NINE TRIPS TO INDIA
and I never got to Jodhpur, until now. The largest westernmost city
of Rajasthan, and the state capital, the Blue City is small enough
to retain the sense of Old India, but big enough to display a burgeoning
energy. This is a city of crafts, where the weavings, clothing and
jewellery excel. Great deals abound and authentic, traditional rugs
and fabrics surround you. Towering above, the massive Mehrangarh
Fort presides over the landscape dominating the panorama. Around
the market square 122 m below, a constant hum of activity prevails
as people go about their daily business. You never knew there were
so many bangles for sale in the world. Much the same along the lanes
of the old city, where tiny shops open out onto narrow streets,
and a rich symphony for the senses is ever present.
I stayed two nights at the Raas Haveli in the heart
of the Old City. A regenerated compound with a sleek modern wing,
two restaurants and really romantic suites set in classic buildings.
This is a new property, open only a year and it is finding its way.
A team of world-class managers work at bringing the global standard
to a beautiful boutique destination. Remarkable views, a fine chef,
and you will love the bathrooms. Enlightened architecture, a great
gift shop, Kama Ayurvedic amenities, a blue tuk-tuk for guests,
and an optimal location, all good signs of this promising small
48 hours in Lisboa
is a bargain. Cheaper than London, Paris and the USA,
its faded glory boasts a fine local cuisine and wines, classic
architecture and a thriving outdoor life on the streets.
While in Lisboa I had the pleasure of viewing two
properties from the Heritage family of five hotels located
in the capital city.
Heritage Av Liberdade is the perfect business hotel
and excellent value. It does everything right, preserving a landmark
building and mixing in an international style of hospitality. Its
central location means many offices are within close walking distance.
The breakfast IQ is at a genius level,
and the 42 rooms with their especially brilliant baths get high
marks. New Portuguese art can be seen on all sides, in details like
the illuminated iron room numbers and some daring digital images
in the lobby. It is not family-friendly, as a lot of French and
German guests observed, but everyone speaks English, and the place
becomes your home quite quickly.
Later, I made my way up to the Castelo de São
Jorge, which overlooks the city, where the 14-room Solar do Castelo
is located. Welcome to another of those dream places, where the
tension of the modern world fades away and you step into a zone
of distant history. Many rooms like the exceptional no. 11 have
castle views. Room 12 and the mythological room 21, with its exposed
beam ceiling, have river views. Room 10 has a window onto the castle
from its bathroom sink. Think romantic weekend for two, a place
to propose marriage, or a property to take over in its entirety
for a special event. A great amenities package is provided along
with monogrammed towels and honour bar in the lobby. A visit will
include close-up views of peacocks, who hang around in the courtyard;
they appear to own the place, which is fine. The average guest stays
two to three nights, but I could see extending days longer to wander
the narrow ancient streets. Theres a lot of demand for these
rooms, so book early.
the block youll find the Merceria do Castelo, operated
by the amiable Hugo Carvalho (left). He makes a
fine cup of coffee and a beautiful grilled sandwich. His
local wine list might bring tears to your eyes. Its the perfect
location to drop into for your morning coffee, your midday
snack, or your afternoon pick-me-up. You might say its the
local watering hole, youthful, modern and certainly fun, yet tucked
away in the surreal lanes next to the castle.
Heritage has three other properties I would like to
see. The 112-room Hotel Lisbon likes kids, and its a more
modern structure. The other two remaining Heritage hotels sound
small and personal and quite intriguing and I hope to profile them
for you on my next swing through this great city.
A great escape in the heel of the boot
THANKS LARGELY to the phenomenon
called Eat Pray Love, Toscana has been over-discovered and
the north of Italy now feels overrun with overfed and over-enlightened
people you dont want to over-meet. But theres still
Puglia, a less travelled region in the southeast, which has much
to offer (see also Lucire issue 23 in New Zealand).
Pizzorusso, located just outside Mesagne, a six-bedroom
rental villa, sits in a private compound on its own 15-acre
plot, isolated among olive groves. A loving restorationregeneration
has transformed this eighteenth-century property
into a tasteful and secure base, which retains the feeling
of a country home with the comfort and style of a five-star hotel.
During reconstruction, new stones were cut from the
same quarry where, 500 years ago, the original blocks were hewn.
It isnt cheap, approximately US$8,000
a week, but for a large family travelling, a corporate group looking
for a retreat, or those seeking a truly exclusive experience, this
is the place. The property can arrange for any extras, transport,
guided tours by the inestimable Michela, meals, shopping trips,
cooking lessons, and cultural excursions. Daily maid service is
In the warmer months, the villa is surrounded by swaying
wheat fields, and you are bound to spend a lot of leisure time by
the photogenic swimming pool made for a fashion shoot.
Italians revere the region for its food, and the simple
fare served at the villa by Tommasina was beyond reproach. Get her
to prepare some tortellini al brodo or vegetarian lasagna
and your life will be forever changed.
Twenty minutes away by car, the port city of Brindisi is undergoing a shoreline makeover. A bustling yacht harbour faces new brasseries and restaurants. You can see history on every block, Roman ruins, ornate palazzos, cobbled streets. Only 30 km from the villa is the baroque city of Lecce, with its over-the-top filigree balconies, gargoyles and cherubs, heroic carved facades and Roman
amphitheatre. Music seems to be everywhere and theres a ﬁne
choice of restaurants to try.
I CHECKED into the Relais Santa Croce in Firenze
to see how the excellent Relais & Châteaux style of hospitality
mixes with Baglionis legacy
imprint, a new development. I am happy to report the combination
works optimally: little changes like the removal of a check-in counter,
replaced by an elegant reception table, or the new seating in the
dining room, show an attention to detail that keeps this property
in the top tier.
The Relais has only 28 rooms, with a presidential suite
worthy of visiting heads of state, and the team has a personable
and worldly attitude, always helpful and agreeable. The chef remains
a gift of the godshis latest lunch menu an embarrassment of
choice. Up on the third floor, you can peer through a window cut
into the wall, to view the eighteenth-century wood truss system
which holds up the ceiling of the music room below. Quite a thing
to study, based on a system pioneered by da Vinci.
Relais Santa Croce is one of my favourite hotels in
the world. It offers so much comfort and traditional class and discretion
with a lot of modern sensibility. It would be an ideal place for
an executive retreat, an incentive programme, or a week-long splurge
in the enduring city of art.
remains one of the greatest hotel experiences you can have in Florence
or anywhere. Ive
written before about the splendour of artifact in the décor,
everything real, everything authentic, and none of that big-chain
ethos. Every room a masterpiece, quiet, private, living history.
A team devoted to their guests. The high end of the price spectrum,
but so worth it.
This is a unique lodging, ideal for antique lovers,
and not for the temperamental entitled traveller. The first-floor
ballroom with its incredible ceiling frescoes could serve as the
unforgettable home for an impressive business function. Every return
visit yields a new discovery in its hidden corners, a piece of antique
fabric, a shard of carved marble, or an old print which retells
a classic story. I love this hotel for its quiet elegance and discretion.
With only eleven suites, you are assured of an ideal retreat and
a tranquil haven.
looked into the Madova glove factory shop on the other side
of the Ponte Vecchio to check out the latest styles. Ladies
with size 7 hands always find some real winners in the close-out
box on the counter top. Stop by the window to see what will be showing
up next season in the Fifth Avenue stores. And remember it doesnt
get any more fashion-forward or better priced than this.
I also popped into Infinity leather to check out the
newest trends on the walls. Today, larger bags are coming into fashion,
with some new oversize tote shapes accented by side buckles in a
multitude of colours and finishes. The alligator handbag I mentioned
some months ago in
an earlier article had been swept up by a sharp-eyed lady from
Texas. Since this shop features low production items, its
always a good place for a healthy impulse buy.
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.
Shopping for a durry outside Jodhpur
Pool area, restaurant and the Mehrangarh Fort, as seen from my room
at Rassa Haveli, Jodhpur
Ornate ceiling in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
from Solar do Castelo, Lisboa
from room 21, Solar do Castelo, Lisboa
Staircase and antique arch detail, Solar do Castelo.
Entry way and electric cart at the Solar do Castelo
Pottery shop inside Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa
Pastries, fresh espresso and oranges from the grove at Villa Pizzorusso,
view to kitchen area, Villa Pizzorusso, Puglia
Eighteenth-century truss system holding up music room ceiling at
Relais Santa Croce, Firenze
bar at Palazzo Magnani Feroni, Firenze
Typical corridor, Palazzo Magnani Feroni, Firenze