Travel Writer & Author

Tag: art travel

London’s Cultural Season

The cultural scene thrives in London from autumn through winter, when a variety of museums in this historic world capital offer a fascinating array of exhibitions. This fall, fine art from Constable to Rembrandt and Rubens vies with famous icons in the literary (Sherlock Holmes), photography (Horst P. Horst) and design (William Morris) worlds. During a busy week in early September, I returned to London to experience current shows and attend press previews for those that are soon to open.

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South Africa’s Luxury Scene Thrives

Ocean PoolFrom the inland capital, Johannesburg, to soaring Cape Town and seafront DurbanSouth Africa is thriving culturally and economically. Investment in infrastructure for the 2010 FIFA World Cup added airports, highways, stadiums, hotels and chic malls. Travelers relish the adolescent country’s sophistication, world-class cuisine, art, service and…safaris.

The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas and Spa, Johannesburg’s most exclusive hotel, sits on a lush six-acre estate adjacent to Sandton, “Africa’s richest square mile.” The 53-suite, former residence of Nelson Mandela—where he edited Long Walk to Freedom—has twin, curved staircases and a glass-domed entry and showcases contemporary African art and artifacts. Spacious 800- to 2000-square-foot suites provide complimentary laptops and international adaptor outlets. Contact Sales and Marketing Administrator Linda Pereira (; 011-27-11-292-6000) for top butler-served rooms: the Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite and one- (Presidential) and two-bedroom (Platinum) suites within new-in-2010 three villas each with its shared lounge, dining area and splash pool. This local destination has a bi-level, six-treatment room spa which offers a signature sound treatment on a heated waterbed. ContactWesley ( Head Concierge Denzilthe Arendse(; 011-27-11-292-6000) can arrange transportation to OR Tambo International Airport where private jets land.

Ellerman HouseCape Town’s posh, mountainside boutique hotel, just 10 minutes from the V&A Waterfront—displays the owner’s South African art collection throughout and in a private, contemporary gallery. The nine-room former private villa houses top seaview suites (Ellerman Suite No. 7 or East Wing Suite No. 11) while the Ellerman Villa spoils up to 10 guests with a private entrance, butler, chef, staff and spa. Circular stairs and elevator connect sleeping and main floors in the three-story structure where the best room is the glass-walled Acqua; this room and Lilac share the upper balcony’s panoramic view. Two smaller rooms are adjacent to the two-treatment room spa. Contact Sales and Marketing Manager Lindsy Morais (; 011-27-21-430-3200) to book this, divide it, or reserve in a new villa slated for 2013. Exclusive to guests only are the 7500 bottles of South African wine selection and Cuban and Dominican cigars. Concierge Mitch Terry ( books the courtesy car (upon availability), tours to Cape Winelands and Cape of Good Hope, adventures and vintage car drives. Contact General Manager Ella Cuyler at ella

Le Quartier Français, a charming Relais & Châteaux complex—with its rose-clustered courtyard, swimming pool and mountain views—is the best small country inn in the Cape Winelands. Its newly redecorated fine dining restaurant, The Tasting Room, casual bar and eatery and art gallery are on Franschhoek’s Main Street among boutiques and galleries (about 45 minutes from the Cape Town airport). Auberge Rooms No. 17 and No. 19 have child-friendly loft rooms and two bathrooms. The Four Quarters (FQ1-FQ4) are butler-serviced family suites overlooking a pool deck fitted with lounges, kitchens and double-sink bathrooms (most rooms are handicapped ready). Contact Auberge coordinatorLouise du Valle (; 011-27-21-878-448) for reservations up to six months in advance. General ManagerLinda Coltart (; 011-27-21-876-2151) arranges events, vintage cars, cooking classes and helicopter access in the family vineyard. Concierge Jenene Batts (; 011-27-21-876-2151) books adult or child treatments in the one-room spa.

The gleaming white Oyster Box is situated beachfront, 10 miles from Durban’s King Shaka International Airport and near a private helicopter landing. Fabulous public bars and dining options attract locals while guests retreat to enormous suites. The Presidential Suite (No. 014) has a dedicated butler; butler service is available upon request in the Sea Facing Deluxe Suites (Nos. 004 and 005) and Sea Facing Luxury Suites (Nos. 009, 114, 214, 304 and 313), footsteps from the Indian Ocean. Families vie for Superior Garden Villas (Nos. 015, 016, 017, 018, 019, 020, 021 and 022), some duplex, most with double sinks. Contact Reservations ManagerCandice Stanley ( for rooms and Ginny Eslick (; 011-27-82-414-0265) for weddings and events. Jemma du Preez(; 011-031-514-5072/71) books treatments in the exquisite, multistoried, stand-alone 62,000-square-foot spa, which boasts an extraordinary hammam. General Manager Wayne Coetzer ( is at the ready; Terence Rice and Stephen Rowley will schedule deep-sea fishing, tours and game drives. E-mail or call  011-031-514-5003 for details.

&Beyond provides world-class safari adventures at Phinda Private Game Reserve on a 56,000-acre tract three hours north of Durban. The oh-so-private conservation development is dedicated to restoring and managing wildlife populations and providing clinics, classrooms and employment to adjacent communities from which it leases portions of the 30-mile by 5- to 10-mile preserve. Six lodges, set miles from each other, provide 61 accommodations. General Manager Jane Braack recommends &Beyond Phinda Homestead—the luxurious four-suite, sole-use villa with its own indoor and outdoor dining and lounging areas, a pool—where elephants sometimes come to drink—a fitness facility and staff, including innkeeper Nicci, ranger Mark, tracker Skampu, plus the chef, pastry chef, butler and housekeepers. En suite massages incorporate African plants and oils for adults and children. Vlei Lodge has six premium lodgings and two family suites are at the Mountain Lodge. Twice daily, three-hour safaris give an opportunity to watch Africa’s Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) and 415 bird species. Excursions to the Indian Ocean include sea adventures. Travel advisors can contact &Beyond Group Sales Manager Shaun Strydom (; 011-27-11-809-4300) or &Beyond Manager of Groups Division Vanessa Botha(; 011-27-11-809-4300) for group reservations. Private jets land at King Shaka International Airport in Durban; small aircraft use the Phinda airstrip.

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