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Villa Troglodyte: ecological luxury in the heart of Monaco @MonacoTribune

Published on 25 October 2019 by Kiel Bonhomme

Villa Troglodyte: ecological luxury in the heart of Monaco

In continuity with the environmental policy conducted by Prince Albert II, Principality residents have been invited to discover the astonishing silhouette of Villa Troglodyte for a few months. This rock-cut building offers a real reflection on the use of space and energy.

With no less than five levels covering 500 m², the Villa Troglodyte was designed by architect Jean-Pierre Lott and built by the J. B Pastor & Fils Monegasque Company. At the current location where the impressive house stands, there was only rock. After 20 months of work, the surprising building attracts all eyes passing along Hector Otto Avenue. From the entrance, a footbridge overflies a sumptuous swimming pool to give access to the hall. Then an elevator serves the floors between the floors and the glass ceilings. The project has always been to build a dwelling that is close to nature, and able to blend into the surrounding rock. An ecological and energy-saving optic clearly stands out in its operation.

Betting big on renewable energies

A consistent part of energy expenditure, heating is an essential point in the environmental approach of this extraordinary villa. Geothermal heat pumps combine with photovoltaic panels and cork insulation all help to limit consumption. Like solar energy, renewable solutions are multiplying with rainwater collectors, a greywater recycling system and automation of light sources. With a budget of 3 million euros, Villa Troglodyte offers a new vision of the habitat of tomorrow.

Read the full article by Monaco Tribune here

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Trip of a lifetime: South America @SquareMile_com

When it comes to planning a trip of a life time, where you stay can make or break the experience. If you’re looking at South America, your accommodation worries are solved below…

Published: Monday 30th September 2019

A region of exceptional diversity and peerless natural beauty, Latin America offers high-end experiences to suit every traveler: from foodies to photographers, wildlife watchers to thrill seekers and the most committed beach-loving sun-worshipers.

Since its establishment in 2011 by Simon and Kirsty Williams, Humboldt has gained a strong reputation for outstanding personalised service and specialist five-star packages in Latin America.

Offering luxury tailor-made tours featuring hand-crafted experiences that go beyond the ordinary, Humboldt’s boutique team of specialists draw on their extensive knowledge of the destinations and unrivalled network of contacts to design a wholly bespoke trip for each client.

Therefore, when collating a list of the best hotels and accommodations in South America, it made sense to put our trust in their hands. Humboldt director Simon Williams presents his top picks below…   

UXUA CASA, TRANCOSO, BRAZIL

UXUA Casa
UXUA CASA

For those seeking the ultimate barefoot boho luxury experience in a paradisiacal beach location, you can do no better than UXUA Casa, situated in the celebrity hangout of Trancoso in the state of Bahia, northern Brazil.

Based on a ‘shabby-chic’ tropical design concept by designer Wilbert Das, each private villa in this boutique mini-resort evokes a different character from Trancoso’s colourful past. Featuring luxurious private plunge pools, secluded private gardens and sun-drenched terraces.

The characterful ‘casas’, tastefully adorned with bespoke furniture pieces made from recycled natural materials, are the perfect spot to curl up with a good book and lose yourself in Trancoso’s relaxed ambience.

An exquisite spa, an exclusive beach club and a charming restaurant complete the picture at this laid-back retreat.

TITILAKA, PUNO, PERU

Titilaka
TITILAKA

Occupying a privileged spot on a remote private peninsula by Lake Titicaca, Titilaka hotel offers extensive private grounds and blissful isolation in this region of striking natural beauty.

Cradled by the snow-capped Andes, the cobalt blue lake shimmers under cloudless white-washed skies, making this minimalist luxury retreat the perfect hideaway for landscape photographers or hikers.

Bearing the Relais & Chateaux seal of approval, the hotel’s contemporary Peruvian cuisine is flavoursome and delicately presented, whilst a similar attention-to-detail is applied to Titilaka’s flexible service ethos.

Exclusivity and social responsibility are what sets Titilaka apart from its competition – activities at this remote lodge are conducted away from the mainstream tourist crowds and in collaboration with local indigenous communities who benefit directly from the interactions with lodge guests.

For an in-depth experience of one of the Andes’ most scenic spots – look no further.

CASA SAN AGUSTÍN, CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

Casa San Agustin
CASA SAN AGUSTIN

A city of such effortless Caribbean charm that it is almost impossible to dislike, Cartagena de Indias on Colombia’s north coast is overflowing with quirky luxury boutique properties hidden away in converted colonial mansions: Casa San Agustín, however, is unquestionably the best of the bunch.

With a light and airy design featuring splashes of delicate blue as a nod to the crystalline Caribbean Sea, and handcrafted touches sculpted from reclaimed wood or woven from local fibres offering rich textures as an earthy counterpoint to the smooth modern elements – this hotel is elegant, rustic and contemporary all in the same breath.

With a stunning spa, a private beach area and artfully preserved architectural characters, this hotel immerses guests in the magic of Cartagena’s colourful history with the utmost style.

MASHPI LODGE, CHOCÓ CLOUD FOREST, ECUADOR

Mashpi Lodge
MASHPI LODGE

Tucked away in the biodiverse equatorial Chocó bioregion, this environmentally conscious hotel offers a singularly in-depth wildlife experience in the cloud forested highlands of Ecuador.

One of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Mashpi is a world-leader in sustainable eco-tourism and alongside providing discerning nature-loving travellers with world-class luxury accommodation, does important conservation work for the many endemic species in the area.

Minimalist suites with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows invite the verdant forest of the outside in, as the hotel restaurant celebrates the bounty of the Ecuadorian jungles with a delicious menu of sustainably sourced dishes inspired by local ingredients.

With responsible exploration of the cloud forests’ delicate eco-system as the lodge’s ruling priority, Mashpi takes guests on a journey into the untouched wild like nowhere else.

THE VINES, MENDOZA, ARGENTINA

The Vines
THE VINES

Situated in the sunshine-soaked foothills of the towering central Andes, two hours south of Mendoza; this luxury boutique wine resort benefits from an indulgent full-service spa offering a playful menu of treatments conceived using ingredients inspired by the expansive local vineyards.

Sleek and spacious suites with a delicate, neutral colour-palette offer sweeping vistas of the mountains and surrounding vines.

Fine wines and hearty Argentine cuisine play a central role in the hospitality of this brutalist-style contemporary design hotel, with acclaimed Argentine chef Francis Mallman’s Siete Fuegos restaurant on-site serving a range of delectable rustic specialities such as 9-hour slow-grilled rib eye steak, cast-iron salt-baked salmon and regional grilled cheeses paired with award-winning boutique wines from the area.

TIERRA ATACAMA, SAN PEDRO, CHILE

Tierra Atacama
TIERRA ATACAMA

Boasting striking views of the Licancabur Volcano and an exquisite contemporary architecture typical of the Tierra brand, Tierra Atacama gives each guest an immersive experience of the rugged, copper-toned landscapes of the Atacama Desert alongside outstanding service, cuisine and thoughtful, minimalist design.

Highlights of a stay at this chic luxury lodge include the tranquil outdoor pool, offering sweeping vistas of the snow-capped mountains and dusty lunar valleys; the UMA Spa, utilising locally sourced ingredients to inspire energising treatments to rejuvenate the body after a long day of exploring; or the colourful gourmet dining experience, placing locally sourced produce and traditional preparation techniques centre stage.

For a luxury break in a region of peerless natural beauty, Tierra Atacama is the perfect choice.

CASANA, PREÁ, BRAZIL

Hotel Casana
HOTEL CASANA

Masterfully blending the laid-back bohemian beach sensibilities of the nearby windsurfing hub, Jericoacoara, with a technologically advanced approach to luxury hospitality more suited to the control room of a spaceship, or at the very least a sleek inner-city business hotel, Casana certainly stands out from the crowd.

Avant-garde details like the chic black-mirror infinity pool and the space-age bedside electrical control panels provide an interesting counterpoint to Preá’s unspoiled coastal landscape of pale sand and isolated coconut palms occupying the hotel’s doorstep.

Casana offers accommodation on a full-board basis and guests are treated to an ever-changing menu of colourful meals updated daily to incorporate freshest local produce.

Elegant plates of exotic fruit, organic vegetables and fresh seafood are developed using innovative cooking techniques to delight even the most refined palate.

AWASI IGUAZÚ, PUERTO IGUAZÚ, ARGENTINA

Awasi Iguazu
AWASI IGUAZU

With much more to explore than merely the magnificent Iguassu waterfalls that have made it so internationally famous, Awasi Iguazú’s unique programmes offer guests the opportunity to get to know the hidden delights of Argentina’s Misiones province.

Composed of 14 stand-alone villas tucked away amongst the verdant tropical vegetation of the Atlantic rainforest, guests of Awasi have a private guide and 4×4 vehicle at their disposal during the entirety of their stay to explore the region at their own pace.

Naturally, time spent peering over the barriers above the deafening Iguassu Falls is a must-do – however, specialist birdwatching, illuminating cultural visits to local Guaraní tribes and intrepid river kayaking on the Rio Paraná are also an option.

THE SINGULAR PATAGONIA, PUERTO BORIES, CHILE

Singular Patagonia
SINGULAR PATAGONIA

Housed in a distinctive historic building overlooking the icy waters of the Fjord of Last Hope, The Singular Patagonia occupies the skeleton of Chile’s first ever cold-storage facility from which refrigerated meats produced in the region were shipped to Europe to feed war-weary troops in the early 20th century.

Repurposing much of the old warehouse machinery to imbue the hotel’s industrial décor with some typically Patagonian heritage charm, this luxury institution still encompasses an on-site museum dedicated to educating travellers on the history of Patagonia’s settlement.

Serving a varied menu of outstanding Chilean cuisine, offering thoughtful personalised service, and a truly original programme of excursions in the hotel’s expansive private reserve – The Singular is an experience in the far south like no other.

KACHI LODGE, UYUNI, BOLIVIA

Kachi Lodge
KACHI LODGE

Situated in the midst of unquestionably one of the most surreal landscapes on earth, the striking geometric domes of Kachi Lodge perch on raised wooden platforms above the shimmering ethereal whiteness of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

Offering a luxury ‘glamping’ experience in Bolivia’s remote southern Altiplano, these six rustic-chic domes evoke the cultural and artistic heritage of the Andes featuring cosy alpaca-wool fabrics, hand-crafted furniture of reclaimed wood and exquisite woven-wicker details.

Providing a jarring contrast with the sophisticated neutral palette is the original artwork of Bolivian artist Gastón Ugalde’s bold technicolour pieces, bringing a little of modern Bolivia into the otherwise understated design.

Guests enjoy wholly bespoke private tours of the Salt Flats during their stay and full board gourmet meals provided in partnership with Gustu, one of La Paz’s most innovative and in-demand dinner venues.

Read the full article at Square Mile here

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A sailing trip to Raja Ampat aboard one of the most luxurious charter yachts in the world @SquareMile_com

At 900sq m, Prana by Atzaro is the world’s largest phinisi yacht, and comes complete with a spa and an outdoor cinema.

Indonesia is so much more than Bali and Bintangs: Duncan Madden sets sail for remote Raja Ampat aboard one of the most luxurious charter yachts in the world – the Prana by Atzaro

By Duncan Madden

EMERGING BLEARY EYED from the cosseting luxury of my cabin to the still dark skies of Raja Ampat in search of mating birds of paradise is a pretty bewildering way to start the day.

Inky black skies are fringed by the soft light of a new dawn and drenched in the kind of heavy morning heat that only proper tropical climates can conjure. The soundtrack is a rhythmic slap of salt water against wooden hull troubled periodically by the caw of an unseen bird swooping through the dark nearby.

My jetlagged senses struggle to align these physical sensations with the time of day and I vaguely recall the journey that brought me to this remotest of oceans on the other side of the world. Somewhere in the back of my befuddled brain I already know this is going to be special.

And it is quite the journey to reach Raja Ampat. Part of Indonesia’s far-flung island chains, its pellucid blue waters fringe the Bird’s Head peninsula on the north-western tip of Papua nearly 2,000 miles east of Jakarta. Interrupting the 15,000sq mile turquoise seascape are 1,500 picture-postcard islands – mushroom-shaped outcroppings endowed with flawless white beaches, rich tropical forests, rocky precipitous cliffs and glass-still lagoons teeming with more marine life than anywhere else on earth.

A floating teak and ironwood palace serving up 900sq m of cabin, deck, spa, lounge and water sports centre to its guests

Navigating these sublime waters is my home for the week, the Prana by Atzaro. Built and launched last year by the group behind Ibiza’s famed Atzaró hotel, it is the world’s largest phinisi yacht – a floating teak and ironwood palace serving up 900sq m of cabin, deck, spa, lounge and water sports centre to its lucky guests. It was inspired by and built using the traditions of the sea-faring Bugis tribe – a two-masted cargo ketch elevated to something unique by the best craftsmen and every possible mod con.

Climb aboard its sleek wooden deck and (once you’ve despatched with the ice-cold juice you’re duly proffered by the smiling, barefoot crew) you’ll find nine luxurious suites, from cosy arrowhead shaped cabins in the prow to Batavia, the vast master suite at the stern complete with freestanding bath and floor to ceiling windows opening onto a sweeping private terrace.

Outside decks climb over three levels peppered with deep, comfy cushions, inviting daybeds and lounging areas cleverly arranged to offer peace, quiet and room to sprawl. The top deck doubles as a yoga space and open-air cinema, the middle as an outdoor spa and massage area, the lower as an al fresco dining room. But the pick of the spots has to be on the elegant wooden bowsprit, where I regularly find myself stretched out watching the water fly past below me: a petrel skimming the waves on my wingtips.

After our early morning Saporkren adventure to intrude on the randy birds of paradise, we set sail through silky waters to Kri. Soon dropping anchor not far from the wooden jetty of Yembuba village, we don scuba gear and motor towards it on a RIB while our cruise director Cedric, an affable Frenchman who’s been exploring these waters for a decade, describes the wonders we’re about to dive into.

His words can’t begin to do it justice. We slip into an aquatic wonderland barely five metres below the surface, drifting through coral forests as vast shoals of fusilier fish swoop around us in a spectacular underwater murmuration. I spy a leatherback turtle gliding easily along the seabed before Cedric points out a black tip reef shark cruising lazily at the fringes of our visibility. The coral almost glows – a panoply of colours, shapes and textures each home to a new and seemingly more fantastical form of sea life. An hour passes in a moment and soon back on deck we excitedly swap stories of what we saw as the crew weighs anchor and points us towards Wayag.

Special, even in this extraordinary environment, the conical karst islands of Wayag can only be appreciated in all their wonder from on high. So, at first light, fuelled on exotic fruits and strong coffee, we paddleboard to shore and spend a sweaty few hours climbing the craggy limestone Mount Pindito to drink in the panorama.

The spectacular views are reward enough, but the crew are keen to show off every wonder Wayag has to offer. Which is why, after a gluttonous beach barbecue of lobster, steak, fish, fresh salads and a particularly delicious chimichurri, I find myself speeding through empty lagoons, trying to remember how to wakeboard while whooping and screaming in equal measure delight and awe. Later, we putter out to a nearby ranger station and wade into the shallows to handfeed lunch leftovers to hungry nursing sharks.

Back onboard, we head south for Aljui Bay, crossing the equator late in the day while feasting on more delights from chef Fauzi before retiring to the top deck to watch a Wes Anderson film under the stars, the setting adding another layer of surrealness to the weird and wonderful on-screen visuals.

We dive a spot called Melissa’s Garden – a broad sweeping reef of magnificent coral formations teeming with sealife

For the first time another yacht appears in the dark and sails close by, but by now we’re so accustomed to the solitude of our surroundings that we take on a pirate mentality and wave them away, wielding champagne flutes rather than cutlasses.

Cedric saves something special for the last, as we begin the run back to Sorong on the Papuan mainland and the long flights home. Close to Batanta Island, we dive a spot called Melissa’s Garden – a broad sweeping reef of magnificent coral formations teeming with spiky lionfish, striped angelfish, pygmy seahorses, ribboned sweetlips and the ubiquitous clownfish. A fellow diver even spots a tasselled wobbegong shark but I’m too busy goggling eye to eye with a sizeable batfish and miss it.

We lounge on deck late into our final night, supping cold Bintangs and listening to stories of Raja Ampat and beyond. “We’ve just given you a taste of where we sail – this is only the winter season,” says Cedric. “Come back in the summer and we’ll take you to Komodo with its beautiful landscapes, pink beaches and, of course, dragons…” I hear the diving’s pretty spectacular, too. 

To find out more about sailing Raja Ampat on board Prana by Atzaro email info@pranabyatzaro.com or see pranabyatzaro.com. Full private charter costs from $12,500 to $18,000 per night sleeping up to 18 people with all meals, a range of wines and alcohol, all water sports and lots of other stuff included

Read the full article from Square Mile here

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The luxury pet-friendly hotels taking pet pampering to new heights, in Hong Kong and beyond @scmpnews

By Kylie Knott , published 30 Jul. 2019

Colin the 10-year-old miniature schnauzer lives a simple life of routine in Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O district: wake up, walk, poop, eat, sleep, repeat.

But last month his daily schedule was interrupted, requiring some tough decision making: should he order the braised Australian beef with green peas and brown rice (HK$220/US$28) or the farm-raised pork confit with lentils and buttered carrots (HK$200)? The four-rice risotto with grilled salmon and eggs (HK$170) also looked tempting. (He ended up opting for the grilled chicken with semolina dry pasta at HK$190).

Colin, along with owners Tom and Alice Eves, were literally living the high life 24 floors up at the luxury Rosewood Hong Kong hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, which opened in March.

One pampered pet: Colin, a 10-year-old miniature schnauzer, relaxing at the Rosewood Hong Kong hotel in a suite overlooking Victoria Harbour. Luxury hotels have taken pet pampering to a new level. Photo: Antony Dickson
One pampered pet: Colin, a 10-year-old miniature schnauzer, relaxing at the Rosewood Hong Kong hotel in a suite overlooking Victoria Harbour. Luxury hotels have taken pet pampering to a new level.
Photo: Antony Dickson

Perched on the edge of Victoria Harbour, the hotel is upping the city’s luxury pet offerings with a policy of providing four-legged guests with the same amount of pampering as its two-legged ones.

Sandro Gamba, director of culinary operations at Rosewood Hong Kong, says just as much thought goes into planning a pet menu as a human one.

“Dishes on the pet menu are designed to be equally attractive as those on the regular menu, except there’s no seasoning added to ensure optimal palatability,” he says.

Colin wolfing down grilled chicken with semolina dry pasta. Photo: Antony Dickson
Colin wolfing down grilled chicken with semolina dry pasta.
Photo: Antony Dickson

Born in France, Gamba’s five-star hotel experience spans the globe, from the Park Hyatt in Chicago, to the Intercontinental in Geneva, the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and, most recently, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong.

He says Rosewood goes to great lengths to create a seasonal and diverse dog menu that supports local produce. “We source the best herbs and vegetables from our Tai Long Wan farm and honey from [Sha Tin’s] Wing Woo Bee Farm,” he says.

And no request is too small. “One guest requested bottled mineral water for her dog. She said he preferred the taste to regular filtered water.”

Colin with a butler from Rosewood Hong Kong. Photo: Antony Dickson
Colin with a butler from Rosewood Hong Kong. Photo: Antony Dickson

Tom Eves says Colin’s five-star experience started from the moment they were picked up at their flat in one of the hotel’s high-end Range Rovers.

“When we entered the suite, Colin went from room to room, jumping on sofas and checking out his two beds. He was also a fan of the bath mats,” he says. Colin also got lavished with home-made toys, chicken-flavoured toothpaste (and his own toothbrush) and a smorgasbord of treats – “he loved the mixed meat jerky” – that he could order from the menu.

But it was the personal touches – a handwritten welcome message, and the attention the staff bestowed on Colin – that took the experience to the next level.

Colin “ordering” from the Rosewood menu. Photo: Antony Dickson
Colin “ordering” from the Rosewood menu. Photo: Antony Dickson
Alice Eves giving Colin’s teeth a brush with the hotel-provided toothpaste and brush after he enjoyed his chicken. Photo: Antony Dickson
Alice Eves giving Colin’s teeth a brush with the hotel-provided toothpaste and brush after he enjoyed his chicken. Photo: Antony Dickson

Pet hotels in Hong Kong are nothing new. What has changed, though, is the upwards shift in the quality of services. And it’s not surprising hotels at the top of the chain are going the extra mile.

The global pet-care industry was estimated to be worth US$132 billion in 2016 and is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4.9 per cent until 2025, according to a report last year by Grand View Research. India is expected to have the fastest-growing market due to its rising disposable income.

The China market is also booming, one driven by an explosion in pet ownership that has seen the number of pets increase from 389 million in 2013 to 510 million in 2017, according to online industry platform China Pet Market. A higher standard of living, combined with more disposable income, means people have more cash to splash on their pets.

A dog getting a massage at the Las Ventanas al Paraiso hotel in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Photo: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Cabo San Lucas
A dog getting a massage at the Las Ventanas al Paraiso hotel in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Photo: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Cabo San Lucas

In Hong Kong, a 2017 study by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong showed that the cat and dog population in the city rose 72 per cent in 10 years from 2005-06 to 2015-16, from 297,100 to 510,600. It expected to hit 545,600 this year. Shifting demographics, from a rise in the number of elderly people, who buy pets to help cope with loneliness, to a drop in marriage rates are among of the reasons for the increase.

Hongkonger Sarah Wong can relate to this.

The 25-year-old graphic designer has no plans to marry or have children. “But I want to expand my ‘fur family’,” says the owner of two rescue Pomeranians. “A lot of my friends feel the same.”

She is also happy the city’s pet economy is expanding. Now there is everything from dog yoga sessions and pet spas to pet hydrotherapy and acupuncture. There has also been a rise in dog-friendly cafes and restaurants, and better pet-care product choices (she guiltily admits to spending about HK$800 a month on high-end dog treats).

We saw other guests with their dogs as well in the lobby, which was nice. Some of the other guests were understandably nervous on seeing a dog in the lift and would step out, but most people found it amusingJohn Butlin, who stayed at the Rosewood Hong Kong with his dog Pepper

Alice Ho, also from Hong Kong, is glad of the changing landscape, too.

“I travel a lot and had always admired hotels overseas that are pet friendly, so I’m glad Hong Kong has more options,” says the “30-something”.

In June, Ho and her Instagram-famous golden retrievers Fansu, nine, and Bodhi, four, who have more than 182,000 followers, checked into the Ovolo Southside hotel in Hong Kong’s Wong Chuk Hang neighbourhood to experience the hotel’s new “VIPooch” service. It was her first “staycation” with her dogs.

Fansu and Bodhi at Ovolo Southside.
Fansu and Bodhi at Ovolo Southside

“It was a decent getaway night with the boys and they were so excited, sniffing here and there, looking out the windows to watch people play football and basketball,” says Ho. Her dogs had their own beds and bowls and “Doggy Bag” with a specially designed dog toy and treats.

“Guests we bumped into were all friendly with the dogs and the staff were so kind, so that made me happy.”

Marc Brugger, managing director of Rosewood Hong Kong, says its pet programme treats owners as “pet parents”, and this is a vital first step to providing a successful pet service.

“We understand that pets are part of the family and that pet ‘pawrents’ want to take their favourite four-legged family members on holiday, so we strive to provide our furry guests with an ultra-residential experience and unparalleled comfort at Rosewood Hong Kong, and also at Rosewood Residences,” he says, referring to the serviced apartments Rosewood launched this month (monthly rentals ranging from HK$57,000 to HK$1.6 million).

John Butlin, a British man who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, says the best part of his recent three-night surprise birthday stay at the Rosewood was that Pepper, his one-year-old rescue Labrador, could join him.

Dinner time at the Rosewood Hong Kong for Pepper, a one-year-old Labrador. Photo John Butlin
Dinner time at the Rosewood Hong Kong for Pepper, a one-year-old Labrador. Photo John Butlin

“It was great – Pepper got to use the guest lifts and public lobby areas, which made it easier to get in and out of the hotel quickly for toilet runs,” Butlin says. “The staff were dog friendly and even greeted Pepper by name so they had been briefed, which was nice.”

Pepper seemed to enjoy the state of elevated luxury and space, and was very keen to explore the hotel.

“We saw other guests with their dogs as well in the lobby, which was nice. Some of the other guests were understandably nervous on seeing a dog in the lift and would step out, but most people found it amusing, especially the Borussia Dortmund soccer team and the Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng [who were also staying there].”

Pepper was keen to explore every inch of his room. Photo: John Butlin
Pepper was keen to explore every inch of his room. Photo: John Butlin

And advice for those thinking of booking a pet package?

“Do it! It’s a lot of fun,” Butlin says. “Just remember to take your dog for regular walks to avoid toilet accidents. And remove anything valuable which looks chewable.”

Four luxury hotels for your pets

Pooch pampering at The Hughenden in Sydney. Photo: Facebook
Pooch pampering at The Hughenden in Sydney. Photo: Facebook

The Hughenden – Sydney, Australia (all pets) It’s obvious this hotel, set in the upscale Sydney suburb of Woollahra, loves hosting pets – just take a look at the overload of dog pictures on its Instagram feed. Pets are spoiled, with services including pet sitting and dog walking. There’s even a Doggy Day Spa. thehughendenhotel.com.au

Burmese cat Fa-raon, a resident at Le Bristol Paris. Photo: Facebook
Burmese cat Fa-raon, a resident at Le Bristol Paris. Photo: Facebook

Le Bristol – Paris, France (all pets) Popular with the jet-setting elite (David and Victoria Beckham are regulars), this five-star hotel opened in 1925 and is famous for its historic architecture and luxurious interior. It also has a cult following among pet lovers thanks to its Instagram-friendly resident Fa-raon, the Burmese cat. Pets staying here receive a welcome hamper with food bowls, a bottle of Evian mineral water (of course) as well as a decorative rug embroidered with their name. oetkercollection.com/hotels/le-bristol-paris/

Dogs waiting outside the Cypress Inn in California, which was co-owned by the late actress Doris Day. Photo: Cypress Inn
Dogs waiting outside the Cypress Inn in California, which was co-owned by the late actress Doris Day. Photo: Cypress Inn

Cypress Inn – Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, US (all pets) It’s not surprising that this vintage-chic inn welcomes anything from dogs to iguanas and pot-bellied pigs – it was co-owned by the late actress Doris Day, who died in May and was known for her animal-rights activism. According to its website, pets have a lot of space to relax: on the patio, in the lounge and, best of all, they can indulge in “yappy hour” as well as leash-free walks on nearby Carmel Beach. cypress-inn.com

Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (small dogs only)It’s the attention to detail, like bone-shaped place mats, that makes this luxury Mexican resort stand out from the crowd. Pampered pets can relax in their own cabanas, followed by a massage or doga session (yes, that is yoga for dogs). Dog butlers are also on hand to attend to your pet’s every whim. sanjosedelcabo.grandluxuryhotels.com

Read the full article from the South China Morning Post here

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14 Big Ideas That Are Changing Luxury Lifestyle Right Now @RobbReport

From experimental spirits to sustainable travel, these trends are transforming the luxury industry.

By The Editors from Robb Reports

This year, the editors were asked to take the temperature of the industries under their watch and sum up the single “big idea” that has defined the year just gone.

Some of these stories are poignant: The tourism industry finally woke up after a report suggested it caused 8 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Meanwhile, the reverberations are still rippling through the art world from the decision of several institutions to reject the philanthropy of those who they felt were tarnished by associations: The Sackler family fell afoul of the Guggenheim in New York, as well as the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate in London, because of its links to the opioid crisis; and the Whitney and Museum of Modern Art both had questions to answer over some of their patrons’ past dealings.

Robb Report Best of the Best Big Ideas 2019
Clockwise from left: Noma; Getty; Robb Report; Eviation

Other ideas, no less contentious in their fields, include the bold supposition that we are at the point in audio technology where both analog and digital reproduction have reached equally exceptional levels; and that Napa winemakers are moving more in line with their European cousins by producing leaner, more elegant wines that will age gracefully but, more significantly, are also ready to drink now; or that the suit has been reborn, worn with liberation and élan, to mark a new sense of freedom in style circles.

You will find these big ideas in little excerpts below, hopefully, they add a little color and context to the Best of the Best choices in each category.

BIG IDEA IN AUTOMOTIVE: Artificial Intelligence Takes the Wheel

Lamborghini Huracán Evo
Lamborghini Huracán Evo. Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

A self-aware, crime-fighting car named KITT. That was the premise for the 1980s hit TV series Knight Rider. But what was once automotive fantasy is now found—minus the crime-fighting and banter—in new models that offer advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

Take the Audi A8, touted as the first production example to attain Level 3 autonomous status. And it’s only the beginning, according to Thomas Müller, head of the brand’s chassis development and automated driving team. “Our vision for Audi AI is divided into two functional areas: intelligent assistance systems—on the path to fully autonomous driving—and interactive intelligence, whereby the vehicle becomes an empathetic companion,” Müller says.

Mercedes-Benz provides its own early stages of the latter with the Hey Mercedes voice-recognition platform on the A-Class. “US customers running MBUX [Mercedes- Benz User Experience] are able to direct long, compound questions, as well as general knowledge inquiries,” says Nils Schanz, head of the company’s voice control division.

One car anticipates your intentions without a word—the Lamborghini Huracán Evo. Its “feed forward logic” relies on a processor that analyzes driver inputs to adjust handling and power-train systems proactively every 20 milliseconds. “Artificial intelligence is the synchronization of human and machine, a way for these two to understand one another,” says Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s chief technical officer. “The Evo is exactly this.”

Whether offering computer-controlled commuting, enlightening conversation or predictive performance, more of today’s autos give KITT some real competition.

BIG IDEA IN STYLE: The Suit Lives On

Kiton Suit
Kiton Suit. Simone De Sanctis

Turns out the reports of its death were a little exagerated, because the suit is back—but this time without much of the formality and structure of the past. If you’re skeptical, especially after New York’s conservative bastion of wealth Goldman Sachs declared a flexible dress code in March, just look to the runway shows in London, Paris and Milan earlier in the year. Menswear brands downright flaunted the two-piece—some even without a shirt underneath (don’t worry, we’re not advocating that)—reviving it in a modern context. Sharper cuts, roomier silhouettes that still flatter but deliver ease of movement, and lightweight, soft materials were all prevalent. So away from the catwalks, what does that mean for you? It’s time to get friendly with your tailor.

BIG IDEA IN AVIATION: Greener Business Skies

Robb Report's Big Idea in Aviation 2019, Greener Business Skies
Eviation Alice. Courtesy of Eviation

One of the most expensive aspects of owning or chartering a plane is the cost of fuel. It takes a lot of energy—and creates a lot of CO2 emissions—to get these amazing machines into the air. And while we have seen an uptick in alternative-energy aircraft—Israel-based Eviation’s all-electric and Boeing/JetBlue–backed Zunum’s hybrid planes, for instance—vast efforts are also going into raising the awareness and availability of sustainable alternative jet fuels (SAJF) for business and commercial aircraft already in service. In January, California’s Van Nuys Airport became the first general aviation airport in the United States to offer SAJF on a trial basis and serve as a model for offering alternative fuels at other airports, which could help the industry achieve emissions reduction goals. Gulfstream, which has been using SAJF since 2016 at its Savannah headquarters, proved how well the alternative fuel performs by flying its G280 aircraftinto Van Nuys on renewable fuel and breaking a city-pair record on the way—covering 2,243 nautical miles in 4 hours and 49 minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.85. Early this year, the brand also announced its first sale of SAJF to a Gulfstream operator. After years in development, these new approaches to flight are finally taking off.

BIG IDEA IN MARINE: The Thirst for Adventure

Robb Report's Big Idea in Marine 2019, the Thirst for Adventure
Mulder Design Project Crystal. Courtesy of Mulder Design

Expedition- or explorer-style yachts have been around for years, built by a specialized few. Now, however, echoing the rise in popularity of the SUV in the automobile market, every boatbuilder wants to get in on the action. Earlier this year, Jonathan Beckett, CEO of superyacht brokerage house Burgess, said, “The new style of yachting is to be more adventurous, both with destinations and activities.” Think kite surfing near a remote Pacific atoll or in a northern fjord. This last year, Dutch shipyard Heesen unveiled plans for its first explorer yacht concept, the 187-foot XVenture, and Italian yard CRN has three AlfaRosso explorer-style vessels in build. Baglietto, also based in Italy, has a 141-foot explorer-yacht project in the works, and the 230-foot Project Crystal (above) from Dutch firm Mulder Design will have an Ice Class hull and sleep 14 guests. Sanlorenzo launched its steel-hulled 500Exp expedition yacht at last fall’s Monaco Yacht Show. It looks like the off-the-beaten-path destinations just might be a little more crowded in years to come.

BIG IDEA IN WATCHES: Jumping Hour

Robb Report's Big Idea in Watches 2019, Jumping Hour
Baselworld

The watch industry is a slow-moving business—it takes time to create time. But as the world moves at a faster pace, even the titans of watchmaking have had to rethink how they do business. Those calling the shots remain, remarkably, the heads of family-owned businesses that include Swatch Group, Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. As head of Swatch Group, the largest watch conglomerate, Nick Hayek announced last year that he would no longer be showing his brands at Baselworld, Switzerland’s—and the world’s—biggest watch trade show. Richard Mille and François-Henry Bennahmias, Audemars Piguet’s CEO, followed, declaring they would not be showing at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the second-largest show. Meanwhile, amid rumors that Patek Philippe was looking for buyers, president Thierry Stern had to clarify that the family would never sell the business.

Patek Philippe’s grip on top consumers allows it to do as it pleases. Stern committed to another year at Baselworld; without the brand (and fellow power player Rolex), the event would fail. Patek Philippe does not have stand-alone stores, and official retailers run Rolex boutiques, so the fair serves a different purpose for these two pillars. But for the others, forging a new path is paramount as they pivot toward direct-to-consumer business models and experiential mono-brand shops. What will change for consumers? New product innovations and an onslaught of elevated red-carpet experiences from brands looking to capture the attention of clients, collectors and followers.

BIG IDEA IN SPIRITS: The Spirit of Experimentation

Robb Report's Big Idea in Spirits 2019, The Spirit of Experimentation

Across the millennia, wherever man has gone, he’s made something potent to drink. It seems there would be little to add after those centuries. And yet . . . the world’s top distillers keep following the advice of poet Ezra Pound to “make it new.” To the lab, the fields and the forests they go, experimenting with atypical cask woods, different barrel finishings and unusual botanicals, and employing native ingredients, such as yeasts and potatoes, in different ways. We look forward to the next renditions of their spirited adventures in and out of the lab.

BIG IDEA IN CULINARY: Fermentation

Robb Report's Big Idea in Culinary 2019: Fermentation
Noma’s Lemon Verbena Kombucha. Courtesy of Noma

With a glint in his eye and a mischievous grin, the chef said, “Follow me.” He darted up the stairs into an office above the restaurant, where menus and invoices were strewn about, then approached a fully stocked bookcase in the corner. “Check this out,” he said, while straining to slide the bookcase on hidden casters. His efforts revealed a large hole in the wall, stocked with jars of various sizes filled with vinegars and vegetables suspended in murky liquids. The chef, who requested anonymity to evade detection by the health department, wanted to experiment with fermentation without having to jump through his city’s endless hoops to get approval. He was on the search for flavor, no matter the cost. Because although the cool thing for chefs to tout over the last decade has been the freshness of their ingredients, he also was driven to explore the culinary possibilities of letting food rot.

He’s not alone. While others have their ferments secreted away like this chef, this past year has been filled with cooks such as John Shields at Smyth in Chicago or Justin Legaspi at Bateau in Seattle showing off their experiments, celebrating garums, vinegars, misos and kimchis on social media and menus. The movement ramped up in earnest last fall when René Redzepi and David Zilber, Noma’s chef and head of fermentation, respectively, published The Noma Guide to Fermentation, in which they sing the praises of ferments for adding depth of flavor to cooking and also provide step-by-step instructions on how to ferment at home.

Noma had been characterized as the foraging restaurant for so long, leading that revolution in cooking, that people missed the fact that fermentation has driven its cuisine. “Imagine you’re sautéing some greens, and you want to have something that just builds a bridge between each ingredient and lifts everything,” Redzepi says. “A dash of the right ferment and it’s like poof. Suddenly your guests are like, whoa—they’re feeling happy.”

BIG IDEA IN TRAVEL: Strides in Conservation

Robb Report's Big Idea in Travel 2019, Strides in Conservation

Last year, just as the 2018 edition of Best of the Best was going to press, the travel industry was put on blast. A new report by the scientific journal Nature Climate Change revealed that tourism now accounts for roughly eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, we already knew that flying was bad for the planet, and nobody was in denial about the waste of all those little plastic bottles in our hotel rooms, but this was a wake-up call. And tourism has finally begun to answer.

The past year has made green the new black like never before as hotels and airlines at last put their money where their mouths are when it comes to giving a damn about the planet. Brands such as Four Seasons and Oetker Collection have gone single-use-plastic-free, and Marriott International has vowed to eliminate the use of straws in all 6,500 of its hotels, eliminating roughly 500 tons of plastic annually. Qantas has begun test flights using a biofuel made from crop seeds—a switch that could decrease emissions by up to 80 percent compared to traditional jet fuel—and other airlines, including Delta and United, have introduced carbon offset programs that compensate for emissions by funding global recycling and waste minimization processes.

But it was a little hotel in Belize that had us thinking even bigger about travel’s big idea. Itz’ana, an eco-resort in the beach town of Placencia, announced a collection of solar-powered villas whose small footprint will be completely offset by a national reforestation project. When the resort opens later this year, it will only be the start, but it will be a blueprint for the future of sustainable travel. Better late than never, we say.

BIG IDEA IN TECH: The Antipodes of Audio

Robb Report's Big Idea in Tech 2019, The Antipodes of Audio

There are two camps in the audio community—analog vs. digital—and they have been crusading against each other like zealots since the dawn of the compact disc in 1982, each swearing that their solution to state-of-the-art sound is audio’s true religion.

In the early days, most digitally recorded and reproduced music could make your ears bleed because it was so unnaturally sharp and edgy, with sound not remotely comparable to magnetic tape or LPs. The intervening decades have further honed the analog and digital arts, with phono reproduction today achieving the highest fidelity in its history and causing analog acolytes to exclaim “Eureka!” Meanwhile, digital technology has played leapfrog, making sonic advancements in hardware and software, to a point where high-resolution audio streaming from music services like Tidal and Qobuz—with vast libraries of music—offer irresistible convenience and unimpeachable sound.

So, is the highest-of-high fidelity found in the grooves of the ancient LP, or the bits and bytes of high-res digital? We think the time has come when music lovers who refuse to compromise can finally get on board with both.

BIG IDEA IN WINE: The Old World Is New Again

Robb Report's Big Idea Wine 2019, The Old World is New Again

In a winemaking sense, the West Coast has been looking back across the pond to France and Italy recently for cues on both style and technique. We’re seeing a shift from the big fruit bombs of yore to leaner, more elegant reds that are just right to drink now but still have the power and structure to hold their own in the cellar. Taking another cue from Europe, some pioneers are backing away from new oak and experimenting with neutral casks, looking for an even greater emphasis on terroir. Even Oregon and Sonoma Pinot Noirs have become more Burgundian in style. We couldn’t be happier about all these juicy developments.

BIG IDEA IN ART: Donors’ Ethics Come Under Scrutiny

Robb Report's Big Idea in Art 2019, Donors' Ethics Come Under Scrutiny

It wasn’t so long ago that the Sackler clan was celebrated for its generous philanthropy: There are Sackler wings, galleries, courtyards and the like at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to name just a few of the institutions that have benefited from the family’s largesse. What a difference a few years—and an estimated 47,000 opioid-overdose deaths in 2017—make.

Once wooed and honored, the family that has become synonymous with the opioid crisis—through one branch’s ownership of Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin—was roundly shunned by the art world in the spring. In a stunning turn of events, first the National Portrait Gallery, then the Tate, both in London, declared a moratorium on gifts from the Sacklers. The Guggenheim in New York, where artist Nan Goldin’s activist group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN) had staged a “die-in” the previous month, quickly followed suit. By the end of March, the London-based Sackler Trust announced that it would “pause all new philanthropic giving.”

Meanwhile, protesters at the Whitney Museum of American Art—including almost 100 staffers—pressured its board to cut loose its vice chair, Warren B. Kanders, whose company Safariland has been linked to teargas used on migrants along the border. And another activist group decried the Museum of Modern Art trustee Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, for investing in private prisons. According to reports, about 10 protesters showed up at an awards lunch honoring another funder of private prisons, shouting, “There is blood on this art!” Both museums stood firm behind their patrons but did not obstruct the protesters.

Transparency about entities—be they individuals, corporations or sovereign nations—using cultural institutions to put a gloss on abhorrent practices is a positive development. But exiling them has its downside. As some museum professionals have recently told Robb Report, a staggering number of fortunes have shady connections—so many, in fact, that were institutions to decline all ethically tainted money, they might have a hard time keeping the lights on.

BIG IDEA IN JEWELRY: Artist’s Jewelry

Robb Report's Big Idea in Jewelry 2019, Artist's Jewelry
An 18-karat-gold necklace by Roberto and Haroldo Burle Marx. Hannah Kymych

If you love Alexander Calder’s mobiles, why not acquire one of his playful necklaces? So goes the thinking among a growing set of stylish women looking for bold, unique jewelry, as the overwhelming interest in collecting modern and contemporary art permeates the jewelry world.

“There is a greater cultural sensitivity to art and artists today,” says Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, whose New York jewelry gallery Mahnaz Collection offers many artists’ pieces. “People want to learn about an artist’s oeuvre and their variety of métiers.” She offers pieces by sculptors who also made jewelry in the 1960s and ’70s, including an aquamarine and 18-karat-gold necklace and earrings (above) by Brazilian brothers Roberto Burle Marx and Haroldo Burle Marx.

Jewelry created by artists, which tends to be more sculptural and about the entirety of the composition rather than emphasizing diamonds and gemstones, is also the right accessory for the times: Everyday style is now more understated, less formal. Demand is catching on internationally: Louisa Guinness’s eponymous London gallery sells artists’ jewelry exclusively, and other boutiques that once carried only vintage designs are starting to show artists’ work. Buy it while you can: Once word gets out that artists’ jewelry is on the rise, prices will likely go the way of the rest of the art market—up. 

BIG IDEA IN DESIGN: The Art and Design Merger

The Haas Brothers beaded and brass designs
The Haas Brothers beaded and brass designs. Courtesy of the Haas Brothers and Marianne Boesky Gallery

The line between art and design, long fuzzy, has now been almost completely erased. For Idea years, emerging and established designers alike have been creating limited-edition and one-off pieces of furniture with only a hint of function, which get presented at fairs like Design Miami and TEFAF. And artists have occasionally been tapped for design collaborations. Now, instead of trying to find balance between these different disciplines, artists and designers—if we still care to differentiate—are working freely in both.

The well-regarded contemporary artist Deborah Kass designed rugs with BravinLee programs, which came out late last year. The veteran industrial designer Jasper Morrison has an exhibition of his cork furniture running at the New York art gallery Kasmin through June.
And a new wave of talents who once operated in the middle ground are simultaneously producing both more exclusive artworks and more accessible consumer products.

At the top of the heap are the Los Angeles–based Haas Brothers, twins Nikolai and Simon, whose beastly, fantastical furniture has always put a premium on creative experimentation. As their profile has risen, they have relished expanding their oeuvre. Their work is repped by Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, which also boasts the likes of Frank Stella, and was the focus of a solo show at the Bass museum in Miami this year. At the same time, the home accessories company L’Objet introduced the Haas Brothers’ 65-piece tabletop collection, including otherworldly cups, bowls and vases, as well as monster-shaped serving vessels—good news for anyone looking to shake up a dinner party.

BIG IDEA IN CIGARS: On Fire

Smoke

For decades now, public spaces for cigars to be smoked have been whittled away to almost nothing. Last year saw a seismic shift in smoking culture, however, with the legalization of marijuana across many states. Suddenly there’s a new enthusiasm for the luxurious accessories that cigar smokers have long appreciated—beautiful ashtrays, lighters and humidors—as well as a greater need for social spaces in which to light up. While cannabis and cigars are two very different substances (with very different effects), we expect to see a more embracing attitude toward smoke in general in the years to come.

Read the full article from Robb Report here

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Taking the plunge: free diving in the Caribbean @SquareMile_com

Free diving in the waters surrounding Petit St Vincent is a breathtaking experience in more ways than one. Not only does it offer an insight into the bright and beautiful sights of the sea, but we get a lesson in ocean conservation, too

By Lydia Winter

Dudarev Mikhail

At 15m below the water’s surface, all I can hear is the squeaking of the coral, the gentle roar of the waves, and the reliable, reassuring thud of my own heartbeat. I float, suspended in the endless blue, watching the dappled light play over the reef and multicoloured fish of all sorts of shapes and sizes darting in and out of their hidey-holes.

Down here, you develop an intense awareness of your body: the constant urge to breathe, the pressure that builds in your ears, and the knowledge that every movement is using up precious oxygen. It’s taking all my attention to override my instinct to head up to the surface. I look at my watch: I’ve been under the water for more than three minutes. I slowly make my ascent to the air, where I exhale before taking a few calm, steady breaths.

While I’m personally chuffed with my time underwater, when it comes to free diving, three minutes is nothing, and 15m is, well, not very deep. But then I’m just setting out on my journey, under the excellent tutelage of former professional South African free diver Hanli Prinsloo, who can hold her breath for six minutes and reach depths of 60m. Even that is small-fry – the standing world record for staying underwater without breathing is 24 minutes and 3 seconds.

Free diving is exactly what it sounds like: the act of diving in deep water without any breathing aids. It’s just you and your mask – and your buddy, who watches over you from the water’s surface.

Originally free divers were subsistence fishermen, and free diving was widely practised in Greece, where it was used to catch octopus; in Korea, where the haenyo dive for abalone sea snails on the island of Jeju; and similarly on the coasts of Denmark and Sweden, home to shellfish-eating fishermen in the sixth century BC. These days, as a competitive sport, free divers have been known to reach depths of 214m.

Today, I’m not diving for abalone or octopus, and I’m a long way off breaking any records. Instead, I’m diving in the brilliant blue waters off the private Caribbean island of Petit St Vincent with Hanli Prinsloo and her partner Peter Marshall, who together form I AM WATER.

The organisation has two arms: the I AM WATER Ocean Conservation foundation, and I AM WATER Ocean Travel, which offers free diving experiences at luxury resorts around the world. Petit St Vincent has partnered with them as part of its commitment to ocean conservation and fighting whale fishing in the Caribbean.

There couldn’t be a better place to learn how to free dive. For starters, the waters here are a delightful 28°C, which makes the diving a much calmer, more pleasant experience. Then, of course, there’s the island itself.

22 ‘cottages’ dot Petit St Vincent’s 115 acres, each with an uninterrupted view of the sea. Sitting on my private terrace, I can barely see any other signs of human life in the island’s vegetation, save for a red London phone box perched on a rocky outcrop, a folly of Petit St Vincent’s owner. Some of the cottages have private beaches, some are by the ocean, and some sit higher up on the hill, with views over the bay.

This is pared-back luxury: everything is deeply comfortable but nothing is over the top. If there’s anything you need, you can hoist a yellow flag outside your room and leave a note expressing your heart’s desire – breakfast, fresh towels, a snack – and it will magically appear. The real ‘luxury’ here is getting away from it all. There’s not even any internet, with only one small patch of WiFi near the restaurant, the idea being that you can switch off completely and focus on being present and in the moment – an ethos which chimes with I AM WATER and free diving.

As part of our free diving course, led by Prinsloo, we do daily meditation and yoga, including special exercises (also used by opera singers), that stretch the ribs and diaphragm in order to prepare them to expand. We also do breathing exercises that we repeat when we’re in the water that help slow your heartbeat and prepare your body to take in more air.

Sat in Petit St Vincent’s yoga pavilion by the water, we spot turtles coming up for air as they munch their way through a patch of sea grass by the water’s edge, and in the distance, dolphins play in the surf. The setting is idyllic, and perfectly tranquil.

It’s all a bit less tranquil when it comes to applying these learnings in the water. We hop into a boat and head out to an empty patch of sea, armed with some buoys, and split into two groups: Prinsloo leading the free diving, and Marshall the all-important safety training (including a hilarious but crucial demonstration of how to get your buddy back to the surface if something goes wrong, which involves taking it in turns to play dead).

With Prinsloo, we hold onto the life ring and float face down in the water, going through our breathing exercises to calm our body and our minds. One by one, we take it in turns to descend, pulling ourselves headfirst along a weighted rope – we later master the art of duck diving in a way that doesn’t expend much energy, saves oxygen, and gets you deeper faster.

Ahead of my first dive, I’m admittedly nervous. We’re being buffeted by waves, the sun’s gone in, it’s started to pour with rain, and the idea of going straight down head-first is, quite frankly, not all that appealing.

Prinsloo senses my distress and talks me through some extra breathing, helping me to relax, and eventually I go for it. Under the water, I surprise myself by remaining calm, heading down the rope slowly and carefully, equalising my ears and taking time to scan the water around me. At the bottom, I turn upright and make my way back to the top.Free diving continues to mystify scientists and divers often go beyond what scientists believe our bodies’ limits to be

At the surface, I feel stupidly euphoric and eager to go again. After a few more rounds and safety drills, we head over to a reef, where we buddy up and explore, becoming more confident and diving deeper. We’re only here for a few days, but if you’re lucky enough to do one of the full-length courses, you can reach depths of up to 30m. Prinsloo glides among us like a mermaid – a visual helped by her metallic scale-printed leggings and extra-long flippers – as we watch nurse sharks and a beautiful spotted eagle ray glide over the reef.

I’m mesmerised, but Prinsloo laments the lack of sea life here. Tomorrow, she says, after more training, we’re going to head to a protected reef further out, where the currents are stronger but the sea life is abundant. As you’d expect from people who spend so much time in the ocean, both she and Marshall are ardent ocean conservationists, and Prinsloo is involved in environmental projects all over the world.

When we reluctantly return to Petit St Vincent for lunch, I can’t wait to get back out into the water… until I take a seat in a hammock under one of the beach palapas and promptly fall asleep.

The evening is spent on free diving theory, and Marshall takes us through the sport’s history. Free diving continues to mystify scientists and divers often go beyond what scientists believe our bodies’ limits to be – take, for example, that science dictates our lungs should collapse at 50m below water. That said, there are plenty of associated risks if you don’t have proper training and don’t take the correct safety precautions.

The next day, after some more yoga and a talk about ocean conservation, we head out on PSV’s sloop, aptly named Beauty, and spend the day cruising around nearby islands. We come to a stop and get into the water at Tobago Cays, which sits within the National Park where wildlife is monitored and the reefs are under observation.

Here, the current is much stronger and it takes more effort to dive, but the results are worth it: the coral is incredible, and shoals of gem-coloured fish flutter around us. Nurse sharks make their way through the water, and Marshall swims between us taking photos, but the photos simply don’t do the scene justice – it’s like being in an episode of Blue Planet. We head closer to land, and find warm shallow waters where sea turtles gently graze on seagrass, and red starfish stud the sands below.

It’s a completely different world to the reef yesterday, despite their proximity. The two images stay in my mind’s eye for weeks afterwards: one bright and beautiful, and the other empty and forlorn.

Back on land, sat in Petit St Vincent’s plush surroundings, I realise that I AM WATER’s free diving workshops are far more than just a very nice holiday. Together, Prinsloo and Marshall are teaching to love the ocean, and how can you fail to protect what you love?

Read the full article from Square Mile here

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Royal Suites of Monaco @PeakLife

Royal Suites of Monaco promoting sustainable Tourism

Well-known for its extravagance, Monaco is home to some of the most exclusive and beautiful hotel suites in the world. Despite leading the way with its ‘Green is the New Glam’ sustainability campaign to make the Principality carbon neutral by 2050 and promote sustainable tourism, Monaco has lost none of its glamour. Some of the top suites in the world are located in the Principality, and Visit Monaco is pleased to share its pick of four of the best:

Diamond Princess Grace Suite at Hotel de Paris, Monte-Carlo

The most exclusive and extraordinary suite in the entire Riviera, the Diamond Princess Grace Suite at the Hotel De Paris opened in 2017 and is the epitome of sophistication. The vast two-floor, 910 square-metre suite pays tribute to its namesake who left her mark on the history of the Principality through her elegance, refinement, and generosity. With two bedrooms, three walk-in wardrobes, two lounges, a living room, dining room, kitchen, swimming pool, hammam and sauna, an office and spectacular terraces offering a 180° view of the Mediterranean, this is one of the most sought-after suites in the world. Its EUR30,000-a-night price tag comes with helicopter transfers, in-suite concierge service, complimentary mini bar, wine cellar and open bar, a dedicated private room at Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo in winter, a tentat the Monte-Carlo Beach Club in summer and much more.

Hotel Metropole – Carre D’or Suite

The Carre D’or Suite at The Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo is a symbol of luxury and charm. Located on the top floor of the prestigious hotel, the exceptional 150 square metre apartment is exquisitely decorated with rich fabrics and wallpapers and houses a spacious living room, large bedroom, walk-in wardrobe, and voluminous marble and gold bathroom. Outside, a 110 square metre terrace offers some of Monaco’sbest and the most exclusive views of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, its garden and the Mediterranean Sea. Nightly rates at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo’s CarreD’r Suite start from £8,000 per night.

The Fairmont Monte-Carlo Grand Prix Suites

The Fairmont Monte-Carlo has three VIP suites inspired by formula one legends, Sir Stirling Moss, Jean Alesi, and David Coulthard. Racing fans can get close to their heroes in these suites with the legends’ personal racing memorabilia including race suits, helmets, and autographed books and photos on show. For the ultimate VIP experience, guests with deep pockets should consider booking during the Grand Prix when suites offer arguably the best seats in the Principality. Overlooking the famous F1 Fairmont Hairpin bend, the slowest turn of the entire F1 Championship, and the Louis II tunnel, guests are literally on top of the action as the hotel shakes while the cars speed underneath. Nightly rates for the Fairmont Monte-Carlo’s Grand Prix Suites are available upon request.

Hotel Hermitage – Princely Diamond Suite

Hotel Hermitage’s Three-Bedroom Princely Diamond Suite, from EUR25,000 a night, is 330 square metres with three terraces, a living room, three bathrooms, and three dressing rooms. Highlight services included with this exclusive suite are a personal housekeeper to assist with unpacking and packing of cases, a private butler, and a limousine at guest’s beck and call for trips in Monte-Carlo. With a Michelin star restaurant located within the hotel and free access to the casinos, private Monte-Carlo SBM beach, Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo spa and more, VIP guests will not be short of things to do in the Principality.

Learn more from PEAKLIFE here

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Check out those Luxury Advent Calendars @TandCmag

These Luxury Advent Calendars Will Get You (Even More) Excited for Christmas

Love the idea of opening one present per day until Christmas? So do we.

Long gone are the advent calendar days where kids countdown to Christmas with a variety of chocolates and sweets—though these still exist too. Now advent calendars are making a comeback with beauty products, rare teas, and even booze. Even though it’s barely fall, we can’t contain our excitement for advent calendar season. Below, check out a few new releases, plus a round-up of our favorites hitting shelves this year.

Advent Calendar Dr. Barbara http://www.Sturmrevolve.com $600,00

Best-sellers from this renowned skincare guru’s highly coveted, luxuriously minimalist product line await behind the doors of this advent calendar, including a deluxe-sized anti-aging primer and face cream.

Advent Calendar www.saksfifthavenue.com $450.00

Inside you’ll find a Pomegranate Noir scented candle, a Dark Amber & Ginger Lilly cologne, and more from this beloved British fragrance brand.

Kikki.K Lover’s 2018 Advent Calendar www.kikki-k.com $129.95

This festive calendar will include a mix of stationery, decorations, and fun surprises that will inspire you to welcome an organized holiday season.

Diptyque 2018 Advent Calendar www.saksfifthavenue.com $425.00

The famed Parisian perfumer has assembled the ultimate set for candle lovers: inside, you’ll find a selection of mini candles, travel-sized fragrances, and skincare products.
For more luxury advent calendars and the full article from Town and Country click here
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A luxury boom hits Iceland @RobbReport

Long a beloved destination for more intrepid travelers, Iceland has a new wave of hotels and restaurants elevating the experience to plush new heights

That is, until this year, which has seen a luxury boom hit the Land of Fire and Ice. You can now spend the day soaking in the iconic Blue Lagoon and then check into a five-star property without ever slipping out of your plush white robe. You can book a suite in a design hotel in downtown Reykjavík that gives you your own private sauna to relax in before dinner, and down the street you can enjoy a tasting menu in a tiny, hidden restaurant that won the country’s first Michelin star last year.
Luxury certainly looks good on Iceland—read on to discover why.
The Retreat
Iceland Luxury Blue LagoonThe living room area of the Lagoon Suite. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Lagoon Iceland
A regular trip to the Blue Lagoon already feels like an escape: You spend the day soaking in glowing blue hot springs surrounded by Iceland’s volcanic landscape. But now with the new five-star Retreat Hotel, which made its splashy debut earlier this spring, the experience is even better. From your sleek guest room you’ll have round-the-clock access to the lagoon, so you can soak under the midnight sun or the northern lights. There is also a spa, where you can get wrapped in natural salt scrubs or enjoy a heavenly in-water massage. The hotel’s Moss Restaurant tops off the wellness experience with healthy, creative takes on Iceland’s most sacred recipes.

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