Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LUXURY ON A DIFFERENT SPY-PLAYING FIELD

WHAT



Quintessentially Secure, a privately owned global-security and bodyguard firm. Its founders are former British and American Army operatives, U.S. Secret Service agents, and emergency-rescue officers. Quintessentially Secure provide special security products and protection plans. Here's the perk : When the team isn't busy running point on kidnapping cases or training diplomatic bodyguards and special forces, they have fun thinking up experiential packages for James Bond junkies and Jason Bourne wannabes.

In short, you may now purchase your own international espionage experience.

WHERE


Headquarter offices are located in London, New York, Dubai, and Hong Kong.


A visit to M-16 Headquarter is included in a one-day "Secrets of The Spy" package.

WHEN

Launched three years ago as a member company of the private concierge club, Quintessentially.

WHY

Earning money from bored, loaded adrenaline junkies with too much money to spend and too much time to spare. (Prices range from $2,500 per person for a one-day "Secrets of the Spy" package—complete with a visit to the MI6 headquarters in London—to $50,000 for a full week's mission.)

HOW

Although the espionage tours are designed to be entertaining, they also teach real skills, such as anti-ambush driving, electronic surveillance, and facial-and-body-language interpretation. The team works with high-net-worth individuals who have asked Quintessential to teach them the cold realities of the trade so as to protect themselves from potential assassins and kidnappers.

For example, the package "The Day of the Jackal"—named after the 1973 movie about a professional assassin—teaches the principles of disguise and tracking, as well as fun stuff like weapons use and anti-ambush skills.



"Quintessentially Bourne"
adventure, billed as a high-octane secret spy operation culminates in a race against time in the North African desert.


Fake mission includes designing a surveillance box around the assigned targets (employees of Quintessential), taking a bird's-eye view of the targets from the Westminster Bridge in London (while a sidekick followed you on foot towards the London Eye), crisscrossing urban parks to exchange subtle information, picking up newspapers to hide faces, moving catlike behind trees and streetlight poles, joining tour groups as a form of camouflage, interrogating pretend suspects and engaging in a high-speed car chase.





So if you're looking for a novel way to splurge yourself in unusual luxury, do sign up for these interesting travel packages. By the end of your vacation, you will be well trained on how to unarmedly defend yourself and thwart your opponent (even if he or she is pointing a U.S. Marine–issue KA-BAR at you!)

For more ideas on luxury travel, please visit oneluxurytravel.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

LUXURY IN KANDYTOWN

Now that the Tamil Tigers have ceased their separatist movement, there's no better timing to visit Sri Lanka. The country has seen a boom in tourism, with more than 700 000 visitors are expected to visit in 2011. According to Nalaka Godahewa, the chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Board, the number of new hotel rooms will also rise by 30 000 by 2015.

What would probably appeal the most to you is how diverse of activities Sri Lanka offers to the visiting tourists : ranging from a tranquil retreat amongst the cool hills of the central highlands, to elephant sightings in the National Park, to a seaside escapade, Sri Lanka has everything you could ever ask for and more.

Here are just some of Sri Lanka's luxury checkpoints :

1. MACKWOODS'S LABOOKELLIE TEA ESTATE

Planted amidst a vast expanse of stunning, terraced hills ripe with rich fragrance of tea, feel free to tour around the famous tea plantation of Sri Lankan central highlands while enjoying your stay in this luxury resort. Opened to guests last year, the three luxury bungalows on the estate are just a few of the upscale plantation properties of the Mackwoods Group- including rubber, coconut, and palm oil.

Mackwoods'tea estate bosats facilities such as in-room massage, tea plantation and factory guided tour, five-star calibre meal, and of course their own brand of delicious tea.


Sri Lanka's jutting rock cliffs.



Adam's Peak



Mackwood's Tea Centre



The Entrance to Mackwood Estate



Tea plantation.


2. SIGIRIYA, POLONNARUWA, AND ANURADHAPURA

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress renowned for its grand fifth century frescoes. The town's proximity to the ancient capitals of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura - home to several of the world's largest stupas, and a sacred bodhi tree grown from a sapling of the tree under which Buddha was said to have found enlightenment - makes it a favorite spot for tourist accommodations.


Ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya.


Big sleeping Buddha in Polonnaruwa.



Anuradhapura



The sacred bodhi tree of Anuradhapura.

3. VIL UYANA

One of the most stunning properties in Sri Lanka, Vil Uyana is built on a man-made private nature reserve. Each of the villas extends into the marsh and features plush open-plan bedrooms with a huge shower and tubs that resemble plunge pools. In the evenings, feel free to enjoy a free flow of cocktails in the "library," a porch built onto the marsh. Come mornings and early corocodiles will lurk just about the marshy water, looking for potential breakfast!


Built on a marshy man-made reserves.



Exotic bedroom.




Watch out for crocodiles!

4. MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK

Take an open jeep safaris to see more than two dozen species of reptiles, 160 species of birds, and 24 species of mammals including leopards, and Asian elephants. The chances of seeing an elephant is as high as 100 percent here.







5. SEASIDE REEF VILLA

A seaside escapade is a very feasible option in Sri Lanka. There are several plush new boutique hotels and villas along Sri Lanka's south-western coast. One of them, the Reef Villa is owned by an Anglo-Irish couple. It offers prime real estate on the beach at Waduwwa, where king coconut trees permanently bend towards the ocean. The interior of this villa is adorned by various India and Sri Lanka antiquities, with fabolous outdoor shower and bath installed in each of the seven villas.


King coconut trees around the complex.




The mainhouse of reef villa.



Splendid beach at Waduwwa. Look out for elephant sighting along the beach!

Adapted from Newsweek and other sources. Luxury Stays in Sri Lanka. November 20th 2010 edition.

For more ideas on luxury travel, visit oneluxurytravel.com.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Enchantingly Boutique

Boutique hotel is a term popularized in North America and the United Kingdom to describe intimate, usually luxurious or quirky hotel environments. Boutique hotels differentiate themselves from larger chain/branded hotels and motels by providing personalized accommodation and services / facilities. Sometimes known as "design hotels" or "lifestyle hotels", boutique hotels began appearing in the 1980s in major cities like London, New York and San Fransisco. Typically boutique hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner. They usually are considerably smaller than mainstream hotels, often ranging from 3 to 50 guest rooms.

Boutique hotels are always individual and focused on offering their services in a comfortable, intimate, and welcoming setting, so they are therefore extremely unlikely to be found amongst the homogeneity of large chain hotel groups. Guest rooms and suites may be fitted with telephony and Wi-Fi Internet, air-conditioning, honesty barys and often cable/pay TV, but equally may have none of these, focusing on quiet and comfort rather than gadgetry. Guest services are often attended to by 24-hour hotel staff. Many boutique hotels have on-site dining facilities, and the majority offer bars and lounges that may also be open to the general public.

Despite this definition, the popularity of the boutique term and concept has led to some confusion about the term. Boutique hotels have typically been unique properties operated by individuals or companies with a small collection. However, their successes have prompted multi-national hotel companies to try to establish their own brands in order to capture a market share. The most notable example is Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide's W Hotels, ranging from large boutique hotels, such as the W Union Square NY, to the W 'boutique resorts' in the Maldives, to true luxury boutique hotel collections, such as the Bulgari collection, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, SLS Hotels, Epoque Hotels,Thompson Hotels, Joie De Vie hotels, The Keating Hotel, and O Hotel, among many others.

There is some overlap between the concept of a small boutique hotel and a bed and breakfast.

In the United States, New York remains an important centre of the boutique hotel phenomenon, as the original Schrager-era boutique hotels remain relevant and are joined by scores of independent and small-chain competitors, mainly clustered about Midtown and downtown Manhattan. The French Quarter and the Garden District, New Orleans have several dozen boutique hotels, most of which are located in old homes or inns. These usually provide an ambiance based on 19th-century antiques, artwork with New Orleans themes, vintage or reproduction furniture and decor and/or interesting historical associations. Miami and Miami Beach also have several boutique hotels, found mostly along the beachfront streets Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Most of these are in buildings from the heyday of the Art Deco period. Their attractions include the Art Deco ambiance, beach access, nouvelle and Latin cuisines, and tropical-themed interior decor.

The concept of boutique or design hotels has spread throughout the world, including European countries like Spain and East Asian countries such as Thailand, where many boutique or design hotels are sprouting, especially in resort locations, such as Phuket and Hua Hin. Other Far Eastern cities in which boutique and design hotels are becoming increasingly popular include Bangkok, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Boutique hotels are even appearing in such places as Indonesia, mainland China, Iceland, Peru, and Turkey, demonstrating that the concept has penetrated beyond the typical design capitals of the world and is entering new markets.

Since a couple of years, hospitality industry is following the general "no-frill chic" consumer trend, with affordable or budget boutique hotels sprouting and thriving all around the world. Amongst the most known hotels are Citizen M in Amsterdam, The White Hotel in Brussels. Following this trend, we see specialized (booking) websites for budget boutique hotels appear - making it fairly easy today to find and book affordable boutique hotels all around the world.

J Boutique Hotel in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Hotel 7b, Biarritz, France









Ainavas boutique hotel, Peldu Street, Rigas, Latvia

Manolo Boutique Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa


Petra Hotel, Greece










Boutique hotels are typically quaint and cozy; they welcome you with such a warm embrace that makes you feel instantly at home. Their relaxed ambience, excellently personal service, and admirably creative design concept might lure you to travel just for the sake of staying in one of these charmingly cute rooms!

For more ideas on luxury travel, visit oneluxurytravel.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TO LONDON WITH LOVE

London... this dream-like city is ripe with stories and imagery from some of our favorite literature in the world. Close your eyes and imagine London… where the afternoons are filled with the treacle tarts, gollywogs, tea cakes and morning mist dresses of Enid Blyton. Come nightfall, the evenings are attended to by the grown-ups of J.M Barrie who tuck their children into bed with bedtime stories and then slip out of the house — the men in tailcoats and their wives in white satin gloves — into the foggy streets of nighttime London. Not far away, the pretentious laughter of Oscar Wilde’s corrupt and cunning haut monde ring loudly in the air! The rich make merry while Dickens’ young boys dart in and out of the cobblestone alleys, leaving behind them the sooty trails of innocence.

So let's talk about London and how you will love everything about it - sissy sprinkles, puddles, clouds and all. All the grey brings out a kind of melancholy that wraps around your heart and lingers there as you troop down various cobbled pathways under the oyster-colored skies.

Here are some of London's hidden (and not so hidden) gems :

1. Portobello market















Portobello Market is a long street market along Portobello Road in famous movie of Notting Hill. It is open from 8am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The market is absolutely bustling on Saturdays. Portobello Market houses stalls and stalls of antiques, curios, independent designs, handicrafts, vintage clothes, bags and shoes, old cameras and jewelry, secondhand books… and just about any kind of bric-a-brac you’re looking for.

2. Camden Town















Thronged by London’s younger set, Camden Town is garish and brash, but never boring. there is a largely punk rock, emo-kid, gypsy vibe about Camden that is immediately apparent from the wild harajuku-ish merchandise that is both sold and paraded around the area. Granted it is a slightly dodgy zone, but definitely cool in its own way. There are several markets along the streets of Camden Town, but the best one is Camden Lock. Camden Lock is a larger market within a courtyard that vends the arty stuff, mostly handicrafts and trinkets. There are also lots of new age shops in Camden Lock, with palm readers and the like!

3. Marylebone High Street















Marylebone High Street is the main artery of the little shopping district of Marylebone, and while the High Street is most fascinating, the other smaller streets girdling it are definitely worth checking out as well. The shopping here is demure and sophisticated, with the bigger brands giving way to the smaller independent labels. Check out Mascaro the shoe shop which has gorgeous shoes (they also carry stock from Pretty Ballerinas, which makes ballet flats that are to die for…!!), Daunt the bookstore, and the Oxfam secondhand bookstore where you can buy quality books for 1-2 pounds.


4. Regent’s Park

A huge, beautiful park in the heart of London that draws you in even in the winter. It is such a romantic place to be in when the sun is setting. Also watch out for ducks galore, and a rose garden that blooms in full glory during summertime.


Tate Museum of Modern Art

You will love this museum right down to its secret enclosed spaces and the graffiti on the back of the doors in the women’s bathroom stalls. Definitely a must visit in London, if you’re into art galleries.


A piece from the famed water lily series by Monet.

Borough Market


Greek desserts

Borough Market is a roomy food market in Southwark that sells all sorts of international gourmet food under one roof. Foodstuff purveyed: freshly baked bread, imported herbs and spices, gourmet sausages, exotic meats like ostrich and pheasant, burgers, cured meats, sandwiches, falafel, chocolates, candy, mulled wine and a whole smorgasbord of other delectable things. The various vendors here make for good lunch stops.


A delicious chorizo sandwich

7. Oxford & Bond Street

The famous Bond Street is where the almighty Selfridges is located, which is a huge favorite not just with the Londoners, but also the rest of the world, where you can shop from a wide range of high-end luxury brands.

8. Carnaby Street

Quite similar to that of Marylebone High Street, but younger and more contemporary.

9. Soho / Leicester Square / Piccadilly Circus

The Soho / Leicester Sq / Piccadilly Circus area is a lively and spirited junction that teems with good restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. It’s also where Chinatown is, as well as many West End theaters. Covent Garden, a large touristy courtyard housing some rather interesting toy shops, is also nearby. Some idle hours spent traversing this effervescent area would uncover gems here and there.


Entrance to Chinatown


a little carnival in Leicester Square


For more details of this article, visit it's original publisher, quaintly.

For NEW IDEAS TO VISIT OR REVISIT LONDON, visit ONE LUXURY TRAVEL.