Destination Reviews

Jordan KensingtonJordan KensingtonAugust 4, 2017
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I was on a private yacht in Mauritius literally trying to figure out how many gin and tonics one needs to change a light bulb when suddenly I get a call from London. All I could remember was my colleague Jeff Armstrong at the Chelsea Monthly offices mentioning something about James Bond, the Spy and Sardinia. Well, in a state of heightened awareness I said ‘yes’ not knowing what i had signed up to.  The next week, low and behold I was introduced to Alexa Withers, and the full team for the Sardinia tour which included Klaudia, Rachel, Kitty and Harry. We all exchanged the usual pleasantries and joined fists together in agreement that  since we were on her Majesty’s Secret Service. …we will make sure this trip was one to remember and judging by the itinerary it was clear that we were all in for a treat.

 

Sardinia is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. It has nearly 2,000km of coastline, sandy beaches and a mountainous interior crossed with hiking trails. Its rugged landscape is dotted with thousands of nuraghi – mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins shaped like beehives. One of the largest and oldest nuraghi is Su Nuraxi in Barumini, dating to 1500 B.C. 3. The island has an above average life expectancy of 81 years, and has the highest rate of centenarians in the world, with there being 22 people aged over 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. Interestingly, it is the only region of Italy without a motorway – a great indication of the island’s relaxed pace of life! Well, that was more than enough reasons to board the plane… imagining finding out what lies beneath the secrets to why inhabitants of this small region are so relaxed.

We all checked in to MeriDiana Airlines..Unfortunately,  I kept thinking someone got drunk on a night out and started singing the Michael Jackson hit ‘Dirty Diana’ but switched the ‘Dirty’ for ‘MeriDiana’ ..Anyway, names aside and after my mind was randomly rescued out of the gutter. I relaxed and enjoyed the hospitality.  Why? well, because you only live twice. My verdict? MeriDiana Airlines was actually really good. We landed at Oblia Airport the mission possible had commenced. A quick 30 minute drive and we finally arrived at the Cervo Hotel, Costa  Smeralda which was set to become our host hotel for the first leg of our trip. The Cervo Hotel is situated right in the centre of Porto Cervo village, attractively designed with colour wash buildings around a maze of cobbled alleys and piazzas. With spectacular sea views, the marina is frequented by numerous large yachts in the summer months and home of world-class yachting events in September. The hotel is set alongside exclusive designer boutiques, jewelers and first class restaurants, frequented by glamorous clientele. Porto Cervo provides the perfect location to explore the stunning Costa Smeralda with beautiful beaches and clear turquoise sea, ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

Built in rustic Sardinian style to blend in with the surrounding scenery, the Cervo Hotel accommodation comprises of 80 Classic, Superior and Premium rooms and Suites, furnished by local interior designers with distressed pine furniture and Sardinian bedspreads and curtains. The guest rooms at the Cervo Hotel have been completely renovated within the last few years, and all have en suite bathroom with hairdryer and bathrobes provided, air conditioning with individual climate control, satellite TV, telephone, minibar and terrace or balcony (except some Classic rooms) with views over the harbour, piazzetta or pool.

After we settled into our rooms we were ready to explore. First stop was the Porto Cervo & Wine Festival to listen to a presentation by Marcello Coronini a writer, food & wine critic  and founder of La Cucina del Senza brand . As well as taking part in the festival. He was also there to promote his book of the same name which showcases fat-free dishes, with no added salt and sugar.

From 12-14 May 2017, Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda welcomes guests from all around the world for the Porto Cervo Wine & Food Festival, the boutique event focusing on the best of Sardinian and Italian wine and food produce. The Cervo Conference Center  was the main hub for the entire event and saw an array of producers – from world-famous makers to small, local producers – gathering together to showcase their produce to food and wine experts, together with tourists who are lucky enough to visit Costa Smeralda in May. During the event, we got to take part in many tasting opportunities combined with a rich programme of meetings, book launches and cooking demonstrations. The event, organised by the Hotels Cala di Volpe, Cervo, Pitrizza and Romazzino, is one of a kind.

Coronini’s presentation was filled with typical Italian passion geared at  making sure we all understood that healthy eating should never compromise taste.  With that being said, and due to the fact that my level of speaking and listening to the beautiful Italian language is limited. We had to quickly bring forth an exit strategy known in the business as “shake head, smile, get up and move”. We went into the main hall were the actual activity of tasting was going on. It was like wine and food heaven with hundreds of wine experts, food brands, and more nestled in one big hall desperately trying to get you to taste their wine and culinary food from the region. My idea of bliss, we tasted some amazing locally produced wine which is when we encountered the infamous Alberto Ugolini from Santa Margherita  Wines who had  more personality than Paddy McGuinness on a good day. Alberto was full of jokes as he gave us a history lesson in wine from Sardinia and especially his brand of wines which obviously as he clearly expressed ‘it’s the best’. Well, if you don’t blow your own trumpet no one will do it for you!  Later that evening, we enjoyed a welcome dinner at Cervo Hotel with wine & food producers featuring a few music performances by leading local acts. Alberto showed up again offering us the best of his collection of Santa Margherita wines. The night ended with an amazing fireworks display which obviously put the spark out to an early night for all.

The next day, we enjoyed lunch at  an authentic Sardinian restaurant, Il Pomodoro which is located in the center of Porto Cervo, a few steps from the main square. It has two dining rooms and two outdoor patios. Rustic and casual styles give the restaurant its distinctive look. It’s the classic Italian restaurant that offers only the best of the tasty Mediterranean cuisine; obviously Pizza and Pasta are in pole position on the menu.  After a delightful lunch we all made our way back to the festival to catch Bruno  Gambacorta interviewing Luigi  Moio, Professor   of   Oenology   at   the  University of  Naples Federico II and President of the International Organisation  of  Vine  and  Wine.  One  of  the  leading  experts  on  Italian  wine,  Moio  is  also  the  author of “Il respiro del vino” – a  fascinating  journey  to  discover  the  invisible  ‘sphere’ of the nose of wines.  All the talk of wine coupled with all that Italian passion made us opt again for an exit strategy back to the building to partake in the actual tasting of the wine itself. Obviously, my favourite part. All talk and no taste could never be a combination any sensible human should advocate.

Later that evening we transferred into  the Hotel  Cala di Volpe. The Hotel Cala Di Volpe is beautifully situated in a small bay on the island of Sardinia, Italy. In the movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), James Bond (Roger Moore) and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) stay at Hotel Cala Di Volpe on the Italian island of Sardinia. After meeting Q at the small port of Palau, Bond and Amasova drive to the hotel with the white Lotus Esprit. They walk through the beautiful lobby and check-in under the name Sterling. They take “suite A5, a sitting room with two bedrooms”The hotel can be seen clearly in the next scene when Naomi (Carolina Munro) arrives on the speedboat to pick up Bond and Amasova and take them to Karl Stromberg’s (Curd Jürgens) hideout Atlantis.We see the hotel again briefly when Bond and Amasova drive away in the Lotus, unknowingly on their way to a spectacular chase which ends in the famous scene where the Lotus dives underwater and reappears on the beach.The luxurious hotel suite where Bond and Anya stay is actually a bar of the hotel, so even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you might be able to visit the room while enjoying a bottle of champagne or a Martini with a view of the bay.

Cala Di Volpe is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, a favourite of many celebrities and as we attended the gala dinner later that night for a specially themed Sardinia meets Japan: Four – hands menu by Executive Chef Maurizio Locatelli and Hirohiko Shoda- Chef Hiro. It made perfect sense to order a gin and tonic shaken not stirred… in keeping with the 007 theme of our surroundings.  

The next day was our final day in Sardinia, we joined the festival for the last time to catch journalist, Giuseppe who was talking about  the  15 native  grapes  of  Sardinia.  Joining him  was Gianluigi  Bacchetta,  director  of  the  Botanical  Garden  and  professor  at  the University  of Cagliari  who offered an insight to the vines dating  from the Nuragic civilisation. Perfect! I wish my Italian was at least basic as it all sounded amazing. However,  the final taste of wine and food in the main hall sounded even more exciting as we left for our final wine tasting session and returned  back just in time to catch husband and wife team Clara  and  Gigi  Padovani, writers, journalists, wine critics – and authors of many bestselling books in the wine  &  food  world.  Their  most  famous titles include “L’arte di bere il vino evivere felici”, an easy guide for readers first approaching the world of wine. Say no more! We departed for London, armed with the knowledge of wine and clued up in the art of  Bond espionage. All in all, Sardinia was certainly one for my favourite locations i have been to this year and this had nothing to do with the wine, wine, and more wine.. Honest!

Important information: 

Cala di Volpe
Stays at Cala di Volpe start from €420 / £360 per room per night in June and September and from €1,360 / £1,160 per room per night in July and August, based on two people sharing a Classic Double room on a B&B basis. www.caladivolpe.com; (39)(0789) 976111

Grazie mille to Francesca Ragnedda – PR & Digital Marketing Coordinator Area Costa Smerald , Claudio Cadeddu – Director of Sales and Marketing Area Costa Smeralda, Franco Mulas – Area Manager for Costa Smeralda & General Manager of Hotel Cala Di Volpe and last but definitely not the least, Alexa Withers (Mango PR) for putting on an amazing itinerary!!


Jordan KensingtonJordan KensingtonJuly 28, 2017
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When you think of Ibiza.. you think the mecca of dance music.. sunset beaches and strip full of Brits having the time of their life off their head on who knows what? Dancing to some genre of music simply coined EDM or to the connoisseurs amongst you Electronic Dance Music. Yep, the 90’s gave birth to a decade in which this small Spanish Island reigned supreme with Carl Cox showing us how to Pete Tong a dance floor and Guetta and his missus asking everyone to fxxk them because they were famous… Well, he wasn’t that famous yet!! Well, not outside the isles… until the Destiny’s Child – Kelly Rowland took the child that is Guetta all around the world showing what really happens when love takes over. I digress! These days… the boys and girls who were 18 in their 90’s are full grown men and women now with beards, responsibilities, a lot of cash to burn and a much more refined palette which could lead to a tricky situation..? What happens, when putting your hands up in the air and waving them side by side every night like you just don’t care… isn’t quite sufficient….?? You adapt, grow and like a chameleon assimilate. Well, that’s just what Ibiza has done.. and returning back each year.. I can see the progress.. However, for the uninitiated who are at this point wondering where the heavens Ibiza is ?… Well.. there is always one.. So, briefly.. Ibiza is one of the Balearic islands, an archipelago of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s well known for the lively nightlife in Ibiza Town and San Antonio, where major European nightclubs have their summer outposts. It’s also home to quiet villages, yoga retreats and beaches, from Platja d’en Bossa, lined with hotels, bars and shops, to quieter sandy coves backed by pine-clad hills found all around the coast.

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This time, our mission in Ibiza was to explore the Island and what it offered in terms of a much more refined luxurious experience. Enter, Surf Air – our very own private jet on hand waiting for us at London Luton Airport to fly us to the land of 24/7 partying. Surf Air is a California-based airline that offers unlimited, “all-you-can-fly” service for a fixed monthly fee. It charges $1,950 per month plus a $1,000 signup fee. The company uses Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. Sudhin Shahani is the CEO. The airline’s inaugural service in early 2013 offered West Coast flights between Silicon Valley (San Carlos Airport) and the Los Angeles area (Burbank Airport). It added Los Angeles area service to Santa Barbara Airport in July 2013 and Hawthorne Municipal Airport in December 2013. Truckee Airport, near Lake Tahoe, was added as a destination in May 2014 and flights to Carlsbad and Oakland, California began in late 2014. Service to San Jose International Airport was added in April 2016. Weekend service to Las Vegas began in June 2017.
In July 2017, Surf Air started operations in Europe, debuting its maiden trip from London to Ibiza and yes, i can now go down in the history books as having boarded their first flight in London. Surf Air will start connecting London to Zurich during the week and Ibiza in Spain at weekends. It has plans to add routes to Cannes, Munich and Milan. Surf Air Europe Chief Executive Simon Talling-Smith said Surf Air in Europe will operate under the same subscription model where customers pay a 1,750 pound ($2,180) monthly fee for unlimited travel. Surf Air will start connecting London to Zurich during the week and Ibiza in Spain at weekends. It currently has one Embraer Phenom 300 private jet in its arsenal in Europe. The company plans to feature dozens more aircraft within the next three to five years. The flight with Surf Air was champagne fuelled and caviar driven just how you want to fly to Ibiza. We arrived Ibiza with an an arsenal of cars at our disposal waiting to whisk us off to our hotel. No check in’s, strip search, no security.. no questions asked.

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We arrived at the Hotel Playasol Bossa Flow. This property is 4 minutes walk from the beach. Situated only 250 yards from Playa d’en Bossa beach and only 1.9 miles from Ibiza town centre, this hotel resort is the perfect place to enjoy a tranquil setting and the lively Ibiza nightlife. Free WiFi is available. Relax around the hotel’s swimming pool, equipped with sun loungers, or take a dip in the pool to cool off in the hot Ibiza sunshine. From Hotel Playasol Bossa Flow, you can stroll to the centre of Ibiza town or the stunning beaches and hidden coves of the area. You can also go on boat excursions from the port of Ibiza town to the nearby island of Formentera.
The hotel is ideally located to enjoy the fantastic nightlife on offer in Ibiza town. The famous clubs of Space and Bora-Bora are only a short walk from the hotel.

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After a quick dip in the swimming pool.. as you do, we were ready for dinner at STK Ibiza. If you remember, we reviewed STK Ibiza last year and it was great to go back to see whether the quality in service , steak and general ambience had been kept at the same level as the previous year. I was not disappointed. If you are familiar with STK in Las Vegas and London you will be excited to see that STK Ibiza is living up to the brand legacy. Top tip.. try their twist on the normal Bellini with the Icing sugar and the mini- burgers – the sauce is amazing & when it comes to Steak.. it goes without saying. There is no place in Ibiza that can now compete with STK on the steak department. Say no more!!

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The one issue you might encounter with STK is that the menu is so good it will be hard to choose a favorite. The dancers add to the brilliant atmosphere… yes… you can join the party and get dancing too.. that is, if ‘confidence’ happens to be your middle name. After a brilliant first night and dinner at STK, you will think we will go out and party our heads off.. No, pace yourselves.. it was only Friday and it was the warm up night for us and in typical grownup style we eased our way back to the hotel for some well needed ‘keep’ to be up the next morning at 9.30am for a Yoga class.. yes you heard right… Yoga in Ibiza… courtesy of The Wellness Source Ibiza followed by 30 mins of massage therapies. The list of therapies available were endless from Indian Head Massage, Reflexology for feet, Reiki is a healing therapy and Therapeutic Massage.

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We left feeling more balanced than a drunken monk dancing to funk on a tight rope.. Circus over! my mind, body and soul was ready to party.. Yes, all these years we had been partying the wrong way round. First, you get to know thy self.. then you are prepared for your mind, soul and body to hit that dance floor… So, what better dance floor than the Ocean Beach Club which is located a 15-minute walk from the centre of San Antonio. Ocean beach club opened in June 2012, Ocean Beach Ibiza was instantly popular, successfully filling a gap in the market for San Antonio outdoor party venues by offering the kind of carefree, poolside fun the west of the island had previously been lacking. It’s delivered stylish, decadent pool parties on a daily basis ever since and as a result has become a ‘must-visit’ for anyone wanting to pop open the champagne, down the Grey Goose and recline on a VIP bed, all while soaking up the mid-afternoon, Balearic sun. Enjoy anything from day to night time fiestas, fine dining, fashion shows, acrobatics, live performances, massages and private events and it was perfect timing as it was celebrating it’s 5th anniversary.

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Aerial performances from sax queen, Lovely Laura, VIP beds, swimming pool shenanigans, dancers, dancers, and more dancers. What more can you ask for?
Well, an Active Ibiza Sunset walk. Yes, i must admit at first i was a bit apprehensive . Just couldn’t fathom a day party and active sunset walk going hand in hand. However, I strongly recommend using Active Ibiza to explore what Ibiza has to offer… the beauty of Sans Agnes with a sunset walk through Puertes de Cielo. This rekindled the balance from the yoga..a perfect end to an amazing afternoon as we discovered Ibiza by walking around the whole island! Getting active and connecting with nature and the beautiful sights and sounds. You can’t go wrong!!

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Later, that night it was time to let our hair down, get tight not loose and finally put our hands in the air for wait….for it.. Yep.. where? where else….? It was at the legendary Pacha…Located just east of Ibiza town near the Marina, Pacha Ibiza is one of the international nightclub brand’s biggest venues, and also one of the island’s oldest …The 3000-capacity venue has five different rooms: the large Main Room for house and techno, the Funky Room for more disco flavours, the Roof Terrace for lounge and chillout, and downstairs features Sweet Pacha for retro pop. Every thursday night till the 5th of October, one of the most legendary parties on the white isle, F*** Me I’m Famous has finally dropped its 2017 lineup and from the looks of it, this season promises to be its most spectacular to date. Curated by one of the world’s greatest DJs, the inimitable David Guetta has invited an equally dazzling cast of superstar DJs to party with him at the iconic club throughout the summer. Opening on 1st June and running for 19 consecutive Thursdays through till 5th October, Guetta will be joined by Afrojack, Oliver Heldens, Bakermat, Daddy’s Groove, Glowinthedark, Jonas Blue & Kungs, and of course, master of ceremonies Robin Schulz, who will be taking the helm for the entire month of September with FMIF “Robin Schulz & Friends”. Also making regular appearances this season at FMIF this year will be Abel Ramos B2B Albert Neve, Hugel, JP Candea and Lovra.

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Now in its 16 year, for the majority of partygoers landing on Ibiza’s shores each year, a visit to F*** Me I’m Famous at Pacha is considered a rite of passage. Boasting a sensational line up and breath-taking production, David and co are guaranteed to raise the roof of Ibiza’s oldest nightspot each week – don’t miss out. After several hours of fist pumping, we retired back to the hotel to get some sleep.

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The next day was a Sunday and this was to be our final day/night in Ibiza. We ended up at Destino Ibiza – Set on a clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this upscale resort is part of the Pacha nightclub franchise and 2.9 km from the club premises, and 3.2 km from Ibiza Marina.The rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screens, cascade showers and terraces, some with sea views. Junior suites add personalized minibars, buffet breakfast and Pacha nightclub entry, while some premium suites come with private pools and gardens. There’s 24-hour room service.There’s a Japanese grill and a fusion restaurant. Other amenities include an outdoor pool with a bar, as well as a hot tub, a fitness center, a yoga studio and a spa. Parking is free. We dined at the restaurant and enjoyed a birthday surprise show with a spectacular list of performers. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for you. So, all i will say is … when you are next in the Island try Destino.. you would not be disappointed.

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After, a brilliant show at Destino Ibiza. It was time to check out our friends at Lio located right on the seafront in Marina Ibiza, Lío overlooks the port of Ibiza and boasts fantastic views of the old town, Dalt Vila. Formerly known as El Divino, Lío is part of the Pacha Group, and as such boasts a combination of high quality gastronomy, art, live music and clubbing.

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After, Lio , i decided to ask our driver the wonderful Ruben to recommend an alternative spot for me. He took me to Swag, an urban music club in the heart of Ibiza. With a capacity of 1000 and playing the best in R&B and urban music.

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It’s a unique offering to the mostly house, EDM driven outlets. Again, as you can see i was firmly resting on the side of balance here….and after a clear head on the back of our private Surf Air jet back to London. I had to sip a glass of champagne and admit that Ibiza has definitely matured like fine wine and the future is bright for the isle that continues to reign supreme in summer club culture.

Want to do Ibiza… the Luxury way?

Travel by Private Jet courtesy of Surf Air:
Book @ www.surfair.com

Stay at Hotel PLaya Sol Bossa Flow
Carrer de les Begònies, 30-34, 07817 Sant Jordi de ses Salines, Illes Balears, Spain
Phone: +34 971 39 90 73

Do Dinner at STK Ibiza
Carrer de s’Illa Plana, s/n, 07800 Eivissa, Illes Balears, Spain
Phone: +34 971 50 86 67
www.stkibiza.com

Get in Touch with your Mind, Body & Soul @
www.thewellnesssource.co.uk

Enjoy the Day Party @ Ocean Beach Club
Carrer des Molí, 12-14, 07820 Sant Antoni de Portmany, Illes Balears, Spain
www.oceanbeachclubibiza.com

Take an active stroll courtesy of Active Walks Ibiza:
www.activeibiza.com

Party hard all night at Pacha:
www.pachaibiza.com

Party to Urban music @ Swag
www.swagibizaclub.com

Enjoy the club/restaurant cabaret @ Lio
www.lioibiza.com

Enjoy the show & night dinner at Destino Ibiza
Cap Martinet s/n, 07819 Talamanca, Spain
Phone: +34 971 31 74 11
www.destinoibiza.com

Want a Chauffeur to drive you in style in Ibiza?
We recommend www.cosgovip.com


Jordan KensingtonJordan KensingtonJuly 26, 2017
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Barbados is an island in the Caribbean region of North America. Situated in the western area of the North Atlantic, it is known as the ultimate luxury destination. Simon Cowell, Philip Green (Arcadia Group) and Kate Moss all boast properties in Barbados and now the island can hold claim to the title of one of the most successful female pop stars, Rihanna. If this and many more reasons don’t tempt you enough, then let’s try Crane Resorts. Its fractional ownership offering at the Beach Houses at Culpepper is a perfect attraction for property investors. The Beach Houses are available for potential buyers to view and we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek on our most recent trip to Barbados.

The beach homes encompass 50 acres of land adjacent to a national park and provide a secluded location on the east side of the island, boasting unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean. Each offers a luxurious interior of pale porcelain tiles, limewood flooring and wide walls of glass to showcase the ocean views. Owners will also benefit from unlimited access to all of The Crane’s five-star facilities only a 10 minute drive away, including Zagat rated restaurants, pools, tennis courts, a gym, duty free retail shopping and a full service hotel concierge. The development provides both an exceptional holiday spot, as well as optimising financial return for its owners, offering profit from rentals and significant capital gain on resale.

In addition to the Beach Houses, The Crane  also introduced Private Residences back in 2015. When we landed at the Crane, our first call was cocktails and tapas in Bar 1887 followed by dinner later that evening at the Zen Restaurant hosted by Paul Doyle, owner and developer of The Crane and Beach Houses. Doyle is ambitious, focused and consistently looking at ways to improve what The Crane has on offer. He commented “We are delighted to announce two exciting residential developments at a time when the property market is picking up again in Barbados, which will offer our owners both optimal financial returns in terms of profit from rentals and significant capital gain on resale.  We are offering a real ‘home from home’, allowing owners of The Crane Private Residences to customise the ‘shells’ by applying their own finishing touches.  With Beach Houses, not only are we excited to create a luxurious beachside development but also an intimate residential community with a restaurant, pool, full-service spa and a grocery store.”

After dinner, we called it a night and met up the next morning (Sunday) for Gospel Breakfast at L’Azure . It was like the scene from Sister Act, just imagine Whoopi Goldberg and choir serenading you as you have some lovely Barbados style breakfast. Who said full English? There is that too. But when in Barbados it is better to indulge all the way. After a sumptuous breakfast, we took a tour of The Crane and Private Residences which also included the historic hotel (rooms dating from the 1890s). The rooms looked amazing with their original coral stone walls and mahogany floors. From ground floor residences boasting large private pools to penthouse residences with private roof decks that command sweeping coastal views, dining gazebos and pools, The Crane Private Residences are ideal for long-term living. Bright and expansive, each residence  features granite kitchen counter tops and natural stone bathrooms as well as underground parking from which residents can directly access their foyer via a private lift. Ownership at The Crane Private Residences starts from $617,000 (£472,882) to $1.3 million (£996,348).

Designed by the internal Crane Resorts architect team, the external design of Beach Houses has been consciously created around the harmony of the surrounding natural environment to blend seamlessly into the landscape.  Each offers a luxurious interior with wide walls of glass showcasing ocean views, opening out to an external dining and entertaining area.  These private patios feature infinity edge pools with hot tubs, outdoor showers, hammocks and barbecues for the ultimate luxury retreat.  Interconnecting doors and a removable lock-off across the pool of each home allow for flexibility in owning a one, two, three or four-bed property.  Fractional ownership starts from $160,000 (£122,627) for four weeks and from $1.9 million (£1.5 million) for full ownership.

The tour was followed by a hosted sunset catamaran cruise on Bolador from Bridgetown, the capital of the island. Perfect ! It was our last day on the island and to send us off in style, Mel Harding, Guest Relations Manager at The Crane took us on an island tour of the picturesque East Coast, St. Nicholas Abbey, and the West Coast. With fantastic beaches, exciting culture, tasty cuisine and amazing locals – buying a property in Barbados is certainly well worth the investment.

Crane Resorts is tempting owners to be with two exciting developments to be unveiled on the secluded east coast over the next 18 months, available to purchase either outright or with the resort’s fractional ownership scheme. Those keen to have a slice of Caribbean paradise to return to each year can choose The Crane Private Residences, a luxury gated residential community within the Crane Resort, or the Beach Houses, a development of 63 single storey studio to four bedroom beach homes overlooking the incredible natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay and Culpepper Island.

For further information on The Crane Private Residences, please visitwww.thecraneprivateresidences.com

For further information on Beach Houses, please visit beachhouses.bb


Jordan KensingtonJordan KensingtonJuly 19, 2017
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Escaping for the summer has become a well known tradition among us Brits but recently choosing the perfect party destination has been a challenging quest with many opting for a unique all round experience rather  than the usual party locations we have all become accustomed to. Enter, Maximillian White, the brainchild behind Blanco Beach Club, a brand new  entertainment and experience driven venue to hit the shores of Portimao, Portugal. As a venture capitalist White has built an empire across large capital investments in property, hospitality, music production and creative start ups. With several properties and companies within his portfolio, he has learnt to balance risk, vision and drive to ensure a fast return on investments.

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Alongside acquiring properties across Europe, Maximillian developed a career in music production fast growing Defenders Ent – going onto produce hit tracks including One Dance – Drake ft Wizkid and Kyla, and working with the likes of  Cheryl Cole, Alesha Dixon and many more. Furthering his investment portfolio, he had an interest in Beatport, and in turn became a large shareholder in the software company which sold to Dell. Perfect move!  So, why and where in the world is the Algarve in Portugal….? I hear you ask… Well, the Algarve,  from Arabic: al-Gharb meaning “the West” is the southern region of continental Portugal. The region has approximately 451,006 permanent inhabitants, and incorporates 16 municipalities. Its administrative center is in the city of Faro, where both the region’s international airport and the University of Algarve, are located. Tourism and related activities are extensive and make up the bulk of the Algarve’s summer economy. Production of food, which includes fish and other seafood, fruit, oranges, carob beans, figs and almonds, are also economically important in the region. The Algarve is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal, and one of the most popular in Europe. Its population triples to nearly 1.5 million people in the peak holiday season thanks to seasonal residents, and receives an average of 7 million foreign tourists each year. In total, including national visitors, almost 10 million people visit the Algarve annually and that is why White might just have hit the jackpot on this one.. So, without asking any more questions.. we packed our luggage and  boarded EasyJet at London Gatwick  later landing into Faro Airport. Our mission was  to at the very least find out whether this destination can give the other popular destinations such as Marbella a run for their money.

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We checked into the Villas D’Agua  located in Torre da Medronheira, right in the center of the Algarve coast. Albufeira is 3.7 miles from the complex and Faro is 17.4 miles away.  The beautiful property is 3 minutes walk from the beach. Less than  5-minute walk from Maria Luisa Beach, this 4-star complex offers a large outdoor pool with ocean views. Surrounded by pine trees, it has a spa with various beauty treatments. Private balconies or patios are featured in all Villas d’Àgua apartments. Each has a kitchen with a dishwasher and washing machine. Air conditioning and satellite TVs are standard in all units. Quick tip: ask for Gabriella at reception and tell them Chelsea Monthly sent you. She will make sure you are well looked after during your stay.

Once, we were settled it was time for us to grab some dinner at Hotel Bella Vista. Their Real Cozinha Restaurant give you an opportunity to enjoy the best Portuguese delicacies, inspired by the typical flavors of the Algarve region. Panoramic views over the pool, and a wide range of fresh food served in the unique laid back gastronomic experience which is clearly a trademark for service in Portugal.. Say no more! Great food.. when it arrived and amazing cocktails.

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After a wonderful dinner. We were ready for our first opening party for Blanco Beach Club. We arrived through the VIP entrance and where ushered to our tables with the first performance of  the evening. US rap star, Tyga who enchanted the audience with his classic hits bringing the night to an end and as we made our way back to the Villas D’Argua we all agreed that the potential was certainly high.

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The next day, featured a line up which included; Richy Ahmed and the legendary Roger Sanchez who spoke to Chelsea Monthly exclusively for VooVix TV. He added “Blanco Beach Club is just what Portugal needs. It is an amazing location and this club is destined to become a massive success in the area”.  If words are anything to go by, coming from the man, the legend that is Sanchez goes a mile off in terms of credibility and i certainly concur with his vision for Blanco Beach Club.

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Our Verdict:

Blanco Beach Club is certainly destined for success . On the edge of the sea in Portimão, Blanco Beach offers you a  premium day and night club open daily from 11:00. Experience personalized service, elegant round beds and VIP huts with a private Jacuzzi,  fusion restaurant combing  sushi and Mediterranean cuisine to satisfy your appetite and i spoke to the Chef who is gearing up to deliver only the best.

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At night, 5 star entertainment with world-renowned DJs and musical acts keep the party hopping through the early morning hours. You might actually catch either Chelsea Monthly or the UMA’s holding an exclusive event this summer at the Blanco Beach Club. Watch this space and keep it tuned to VooVix for full highlights of our trip to the Algarve on the VooVix Travel Show sponsored by DeChavel Watches and Chelsea Monthly.

Blanco Beach
Largo Coronel Figueiredo
Praia da Rocha
Portimão

Opens Daily at 11:00

Reserve Tickets and Tables:
Mobile: +351 964 364 442
Email: reservations@blancobeach.com


Justine PhilipponJustine PhilipponJuly 11, 2017
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If you are stuck for choices for this summer for your holidays, you can choose to stay in your house, and lock yourself indoors or be more creative with a packed itinerary discovering some undiscovered spots in France. One place I could recommend is the beautiful Jura Mountains.

In the east of France, Jura Mountains have splendid landscapes. Away from the city, you will discover things in this place that you have never seen before. If you are not a big fan of water, be careful because in the Jura, this is the mountain heart. It has been here for thousands of years and this is what created the richness of this amazing place. Whether it is big caves, water has played a significant role in the Jura Mountains history.

The Hérisson, one of the vein of the Jura, is full of cascades and drops for about 3.5 Kilometres. Since 2002, it has been classed as a “protection of the landscapes” location. Jura Mountains is certainly full of little treasures that need to be protected. Everywhere you go, you will be held by the beauty of nature.
At the source of the River Lison, the waterfalls are blue all year round. You can also get lost in nature by disappearing in the Jura forest.
I personally recommend the Planches-en-Montagne. The cascades and the Gorges of La Langouette will take you to another world.
The depth of the water is so powerful which shows you to the strength of the surface landscape. If you want to increase your altitude and feel a little confident you can hike higher with the falls at Billaude or La Lemme. The water plunges into a narrow gorge across two successive drops from a height of 28m, huge no?

Wonderful water activities

Combining relaxation and fun is the best way to live your life and in the Jura Mountains, you have the possibility to do a lot of different activities that combine both. From canoeing, swimming to fishing, you can enjoy every facet of the water.

Jura Mountains has been adapted to suit the needs of even the most demanding of people, especially families. Everyone will be happy to swim into the natural pools forged into rocks or jump into the fresh water. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can choose to discover the River Loue with canoe or kayak. Enjoy the Jura nature in each detail and take your picnic with you.

Take a final breath by sitting down and listening to the nature song. The water is flowing, leaves of trees are intertwining, this is like music to your ear in time with natures influence on your heartbeats.

The lakes and rivers are what make all the charm of the Jura Mountains. The largest one, at Chalain, is just covering more than 230 hectares. Simply…Unbelievable!!

The Lac de Vouglans and the natural lake at Saint-Point are the 3rd place largest damns in France … With 850 m of altitude, this last one offers you a nice scope of 6 Km. Smaller but more fun, the Lac de Vouglans is long for about 3 Km and is equipped of leisure activities among its boast beaches.

All Jura Mountains Lakes are secured and calm thanks to a ban on all motorised craft. Fall in love with the natural site of Lac des Rousses, the wildlife side of the Jura Mountains. You will find a pine forest and a wild natural habitat thanks to the very clear water. This is the forgotten part of the Mountains and the less touristic parts. You will totally escape from the connected world and discover a fragile ecosystem full of biological life.

Finish your trip by visiting another natural site, the Lac Genin, the latest jewel of the massif. Rivers, lakes, forest, …the reputation and the beauty of the Jura Mountains is indisputable.  So just a little advice from a French girl to you this summer… forget the hustle and bustle of London, take a deep breath and relax yourself with the natural beauty of France.

 

 

 

 


Johana BaldellaJohana BaldellaApril 13, 2017
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9min314

SOMERSET LAUNCHES ANOTHER WALKERS’ CHALLENGE TO REVEAL MORE SECRETS OF ITS BEAUTIFUL UNDISCOVERED COAST PATH

 

 

#secretseawalks

In the second of Somerset’s Secret Sea Walks we will be revealing the hidden gems to be found on a walk from Doniford to East Quantoxhead.

Called #secretseawalks, the ten-week campaign will publish a different secret sea walk every week on the Visit Somerset website http://www.visitsomerset.co.uk/things-to- do/england-coast-path- challenging and inspiring walkers to enjoy a walk at the weekend.

The campaign – which launched last week with a look at the full 58-mile stretch from Minehead to Brean – will also ask walkers to contribute their favourite ‘secret’ from their walks via social media using the hashtag #seawalks.

 

Secret Sea Walk Two – what to expect:

This stretch of the coast path from Doniford to East Quantoxhead has everything from quintessential English villages to historic churches, wonderful wild flowers to geological marvels and is a great walk for families, keen walkers and nature lovers.

Things to look out for include stunning geological wonders like the limestone pavements, red rock formations and amazing coastal views.

The walk takes in the foothills of the Quantocks – the first place in England to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and walkers are in with the chance of spotting rare flowers like Pyramid and Bee Orchids and birds including Oyster Catchers, Dunlin and Peregrine Falcons.

The ten walks range from the longer, more difficult stretches to easy and flat for the little ones. The newly opened up Somerset section of the England Coast Path includes a new footbridge over the River Swill and several new sections of path between Watchet and East Quantoxhead, with spectacular new views over the Bristol Channel. 

* The series will continue with eight other walks, each offering another unique experience, aimed at families, rest and relaxation seekers and keen walkers. Some walks will be circular, others linear and each will offer directions, amenities and what to look out for.

This project is funded by Natural England and the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership made up of EDF Energy, Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council, West Somerset Council, Visit Somerset, Exmoor National Park Authority and Visit Exmoor.

 


Jeff ArmstrongJeff ArmstrongApril 12, 2017
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The Malta Tourism Authority was delighted to be a part of the National Film Awards 2017 held last month at Porchester Hall in London.  Attended by a thousand actors, industry professionals and movie fans, Malta was the official travel destination sponsor and Peter Vella, MTA UK Director, was on hand to present the Lifetime Achievement Award category to British sitcom legends Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Set to be broadcast across Sky television at a later date, other A-list attendees included Simon Pegg who beat off stiff competition to win the award for Global Contribution to a Motion Picture. Pegg commented “The National Film Awards is quickly becoming the credible alternative and a very important awards ceremony in motion picture.  It is one of the only awards ceremonies to give the power back to the public to nominate and vote for the films they love”. A total of 3.1 million fans are involved in the voting process to nominate their favourite film and television stars.

 

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With its own Hollywood credentials, Malta is famous for its beautiful coastlines, picturesque beaches, and charming villages, which have always been a hit with top film producers. 2017 is set to be another big year for Malta as the island welcomes stars including Johnny Depp, Dame Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer for the filming of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

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Peter Vella, MTA’s UK Director, says “Malta’s stunning climate, architecture, historical sites and natural beauty has made it a favourite location for the film industry. It has played host to the full spectrum of films and TV shows, including such greats as Gladiator, Troy, the Da Vinci Code and Game of Thrones, and more recently The Lake, Assassin’s Creed and The Promise. Malta’s contribution to the industry has been enormous.”

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Malta is keen to welcome travellers interested in walking in the footsteps of their Hollywood heroes, which include the likes of Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, Brad Pitt, and A-list super-couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. With the trendy nightlife, turquoise lagoons, and growing gastronomy scene, it’s no wonder that Malta is one of Europe’s hottest destinations beloved by the world’s most celebrated film stars.

Malta is a short three and a quarter hour flight from the UK, with daily departures from all major airports across the country.  For nore information. Visit:  www.maltauk.com


Jordan KensingtonJordan KensingtonFebruary 13, 2017
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Anyone thinking of a short or long break in Greece normally settles for cities such as Athens, Thessalonki, Patras, Heraklion, and may be Larissa . But, we at Chelsea Monthly like to go beneath the surface and explore what lies underneath which is exactly why last year we decided to cover Skiathos. A small Greek island in the northwest Aegean Sea.

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The island has a north to southwestern direction and is about 12 kilometres (7 miles) long and 6 kilometres (4 miles) wide on average. The coastline is indented with inlets, capes and peninsulas. The southeast and southwest parts have gentler slopes and that is where most settlements and facilities are located.

Despite its small size, Skiathos is becoming a firm favourite with those in the know and judging by the amount of Brits we saw when we descended into the airport. We know this place with  its many beaches and wooded landscape is fast becoming a  popular tourist destination. From  sandy, beaches scattered around to the beautiful hospitality that awaits you from the locals, you will find yourself surrounded by an air of tranquillity and excitement (my kind of balance). For those historians amongst you. It would be fascinating to discover that in ancient times, the island played a minor role during the Persian Wars. In 480 BC, the fleet of the Persian King Xerxes was hit by a storm and was badly damaged on the rocks of the Skiathos coast. Following this the Greek fleet blockaded the adjacent seas to prevent the Persians from invading the mainland and supplying provisions to the army facing the 300 Spartans defending the pass at Thermopylae. The Persian fleet was defeated there at Artemisium and finally destroyed at the Battle of Salamis a year later. Skiathos remained in the Delian League until it lost its independence. The city was destroyed by Philip V of Macedon in 200 BC.

In 1207 the Ghisi brothers captured the island and built the Bourtzi, a small Venetian-styled fortress similar to the Bourtzi in Nafplio, on an islet just out of Skiathos Town, to protect the capital from the pirates. But the Bourtzi was ineffective in protecting the population and in the mid-14th century the inhabitants moved the capital from the ancient site that lay where modern Skiathos Town is to Kastro (the Greek word for castle), located on a high rock, overlooking a steep cliff above the sea at the northernmost part of the island. The island returned to Byzantine control in the 1270s, and remained in Byzantine hands until after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when it passed to the Republic of Venice. Like the rest of the Northern Sporades, Skiathos was conquered by the Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1538.

In 1704 monks from Athos built the Evangelistria Monastery, which played a part on the Greek War of Independence as a hide-out for Greek rebels. The first flag of Greece was created and hoisted in the Evangelistria Monastery in Skiathos in 1807, where several prominent military leaders (including Theodoros Kolokotronis and Andreas Miaoulis) had gathered for consultation concerning an uprising, and they were sworn to this flag by the local bishop.

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Back to Present. After a 40 minute flight we touched down at Athens International Airport and in our mission to find the very best place to eat, sleep and off course rest in Luxury; Kassandra Bay Resort & Spa came top in our list of recommended resorts.  So, as we were shown round the resort, comprising of both hotel and suites we discovered that it wasn’t just your standard typical resort in Greece but one that has been curated to offer the best in luxury experience providing you with the additional option  to explore the beautiful island of Skiathos.

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KB Hotel is ideal for friends and families seeking a relaxing, laid back break. The penthouse suites offer a unique freedom to guests who want to have that home away from home experience. The current options range from Classic Double Rooms with scenic views, spacious Maisonettes to lavish Two Bedroom Family Rooms. After a decent night’s sleep, the next day we decided to unwind and we opted for the heavenly spa which left everyone feeling rejuvenated.

There is an extensive range of treatments available or you can choose to bask in relaxation at the in-house sauna, Jacuzzi or massage rooms. A modern, fully equipped gym is also available for those looking to re-energise, with outdoor Yoga and Pilates sessions on offer too.

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Since Valentines Day, is literally around the corner and with many men getting down on both knees for the ‘ultimate proposal’. The resort will provide an ideal location for a wedding or your ultimate destination for  honeymooners to commence their journery into marital bliss with an  intimate experience at the Kassandra Bay Suites, the sister-property that is a stone’s throw away from the hotel. Ideally located within lush gardens and olive groves, overlooking the sandy shores, it oozes romance and charm. The 28 suites range from the Deluxe Double to the Deluxe Suite with Private Pool, which offers luxury at its very finest. With crisp white décor, splashes of colour and minimalistic furnishings, each suite provides a sanctuary of refined comfort and luxe.It was the last night of our stay and we decided to hop into town to discover the nightlife scene. There is a regular boat service to the island and the rest of the Sporades islands with departures from Volos and Agios Konstantinos. The boats are operated mainly by Hellenic Seaways using its high-speed Flying Cat vessels as well as conventional ferries. We ended up at a Bar  called Marilyn with a few Brits who were themselves staying at the resort. There was a uniformed agreement that you get the very best of Greece right here in Skiathos. Hidden bays, perfect sunsets, charming trails for adventurers and amazing food . This place ranks top in my list of places to revisit and the resort plays the integral part in solidifying your overall experience.

 

For more information, please visit:

www.kassandrabay.com

www.kbsuites.com

 

Fact Box:

Flights run regularly from all UK London Airports to Athens International Airport, here is it is a 40minute connecting flight from Athens to Skiathos, which is also easily accessible.

Kassandra Bay Resort & Spa is located 4km from Skiathos Airport and 3km from Skiathos town.

Rooms at Kassandra Bay Hotel start from 130 euros per night, based on 2 guests sharing a Classic Double room, including breakfast.

Rooms at Kassandra Bay Suites start from 185 euros per night, based on 2 guests sharing a Deluxe Double room with sea view, including breakfast.

 

 

 


Deborah CicurelDeborah CicurelDecember 5, 2016
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When daydreamers think of paradise, they think of the Maldives. It’s even better than what your imagination could concoct in an overoptimistic reverie: the planes soar over picturesque atolls and land smoothly on the clear sea, the pilots are beaming and shoeless, the beaches are blissful and private. Dolphins fly into the air as you eat your breakfast, sharks swim beside your balcony and a rich, unfamiliar, dazzling marine world is just a snorkel away.

It’s one of the most luxurious places on earth to escape to, and it would be hard to be disappointed with the warm Indian ocean, unrivalled service and elegant hotels that epitomise the Maldives experience. But with the variety of incredible resorts on offer, each offering the same pristine photos of white sands, clear skies and glistening seas, how do you know which one to choose? Chelsea Monthly picks four of the best…

 

Maafushivaru

 

For romantic, laid-back luxury, Maafushivaru, in the South Ari Atoll, is an idyllic and relaxed delight. You’ll kick off your shoes immediately and forget all about them for the duration of your stay: holidays here are all about strolling barefoot in the sand, gazing at baby sharks, turtles and brightly-coloured fish from the comfort of your room, and snoozing, indolent on your secluded terrace. While there are several excursions – including snorkelling trips to spot whale sharks and manta rays – to be enjoyed, if you’re feeling lazy, you’ll be perfectly contented staying on the tiny island, soaking in the sun and enjoying the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Although the island is so small you can walk around it in minutes, it never feels overcrowded, with private beach or water villas ensuring you get your own space.

Most meals are eaten in the open-air dining room, with the plentiful all-inclusive buffet-style meals encompassing dishes from around the globe, but for a more private experience, you can head to the tiny, picturesque 135° East for sophisticated Japanese dining and teppanyaki-fuelled entertainment in an intimate setting. For a truly private experience, a night on Maafushivaru’s neighbouring baby island, Lonubo Island, is a feature not many Maldives resorts can offer. You’ll be dropped off on a dhoni to explore your very own deserted island for the evening, giving you and your partner a sense of solitude you’d never be able to feel in a normal hotel. If there ever was a time to pretend you were Robinson Crusoe, Tom Hanks in Castaway or one of the cast of Lost, this is it – but without any of the trials, tribulations and fearsome island creatures to endure, only time to bask in your beachside jacuzzi, sunbathe in true silence and watch the sun come down over the magnificent ocean.

Best of all, unlike those heroic figures stranded on a beautiful island for so many years, you don’t need to hunt for your own dinner – staff from the hotel come across to your island to cook you up a veritable feast under the stars. With bougainvillea draped artfully across the table, shimmering lanterns dotted around the sand and the giant moon hanging above the sea, it doesn’t get much more romantic than this.

 

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

 

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort is a slice of paradise that’s changing the Maldives status quo. In the peaceful Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, the recently-opened Outrigger is one of only seven resorts, meaning there’s a tranquility you won’t find in beautiful but busier parts of the Maldives. Because the area is so unspoilt, with far less tourists, there’s a sense of peace and quiet without the hiss of speedboats or roaring of sea planes above. It’s also the richest atoll in terms of fish, with snorkelling and scuba diving trips providing the sorts of jaw-dropping scenes better than brochures could promise.

 

While there are regular trips to nearby islands to spot marine life, there’s really no need to leave the resort, with diving jaunts around Outrigger’s own reef resplendent with overwhelming, colourful schools of fish, adorable baby sharks and large, friendly turtles.
Beyond the sea, there’s plenty to enjoy on land too: the relaxed, easygoing vibe of the island is combined with gorgeous aesthetic qualities. Villas are huge and stylishly designed with dark wood interiors, spacious bathrooms and private pools, while the vegetation is lush, the beaches pristine and the views unrivalled.

Perhaps the resort’s greatest asset – other than the blissful views, long stretches of beach and Instagram-perfect decor, of course – is the friendliness of the staff. The moment you step off the luxury yacht that whisks you to the island, beaming hosts present you with a freshly-picked coconut to drink – and they don’t stop smiling for the duration of your stay.

 

From remembering our dietary requirements and whipping up a vegetarian feast off-menu one evening to patiently waiting for us to keep up at a 7am sunrise yoga class, the staff couldn’t do enough to make our stay special, with mealtimes in particular memorable for all the right reasons.

When it comes to the food at the resort, try to bring clothes with elasticated waistbands: you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time eating. At Blue Salt, the island’s main restaurant, you can enjoy regional dishes at breakfast as well as European favourites such as waffles and French toast, while two different menus for lunch and dinner offer everything from pizza and fresh salads to tuna curries and dumplings.

 

For two special dining experiences, the Nala Rah Teppan and sushi bar promises an entertaining evening feast. On the teppanyaki side of the restaurant, knives are thrown around, fires blaze and eggs are cast into the air as guests clap and cheer, while at the other side, sushi chef Rudita prepares platters of exquisite sushi, so lovingly and artfully laid out the meal almost seems too pretty to eat.

There’s a misconception about the Maldives, with people fearing there’ll be nothing to do. But there’s plenty: kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on the azure lagoon, Maldivian cooking classes to pep up your culinary routine when you get home, and long, luxurious afternoons at the spa, where you can bathe in the hydrotherapy pool and enjoy a pampering, romantic couple’s massage before basking in the sunset on its private balcony.

However, of course, if you just want to flop in the sand and ignore the world with your nose in a book, that’s encouraged too. This is the Maldives, after all…

 

Amilla Fushi

 

For luxury experiences that are unique in the Maldives, head to Amilla Fushi and Finolhu, in the Baa Atoll. Dreamed up by The Small Maldives Island Co, both resorts have thrown out the Maldives rule book and dared to be different.

Amilla Fushi is as exclusive and luxurious as it gets. The name means “My Island Home” and every effort has been made to create a luxe home away from home vibe: there are no traditional thatched roof Maldivian bungalows or villas here, but flat-roofed, sophisticated and spacious houses and residences that will leave you wishing you could trade in your actual home for a life in this elegant, quiet land.

 

With even the entry level houses having enormous, open plan bathrooms, private pools, a stairway to the sea and gargantuan outdoor showers, this resort is all about space: it’s the perfect spot for families and couples looking for the ultimate in privacy. It’s the small details – like free daily laundry, movies on demand, iPads in your room and your own personal butler, or khateeb, on call – that puts Amilla Fushi head and shoulders ahead of many other Maldivian resorts, with guests feeling truly pampered from the moment they arrive till the sad moment they have to leave.

The resort has broken away from the traditional Maldives stereotype of honeymooning couples, and instead lures groups of friends and families who long for privacy, tranquility and high levels of service.

For larger groups of guests, the Amilla Beach Villa Residences are super-luxe, comfortable and stylish – and favoured by the likes of Kate Winslet and Kate Moss. With the largest residence boasting eight bedrooms, and even the smallest, with four bedrooms, offering enormous living spaces, a gigantic pool right by the beach and your very own staff, the homes are palatial and spacious, but somehow manage to be cosy too, so that whether you’re with your kids or a group of colleagues, you’ll settle right in.

 

The enormous, Miami-style six-bedroom Amilla Villa Estate is perhaps the most beautiful property on the island of Amilla, with an enormous pool, sleek, trendy interior design, tasteful bedrooms each with their own individual quirks, and its very own rooftop terrace for sunset cocktails. When you dream of the perfect place to whisk all your friends and family away to for a week of celebrating a special occasion, this is it.

Best of all, if you can’t bear the thought of ever leaving the residences and returning to reality, they are now being offered for sale as property investments, so “Your Island Home” really can become your home in every sense of the phrase.

 

Finolhu

For a stark contrast to Amilla that’s just as memorable, take a trip to Finolhu, which is just as groundbreaking in the Maldives for very different reasons.

 

With direct access either to the beach, ocean or lagoon – and your own private balcony with magical views – there would be no need to ever leave the chic villas, designed with Australian, Moorish and Asian influence in mind, but there’s plenty to do outside the confines of your own little Finolhu haven.

The buzzing, quirky, newly-opened resort attracts those who want something more than the honeymoon-perfect image of the Maldives so often painted by cheesy travel brochures: lively couples, groups of friends, active families. This resort is pumping, fun and unique, with live music, DJs, stilt walkers, flame throwers, acrobats and mermaids adding something new to the beautiful landscape. The Baa Baa Beach Club, at the heart of the resort, is alive day and night with the sound of James Brown and the Beach Boys, the clink of glasses as cocktails are prepared at the Beach Club Bar, and the splash of giant inflatable swans in the enormous pool.

The resort boasts the longest sand bank in the Maldives – a whopping 1.8 kilometres – which is also the dreamy route to the Fish & Crab Shack, where after a leisurely stroll along the white sands, you can pick up tasty seafood for lunch and enjoy it in the most picturesque of settings. The resort’s retro theme is certainly different, and a breath of fresh air: many villas have vintage phones which only call for champagne, record players so you can blast classic Aretha Franklin tunes while lounging on oversized chairs above the lagoon, and a short stroll around the resort reveals a quaint Milk Bar where you can pick up everything from brightly-coloured liquorice to garish water guns.

 

The theme is continued into the spa, where each massage room, or “Diva”, is named after an icon of the 60s, 70s or 80s, such as Janis Joplin, Barbra Streisand or Dolly Parton; music fans will adore dozing to the sound of their favourite female legends during an indulgent massage.The best part of being in the Maldives is being forced to relax. There’s no feelings of guilt that you should be waking up early and sightseeing, and there’s plenty of relaxing to do here: collapse on a hammock by the shimmering lagoon, stroll to any of the island’s many restaurants for a bite to eat, or spy on a turtle just a splash away from your villa. But the great thing about Finolhu is that when you’re done relaxing, there’s always a party to be found.

Thinking of visiting the Maldives? Here is what we recommend;

Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights on full board basis at Maafushivaru, Maldives in a beach villa, including flights with SriLankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers in resort. Lead-in prices for May 2017 are from £2,323 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: IO0625

Angelfish Travel (www.angelfish.travel or 01580 712690) offer 7 nights at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort, staying at a Beach Pool Villa on a B&B basis from £2,649 per person, including return economy flights with Emirates from Gatwick, domestic flight and speedboat transfers and all service charges and taxes.

Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 708 or abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers 7 nights at Amilla Fushi from £3,395pp based on two adults sharing an Ocean Reef House on a Half Board basis. Including international flights, seaplane transfers and a 50 minute spa experience per person.

Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk or 0344 557 3859) offers seven nights in a Lagoon Villa at Finolhu, Maldives from £2,997 per person, including scheduled Qatar Airways flights from London Heathrow, ‘Full Board Plus’ accommodation and seaplane transfers, as well as US€1000 resort credit per room per stay.


Laura FrenchLaura FrenchDecember 5, 2016
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14min244

“So when are you off to Bali?” was the response I usually got when I said I was going to Indonesia. Out of more than 17,000 volcanic islands – over 900 of which are inhabited – it’s only one that’s really made it into the mainstream.

But believe it or not there’s life beyond the honeymoon haven, and it was with more than a hint of smugness that I set off to escape the crowds and explore this other side – in the form of Java, Flores and Komodo Island, three incredibly distinct isles which float like humpback whales in the heart of the archipelago.

I was on an expedition with Panorama Tours, and after an easy 12-hour flight over to Jakarta from London, we hopped across to Yogyakarta, Jakarta’s smaller, less industrial sibling. Thanks to new non-stop flights to Jakarta with Garuda Indonesia it was a lot quicker and easier than anticipated, and I felt like we’d only just jetted off when we started touching down.

 

Getting cultured in Yogyakarta

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The cultural capital of Java, this is a city where age-old traditions are guarded with unwavering reverence, where the soothing, percussive sounds of the gamelan greet you almost everywhere you go, and where Batik t-shirts and table cloths – created using wax and dye in a way they were centuries ago – fill the streets with vibrant colour and energy.

Among its biggest attractions is the Sultanate’s palace, built in the 18th century. Our visit to the grounds began with a traditional Javanese dance made up of slow, elegant movements to an accompaniment of dream-like music, and although the grounds were surprisingly modest, the royal gardens nearby were spectacular, centred around a bright blue pool and cream, colonial-style architecture.

It’s not just the artistic heritage and architecture which give the area its appeal, of course. Java is known throughout the world for its coffee, and among its most treasured is Pawon Luwak, whose headquarters lie in the form of a tiny, hole-in-the-wall style coffee shop 40kms outside the city (and close to the famed Borobudur temple). This is no ordinary coffee; it’s formed from wild coffee berries excreted by the wild luwak creature -which means it’s basically roasted excrement. As one of the most expensive and rarest coffees in the world it’s known for its quality and taste – think bitter, marmite-y flavours and a distinctive, arabica aroma – and the cafe is well worth a visit, even if drinking the stuff doesn’t sound too appetising.

 

The Borobudur Temple

borobudur

It was the Borobudur temple which really shone here, however; located in the Magelang region, it’s the largest Buddhist monument in the world, a towering collection of bell-like structures – ‘or stupas’ – dating back to the eighth century. At that time Buddhism was still the main religion, and Islam and Christianity, which now make up the island’s faith, hadn’t yet been brought over.

The best time to see this extravaganza is at sunrise. A 4am wake-up call led to us doing exactly that, and I’m glad we did; think rows upon rows of stones shaped like iced gems, silhouetted against a red sky of fire made all the more dramatic by bright, fluffy yellow clouds. Draped in a thick sheet of mist, the whole scene was filled with mystique, intercepted only by a volcano (Mount Merapi) in the distance and its still plume of smoke. And, unlike at Angkor Wat, there were only a few others around; it was silent bar the distant coo of cockerels. I didn’t think we could beat that sight, but I was quickly proven wrong. Later that day we took a horse and cart tour round the nearby village of Candirejo, galloping past bright green papaya trees and giant banana leaves and exploring several community projects, from cassava chip-making to gamelan-playing (at which I was predictably terrible).

The five-star Plataran Resort and Spa made an excellent base for exploring both of these, and I can’t recommend it highly enough; the villas themselves were as stunning as the green, mountainous surrounds, and we had our own private pool overlooking the sweeping jungle views. You can hire bikes to explore the area; we did, and were greeted with warm, welcome smiles from local villagers alongside ‘bah’s from the roadside goats and squawks from the waddling chickens.

Of course it would have been sacrilege to leave Java without getting a massage – it’s normal for locals to have one every week, according to our guide Eko – so we ended our explorations here with one. It’s safe to say this was a memorable experience, consisting of some shock-inducing foot slaps and slightly painful toe clicking, but when it finished I left feeling completely relaxed – and ready for our onward flight to Bali (a transfer point for Flores).

Flores and Komodo Island

Komodo di Pulau Rinca Taman Nasional Komodo
Komodo di Pulau Rinca Taman Nasional Komodo

Flores, specifically the town of Labuan Bajo, is known largely as the gateway to Komodo Island, but this former fishing village is worthy of some time in itself. We ventured over to the beach there the following evening and discovered one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen – swathes of bright pink, red and orange, all perfectly reflected in the sea, took over the whole beach, and I felt like I’d stepped inside an impressionist painting. That’s until the plates of food came out – king prawns, grilled fish and flavourful meat dishes, and I was swiftly plopped back down onto earth (we ate at Atlantis On the Rock, part of the Plataran resort, and it was one of the best meals of the trip).

 

 

But Komodo Island was hands down the highlight; after a two-hour speed boat ride filled with awakening gusts of wind and fistfuls of salty ocean spray, we arrived, and within two minutes we’d already spotted our first beast.

komodo-dragon-2Admiring its black claws scraping around like unwashed fingernails, scaly skin wrinkling in folds and small, black beady eyes staring out from the side, I felt a little unnerved, but it was hard to believe this creature – sitting rigidly without the slightest sign of movement – was the world’s most ferocious lizard.

But ferocious it is; unique to Indonesia, Komodo dragons, which reach up to 3 metres in size, eat their own eggs and have little problem with eating each other in a fight, our guide told us. Camouflaged against the dusty, barren surroundings, they wait for their prey to approach them unknowingly and snack on the likes of deer and buffalo. They devour up to 60kg and live off of it for the next few weeks, and their saliva is so poisonous it can kill a human in the space of a few hours.

All of this wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear as I sat crouching a metre away posing for a selfie, a string of saliva protruding from its large mouth, but I live to tell the tale. And after a two-hour trek spotting a further seven of the dragons, accompanied by the constant, dry hiss of crickets, we departed for pink beach. Here the sand is vaguely rose-tinted at the edges, but it’s the water – deliciously drinkable, the colour of blue curaçao – that holds the most appeal. Snorkelling off the boat, I spotted bright blue starfish, multi-coloured schools and huge clumps of pale pink coral, and it was with more than a hint of sadness that we headed back to base.

 

Beach time in Bali

But I didn’t have to worry about getting bored; our final stop was Bali, where we pitched up to Katamama – a new, edgy, boutique hotel plonked in the heart of fashionable Seminyak, where paperback books are scattered across high tables, chill-out music plays from the speakers and cool, wooden decor fills the interiors. My room had a mini-bar complete with cocktail-mixing recipes and equipment – enough said.

Seminyak itself had plenty to offer, including high-end beachfront restaurants like Alila, where the soft shell crab, served against a backdrop of exotic, crashing waves, was exceptional. The nearby Potato Beach Club is worthy of a visit too – drawing in a young, cool crowd from across the region with tropical cocktails and pumping music day and night, it’s the type of place where you’ll end up staying a lot longer than you planned (you’ll also need to book a ‘bed’ – AKA table – in advance). But I couldn’t help feeling a little nostalgic for the authenticity of Java, the peace of Flores and the wildlife of Komodo. There’s no denying that Bali is beautiful, but for a taste of real Indonesia it’s worth venturing further afield too – even if that does mean drinking coffee made with regurgitated beans and coming face to face with the world’s most dangerous lizards. But let’s face it, where else  in the world can you do that?

 

Garuda Indonesia:

www.garuda-indonesia.com

Long haul and island hopping fares start from £750 Economy and £2,990 Business Class, including flights (from LHR – CGK, DPS – SIN, SIN – LHR) and the domestic island hopping pass (CGK- JOG, JOG-DPS, DPS- LBJ, LBJ-DPS). Booking is valid in November 2016 and travel is valid until March 2017.

Wonderful Indonesia Travel Passdomestic island hopping fares start from £30.

Panorama Destination:

www.panorama-destination.com

Panorama can accommodate tailor-made programmes to suit various budgets, including stays in the hotels mentioned.

 



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