Monday, August 30, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Mendoza, Argentina

A striking lavendel field serves as the welcome sight when arriving at Cavas Wine Lodge.



At the foot of the Andes mountain range lays a hidden gem. A tranquil place where grapes mature viewing snow capped mountains.


For wine lovers there is only one place to enjoy the best Mendoza has to offer, Cavas Wine Lodge. Select Collection was the first Scandinavian tour operator to promote this property after establishing a personal relationship with the owners Cecilia and Martin. Through the years we have visited many times to enjoy the beautiful landscape, the luxurious Vignettes (rooms), wine inspired spa treatments, fresh and local food and of course wine, wine and wine.


Our favorite is to divert to the cozy roof top terrace of the room, hear the fire place spark, drink Cavas own Bonarda with some cheese and cold cuts and just sip silence and fresh air. The moon and crispy clear star lit sky is our spotlight.


Our days in Mendoza are spent either on the horseback, hiking in the Andes or visiting vineyards or just staying at the Lodge...


The best time to visit is March - April simply because it is harvest time. Since the Lodge grows many different kinds of grapes the harvest will be ongoing for a few weeks.



During harvest time all guests are invited to learn how to pick the grapes. Each full basket is rewarded with wine and homemade empanadas stuffed with beef and green olives.

Wines and snacks during the harvest event.

Cavas Wine Lodge and Mendoza is a must stop on any Argentina itinerary. Only 1 h 45 minutes flight from Buenos Aires with several daily flights with LAN makes it accessible.


Entrance to Cavas Wine Lodge.

Each room has a small roof top terrace with fireplace. The perfect place to enjoy wine while star gazing.


Horseback riding among vineyards and pampas.


The marking assures the horse is 100% Argentinian and if sold it would be worth around 10 000 USD which is alot in Argentina.


Viewing the main building and the spa from the roof top

Friday, August 27, 2010

FLIGHT REPORT ETHIOPIAN BUSINESS CLASS

One of the more exotic carriers out of Stockholm Arlanda Airport is Ethiopian. 4 times a week they fly a Boeing 757 nonstop to Rome and from there it continues to Addis Ababa. Their business class comes at an incredible value so how good is the product?

On boarding the gracious flight attendants served welcome drinks. We settled for Champagne. The flight attendants were genuinely friendly and service minded. One hostesses was dressed in a gorgeous white long dress and the rest had dark green more traditional hostess suits.

First impressions while boarding were frinedly crew, spacious business class seat with huge leg room but also the cabin felt very old and tired. Once we got past that we thouroughly enjoyed this flight. Surprisingly it was probably one of the most enjoyable flights we have ever been on. And for being a flight within Europe the service concept was more than generous and I dare to promise that no other airline would offer such an ambitious service concept on a European flight.


A view of the old but very comfortable seat with massive amount of leg room. It felt like we had our own little living room on the plane. The seat is definitely old school and not up to modern standards but it was comfy and more than adequate for the short 3 hour flight to Rome. For a long haul flight the seat might be a tad too outdated.

Ok, so here we go. A full five course meal service on our way to rome. Welcome drink, salad, starter, hot main course (3 choices), cheese/ fruits / crackers and then dessert and finally Tea and coffee with Petit Fours.

The starter: gravad lax and Skagenröra (shrimp cocktail in mayo). A seasonal sallad and bread.



The main course was one of the best meals ever had on a plane. A perfectly cooked Tournedos with asparagus, potatoes and sauce Béarnaise.

A selection of fresh fruits and cheese from the elegant trolly service. Plus some huge chocolate Petit Fours.


Then dessert along with some Champagne.
To say the least we left the plane stuffed with delicious food and great memories from a flight crew that made this shorthaul flight exceed many of our langhaul business class experiences.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SRI LANKA ON THE RISE - PART 3 AMANGALLA

Our last stop in Sri Lanka on our photo shoot trip was the town of Galle. The town of Galle is home to an exceptional 17th century World Heritage Dutch fort. Inside the Fort walls lies Sri Lankas oldest hotel that used to be called The Oriental. Since Aman took over and carefully restored every corner of this colonial masterpiece the hotel is called Amangalla. The 30 rooms and suites are all individually styled and restored to former glamour, many rooms even features original furniture.

At Amangalla one is immersed in the colonial atmosphere and transported to a different era. The hotel facilities include a spacious outdoor pool with cabanas and loungers, a spa with water circuit and treatments rooms. As for dining it takes place on the porch or in the dining room in the Zaal.

Early morning we set up the arrival shot when our Brazilian and Swedish models arrive in a classic grey Ambie greeted by Amangalla butlers and hostesses.

To take the shoot was quite a challenge because the light had to be perfect and just when the light conditions were ideal a few hundred children started to arrive to the next door school. Let's say we created a traffic chaos in the small town. But the curiosity of the locals and some assistance from the police made sure we could get that perfect shot. See below for the final result:



Our models enjoy Sri Lankan High Tea on the porch of Amangalla
The models in one of the beautiful top floor suites
The courtyard pool at Amangalla

Monday, August 23, 2010

SRI LANKA ON THE RISE - PART 2 THE HIGHLANDS

In the highlands of Sri Lanka one finds the extraordinary rolling hills and tea plantations. It looks just like in the picture above taken at Tea Trails. Tea Trails is a collection of four classic colonial estates built for tea estate managers. The buildings are now converted and welcome guests with 4 to 6 rooms in each building. A group of travellers can take one whole estate or a couple can rent just one room. The estate comes complete with a butler and chef who will look after breakfast, lunch or picnic basket and the lovely dinners.



Select Collection came to Tea Trails to capture the highlands of Sri Lanka, the green scenery and to explore the tea industry in full operation.



Below is one of the pictures taken with our Swedish fashion model when she is interacting with the local women in the hilly tea fields:




One of the comfortable rooms at Tea Trails

Exterior view of an estate bungalow


Bird joining us for breakfast


Tea plockers at work

Tea Trails offers magic scenery, perfect grounds for hiking, nature excursions, visits to the tea factory and most of all relaxation in the estate bungalows. Just to sit on the terrace of the bungalow and enjoy a cup of perfectly brewed local tea along with the traditional high tea condiments is soothing for the soul. Go for the finest of all teas "Champagne tea". We recommend staying 2-3 nights. Ideally 3 because of the long journey to get to Tea Trails. Roads are in a very poor condition and traffic is slow but the scenery along the route is stunning.



Friday, August 20, 2010

SRI LANKA ON THE RISE - PART 1 AMANWELLA

One of the charming local boys we met on the beach of Amanwella.

New York times named Sri Lanka the no. 1 destination to visit in 2010. We would agree. Actually Select Collection visited Sri Lanka end of 2009 to conduct our photo shoot for our Select Collection brochure. We chose Sri Lanka because it is a mulitfaceted destination with so much on offer. Beautiful wild beaches, cultural heritage sites, stunning nature and scenery in the high lands with its tea plantations as well as the hectic capital and old fort town of Galle.

Sri Lanka has so much to offer that we wanted to put it forward as our feature destination for our 2010-2012 brochure. In a series of 3 blog episodes we will share some of our snap shots from Sri Lanka. We start out on the island's best beach in Tangalle.
Aman resorts known as a pioneer in the luxury travel industry has two properties on Sri Lanka. Their beach property Amanwella is spread out on a generous piece of land and located on what we consider to be the best beach on Sri Lanka. The crescent shaped beach is over 800 meters long and with only 30 villas on the resort and limited visits from the local community the beach is never busy. The sand is golden, the vegetation is lush with sloping palm trees framing the beach perfectly and offering just that perfect shade. At times the water here can be quite rough, especially in October / November with high waves and currents. At Christmas times the water calms but in all honesty this beach is never ideal for children but most of the year perfectly safe for swimming adults.
The villas all have a private walled pool, a terrace and an open style interior plan with bedroom and bathroom sharing the space half/half. As always with Aman the interior concept is minimalist and simple yet refined and without a television. The sound of the waves serve as the lullaby.

Amanwella is a place for relaxation. You enjoy your villa, the beach and can make quick excursions to a nearby temple or the local village. A part from one restaurant, a library, the main pool and the possibility of massage treatments and pedicures there are not many other facilities. But that is also the charm. The ideal lenght of stay in our opinion is 5-7 nights for pure relaxation. And hurry up and go now. Rates are still much lower than what Aman normally would cost in other destinations but as popularity is increasing day by day so will the rates.

From our photo shoot on Sri Lanka - a local dancer performing at Amanwella


You can read more about our tailormade programs to Sri Lanka here


An image from the beach club




A picture of a private pool

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Frégate Island Private, Seychelles

In the world there are only a handful of top tier luxury resorts. We are not talking 5-star resorts but something above that. One of them is Frégate Private Island in the Seychelles. Select Collection has had the unique opportunity to visit and exerience this magical island paradise. Here comes our impressions:

A private island for a priveleged few. With only 16 one and two bedroom villas and one presidential villa on the generously sized island (approx. 2.5 by 1.5 kilometers in size)this is a true hideaway. On the island you can do as little or as much as you want. Some guests prefer to just stay in their villa with all its facilities such as a large private infinity pool, an outdoor jacuzzi, spearate living room and bedroom and a view you just can't get enough of.

Others follow lead from the experienced butler. He will organize anything you want. We recommend to let the butler propose a program for your stay with daily acitivities. At first the number of acitivities might seem overwhelming but trust us you would not want to miss out on an à la carte breakfast in the top of a massive Banyan Tree after an early morning nature walk with a skilled naturalist. Or a fancy High Tea service on the island's highest peak in complete serenity.


The butlers at Frégate are thouroughly trained, knowledgeable in the vivid flora and fauna of the island and come with elaborate suggestions on acitivities and are always at hand but never intrusive, refined luxury at its best.

We have never seen a place that truly deserves the name paradise as much as Frégate Island. And when staying here it feels like you do not just get a luxurious villa but a whole island to explore and enjoy. The butlers' challenge is to present a different venue for dinner everyday. They make the most of the island and know every corner of it.

At Frégate luxury is symoblized by space and privacy. One example is that you can even have a private beach reserved just for you complete with a do not disturb sign. Pictures from one of the private beaches.

Another highlight is the food. The island operates on a full board basis plus all non alcoholic beverages are included. The food concept is generous, full of choices and of world class quality. For each meal there is an extensive menu. One lunch we decided to try a homemade pasta.
Just choose your favorite ingredients. The above pasta is served in a home cooked tomato sauce with crab meat, scallops and lobster. We also like the extensive ice cream menu where ice cream is made from all the ingredients readily available on the island. Such as cinnamon leaves, chili, papaya, ylang ylang, ginger...

We heard from a local Seychelleois that about 95% of all food has to be imported to the country. On Frégate there has been an active initiative to increase the local produce and Frégate produces so much fruits and vegetables that they even sell some to other islands. Frégate also bottles its own still and sparkling water.

This paradise has a significant price tag, but for the one who can afford it they will truly get paradise and it is value for money. It is hard to envision a place in the world where one would feel more priveleged and special than at Frégate.

Outside view of one of the villas.

The comfortable bed. A pillow menu, a scent menu and the sound of waves secure a restful sleep.

The colonial style bathroom with indoor and outdoor shower, double vanities and bathtub. The bathroom amenities are spiced with herbs and fruits of the island.

The main pool of the island.

Beautiful sun loungers at the main pool.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CONTRASTING DINING EXPERIENCES IN BUENOS AIRES


Buenos Aire's Palermo district is full of exciting dining options. One of the most exciting venues right now is Tegui in Palermo Hollywood. A sister restaurant to much acclaimed Casa Cruz (on Uriarte 1658), Tegui feels like the stylish little brother. Menu prices are also refreshingly affordable at Tegui.

The entrance to Tegui is adorned with colorful grafiti art and to enter the restaurant one must ring a door bell a wait for the staff to open. Inside a refined, dark and stylish design experience awaits us. The waiter firmly but frinedly asks us not to take pictures, but we could not stay away from at least one blurry snapshot below.

The long and narrow space is joined to the left by a glassed courtyard with planted banana trees to add exoticsm to the interior concept.

We recommend you to order the tasting menu and then sit back and enjoy the ride. Courses arrive one after another and they are delicate and well presented. The waiters all look like they are casted from a media school and their service is friendly, knowledgeable and correct without being stuffy.

Tegui is well worth a visit, make sure to book a table in advance. Located at: Costa Rica 5852.
CONTRASTING experiences is what makes Buenos Aires so exciting. The old and the new, the classic and the trendy coexist side by side in arty working class neighbourhood Palermo. One of the most unique and authentic dining experiences in this area is Club Eros (Uriarte 1609).
Club Eros is not what the name could suggest, rather it is the funny combo of indoor soccer fields and a local joint. I guess this is as local as you can go... very basic interiors, plenty of local repeat clients that want their value for money meal and a simple menu. A piece of chicken, a juicy chorizo steak, a caprese salad and sparkling water served the original way (see picture below) or a bottle of Malbec (don't ask for the wine list, just go with the flow). As in the olden days cash is the only form of payment, solo effectivo as the Porteños would say. Oh and don't try to speak English, sign language or Spanish will work perfectly.
The interior of Club Eros. It doesn't get more local and authentic than this. Go for it for lunch and enjoy the experience...

Friday, August 13, 2010

FLIGHT REPORT LAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS

The South American carrier LAN originated in Chile but has expanded with sub companies in Argentina, Peru & Ecuador. Select Collection decided to test LAN’s business class called Premium Business.

The seat in Business Class on all Boeing 767 flights is fully flat (not at an angle). To have a fully flat bed is much preferable over the quite common and many times uncomfortable lie flat at an angle seats.


A picture of the LAN seat


The entertainment system is extensive and on demand. The 15" screen and noise reducing headsets gives the passenger a high quality movie experience.

As preboarding drinks LAN is offering Chile's national drink Pisco Sour. We love airlines that offer something authentic outside the norm as a pre departure beverage.

Soon after takeoff dinner followed. It consisted of a salad, Chicken with asparagus and yellow rice and was rounded off with a Créme Catalan and coffee/tea.




A nice Argentinean Chardonnay

Before landing breakfast was served. It was quite nice with the option of either a hot dish or a plate with cold cuts and cheese. It came with bread, croissants, butter, jam and a bowl of cut fruits. A varied selection of teas was available.


All in all LAN offers a very consistent service from friendly flight attendants. Their hardware is excellent and the fully flat bed is a deal braker. In an ideal world we would want the seat to be a bit wider but the cross section of the B767 does not really allow it unless converting to a 2 - 1 - 2 configuration. LAN is debately currently South Americas no.1 carrier when it comes to hardware, service standards and aircraft fleet. TAM Brazil is the up and coming competitor and having recently joined Star Alliance TAM is upping its product in all aspects and is determined to become no. 1 in South America. Let's see...