A Grand Staycation to Experience the Suite Life


Book a minimum of two nights at the Grand Hyatt Singapore and experience a wealth of privileges such as access to the Grand Club Lounge at the hotel, with complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails, with an S$500 nett credit per day, arrival and departure limousine transfer in a BMW 5 series and a champagne afternoon tea for two people at 10 SCOTTS.

Book online at singapore.grand.hyatt.com using the promotional code “Suite” when calling +65 6235 4111 or by e-mailing reservations.sinro@hyatt.com. Available from 1 May to 31 July 2015, the Suite Life has a total value of SGD 2086++ for a Grand Suite, but can be experienced with a prepaid booking for a minimum of two nights, starting from SGD1100++ per room per night.

Australia’s Largest and most Futuristic Ship

Ovation at Sea

The largest cruise ship in Australia will arrive in the peak summer season from December 2016. Royal Caribbean International will add this – the Ovation of the Seas –  to its current fleet after it has completed its construction in Germany at a cost of US$1b. “It will be the first time any cruise line in the world has home ported a brand new ship in Australia”, said Gavin Smith, regional vice-president, Royal Caribbean, Asia Pacific. The Quantum Class megaliner will be able to carry about 5,000 guests and 1,500 crew, and is the most technologically advanced. These include skydiving onboard a cruise ship via the Ripcord by iFly, or have panoramic views of landmark sights from the North Star aerial observatory. Guests enter a jewel-like capsule, and a robotic arm elevates them high into the sky. Bionic arms will create your perfect cocktail at the Bionic Bar, mixing in perfect time to the tunes played by the resident DJ. Two70 will provide guests with endless entertainment created using robotic video-screens, digital projection, combined with the skills of aerialists and performers. Stay connected with high speed WiFi, use radio frequency wristband technology in place of a key, and book onboard experiences via the dedicated app Royal iQ.

The Ovation will also feature the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, with bumper cars, roller skating, circus school and more activities to keep guests continually entertained. What is perhaps most astounding is that Quantum Class is still more energy-efficient, with the clever hull configuration, engine designs and the latest high efficiency systems and appliances. Fuel consumption and sulfur dioxide emissions will also be greatly reduced.

Register your interest here to be updated with her sailings.


10 Wonderfully Indulgent Experiences in Switzerland

Sunset in Zurich

Sunset in Zurich

The most luxurious experiences to try in Switzerland.

The country, perhaps made famous by the film The Sound of Music, is home to several celebrities, including Shania Twain, Phil Collins, Boris Becker and Tina Turner. We round up the luxurious indulgences that travellers can enjoy.

Bespoke Shopping

Purchase a unique timepiece in Geneva with Quintessentially Travel

Purchase a unique timepiece in Geneva with Quintessentially Travel

Purchase the finest Swiss-made watches, so defined when the movements of the watches are encased in Switzerland, and whose final control by the manufacturer occurs in the country. Quintessentially Travel offers guests a three-day On Time in Geneva shopping itinerary, where you’ll stay in the Le Richemonde hotel with an opportunity to select some of the finest Swiss watches at a luxurious VIP watch salon on the Rue du Rhône. The itinerary will cost about US$1,590.

Perfumes in Zurich Atelier by FL Parfums

Perfumes in Zurich Atelier by FL Parfums

Alternatively, meet up with the Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Music Director of the Zurich Opera House in Switzerland. While renowned for his musical repertoire, Fabio Luisi cherishes a second secret passion – perfumery, which he has honed over the years by creating perfumes for friends. These include the use of exotic ingredients like Oman’s frankincense, Ethiopia’s myrrh and sandalwood from India and New Caledonia, to name a few.

His FL Parfums  experience starts with a private invitation to the atelier in Zurich, where you’ll share your preferences, ideas and wishes, exploring different exquisite scents to reveal your personality. The process, which takes at least three months, will result in a tailor-made luxurious perfume in an exclusive Lalique Cristal bottle. Further refills can be ordered as often as you require. His clientele has included a renowned Lady in Switzerland, a famous singer in New York and he is currently creating a Calvados-related perfume for a Calvados distillery in France. The US$350 15mℓ Limited Edition Le Magnifique is encased in Evyan vintage bottles.

Procure a tailored, made-to-measure suit from Alferano, a local company that was founded in 1993. These suits, which would be handmade in Italy, might cost about US$2,273, and take at least four to five weeks to have your shirt, coat or suit to be tailored to your exact specifications and to the greatest quality possible. Appointments can be made at home or office, or at their made-to-measure boutiques at Herren Globus and Jelmoli in Zurich. After the suit is created, a final fitting will be carried out.

Art Basel in Basel 2014

View some of the best art on display at Art Basel, in Basel on 18-21 June 2015. The original show, reputed to be the leading international art show for modern and contemporary art, will have a collection of approximately 300 renowned galleries from around the world. Last year, 285 galleries from 34 countries participated in the event, which attracted a record attendance of 92,000 over the six show days. A self-portrait of Andy Warhol was reportedlyamong the big-ticket purchases last year, sold for a cool US$35m. Secure VIP tickets and visit the exhibitions up to two days earlier. The by-invitation only tickets allow for private viewing on 16 and 17 June.

Seasonal Adventures


Mountain Biking in Gstaad

In summer, from 14 July to 27 August, children can learn to climb alpine peaks with Backcountry Adventures. The three-day Intro to Summer Alpinism course (about US$525 per person with a minimum of four persons) will include skills like glacier walking, ice and multi-pitch rock climbing, abseiling, belaying and crevasse rescue around Grimentz in Switzerland. Arrange a bespoke off-piste private session with an instructor from the same company, and heli-ski around the area from one of two Swiss ski resorts that has an “in-resort” landing pad.


Be pulled by Siberian Huskies in Gstaad in the winter

A wide range of adventures are also available at Gstaad in Switzerland, such as mountaineering and climbing in first-class regions from Zweisimmen to the Pays d’Enhaut that’s suitable for a range of athletic levels. Alternatively, visit well-known sights like chocolate factories, a mountain summit 2,002m above sea levels, the Bex salt mines and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Finally, try mountain biking in a region that has specialist bike hotels, 280km of sign-posted routes, 500km of GPS routes, and even lifts that can transport your bicycles up to the mountain stations and even between villages. Celebrities like Madonna, Julie Andrews, Jean Reno and Roger Moore were spotted at the ski resort here to watch the screening of Big Eyes, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. In winter, we recommend going ice-climbing, or gazing down at the amazing scenery of Gstaad on a hot air balloon, paragliding or via helicopter rides. Follow this up with a dog-sleigh trip where you will be pulled by Siberian Huskies, or learn the art of horseback riding.

Indulgent Pampering


Dolder Grand Spa

Also in Zurich lies the Dolder Grand, an award-winning hotel that has an opulent spa. The hotel has reportedly been visited by celebrities like Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey and Mick Jagger. The 4,000sqm oasis is touted to be a sanctuary of relaxation for body and mind, reputed for a comprehensive range This page: Zurich during twilight; Opposite page: The Matterhorn of treatments based on the Dolder Grand Life Balance. We recommend the Vitality day programme (about US$5,012) which includes a Relaxing Moor Mud by Kerstin Florian, paired with personal training, a full cardiovascular checkup that includes an ultrasound, performance diagnostics and training service and a consultation with a sports nutritionist.

Alternatively, be completely rejuvenated with the Beauty day programme (about US$4,395) that includes a Caviar Firming Facial and Body Treatment by La Prairie, a complete blood and hormone count, medical coaching for inner and outer beauty and a medical consultation with the spa’s dermatologist or even a specialist in cosmetic surgery.

Michelin-Starred Eats

Sole caviar, Benoit Villier Crissier

Sole caviar, Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville

Within Switzerland currently lies two, three Michelin-starred restaurants, namely, Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, helmed by Chef Benoît Violier and Chef Andreas Caminada’s Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau. The first is a restaurant that aims to be sustainable, incorporating new and eco-friendly technologies, and sourcing their produce from local producers and using products of biological origin. The tailored Discovery Menu at about US$426 includes dishes like the Frivolous Salt Fondant Covered in Imperial Oscietra Caviar, a duo of silver spiny chardons from Crissier with Richerenches black diamonds, one crunchy and the other ‘Colbert’. Alternatively, try the blue lobster from the island of Bréhat with seasoned romaine lettuce ‘dumplings’.

Located in the smallest city in the world, Fürstenau, is Schloss Schauenstein, a three Michelin-starred restaurant that’s currently on the 43rd spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants by San Pellegrino. Outstanding dishes include goose liver with fresh goats’ cheese and maize that has been disguised to resemble ice cream and gazpacho, and the sweet roasted langoustine that’s paired perfectly with a delicate lime mousse and the Amalfi lemon confit. The six-course menu will cost about US$283.

Gruyeres, image courtesy of Artisans of Leisure

Gruyeres, image courtesy of Artisans of Leisure

Alternatively, try the Food & Wine Tour of Switzerland with Artisans of Leisure. The 7-day trip (US$24,700 for two persons) features the best Swiss food and wine experiences, starting with Zurich to sample upscale food shops, continuing on to Basel to try its specialties like laeckerli, a traditional hard spice biscuit that reportedly includes honey, hazelnuts, candied peel – the actual recipe is a secret. Lastly, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Lavaux wine region and visiting a local cheese maker in Gruyeres.

Kimberly Tan is the Managing Editor of INSPIRE Travel magazine. When not indulging in her greatest passion – writing – she embarks on her other passion – travelling – as much as she possibly can.

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Barcelona at its Finest


Featuring the best of the city, with its architectural gems, Michelin-starred dining, sumptuous accommodation and immersive experiences.
By Angela Miller

A classically European city, Barcelona offers what most have – a plethora of outdoor markets, restaurants, churches, museums and shops. Yet, this is a mere catalogue that barely scratches the surface of the true Barcelona. It’s a thriving metropolis merging the best of Gaudi architecture, Michelin-starred dining, glorious vineyards and amazingly luxurious accommodation.

Classic Motifs

2014-03-25_175031Together with my local guide from Abercrombie and Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com), my partner and I set out to find the masterpieces of Catalonia’s most famous architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet. His work was revolutionary at the time, where new techniques were evoked for treating materials, such as the trencadis, a mosaic created from broken tile shards. Rather than drawing detailed plans of his works, he preferred to create them organically, building three-dimensional scale models and then adding the details as he went along.

One such example of his masterpiece is the Casa Milà or La Pedrera (www.lapedrera.com), which showcases both ideals and classified a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1984. It was built to house two apartment blocks with separate entrances. These were linked by two large inner courtyards, distinguished by a sinuous façade and the unique mosaics used on the domes and turrets of the building. Its moniker was derived by its appearance, which resembles an open quarry. I opted for The Secret Pedrera tour (about US$67) which brought us into the nooks and crannies not normally available for visitors. The evening tour took us through the same sections as the morning tour did, but the projections and holograms that the guides used really illuminated the building’s history, with accounts of the lives, customs and every day stories of the residents who had lived 100 years ago. It was rather magical to see the building and its history brought to life in such a simple yet effective manner. This unique experience was followed by a glass of cava and dinner at the building’s cafe. The highlight of our meal was the Iberian pork shortribs cooked precisely at 70°C and paired with honey, mustard and soy sauce.

Not just limited to the incredible works of Gaudi, the city has also been awarded the 1999 Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Gold Medal, the first and possibly only time a city has been given such a prestigious accolade. Notable buildings include the Barcelona Pavilion (www.miesbcn.com), designed by the great Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Palau de la Música (www.palaumusica.cat) by Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

Curiosity piqued, I sought the expert advice of the pavilion’s guide on the scheduled tour (about US$112 per person including entrance fee) to learn more about its history. It was first built to be the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, and is renowned for its simple form yet grandiose in its use of marble, red onyx and travertine. Within its interiors is a range of furniture that has been designed especially for the building, including the iconic Barcelona chair. The flat roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows might be a familiar design concept to us today, yet revolutionary for its creation some 80 years ago. Since then, the building has also hosted the 2013 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award.

I found the minimalist architecture of the Barcelona Pavilion to be in great contrast to the Palau de la Música Catalana. The Palau was built between 1905 and 1908, and is considered to be an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau. It’s designed around a central metal structure that is covered in glass and decorated with various mediums including ironwork, sculpture, mosaic and stained glass. The Palau houses the Concert Auditorium, Petit Palau, the Sala d’Assaig de l’Orfeó Català and the Sala Lluís Millet.

Of all these, I was most amazed by the Concert Auditorium, which is a magnificent spectacle embodying grandeur and Art Nouveau. First off, its very size is staggering, spanning a total of 189sqm and able to accommodate up to 2,015 seats. Its main highlights are the inverted dome skylight, designed by Atoni Rigalt, in shades of blue that narrow to gold in the middle of the dome, reminiscent of the sky and the sun. The concert hall’s imagery brings to life the theme of choral music, with two female choirs depicted in the hall, the first surrounding the ‘sun’ and the second to the left side of the stage. Inspiring the musical performances are the 18 muses at the back of the stage. Guests can subscribe to musical programmes (price upon request) during the season, which begins in early May. Groups of up to 50 persons can have a private tour of the Palau (about US$1,398) that includes a welcome drink and a cocktail. 

Glorious Stays

2014-03-25_175122For one of the most luxurious accommodations in the city, stay at the W Barcelona (www.w-barcelona.com) in the three bedroom 295sqm Extreme Wow Suite (about US$14,800 per night) that is located on the penthouse floor for ultimate privacy with the most spectacular views. The suite, designed by renowned Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, includes a dining table for six, with an extensive 59sqm private terrace that has sun beds and a Jacuzzi. Interestingly, Bofill has also put his own touches in the room, such as his personal book selection. The three-bedroom penthouse suite looks over the famous Barcelona Plaça de la Rosa del Vents and out to the Mediterranean sea. Television presenter Phil Spencer is a fan of this hotel’s location as it’s right on the beach.

El Palauet (www.elpalauet.com) has the distinction of having the most expensive starting priced rooms (at about US$700) in the city. It’s clear why; the hotel has just six two-bedroom suites over a five-storey property. The top floor suite, the Àtico Paseo de Gracia (about US$953 per night) has amazing views of Passeig de Gràcia from its three balconies, with its furnishings designed by top names like Philippe Starck, Knoll International, Eero Saarinen, Warren Platner, Antonio Citterio and Established & Sons in the living, dining area and kitchen. The highlight of this suite is its floral stucco designed ceiling that is so gorgeous and precious that it’s protected from destruction by the Town Hall of Barcelona. A personal assistant will also be at your service to organise your meals, every day shopping, arrange for a personal shopper or trainer and even purchase tickets for shows.

Gourmet Eats

2014-03-25_175155Aside from its local delicacies, the city is also home to some of the greatest cuisine that has won the prestigious accolades of two Michelin stars. First on this list is Enoteca at Hotel Arts Barcelona (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/properties/Barcelona), which is helmed by Chef Paco Perez. Dine on the Chef’s Menu (about US$196 without wine), with interesting dishes such as spinach dim sum, Wagyu beef, braised juice and contrasts as well as a lemon and violet tart. Celebrity guests like Melanie Griffith, Mick Jagger, Cindy Crawford and Phil Collins may have dined here during their stay.

The second two-Michelin dining establishment that we visited was the ABaC Restaurant (www.abacbarcelona.com), renowned for pioneering the avant-garde dining route. Try the Grand ABaC menu (about US$211) which offers 13 courses of Chef Jordi Cruz’s standout cuisine, with signature dishes like the smoked steak tartare with seasoned, snow-like beef, a cooked egg yolk, veil of mustard and pepper bread brittle, or Mediterranean tuna belly served with macaroni in ponzu sauce, kumquat skin, mizuna, crispy artichokes and a spicy roots puree.

Last on the list is Moments at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (www.mandarinoriental.com/barcelona), the first restaurant in the city to not only provide stellar cuisine, but also anti-ageing lunch menus devised by Chef Carme Ruscalleda and Dr. Manuel Sanchez, the head of the Anti-Ageing Unit Clinic Planas. This menu uses seasonal ingredients proven to have the greatest benefits on the body. The tasting menu (about US$184 with wine pairing) include Prawn Tails, cooked with black garlic, pumpkin and espigall (a locally grown vegetable from the cabbage family) and Deer Steak with stew, artichokes and calçots (a type of scallion or green onion). For the ultimate healthful experience, book the 360° Anti-Ageing package (price up to US$1,294) for a HealthSmart breakfast at Blanc Brasserie & Gastrobar followed by lunch at Moments and three pampering spa treatments.

To learn more about the local cuisine, we travelled with Gourmand Breaks (www.gourmandbreaks.com) on a whirlwind trip around Barcelona’s best (about US$304 per person), starting with the largest marketplace in Spain that’s reportedly about 800 years old. This market was a foodie’s wonderland with its smorgasbord of fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, baked goods and sweets. The different smells filled the market, the spicy smoky smell of chorizos mixing with the freshly baked breads. Our guide expertly wove through the crowds, allowing us to sample the best of seasonal local produce including chocolate, vinegars and marmalades. We dropped by the Pinotxo (pinotxobar.com) next, one of the most famous bars in La Boqueria, for a tapas dish of chanterelle mushrooms, which smelled rather fruity and had a slightly peppery taste, accompanied by a glass of brut cava. The tour continued to the oldest venue in Barcelona, where I tried a range of fruits and dried nuts. It was fascinating to me that the local store which has been roasting coffee beans and nuts for more than 150 years was still decorated with its original furniture and even more amazing a wood-burning stove.

Other stops on this gourmet tour included visiting a chocolate boutique with recipes created by the three-Michelin star restaurant El Bulli’s dessert chef, Albert Adria, brother to Ferran Adria, the most famous chef in Spain. However, the undisputed highlight of my trip was the visit to the Penedès vineyard. This small but illustrious winery has cultivated a strong reputation for growing excellent varieties of xarello, syrah and chardonnay grapes, all handpicked to ensure the preciseness of harvest. The in-house oenologists gave me a number of wines to try and I attempted to identify the differences between the ecological and organic varieties of the wines and cavas. I was drawn to the modernist style cellar that had been designed by famous architect Puig Cadafalch, with barrels of quality sparkling wines that were the product of the Penedès regional grape varieties and the traditional Champagne-making method.

Local Immersion

2014-03-25_175207One of the must-do activities I felt I had to do was watch the graceful flamenco dance at the Tablao de Carmen (www.flamencotickets.com), which got its name from the famous flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya, who made her debut performing for the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII. The venue is divided into three distinct spaces, the tablao or performance area, the patio cordobés and the Freiduría Tio Pepe. We were first ushered into the Freiduría Tio Pepe for our pre-performance VIP dinner (about US$116), featuring delectable dishes like the Cordoba-style salmorejo soup containing slices of Iberian ham and quail’s egg, a hake cooked in cava with langoustines and an apple tarte tatin served with warm cream. It was all delicious, but the main event was yet to occur.

Our anticipation mounting, we took our seats at the tablao and waited for the magic to happen. With a capacity for 150 people, this area was designed with multiple levels of seating to ensure that each guest had unblocked views of the stage. On the night we were there, the dance was performed with a single dancer, twirling to the beat provided by the wooden box drum cajon and the hand claps of the three singers who simultaneously sang the melody to accompany the guitarist. It was mesmerising to see the dancer’s swift feet swirl around the stage, with her frilly, tiered skirt swishing around her as she moved. Her proud carriage and graceful movements enraptured the audience, culminating in a series of rapid rhythmic taps that form a counterpoint to the main beat for a truly impressive performance.

My partner did not find the same delight in my cultural exploits as I did, and my many stops on the trip made him rather resignedly subdued. However, the one thing that got him super excited was the Premier Soccer Trips (www.premiersoccertrips.co.uk) that brought him to Barcelona (about US$898 per trip). He had the chance to play two competition matches against the local opposition clubs and receive the best coaching from the world renowned Academy Coaches at the Nou Camp. Bristling with anticipation, he thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling tour around the stadium and the museum, where the FC Barcelona team played their matches and trained. The quintessential soccer experience also allowed this fan to watch his favourite team, La Liga champions, with a long list of accolades to boot, play in a match fixture as the highlight of the tour. Implicit in this tour is a chance to meet sporting legends like Lionel Messi, Alexandre Song and Carles Puyol Saforcada as well.

Barcelona, I felt, was truly a vibrant city, not just in the carefully preserved architectural styles that hearkened back to decades before, but also in the rich tapestry of design that wove its way not only into the grand accommodation that we stayed in, but also into the very lifestyle of the people, manifested in their culinary greatness and cultural perfection.

The itinerary was partially based on the four-day trip offered by Abercrombie and Kent and prices start from US$3,395. 

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