Travel Writer & Author

Tag: Luxury (Page 1 of 2)

Escape to Wellness 

LUXURY TRAVEL. The very sound of these two words is enough to conjure a sense of relaxation.

After overcoming the stresses of our careers and daily life, a getaway to bask in the glory of well-being is like a reset button. One that is not even so much a luxury as it is a right (or mechanism for survival, depending on who you ask). Spas, beauty packages and wellness activities are not new offerings in the world of luxury travel destinations. In fact, given the $15.5 billion dollar industry it’s become, it’s easy to say “everyone’s doing it.” The real question is: who’s doing it well, really well? In the name of research, I took to the road to discover four destinations offering a unique approach to serenity, mindfulness and well-being.

Lenox, Massachusetts / Vibe: rural New England, active, outdoorsy, unintimidating

About 40 years ago, Mel Zuckerman was 40 years old and 40 pounds overweight with high blood pressure. After his doctor told him he had the body of a 65-year-old, he spent 10 days at a “fat farm.” Feeling renewed (though still a bit scarred from being immersed in groups of leotard-women), Zuckerman and his wife Enid set out to launch the first Canyon Ranch in Tucson in 1979, aimed at helping guests learn to live healthier through exercise, nutrition, stress reduction and preventive care. A decade later, the Lenox branch was created 150 miles from New York.

Canyon Ranch Lenox transformed the 120-acre Bellefontaine estate, where the mansion, constructed in 1897 to replicate Louis XIV’s Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, is used for dining rooms, a café, library and Health & Healing Center. Here, the heart of the complex—the 100,000 squarefoot spa and sports facility—houses an array of fitness options in gyms, studios, an indoor swimming pool and squash and basketball courts, with its seemingly day-long pick-up game. Plus, there are the usual spa facilities.

A Climate-controlled, glass-enclosed walkway links the spa with the mansion and the 126-room inn (a 19-room condominium wing is under construction). It offers views of the Berkshire greenery and woodlands and assures all-weather comfort. While some guests concentrate on all the fitness options indoors and out, others are focused on their medical and spiritual health. The staff of 60 wellness professionals—including board-certified physicians with degrees from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and NYU—plus nurses, exercise physiologists, behavioral health professionals, acupuncturists and nutritionists focus on issues like weight loss, smoke cessation, stress reduction and Chinese medicine. All of the lectures and workshops for these programs plus daily Lunch & Learn sessions are complimentary for guests, as are the artistic options and the spiritual ones, such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.

Because food is intrinsic to well-being, executive chef James Massey serves a mix of farm-to-table options on a menu that men—my late husband, for one—find particularly appealing. The generous, comfort-food options—chili, Buffalo chicken salad, chocolate cake—appears anti-spa cuisine but features many organic, as-local-as-possible or sustainably caught ingredients. Recommendations for balancing daily menus educate guests and control-sized portions help them learn the most important adage: how much is enough.

Tecate, Mexico / Vibe: rustic desert beauty, spiritual, vegetarian

From morning hikes and inner journeys; to fitness, tennis and cooking classes; to pampering body services, evening lectures and dance sessions, the Ranch (as it is affectionately called) is a weeklong escape where the only stress is deciding on which of the 70 daily mind/body/spirit activities to do.

There’s a sense of magic here, walking along the curved, clay-tile paths bordered with geraniums and breathing the scent of sage, rosemary or lavender. Stress diminishes not just because life is slower in Mexico, but because of the beauty of this 3,000-acre property at the foot of Mt. Kuchumaa. Even walking brings mind-body-spirit wellness. Paths wind among authentic casitas (tiny houses), over tiny bridges, around trickling fountains and eventually to the labyrinth, a replica of the one at the medieval Chartres Cathedral in France. Tracing the route to activities at the pools, gyms, tennis courts or dining hall is an experience unto itself.

Activist/philanthropist Deborah Szekely, “The Godmother” of the U.S. wellness industry, co-founded Rancho La Puerta in a rural setting in the 1940s with her late husband, Edmund, to share his philosophy of life and vegetarianism with visitors. Originally, they charged $17.50 a week for each guest who brought a tent south of the border and helped in the garden two hours per day. Now in her 90s, she continues exercising daily, ordering from the appetizer list on the menu, and talking after dinners about living longer and healthier.

The Executive Wellness program partners with Lifewellness Institute in San Diego and provides a 7-day plan designed as a positive life transformation. It starts with a physical evaluation and continues with custom-designed programs from fitness and nutritional experts.

The fresh-from-the-farm cuisine is another welcome aspect. Although meals feature fresh fish options, the mostly vegetarian menu incorporates ingredients raised on the Ranch’s farm and 6-acre organic garden (Tres Estrellas), which produces more than 250 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Adjacent to the garden, the 4,500-square foot cooking school—La Cocina Que Canta—offers hands-on cooking classes. “Business trip” bonus perk: I learned to make a healthy pizza with fresh veggies and a sweet balsamic vinegar reduction.

Read Full Article on Long Island Pulse



Masterful Marseille

TMASTERFUL-MARSEILLEI rvina Lewhe five-star InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu opened this April in France’s ancient Mediterranean port—the European Culture Capital for 2013.

The 18th-century building long served as the city hospital, and its transformation has retained the original staircases, stone tiles, vaulted passageways, and sections of limestone walls, one dating from the Renaissance.

A skylight over the soaring lobby tops a minimalist path bordered by ceramics that resemble ancient Greco Roman urns.

Of the 194 beautifully appointed rooms, 72 showcase panoramic views overlooking the Vieux Port to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica.

This dramatic vista fronts the expansive terrace, gastronomic restaurants (where Michelin-starred Ducasse disciple chef Lionel Levy reigns), the 800-square-foot private balcony in the Presidential Suite (about $6,762 a night), private terraces outside 15 Junior Suites and three walls of 15-foot-high windows surrounding the spacious Prestige Suites.


Throughout the hotel, neutral tones enhance the contemporary décor and art reflects the sea theme; one notable work is a triptych of 17th-century Marseille. Shimmering glass tiles repeat the motif in the 3,000-square-foot Clarins Spa, complete with indoor pool, hammam, sauna, and six treatment rooms.

By Irvina Lew
See more at: Elite Traveler

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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Beaches of the Cote d’Azur

Life’s a Beach
Discover history, glamour, and beauty along the picturesque Cote d’ Azure.
Along the Cote d’Azur, nature provides sunlight and scenery, coast-to-cliffs topography, and a temperate climate; people embellish the region with historic, artistic, and gastronomic improvements; and beaches grace the world-class, warm-weather Mecca in and around ports from Monte Carlo westward to Villefranche-sur-Mer, Nice, Cannes, and Saint Tropez.
Most coastal towns boast varying degrees of amenities such as rental parasols, towels, and chaises longues (a la première ligne is closest to the water), and the sea is clean, well tested, and safe for swimming.

It’s a destination where people-watching is as much a sport as volleyball; bouillabaisse and salade niçoise are more common than hamburgers and hot dogs; and wearing sandals is a must, but wearing a top is not. If you’re cruising the region, be sure to take the time to discover why the beaches of the French Riviera are worth their memorable experiences.

Monaco is a 3-mile-long, half-mile-wide strip of prime real estate facing the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by France. The 485-acre principality is a majestic cruise destination unto itself, but also a 20-minute train ride from Nice. A new bateau bus, (“bus-boat”) transports passengers from Port Hercules harbor to Quai Kennedy while public buses, a tourist train, and elevators deposit passengers at Place du Casino, Restaurant Louis XV at Hôtel de Paris, and the Thermes Marins Spa.

It’s a doable walk along Avenue Princesse Grace to the free, family-friendly, and wheelchair-accessible stretch of sandy pebbles at Plage du Larvotto and to Le Méridien Beach Plaza Monte Carlo (#22), the only hotel in the principality with a private beach. Day passes and rental amenities are available as is a seasonal lunch at Restaurant Muse.

The Monte Carlo Beach Club, with its stunning beach, heated pool, spa services, restaurant, and array of watersports, is actually located in Roquebrune-sur-Mer, France.

This is an excerpt only. To read this article in its entirety, pick up the current issue of Porthole Cruise Magazine.
By Irvina Lew
Porthole Cruise Magazine

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