It is that time of year when you look back, pretend everything was amazing and celebrate it.
A few years back, I made the decision to focus on higher quality rather than quantity, yet still somehow spent nearly four months travelling in 2023. I barely spent a week in London, a mere hour’s drive from my home, when I used to be a semi-permanent fixture. Instead, I found myself exploring Africa for almost a month. That’s how bad the traffic is in London these days, if you need a load of bread, it’s quicker to fly to another continent. It’s an even more dramatic change, seeing that the newly opened London Peninsula and Raffles happened to much fanfare and I’ve still not felt the need to rush to yet another city hotel, particularly as they seem to be in a perpetual state of ‘almost finished’. Next time.
Another factor in my travel choices is that I now have a good all round knowledge of what the globe has to offer, as well as a much better understanding of what I like. That mostly consists of nature, beaches, and, most importantly, kids clubs. Thank god for those heroes at a kids’ club. If you made me work in one, I’d last about 15 minutes before I was exiled from society.
And then there’s brand. Interestingly, I only stayed in a single Four Seasons, Aman, Rosewood and Mandarin Oriental. I also popped my Waldorf Astoria cherry. Still, I maintain that the truly exceptional properties are often the lesser-known, and it’s my calling in life to find them all, just for you. Yes, you, the person reading this right now.
You can see I spent most of my time in Africa, Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Those are the key areas our customers are booking and that’s where it’s important to build up the knowledge. Here’s my highlights.
I started taking my Dad on trips about 10 years ago, but in recent years they seem to get more and more elaborate. First, just the two of us took a five-bedroom villa in Amanzoe before we then started taking exclusive use properties to ourselves, like the majestic Arijiju – where we will return again next year for his 70th. I’m not sure we’re going to beat Ol Jogi anytime soon, though, not just from the fact that it has eleven bedrooms and it was just the two of us, but from the perspective that it was one of the most insane yet remarkable properties I’ve ever been to. The property is great, but the experiences are what will always stand out for me. Even when someone you trust tells you to go stand next to a wild elephant and feed it, you certainly have second thoughts.
Going to the Super Bowl
Much to every hardcore fan’s annoyance, I’ve known about American Football for about 18 seconds, but have been very fortunate to happen to know the right people involved in it. So off I flew to the Super Bowl in Phoenix…..via San Diego, as all the flights were sold out. I was there for the pre and post-game parties with the Eagles and got to experience what I believe is some form of religious experience for the Americans. I even include this, having had to stay in The Phoenician, a Marriott hotel. Let’s just ignore the final score.
First trip to the Caribbean
I have delayed going to the Caribbean repeatedly due to near-universal derision of service standards. They weren’t exactly wrong. Yet all the same, going to Necker Island, as much as so much is wrong with it, seeing my daughter playing with the lemurs, was an absolute joy. Truly one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been to, let down by pretty much everything else.
Porto Zante taught me the joy of kid’s clubs. What service, what wonderful people, what a horrible design. Still, I think fondly of it and hope they took my kind, considerate words into their thoughts and prayers, refurbish it, and then become a new mecca of European luxury travel.
Swimming with whale sharks
My Dad thought I’d only force him over to Africa once this year, but in early November, I gave him a few day’s notice to say we’re going again. Jet skis were his best friend; whale sharks were mine. I appreciate this list is mostly me saying, “nature is awesome”, but it is, so that’s useful. Thanda Island was an awesome way to spend my birthday, but getting to swim with these gentle giants was a truly memorable experience.
Christmas in the Maldives
My children getting to experience Santa arriving on a submarine followed by a jetski is the quintessential story that Jesus wanted to teach us.
What were your travel highlights?
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