At the ripe old age of 26, Emmanuel Burgio has already given up a career in investment banking. Which was a very smart move for the Frenchman, who was born in Holland, raised in Cannes, and now lives in South America. The bespoke travel company he founded two years ago, Blue Parallel, makes much better use of his wonderful hospitality. Catering to individuals and families, Blue Parallel specializes in rarely visited places like the Patagonian glaciers and Chile's Atacama Desert, while making sure that accommodations, service, and excursions are at the very highest level.
Indeed, our trip to the lakes of Rio Negro in Argentina, which we arranged only three weeks before we left (the company is particularly adept at handling last-minute requests) began auspiciously. Diplomatic passes mean that, upon touchdown in Buenos Aires, one doesn't have to wait in line (but instead in the VIP lounge, while staff collect the bags). One is also issued cell phones with the speed-dial set to Burgio and his associate Julio Suaya.
During the stopover in Buenos Aires, it was a shopping run with two terrific personal shoppers, Maria Jose Wuille-Bille and Annie Ochoa; a stroll through Recoleta cemetery with well-connected guide Cora Huergo de Elizalde, who provided a crash course on old Buenos Aires society; a preview of Philippe Starck's forthcoming hotel, The Faena; a private box at Teatro Colon; and a quickly arranged tour (simply because we expressed interest) of the Museo Evita with one of the museum's directors (the exhibit of Eva Peron's clothes was fantastic).
In the Rio Negro area, where we stayed at the well-known Llao Llao resort, our terrific host, Magdalena Kast, knew just how to show off the region's rugged beauty (which is often and justly compared with Switzerland). A day of sailing on Juan Andres Tato's elegant 44-foot ketch Bonita, was followed by a barbecue on a deserted beach. Adventurous souls may prefer to raft the Class III rapids of the Manso River; others may be perfectly content with the indoor-outdoor pool overlooking the mountains.
The most memorable highlight of this area was Peuma Hue, a rustic but elegant 12-bedroom ranch on 500 acres bordering Lake Gutierrez and the dramatic peak Mount D'Agostini. Co-owner Evelyn Hoter takes particular care when arranging activities such as mountain biking, fly-fishing, and kayaking. The rest of her staff are equally conscientious, from manager Marcelo Marpegan to horse wrangler Cristiana Barret to Jose and Silvia Torres, who attempted to teach us the Tango. And, of course, Blue Parallel added a few touches of its own: a local sommelier gave a tutorial on Argentine wines, and a group of local musicians performed a concert in the ranch's charming chapel. Prices vary depending on trip; this one, 7 nights with all meals and activities, was $6,000 a person; 800-256-5307; www.blueparallel.com.