Part of the Ndau Collection, Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

A Surprise Visit to Victoria Falls

We were preparing to leave Savuti Camp and our host, Dylan Harriss had come up with a big surprise. We are going to make a little detour to Victoria Falls to vist one of his friend’s shop and factory. One of the perks of having a private charter!! We can change our plans!
The name of the shop is Ndau located at Elephant Walk in Victoria Falls and it lived up to it’s considerable reputation. I love any excuse to stop and shop for exotic gifts, so I was thrilled. I came out with crocodile bracelets and feathered earrings. Yay!
We were also delighted to visit the Colonial Grand Dame – Victoria Falls Hotel established in 1904 and beautiful. Recently renovated, if has that old colonial feeling- I hope to get back to stay there soon.
We were cleared to circle the Falls and I have never experienced such a spectacular sight. A wonderful memory we will all treasure. Thank you Dylan and Gavin.

View of Victoria Falls- Zimbabwean Side

What a thrill to buzz the Falls!!

Welcome to Dumatau Camp- Linyanti Reserve, Botswana

How can you top that welcome!!!!

Savuti Camp- Linyanti Reserve, Botswana

Next stop was Savuti Camp, again a Wilderness Camp, on the Linyanti Reserve ( northwest corner of Botswana). Savuti Camp is a wilderness area destination, far from the crowds and along the northern borders of this sandy, thorn-tree country. This is the northern most reach of the Linyanti river system, which in most years has been a barren, grassy gully. Four years ago, the water from the main river 17km’s away reached this and flowed down it creating a lifeline for the wildlife that has learnt to live in this harsh and forbidding zone. The result is a wildlife experience with a difference, and game drives are never sure what they will find. Tents were large and comfortable. Staff was outstanding; so friendly and happy to see us. They greeted us at the entrance with a song and dance, along with a wonderful bar and snacks. Love those gin and tonics out in the bush!!
Savuti is famous for it’s enormous elephant population. In dry season, one can see four to five hundred elephants at one time.

Another View from the Tent- Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Vumbura Plains- Okavango Delta, Botswana

Vumbra Plains is one of Wilderness resorts’ premier properties. Each of the suites has been constructed with a totally private view of the delta floodplains, and are shaded by ancient, tall Jackalberry trees. The rooms are all open-plan in design and have a sunken lounge, spacious bedroom, over-large shower (in-door and outside too), dressing area and writing desk. The outside decks have a comfortable sala, with large comfy cushions to snooze on and of course a small plunge pool for those torridly hot days! There is 24 hour electricity and bed lights for those comfy evenings with a book just before going to sleep in spacious softness, with percale sheets and duvets. In the winter months, a hot-blanket or a hot water-bottle are available. These cabins are a luxury indeed. All of the suites are linked to the main lodge by a raised wooden walkway at the back of the suites that allows the hippo and other game unobstructed access to the river, and allows safe access for guests too. The main lodge with a large fronted service area is spacious, has a dining area, a lounge and a seating area that is slightly separate from the main lounge.
A birdwatcher’s dream, one can sit out on their private deck and be totally entertained.
We took small boats down the river late one afternoon and had sundowners on the boats all tied together. Sunsets in Africa are unforgettable.
Game drives were terrific-hippos, lions, giraffe , elephant, Kudu, Oryx, ending with an incredible leopard sighting. I really hated to leave Vumbra Plains after a very short two days.

Water Lily – Okavango Delta

Sunrise Botswana- Jack’s Camp

Tracking Lions

Lion’s Call

Jack’s has no electricity after 5PM so when we returned to our tents for bed, we had lanterns. An interesting experience for me, I had never turned on a lantern, and when I move it it immediately went out- plummeting me in complete blackness. Fortunately I could put my hands on the trusty flashlight that Africa Inscribed had supplied us, ran out waving it, and got one of the staff to teach me the ins and outs of lighting and shutting down a lantern. Another new skill.
Next morning I was awakened by a lion’s roar- what a wakeup call!!
Game drive and bush breakfast were in store. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day. Then we hopped back on our lovely PC12 and flew off to Vumbra Plains

Trance Dance at the BaSarwa Bushmen’s camp- Botswana

An afternoon with the Bushmen- Jack’s Camp, Botswana

We had the pleasure of taking a walk with the local bushmen. Some the new skills we learned were eating sour berries, catching small wildlife with a stick trap, and cleaning a scorpion’s eyes. As the sun was setting, the tribe went into a trance dance in a circle around a fire. A totaling memorizing experience, it depends on the tribal chief’s mood. He and 2 elders dance around a fire with the tribal ladies chanting. He works himself into a trance, contacting his ancestors. Watching the fire, under a canopy of endless stars, with the dancing and chanting is an experience I will never forget.

Private Charter- The Way to Go!!

Our Africa Inscribed Pilatus PC12NG- YAY!

Traveling in Style with Africa Inscribed

We are on a journey with my favorite safari operators, Africa Inscribed.
Dylan Harriss and Gavin Ford started the company five years ago, and are a force to be reckoned with, on the safari scene. Based in South Africa, AI specializes in white glove private travel. Gavin, recognized as one of Africa’s premier guides has been escorting adventurers for over 30 years. They come by their expertise the expensive way, spending at least 200 days a year exploring, and experiencing camps and lodges all over Africa. No detail is too small. They build strong relationships with camp owners and staff. We partner with Africa Inscribed to make sure our clients have the best personal private experience .

Johannesburg is usually an overnight because international flights land too late in the day to connect with another airline. I recommend at least one day in Johannesburg for a tour with Robin Binckes who will do a visit to historical sites of South Africa starting with a breakfast intensive history of SA. By starting with a historical background, the entire trip takes on a different meaning if you are staying in SA.

Saxon Hotel- Johannesburg South Africa

Highlights of the Starwood Luzury Showcase- Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai

Highlights of PURE: Song Saa- Over the Water Bungalow


Image courtesy of Song Saa

Highlights of PURE

Highlights of PURE

My focus was mostly on SE Asia and Africa, but I found some incredible new properties and Suppliers from all over the world.

Song Saa-Cambodia- At the top of my list.
Brand new 5 star luxury island resort off the coast of Cambodia. To get there one would fly to Phonm Phen and helicopter, or fly to Siem Reap and fly a shuttle.

Tiger Blue- Indonesia – a beautifully fitted Charter Junk that sails the Indonesian islands.
Some set dates for 2013. Really looks like a spectacular option for SE Asia.

Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio- Uruguay-
Artistic, food and wine experience. Fabulous property combines with its sister resort 5 minutes away on the beach.

Denis Private Island- Seycelles
a lovely private island alternative to North Island, and Fregate. Cottages looked very comfortable, and lots of activities.

In Any Event- UK
Darling ladies that are incredibly connected to any country house or higher up in the UK. They have behind closed door access to private gardens, homes, people,etc.

Baines River Camp- Zambia- Luxury camp located on the Zambizi. Lodgings looked upscale and delightful.

Selous Camps in Tanzania- More authentic Safari experience.

Castiglion del Bosco- Near Siena owned by the Ferragamo family, this villa is done so beautifully and elegantly one could move here.

Villa des Orangers- Marrakech- The place to stay in Marrakech

Camp Ya Kanzi- Chyulu Hills, Kenya- Highly environmental luxury camp with a huge focus on giving back to the tribes that surround them.

Tsawlu Kalahari Reserve-South Africa Relais & Chateaux Luxury Camp on the Kalahari Desert. Everything is carefully thought out. Game drive at your leisure- service is designed to revolve around the guests and their wishes.

Maison des Reves- Morocco- Extraordinary Kasbah and Desert camp experiences.

Westin Palace Madrid

Westin Palace Madrid

I am impressed with the Westin Palace. It does not feel like a large hotel.
The concierge personally called me in the US before I left to make sure my transfer times were correct.
Transfers went beautifully, I was met at the airport after baggage claim.
Nice driver, spoke perfect English, not too chatty.
The car was a brand new Mercedes or BMW. It was dark.
Check in was speedy because I am a Starwood member and there is a dedicated place for members to check in.
I made arrangements for dinner at the Rotunda- their restaurant. Traditional elegant restaurant with a huge stained glass dome covering most of the round room.
Drinks were well presented, it was the largest G&T I have ever been served.
The Lobby was elegant, large and welcoming. Furnishings were Spanish antiques.
I was given an Executive suite and the television had a welcome to me on the screen.
Room 406 had a mirrored foyer/hallway, leading into the bedroom.
The room was short walk from the elevator.
There was a small balcony and the door opened for fresh air.
Rooms were inviting, bright, and large – you could actually put on makeup in the bathroom. One bedroom wall was dedicated to closets that were mirrored with a traditional window pane paneling.
I loved the hallways done with dark wood, but well lit and the carpeting was an elegant Persian pattern.
A great mix of tradition with our modern lifestyle. Comfortable, and wonderful personal service.

Recipes from the Road – favorite dishes from the Mandarin Oriental

I am incredibly privileged to have received recipes for my favorite dishes from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Sticky rice with Mangos and Pomelo Salad. Here is the recipe for sticky Rice with Mangos from Executive Thai chef Vichit Mukura – Oriental Baan Rim Naan. His bio follows.

The Oriental Baan Rim Naam
KHOW NIEW MAMUANG
Coconut sticky rice with mango
 
 
Ingredients for coconut mixture (part 1)
1.5​cups​thick coconut milk
170​grams​white sugar
8 ​grams​salt
1 ​leaf​pandanus leaf
 
Method
- mix thick coconut milk, white sugar, salt and pandanus leaf together in a sauce pan and heat them over medium heat until boiling. Strain them and set aside
 
Ingredients for sticky rice (part 2)
2​cups​raw sticky rice (Khiew Ngoo)
 
Method
- rinse raw sticky rice until the water is transparent and soak them for 5 hrs. at least or over night , then rinse well again and strain them
- on the stainless tray with cheese cloth, put the rinsed sticky rice on and wrap them with the same cheese cloth and bring to steam for ½ hr. until cooked
 
How to do the coconut sticky rice
- pour the coconut mixture (from part 1) in cooked sticky rice (still hot
​from part 2), then stir them until well mixed, cover them tightly ​about 15 mins
- remove the cover and stir them again, then cover about 15 more mins to be well blended
- served the coconut sticky rice with ripe mango

Traditional side of the Siam Bangkok

Entering a secret lagoon- Krabi Thailand

Recipe from the Thai restaurant Ritz Phulay Bay – Krabi Thailand

The best Thai Soup -Chicken in Coconut milk, I have ever tasted.

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Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay- Krabi Thailand

A little slice of heaven, I think this is one of the most beautiful hotels and settings I have ever experienced.  It was filmed in the movie Hangover 2 as the destination for the “wedding”.  Service is far beyond anything I have encountered, and Asian service is legendary!
Our butler is Kun Annie( Kun is a reference of respect), and I would REALLY  like to take her home. She sees after our every wish, from laundry to boat tours of the islands, arranging transfers to our next destination, trips into the village,  and as insignificant as how to to how to operate the TV.  She appears at  our poolside sala with pen in hand to take notes for our latest wishes. Oh my gosh. 
The resort has three restaurants, a Thai, an International, and a Seafood restaurant. 
We dined in the Thai restaurant last night, and the Chicken soup in Coconut milk was the best I have ever tasted. Tonight will be the Seafood restaurant.  
One other observation: the music at the pool is outstanding sort of Buddha Bar- Cafe Costes compilations. Recipes are coming from Phulay Bay’s French chef and I will post them soon.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay- Krabi Thailand

Stunning resort! Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay – Krabi Thailand

Feeding Koi at the Aureum Hotel, Bagan

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Mandarin Oriental Bangkok- like coming home

It’s the little things: being welcomed with jasmine bracelets
Orchids all over the room 
The elevator attendant that punches your floor without being told.
Being called by name by everyone. 
Ice, our maitre’d at breakfast,  who always has a plate of mangosteens and fresh sliced  mangos at my place.
Eating breakfast on the river- watching the ever vibrant boat traffic.
600 count sheets
Local fruit placed in our room everyday.
The hall butler who runs to unlock our door before I can fumble for my key
The white chocolate elephant with candies and personally signed welcome notes.
The pool beverages constantly being refilled without being asked
Smiles on every employee 
The night note on our pillow with an orchid
Bright lights in the bathroom 
Unlimited refreshing bath salts

Welcome note from the Mandarin Oriental

White chocolate elephant- yum!!!

Singita Sabora Tented Camp- amazing food quality from a tent!

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Singita Sabora Tented Camp

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Singita Sasakwa- image courtesy of Singita Sasakwa

Recipes from the Road: Singita Grumeti Sasakwa

Probably the finest resort in East Africa, Singita Sasakwa is unrivaled in elegance.
Patterned after an English Manor House, Sasakwa sits over the Grumeti Plain offering magnificent views of game below.

The Dollar is at a new high! Perfect time to travel!

The Euro is trading at 1.27- lowest in two years. Now is the perfect time to plan that trip to Ireland, France, Italy, Turkey, Prague, Germany or anywhere the Euro is traded. Now the luxury hotel you have been dying to see is in reach! Restaurants are affordable again! Cultural offerings are possible! I would love to help plan your dream trip. It’s a great value opportunity!

Amanzoe- Picture courtesy of Amanresorts

Wellesley Knightsbridge opening in London 2012

I am delighted to hear that Stefano Lodi and his team are opening a fabulous new hotel in London – December 2012.
Located on one of London’s most prestigious addresses in Knightsbridge is the site for a new 36 suite luxury hotel scheduled to open on 1st December 2012, which will parallel the very best of hotels in the world.
The Wellesley, is located at 11 Knightsbridge, managed by City and Country Hotels and is being developed by Rhimesong at a cost of £36 million, the property was formerly commercial offices.
The hotel will take on both a contemporary and classic style with interiors created by award-winning design experts Fox Linton, combining the building’s 1920s art deco history and glamour with stylish contemporary touches. In addition to its 36 suites, the hotel will incorporate a Cigar Lounge and Terrace, The Crystal Bar, The Oval Restaurant, and the Jazz Room.
Can’t wait to see!

Pool Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat

Lobby Grand a hotel du Cap Ferrat

Lobby Hotel du Cap-heaven!

Lunch selection Eden Roc

Suite Hotel du Cap

View from suite 33. Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc

Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc

Carlton hotel Nice – all done up for Christmas!

Cap Estel, Eze France

Lobby of Cap Estel, Eze

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Bar Cap Estel. Not for the faint hearted- gin and tonic was 18Euros.

Gardens Cap Estel

View from my terrace. Cap Estel. Eze

Nice place to have margaritas

Plunge pool

Pillows on a bed Las Alamandas

Bedroom LasAlamandas

One of the rooms

Las Alamandas

Las Alamandas a little gem near Puerta Vallarta

Cottars 1920′s camp

A good comment from Dylan Harriss of Africa Inscribed, about choosing a camp in the Maasai Mara

I think the most important thing when choosing a property in the Mara is it must be on a concession within the park….this will allow good game viewing with limited vehicles around as well as having the option of going into the actual reserve should the guests want. We really like Mara Plains and Cottars for this reason.

Tent 14 Olonana

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Olonana view from the bed

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Olonana Masai Mara- one of my favorite camps in Kenya. View from Tent # 3 deck

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Deck of main house, Sirikoi -Lewa Downs, Kenya

Sirikoi living room

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Bathroom with huge tub Ol Donyo Wuas

Ol Donyo Wuas family suite terrace

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Ritz Carlton Dubai and The Address Dubai

We are on our way home, and we routed through Dubai.
Coming over, we stayed at the Address which is downtown and close to the airport. The bar is on the top of the building and the view was outstanding. The hotel was fabulous, rooms beautifully done, and breakfast was one of the best we had on the whole trip.
On the return, we decided to stay at the Ritz Carlton in the beach area. True to form, the Ritz lived up to it’s brilliant reputation. The hotel is done in classical Arabian style, the rooms are airy and classically decorated. Beds are amazing. We dropped off right to sleep. We splurged and
had lunch at Burj Al Arab the hotel that looks like a sail. Now that hotel is fabulous in an over the top way. Lunch was
just incredible. The Al Manturuh was on the 27th floor and you can see one of the Palm residential areas. We also
visited the famed Mall and the Ski Slope! I could not believe
it! Temperature was 3 degrees. It is enormous! We had to put
on boots and ski coats just to go in to the area. Nelson
actually skied, and he is really good! The Emirates Mall is Nirvana for any shopper.

Dutch House, Galle Sri Lanka

When a client says to me: we won’t spend anytime in the room so book an inexpensive one, I have to change their mind. Travel is about exploring, learning and experiencing the location. Enriching your life. Part of that experience is your hotel. If you are surrounded with a beautiful sense of place, excellent service, relaxing sleep, great food, your travel experience will be immensely enhanced. And that is before you see the sites! Dutch house in Galle is that kind of special place. It is a historic villa, built in 1712 by the head of Dutch East India Company-also known as VOC. It is one of the oldest and best preserved Dutch Mansions in Galle. In it’s time it was the only house on the hill overlooking the hill and dominated the fort and harbour, where it’s occupants could see ships coming and going. The best part is that the interior decoration is equal to the outside house. Beautifully furnished with art and Dutch local Antiques, I feel like I am staying in a Dutch museum! I am In Heaven! Sun House, it’s sister hotel is equally stunning. I feel like I am on the set of the movie Elephant Walk.