It has been a bold and curious year for travel which ends on a difficult note as I write from France with the general strikes preventing anyone from making any concrete travel plans.
Here are some of the highlights of my travel year:
Visiting 3 properties in September in the Oetker Collection in Provence and Paris. All are iconic wonderful properties with staff members to match. They have certainly found the right formula.
A whirlwind trip to Japan for the Rugby World Cup Final in November with my son and daughter for the weekend. The right team won on the night if not the team we travelled to support! On our way back via Hong Kong it was sad to see a city in crisis and let’s hope that 2020 brings better news for this wonderful city.
Summer in ‘la France profonde’ here in Beaumont du Périgord was spectacular if a little hot at times. Our Monday night music markets are a great way to start the week from late June to early September – some excellent bands, great food and wine and up to 1000 people in the town square on the busiest of nights.
We missed one because we headed south to Valencia and the Tomatina festival. This was possibly the craziest thing I have ever done as an adult but something in me is keen to go and do it all over again.. forewarned and forearmed. Driving there via Barcelona and Figueres was long but worth it with the drive back across the Pyrenees totally spectacular.
Paris remains one of the world’s great cities with some of the world’s finest hotels. Apart from Hotel Le Bristol we were lucky enough to stay at the wonderful Mandarin Oriental on Rue Faubourg St Honore, the beautiful Plaza Athenee as well as the excellent Hotel Banke, part of the Derby Collection based in Barcelona who continue to raise the bar in the world of affordable luxury. And where better to see The Stranglers in concert than L’Olympia, Paris.
In April we were in South Africa for that magical combination of Cape Town and Kruger National Park. ILTM AFRICA was a terrific few days and a great way of meeting so many people in the travel industry. January will see us back in the Eastern Cape around Port Elizabeth and Knysna. Nothing to do with England playing cricket in Port Elizabeth of course..
France remains a curious enigma and a destination that I fear for in some ways. The cuisine in so many other countries has moved on – even in the UK. Employment problems persist and of course everything shuts for lunch but maybe this is why we love the place. It is true to itself. Discovering cities like Toulouse and Bordeaux has been a joy as well as rediscovering Cannes and Paris and smaller towns like Cahors with its annual blues festival is why France is still one of, if not the, most visited country in the world with an export industry of the finer things in life that are the envy of every other developed economy. The contradiction will no doubt continue into 2020.
The travel year ended with ILTM in Cannes – the annual gathering of the global luxury travel world. It was, as always, an exceptional get together of the great and the good of the hospitality industry.
My hotel of the year: Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, Cap D’Antibes, France. Quite majestic.
Best new opening: Saseka Tented Camp at Thornybush, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Best city hotel: The Silo, Cape Town.
Wishing everybody a safe, healthy, happy new year and continued curious travel in 2020!