dining area is off the Lodge right next to a water hole. So there is always action right in front of your eyes. Decor is impeccable with an organic garden that rivals anything we have seen. All food comes directly from the garden. Sirikoi is a hard place to leave.
Both Relais & Chateaux and Virtuoso, Ol Donyo Was is an amazing Lodge in the Chyulu Hills of Kenya. One of the few Lodges with it’s own blind, Ol Donyo affords spectacular safe viewing of wildlife, up close and personal. Suites have huge glass doors open up to the plains and unforgettable views. The staff is highly trained and delightful. Our guide Elijah taught the children how to make bows and arrows out of tree branches. He was amazingly good with the kids. They hated to say goodbye. Perfect place for children on Safari, activities include horseback riding. The day of riding was a huge highlight.
What a thrill!!
We found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the migration on the Grumeti plains.
We saw thousands of wildebeest, and zebras. I did not realize there was a such a sound factor to the migration- all those animals talking at the same time. We very lucky to see river crossings, and lots of interaction between the masses of animals.
Superb staff, warm welcome, the place was an old homestead, and it feels like a charming home.
Upon arrival, they offered a fabulous dinner on their verandah overlooking a lovely garden.
I had duck breast, and the children had crispy prawns. We had a connecting suites as big as the house. Snuggling down between Egyptian sheets, with the africology amenities smelling of Africa, we feel immediately to sleep.
Top Hotels Spain – old favorites and some new surprises.
Every one of our favorite hotels in Spain all displayed outstanding service. All are Virtuoso properties, which means that they operate under a higher standard and are exceptional in decor, and comfort.
I usually request rooms for my clients on a lower floor and near, but not next to the elevator. In Madrid we like the Westin Palace, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, and Villa Magna. In Seville there is only one choice for me, Alfonso XIII. In Granada, some clients like to be near the Alhambra, so we suggest a former monastery, Parador de Granada. We stayed at Palacio des Los Patos in Granada, which gave us a town experience we very much enjoyed. Our top choice in Mallorca is Belmond La Residencia- low key glamour. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Other new surprises that we will be sure to visit, were Sant Francesc in Palma Mallorca, Castel Son Claret in central Mallorca, Jumeirah Port Soller Mallorca and if you have to be right on the water, Hotel Gran Melia in Palma.
Besides the Tapas Tour in Madrid, we had some incredible dining experiences. Our favorite was Las Tomasas in Granada. They are perched on a hillside directly across from the Alhambra and the light from sunset to full night lighting was spectacular. The food was more family style but the best sweetbreads I have had – ever. Other favorites were Le Olivo and Cafe Miro at Belmond La Residencia – boy, they have their act together!
In Sevilla, we loved Michelin starred Ena at the Alfonso XIII – gorgeous hotel. And Zelai in the historic center of the city. Ramon Freixa in Madrid was expensive but certainly worth the experience.
In Mallorca, we had a fabulous wine tasting experience at Finca Son Bordils.
The most pleasant surprise was a delightful rooftop luncheon at the exciting new Sant Fransesc in Palma, Mallorca. Light Tapas and Sangria- served perfectly.
I realized that with food in Spain, we have only scratched the surface. Already planning a return trip.
Spain- Foodie Heaven!
I knew Spain has always been a dining destination – with 3 restaurants on the top 10 of the top 50 in the world, but never realized that basic dishes were a cut above. We started our dining focus in Spain with a tapas tour, set up by our fabulous DMC – Madrid & Beyond. Our guide, Carlos, took us to his neighborhood in Madrid and we began our tapas tour as Spaniards do, with a special recipe of vermouth to drink, and olives to sample. We then moved on to different small tapas bars ending in a supermercado in San Anton dedicated to gourmet dining.
We tasted simple small dishes with thinly sliced Iberian ham- there is an art to the slicing, olives, cheeses, bread, steak, fresh tomatoes, wine, wine, wine. An incredible experience, I strongly recommend to all that want to get a sense of Spain.
The rest of the trip was focused on Spanish culture with a food focus. We went on to sample a dining range from simple to the highest Michelin starred restaurant, such as Ramon Freixa. Freixa was a 25 course tasting menu with wine pairings. Be prepared for a 3 hour sitting- simply sublime!
Next blog will be about our favorite restaurants.
Belmond La Residencia, Mallorca. Low key glamour.
On a island full of star hotels, Belmond’s La Residencia is the brightest.
Located in Deia, in the northwest mountainous area of Mallorca, Belmond la Residencia is the ultimate low key luxury destination. With leadership from Ulisses Marrieros, the resort spins like a top. With four restaurant choices, and the village of Deia a walk away, the hotel offers tempting options for all foodies.
Glamorous, classic, Belmond is the ultimate stop on Mallorca.
Highlights from ILTM Africa
We found some fab new vendors and renewed friendships with our favorite suppliers that are clearly a cut above. Here are some of our favorites:
In Residence – Cape Town New villa concept. Pieter Brundyn is the founder.
Camp Kuzuma, Botswana – delightful husband and wife team running the beautiful camp.
Royal Portfolio properties :
The new Silo Hotel -Cape Town,La Residencia – Franschhoek , Royal Malewane Camp – Thornybush, and Birkenhead House -Hermanus
Delaire Graff estate near Stellenbosch
Makani Game Lodge South Africa
Mara Engai Lodge Kenya
Elewana Collection – so many great properties in the Elewana Collection
Chitwa Chitwa Camp
Cape Grace -Cape Town
Ellerman House – Cape Town
Groot Bos Lodge
Some of the great Elewana properties:
Tarangire Treetops -Tanzania, Loisaba -Kenya, Arusha Coffee Lodge among others
ILTM Africa – Small But Mighty
Vendors and Buyers alike agree that ILTM Africa is a hugely successful show. It a small show and because of the size, we as buyers can really get to know our prospective suppliers. The quality of the vendors is top notch. The show is carefully vetted, and we know we are talking to tour operators, camps, lodges, resorts, intra country airlines, helicopters and villa companies that can do a top quality, reliable job. For travel advisors focusing on Africa, it is a must see.
Villa 1 is more intime: 4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, a study, kitchen, dining area, and pool. 9000 square feet. On 4 floors, upstairs bedroom views are as stunning as Villa 5 Nettleton Road.
I had the pleasure of experiencing a new Villa Concept in Cape Town- In Residence. It is a group of extreme luxury villas that change the game.
Pieter Brundyn, founder of In Residence, is offering a complete concierge service – a support system for their guests. From transfers, to arranging touring, to helping with dinner reservations, chef, majordomo, butlers, security – you name it.
They offer an inhouse service to cover their guests every need.
We experienced Villa 5, a 5 bedroom villa, and Villa 1 ( pictures are coming in the next writing).
Spacious is not the word: Villa 5 is 14,000 square feet on 4 levels, serviced by elevator.
Villa 1 is 9,000 SF on 4 levels. Both Villas have pools.
It is the last word in privacy and elegant space.
And the villas decor and comfort are off the charts! Located in Clifton, a Cape Town suburb- on the waters edge, the views are jaw dropping.
For guests interested in over the top decor, service, ultimate security and privacy, In Residence is your best best.
Finally open, Royal Portfolio’s latest property, the Silo Hotel Capetown is simply spectacular
We knew it would be impressive, but the Silo surpassed all expectations.
It is impeccably decorated in bright colors, and incredible African art. Liz Biden searched the world over, and came back with an smashing collection of art, mirrors, lighting and furnishings.
The ever changing waterfront scene can be viewed from the rooftop bar and floor to ceiling windows in the rooms and throughout the hotel.
Bright, happy, elegant and absolutely the place to be in Cape Town.
Shambala Zulu Lodge is owned by the same family that has the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg.
Shambala is a Tibetan word meaning “peace on earth”. The Camp is built in Zulu Style- undaluting thatched huts. Huts that are very specious and comfortable with tall ceilings, and beautiful bathrooms. Attention to detail, down to crisp linen sheets, is delightful. It is a small place – 9 chalets. It welcomes a lot of heads of states and security is top notch. We can helicopter from Johannesburg or take a two and half hour drive up into the Waterberg Mountains- north of Johannesburg. A Malaria free zone, Shambala las 12,000 acres of private game reserve.
I found the staff to be completely warm and welcoming. My butler, Norman, anticipated every wish. I never had to repeat a request. Always there with a smile. The food was outstanding, by chef Tshepo. Probably the most inventive, beautifully presented and just great tasting meals I have ever experienced on Safari. I will dream about his homemade bread. Teamed with his wife, Elizabeth, the manager, the operation of the camp spins like a top.
The Saxon Hotel- Top Choice in Johannesburg.
The Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg never fails to please. Impeccable service and an a superb decor- tastefully furnished with African artifacts throughout the hotel.
Guests experience a great sense of place. Located in the tranquil, tree-lined suburb of Sandhurst, within minutes of Johannesburg’s world-class shopping and business hub, the Saxon the Saxon treats you to personalised, discreet service and unparalleled South African hospitality. Room categories are all suites, either in the hotel or in the adjacent villas. Butler service is provided for all.
The Saxon is a luxurious private retreat, set on ten acres of landscaped gardens. The Saxon entrance exudes an air of quiet majesty with its sweeping feature staircase and spectacular ostrich egg chandelier. The neutral shades of the interior reflect the tones and textures of Africa. Nelson Mandela wrote much of his memoir at the Saxon.
Created in 1953 by Jamaica-born entrepreneur John Pringle,Round Hill been a favorite of celebrities for years. JFK and Jackie honeymooned in Villa 10. Oscar Hammerstein was the first owner of Villa 12. Alfred Hitchcock, Bing Crosby, and Adele Astaire were regulars—as were Bill and Babe Paley. Beyond that, Noël Coward, who was a frequent visitor, stayed in Villa 3.
Cottage owner, Ralph Lauren did a major renovation on the ocean front rooms.
RH is located on a 100-acre peninsula that was originally a sugar plantation. The cottages are built on the round hills, sloping down to the water . The British claimed Jamaica in 1629, the infuluence of their best traditions still remain.
With a year round temperate climate and nonstop access from most east coast airports, Jamaica is a perfect destination.
Unique to Round Hill, 27 private cottages combined with 37 sumptuous guest rooms offer a wide range of accommodation options. For weddings,the RH cottages, allow families and friends easy access for private celebrations, mingling with hotel rooms for group gatherings. It’s Old World Glamour affords one a delightful Colonial Caribbean sense of place.
At Round Hill the words past and present coexist not merely peacefully, but joyfully.
So many divine, exotic, stunning hotels, in Morocco. Marrakech alone has 6 prime properties: Royal Mansour, La Mamounia, Villa des Orangers, Amanjena, Four Seasons Marrakech, and Mandarin Oriental Marrakech. My absolute favorites are Mandarin Oriental Marrakech, then Villa des Orangers, then La Mamounia.
Fes boasts Riad Fes and Palais Amani, the grand Dame, Palais Jamais is under extensive renovation till end of 2017. Another must stay is near the desert, Dar Ahlam. Incredibly beautiful and the food is out of this world!
What an adventure! The utter silence! The serenity of the sand. Luxurious tented camps that had all possible comforts. I can check camel riding off the list. We hiked up to the highest dune on our vicinity. We watched a sunset and then the next morning rode to watch the sunrise. We had dinner in the main tent, entertained by a group of local musicians. Fun to listen to indigenous music. The fabulous food that comes from an isolated kitchen always amazes me. Wine was flowing- couldn’t have asked for more.
The Archeological Site of Volubilis,recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site near Fes. The remaining structures and mosaics tell the tale of a city that once thrived. The ruins that have been spared are beautifully preserved relics of Roman Life.
It is believed that this spectacular city was constructed around 40 AD and that it was built on an old settlement which dated back to the third century. It became the administrative capital of the area and was known as Mauretania. The extremely fertile lands that surrounded the city produced olive oils and grains that were exported to Rome. The region also produces a good Rose wine