In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
The ultimate packing list for tech-loving travellers
What technology should you pack when you travel? First, you need something to put everything in. A case such as the Rimowa Salsa Air (from £353; rimowa.com) is ideal. It’s stylish and super-lightweight, with a built-in TSA lock that allows US Customs to open your bag and inspect it without busting it. The case is capacious (35 litres for the cabin size), strong and has quiet, butter-smooth wheels.
There’s also plenty of room inside for tech treats, like an ereader. Best is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (from £109; amazon.co.uk) which has the highest-contrast e-ink screen so you can read it in bright sunlight.
You’ll need a camera, and if you’re clumsy, a waterproof and ruggedised snapper is ideal. The Sony DSC-TX20 (£289; sony.co.uk), which has a 16-megapixel sensor and is slim and stylish, shoots panoramas, 3D images and video as well as regular shots.
There are plenty of mobile phones that take great photos, too. Outstanding is the Nokia Lumia 920, which has a sensor that allows longer exposures. The Lumia is also great on a ski holiday because you can use its touchscreen even with gloves on. Even better, the mapping app allows you to use the phone as a full sat-nav without the cost of roaming charges, because you download free maps in advance and turn roaming off. It’s available from ee.co.uk, priced from £19.99 per month on a two-year contract.
If you take your phone in the car, it’s likely to slide all over the place. However, plonk it on a Grippy Pad (£6.99; firebox.com), and it stays put.
Rick Steves: Europe’s best Christmas traditions
For me, holiday decorating is like a yearly trip down memory lane. Two little red carved birds on a thread remind me of my early “Europe through the gutter” days, when I dropped into the trendy Marimekko shop in Helsinki and bought the only thing I could afford. I hate tourist traps, but I couldn’t resist the delightful German-style-painted wax and delicately carved ornaments from the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop in Rothenburg. And the green and red skates with paper-clip blades summon up memories of my grandmother, who hand-knit them 20 years ago before her last Christmas.
Just like these ornaments are a reminder of where I come from, and where I’ve been, holiday decorations in Europe are a celebration of each culture’s history, tradition, and ancestry. From a tiny mountain village in Switzerland to the bustling metropolis of Rome, the spirit of the season can be seen in homes, on squares, and up and down the streets.
Ancient Romans celebrated a pagan holiday called Saturnalia on December 25. This hedonistic, solstice-themed festival honoring Saturn, god of agriculture, featured toga-clad partiers parading by torchlight through the streets, giving thanks for their crops by drinking and eating heartily. Meanwhile, Roman Martha Stewarts would decorate the city with evergreen wreaths and give beeswax candles as gifts.
Modern-day Rome celebrates the holidays with almost as much vigor, adorning churches, houses, piazzas, porticos, and even train stations with lovingly constructed Nativity scenes, or presepio (“manger” in Italian). At Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, an annual exhibition features 100 presepi, made by artists and schoolchildren. Some are intricate and beautiful; others are of dubious artistic quality. From old to avant-garde, each one is unique, a window into the imagination of its creator.
This week’s luxury travel news: the £125,000 meal, LVMH in the Maldives and more
The latest luxury travel news, including new boutique hotel and resort openings, restaurant launches and industry events.
The Oetker Collection has announced plans to expand its portfolio further, this week confirming that it will open a new hotel, L’Apogée Courchevel, in Le Jardin Alpin in the French Alps. Opening on December 11, 2013, L’Apogée will feature 33 suites, 20 double rooms and a penthouse suite with private Jacuzzi and terrace. Michelin two-star chef Yannick Franques, meanwhile, will preside in the hotel restaurant. India Mahdavi and Joseph Dirand are overseeing the property’s design. Existing Oetker Collection hotels include Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc near Cannes, Le Bristol Paris and Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden.
LVMH Hotel Management, which is the firm behind Cheval Blanc, has this week also provided further details of its newest opening. Cheval Blanc Randheli, in the Maldives, will open in summer 2013. Given its background, design is obviously a point of focus in the resort. Jean-Michel Gathy is the architect of the 45-villa resort and the property will combine Maldivian features with contemporary flourishes. A Cheval Blanc spa will also be on site, along with a beauty salon, four restaurants, three bars and clubs for teen and child guests.
The luxury travel industry was represented in Cannes this week with the return of ILTM (International Luxury Travel Market) to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrés. The annual event brings together buyers, travel suppliers and press and, if attendance is an arbiter of success, this year’s gathering shows the luxury travel market is in robust health – approximately 10 per cent more buyers attended this year in comparison to 2011.
The world’s most expensive Christmas dinner could be yours if you can rustle up £125,000 over the coming weeks. London-based chef Ben Spalding is available to cook a meal for four on Christmas day, coming in at £31,250 per person and including a £2,600 Densuke watermelon, 150-year-old balsamic vinegar and “diamond-sand-filtered” vodka. You can read more about it, and see the complete menu and key ingredients, here.
Super-trees put on a dazzling display in Singapore
Stunning super-trees have wowed visitors during a light show in Singapore.
The towering man-made trees appeared alien-like during the dazzling display, contrasted against the night sky.
Stretching up to 50 metres high, the 12 giant trees feature hanging gardens with plants from around the world. They are illuminated with spotlights during daily light display and music shows.
They also generate solar power, act as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories and collect rainwater.
They are part of a huge $535 million development in the Marina Bay area, called the Gardens by the Bay Park, which opened in June.
It’s central to Singapore’s goal to become “a city in a garden” and the botanical capital of the world.