Though located just 50 miles from the tourist crowds of Phuket, Thailand’s Similan Islands might as well be in another universe. The nine isles, clustered off the Phang Nga coast in the cerulean waters of the Andaman Sea, have been protected as a national preserve for more than 30 years. They are as unspoiled as the nearby coast is overrun.
Given their much-hyped aquatic scenery (the reefs are routinely listed among the world’s top snorkeling and diving destinations) and dearth of on-island lodgings (there are none, apart from a few dozen bungalows that the National Park Service maintains for overnight travelers), the islands are explored best by boat. And though group-tour cruises and private charters abound, one live-aboard excursion stands out: the new Similan Island Escape, which Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve launched in October.
Up to six guests at a time can experience the weeklong trip, which starts with a three-night stay at one of the property’s luxe Royal Beach Villas, each with an infinity pool, 24-hour butler service and access to Thai massages and herbal infusions at the resort’s ESPA spa. A transfer by private helicopter to Phuket connects with a luxury yacht, which then embarks for three days of sea exploration.
Once guests are aboard, the bespoke adventure begins. Island outings include hikes among dramatic boulder formations like Sailing Boat Rock on Koh Similan, picnics and swims at secluded white-sand beaches on Koh Huyong and Koh Tachai and guided snorkeling and diving excursions with whale sharks (near Koh Bon) and giant manta rays (near Koh Hin Pousar).
The one drawback? The yacht is comfy enough that guests may need a push from the crew to abandon ship. Available through April; six nights, from $25,000; 111 Moo 3 Nongthalay, Muang, Krabi; 66-7/562-8111; ritzcarlton.com.
With its sumptuous beachfront suites, palatial spa and 24-acre property accessible only by a private tunnel from Cabo San Lucas, the Capella Pedregal resort hardly needs a special event to lure in visitors. But its second annual Food & Wine Festival (July 10–14), a decadent culinary occasion limited to just 120 guests, is sure to impress.
The celebration of Baja cuisine features cooking demonstrations by some of the most notable chefs in the west, including Tim Hollingsworth, current chef de cuisine at the French Laundry in Napa; Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas; and Yvan Mucharraz, Capella Pedregal’s new executive chef, who hails from Mexico City’s Tezka. Local vintner and master sommelier Humberto Falcon of Mariatinto winery will orchestrate daily tastings of wines from Baja’s Guadalupe Valley, which has a growing climate similar to that found in Napa and Sonoma.
According to Marco Bustamante, food and beverage director at the resort, the festival’s small size gives guests unparalleled access to the culinary stars. Each cooking demonstration—highlighting locally sourced produce like Baja-farmed organic pork, mangoes and line-caught fish—will have just 60 to 70 attendees. The opening-night wine reception, tequila seminar and after-party make for easy mingling.
The main draws, however, are likely the two evening meals: One is a barbecue beach party at the resort’s Beach Club, with chefs cooking on open grills and a team of mixologists serving Baja-themed cocktails, and the other is a grand five-course dinner prepared by the chefs and complete with dancing.
Given all the planned indulgences, Bustamante has only vague advice for guests worried about their waistlines. “There’s an excellent fitness center here,” he says. “So if you really want to be virtuous and head there between seminars, you can.” Good luck with that. Festival rates start at $3,820 (including accommodations, airport transfers and meals); Camino Del Mar 1; 52-624/163-4300; capellahotels.com.
You are an experienced skier, with years of season-pass practice under your belt. You might even consider yourself an expert. Still, each winter a day comes—maybe when you’re stiff and fatigued from carving through glades or after a punishing mogul run that makes your knees ache—when you can’t help but wonder if taking a few lessons would be worth it.
It can be tough to admit that your ski technique could stand some improvement. But what if you could pair up with an expert instructor—say, a former Olympian? For the first time this winter skiers at Montage Deer Valley will be able to do just that. The resort’s new Ski With a Pro program takes full advantage of the 50-plus Olympic athletes who live and train in the surrounding ski community of Park City, Utah—among them three-time giant slalom Olympian Erik Schlopy, two-time snowboarding Olympian Graham Watanabe and Phil McNichol, former head coach of the men’s Olympic Alpine team.
Skiers who sign on for the three-day program get a full day of personalized instruction with an Olympic skier; the resort assesses each participant’s ability and schedule and matches accordingly. Daily lift tickets, accommodations, breakfast and guided pre- and post-ski stretching sessions at the resort’s wellness center are also included.
According to Andy Damman, Montage Deer Valley’s director of resort activities, Ski With a Pro doesn’t just allow guests the opportunity to ski alongside some of the world’s finest practitioners of the sport—it also gives them the chance to ask questions. “What does an Olympic athlete’s training routine entail? How can children who aspire to be Olympians start to prepare? What are hints and tips to skiing that only Olympians know?” says Damman. “These are the kinds of conversations that will take place while hanging out on the chairlifts with true ski celebrities.” How’s that for bragging rights? Through April 15, 2013; three-day program, from $2,575; 9100 Marsac Ave.; 435-604-1300; montagedeervalley.com.
It’s hard to imagine a more culturally rich destination than the storied isles of Greece. But for a group of guests traveling with French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant this fall, hiking among the architectural relics of Santorini, exploring the Byzantine monasteries of Patmos and Chios and visiting the white-washed villages of Rhodes and Sifnos is just the daytime activities of their itineraries. In the evenings, they will experience another kind of cultural immersion—one in classical music.
Ponant’s eight-day classical music cruise (which departs from Athens on September 28 and ends in Istanbul on October 5) brings aboard members of the renowned U.S.-based Rose Colored Glasses Chamber Ensemble, who have played with the likes of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra. The musicians will host a series of onboard concerts, performing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt and Dvorák; they will also host lectures on topics like the oeuvre of Debussy and nationalism in music.
“The program we’ve put together is a serious one, one that we hope will invite discussion,” says Joel Pitchon, the ensemble’s violinist and a music professor at Smith College. “But it’s also meant to inspire. After all, traveling through a gorgeous physical environment, listening to gorgeous music—it’s the most beautiful combination of experiences imaginable.”
Performances will take place in the state-of-the-art, 250-seat theater on Ponant’s megayacht, L’Austral, which also features two restaurants serving haute and classic French cuisine; a Sothys spa with swimming pool and fitness studio; and 132 opulent staterooms with marble baths and private balconies. Who says high culture can’t coexist with high comfort? Cruises start at $3,451 (guided excursions of port destinations available at extra cost); 888-400-1082; en.ponant.com.
When the Plaza’s grand, ornate Edwardian Room opens its doors this week for the first time since the 1990s, the space will be—in a sense—coming full circle. Originally opened in 1907 as a gentlemen’s café, the 3,800-square-foot room, with its paneled oak wainscoting, elaborately trussed ceiling and expansive corner views over Central Park and Fifth Avenue, has reinvented itself several times. Only now, though, is the space returning to its roots as a particular lure for men. Its new incarnation: the debut U.S. flagship of luxury menswear designer Angelo Galasso.
Galasso’s bold ready-to-wear collections—which employ exotic skins, vivid colors and prints and signature details like hexagonal shirt buttons—might not at first seem the most obvious choice for the formal Spanish Renaissance Revival space (a top hat and cutaway coat might seem more at home). But as celebrity fans like Al Pacino, David Beckham and Jay-Z know, Galasso’s dramatic style is matched with a bespoke designer’s attention to craftsmanship and detail. Every item in the new boutique—including ready-to-wear jackets, shirts, suits, belts, watches and even underwear—can be customized to order by Galasso’s cadre of on-site tailors. Of course, made-to-measure designs can take a few weeks to complete, since all of Galasso’s fabrics, materials and assemblage—like the retail shop’s couches, tables, rugs and even racks—are “Fatto in Italia” (made in Italy). angelogalasso.com
This month, for the first time, Montblanc’s signature men’s fragrance, Legend, will be available in U.S. stores. The scent, created by award-winning perfumier Olivier Pescheux (who has also designed for brands like Lanvin, Fragonard and Dyptique), is an understated but masculine blend of lavender, bergamot, Evernyl (reminiscent of oakmoss) and Pomarose (which combines elements of apple, rose, and geranium).
The fragrance’s distinctive, label-less bottle is flask-shaped and made from smooth black glass; it was designed by the same team that created such iconic Montlblanc pieces as the Meisterstück line of writing instruments. Look for it on the shelves of department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
For the past two winter seasons, visitors to Florida’s Bal Harbour Shops have been able to browse through more than just the outdoor plaza’s 100-plus luxury boutiques. They’ve also been able to enjoy an array of special installations, performances and artist appearances while they shop—the product of a village-sponsored event series, Bal Harbour Art Nights. On March 29, the series will wrap up its second year with a finale of special free programs, all to be held at the shopping center between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The offerings will include a courtyard exhibit of light-catching wire-mesh sculptures by artist Sara Modiano and a reading and signing of painter Diego Singh’s first monograph, “Table for One,” at the Books & Books shop. More artwork will be on display at several of the Shops’ fashion boutiques—including drawings by Miami street artist Santiago Rubino at Jimmy Choo; a book launch by photographer Iran Issa-Khan at Oscar de la Renta; and a children’s art program co-sponsored by the Miami Children’s Museum and artist Stephan Dominique at the Oxygene boutique. Following the Bal Harbour Art Nights finale, at 9 p.m., the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort will host a dinner and auction (tickets $200) to support the Sara Modiano Foundation for the Arts. http://www.balharbourflorida.com.
Since 2008, residents of New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood have had one of the city’s top spas right in their midst—but have never had access to it themselves. As of this week, though, Shibui Spa, set in a spectacular subterranean space below the Greenwich Hotel, is taking reservations for those who aren’t hotel guests. Now, for the first time, those wanting to experience the spa’s singular atmosphere (which centers around a lantern-lit, 40-foot swimming pool over which a 250-year-old wooden Japanese farmhouse roof is suspended) don’t have to book a room. Among the signature treatments new customers can take advantage of are the Drunken Lotus massage, which uses hot, sake-soaked towels to relax and detoxify stressed muscles (from $200 for 60 minutes); and the Bamboo Glow body treatment, which offers a vigorous bamboo–and–ginger grass scrub, followed by an hour-long massage ($350 for 120 minutes).
Most fashionable men are well-versed in the details of the Neapolitan-style suit. Unstructured, with a soft shoulder, high-cut armhole and an easier drape than its English counterparts, it’s been a staple of many style emissaries (including Clark Gable and Sean Connery) since the mid-20th century. For today’s best-dressed guys, however, actually procuring one of these suits has been something of an ordeal: The top Neapolitan tailors (there are only a handful, and all are family-owned) are bespoke operations and have few outposts outside their native city.
That all changes this week, when the vaunted Neapolitan design house of Cesare Attolini opens its first location in the U.S. The Attolini family (specifically, paterfamilias Vincenzo) has long been credited with creating the original design for the Neapolitan-style suit; now, the family’s creations will be available for the first time to New York customers. The 2,500-square-foot space includes a private second-floor atelier that offers signature Attolini made-to-order pieces (starting at $5,500). A good bit of shelf space, though, is devoted to the brand’s ready-to-wear garments and accessories—such as cashmere sweaters, silk ties and pocket squares. cesareattolini.com.
Marius Bercea, Temple as a Circus, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Blain Southern, London.
When crowds of international artists, curators, collectors and critics converge in Manhattan this week for the annual Armory Show (running from March 8–11 at its traditional spot: Piers 92 and 94), they’ll have some exciting new programs to look forward to. As well as playing host to 120 exhibitors from around the globe, with a special emphasis on Nordic countries, this year’s fair will debut Armory Film, a new selection of contemporary video and experimental films by auteurs like Alex Prager and Andres Serrano. Solo Projects, another new initiative being unveiled this year, showcases single artist presentations, among them Wallace Whitney and Kate Owens. Perhaps most enticing of all, the festival is launching a new VIP hour, offering VIP ticket-holders the chance to view works and speak to exhibitors for an hour each day before the show opens to the general public. thearmoryshow.com.
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