Thursday, September 30, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 1


Select Collection regularly visits our destinations to stay up to date with the latest developments and even more important in order to monitor the quality of the resorts featured in our brochure. Most recently we went to Thailand to visit all our featured properties in the Phuket area.

Our first stop was at the newcomer resort Anantara. We were impressed with the quality of this resort. Excellent pool villas - spacious and charming.

The resort is located only 15 minutes away from the airport. The service is suberb and the SPA was fantastic. We also really enjoyed the food.

Anantara offers private pool villas and nothing but pool villas inspired by Thai modernist style. There are five different categories and they all offers a very nice and spacious bedroom, bathroom and an outdoor deck with private pool and terrazzo tub.

Anantara offers 3 restaurants and 3 bars for every mood. The property is beachfront and the beach is quite nice.

See below our snap shots from our visit to Anantara Phuket.

The Temple at Anantara



Fancy a ride?


In the Sea Fire Salt restaurant you can elect to have your dish prepared on a Himalayan salt block pictured above.







The bedroom area of our villa

And the private pool

Our private pool from another angle

Bathroom viewing the pool
Outdoor patio


The path to the spa

A duo spa suite complete with jacuzzi and relax area

The main pool by the beach

Stylish loungers embedded in water and palm trees

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Travel Report: California Vineyards



This is the time of the year to venture to the US West Coast, rent a car and experience the winelands. On this trip we went to world famous Napa but focused more on the lesser known district of Dry Creek. Dry Creek is around the corner from the charming town of Healdsburg. We checked in to Hotel Healdsburg right in the center of town.





Our room at Hotel Healdsburg. The hotel is charming and casual in a bohemian luxurious way. It feels like the perfect match when visiting the wine country. It is also a plus to stay in the middle of town. In the afternoons one can explore more than 20 tasting rooms by foot not having to worry about who's driving...


On this trip our mission was to find the best Zinfandel. Zinfandel is a grape which produces a fruitful red wine, and in the Dry Creek region the grape is plentiful. Our first stop was at the not so known vineyard Mazzocco. It appeared they were a Zinfandel specialist with many options on the tasting menu. And the Zins were just as we like them, fruit forward!



Down the road from Mazzocco lies Mauritson. The two housedogs served as the main attraction and at least for us they were more interesting than the wine :-)


Who can resist the cute blonde labs at Mauritson?

Mother and daughter on duty at Mauritson.



Next stop is Preston Vineyards.

Preston is a pioneer in organic farming and their tasting room and its surroundings are an experience. In the lush gardens olives, herloin tomatoes, Sharon fruits and more are grown and farmed. Several cats walk the grounds and play with guests. The wines were not our favorite but the vineyard itself is a unique experience and a stop you must make.


Just on the outskirts of Healdsburg we found this old bridge. The green foilage embracing the rusty iron created a beautiful sight.

After a long day trying more than 100 different wines we went for a relaxing dinner. A bottle from Owl Ridge was our companion for the meal.

Today we have scheduled a private visit to Robert Biale Vineyard to meet with the winemaker himself and see the production methods. We are on our way to Napa driving through charming towns. Our favorite stop along the route was the Dean & Delucca shop by the highway just outside of St Helena.

Welcome to Biale. We are taken straight to the massive tanks where the crushing of the grapes take place.

Viewing the industrial area of the vineyard. The wines at Biale were lovely, but the Zin did not quite live up to Mazzocco.

On our way back to Healdsburg we stopped at our favorite Vineyard Cline Cellars
located in the Carneros district. This producer is an expert in Zins and exports a lot to Sweden for example. Our favorite was the Big Break Zinfandel 2008 & The Live Oak Zinfandel 2008. Both are complex but also straight forward with a mouthful of red berries such as lively black cherries.

Another recommendation is the Small Berry Mourvedre. Ok it is not a Zin but its charachter is so bluntly unique that we couldn't resist its appeal. The wine tastes clearly of fresh eucalyptus and fruity jammy flavors and quite strong tannins. It tastes like no other wine we have ever tried. It is amazing how the grapes adopt the eucalyptus flavor from the nearby trees.

Our days in the winelands of California have been magical, enriching and relaxing. And the winner in our Zin competition is Mazzocco. What a find!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN: Onboard Prince Albert II


Silversea Cruises is known for all inclusive top luxury cruises around the world on small and midsize ships focusing on a lot of space for each guest, Italian style and grace and high quality food and premium drinks.

Last year the fleet became slightly more adventurous with the addition of the expedition ship Prince Albert II. Staffed with knowledgable specialists this ship sails less travelled waters and carries a maximum of 132 passengers. From the ship landings are made using Zodiac boats to reach closer to the wonders of nature.

Select Collection and our clients have come to know Silversea for their high standards of service. With the addition of the new ship we felt an urge to get onboard to see if this substantially smaller ship weighting only 6072 ton would be a compromise in quality?

We quickly realized that Prince Albert II was no compromise. The welcome Champagne in the suite was where it always is. The suite itself was completely refurbished and almost as spacious as on the sister vessels. Ok there are barely any verandas except in the Medallion Suite and Owner's suite but apart from that we loved the suites onboard.
Overall the ship was on the same level as the others in the fleet. Of course space is more limited but never restricted and with such few passengers this ship appears spacious.



We got to try landings by Zodiac boats.




Our suite onboard, sized approximately 21.5 square meters.



A picture from upper deck. If weather allows this is the place for some sun soaking.

Prince Albert II's by far most succesful sailings are the one's to Antarctica. They depart from Ushuaia in Argentina in the period November 2010 - end of February 2011. As of today all these sailings are fully booked. But you can already now book for end of 2011. Maybe a polar bear will be waiting to greet you.



Monday, September 20, 2010

FLIGHT REPORT LUFTHANSA FIRST CLASS


To fly First Class is a special experience. Expectations are high but the airlines usually deliver. Below you can view what Lufthansa serves up on one of their longhaul flights. The journey in Frankfurt begins with the private transfer by a Porsche from the First Class terminal straight to the aircraft. The upper deck with its 16 first class seats on the above Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet will be our home for the next 15 hours.



Specially trained flight attendants welcome you in First Class with Lufthansa's signature red rose. The seat even has a hole where the mini vase is placed.



In case you are unsure where you are seated Lufthansa has placed a "Lufthansa First Class" sign in the front of the cabin. Even the butter that will arrive with dinner has the label "First Class" stamped.

Before departure a Grand Cru Champagne is served with Macadamia nuts.



Once in the air an Amuse Bouche is served. This was a passion jelly filled with Foie gras, with some shitake mushrooms on the side.





The starter service on Lufthansa is probably the biggest experience of the whole meal. You don't have to choose one of the four starter options, you simply get all of them. Caviar is always there with the traditional garnishes; egg yolk, egg whites, sour cream, fresh onion and a silk ribbon wrapped lemon and warm toasts.


The main course is served on full sized heavy bone china. We went for the scallops with green pea mash. Delicious!


Desserts, cheese and avec are served from the trolley.



And like at any 5 star restaurant the dessert is followed by petit fours and tea. It's is really lovely to have your own tea pot.


Ok we were really full after the main meal, but mid flight a snack of small bites was nice. Blueberries, rapsberries, shrimp skewers a mini sandwich and a quiche. Just right.

Before landing another meal is served. The service is like a buffet on a trolley where you can choose between a lot of different things. We went for cheese, roast beef, marinated artichokes and some really good German sour dough bread.
All great things come to an end. Lufthansa's first class product makes you feel special. Especially the ground service in Frankfurt and the meal concept is at a really high level and rarely dissapoints. The old Lufthansa seat which is on all aircrafts (except the Airbus A380 which has a new seat) is comfortable for sitting and quite comfortable for sleeping as well. However, it is an old seat and the new LH seat is a substantial upgrade. But until the new seats are rolled out fleet wide we will keep enjoying the old recliner seat which goes fully flat.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

LUFTHANSA FIRST CLASS TERMINAL IN FRANKFURT


Lufthansa offers one of the most impressive First Class ground experiences with its exclusive and separate First Class terminal at Frankfurt airport. Select Collection started its first class journey in the terminal and here comes a short report.

When arriving at the First Class terminal a personal assistant immediately takes care of you. You walk through what is probably the world's most stress free security control and the security officers even smile at you... In a few seconds you are in the terminal and ready to enjoy the facilities.

The space offers a bar, buffet area, dining area with with table clothed tables and table side service, a Cigar room, rest rooms, computer rooms, showers, bath tubs and lounge areas. What we loved the most was the high quality food presentation on offer. An elaborate selection of food prepared from the best raw ingredients readily available. Items such as jamon crudo, several options of olive oils and aged balsamico, the finest cheeses, sour dough bread, desserts to indulge in and a selection of different Champagnes.


We came at breakfast time and had a solid breakfast in preparation for the long flight. The energizing fresh fruit shots (kiwi, ginger, carrot, orange etc) complemented the meal well.


The bar area in the First Class terminal. Each lounge table offers a selection of nuts such as spicy wasabi nuts, the king of nuts - Macadamia and more.

When all other passengers have boarded your flight your personal assistant comes up to you and brings you downstairs. The passport police checks your passport swiftly and then of you go in a Porsche Panamera, driven straight to the entrance of your aircraft. This is what we call travel in style. The journey continues onboard...











Monday, September 13, 2010

FLIGHT REPORT SAS BUSINESS CLASS


SAS Business Class on their longhaul routes has been the same for a few years so our story today is not about a new product but rather a peak into the cabin and what is typically served on a flight from Scandinavia to the US.

The seats are lie-flat at an angle. The design of the seat is in SAS signature dark blue fabric with cream leather details. Each seat has a video screen with audio and video on demand. The selection is ok but not very extensive if compared to the best in class airlines.

Let's enjoy the food:

Soon after departure the cocktail hour begins. An amuse with mozzarella, small pepper and tomato along with fried peas. A glass of Henriot Champagne is the perfect start to any journey with SAS. Henriot is really a pleasant Champagne.


The starter went down all too quickly so we missed to take a picture. Above is the main course - Renskav with lingonberries and Chanterelles.



A passionfruit cheese cake with fruits as dessert.
Ice cream some more fruit and tea.



One of the best things with SAS Business Class on longhaul flights is the self service buffet area where fruits, chocolates, sandwiches and wines are displayed. And of course the espresso machine that makes a really nice cappucino.
1 hour and 45 minutes before landing in the US SAS serves a cold meal. Usually it is delicious open sandwiches with cray fish, roast beef etc. As well as a bowl of fruits and...


...the cinnamon bun ;-)




SAS offers a consistent Business Class product with a nicely furnished cabin, a good meal concept and many Scandinavian touches. But to follow the competitors they soon need to go fully flat in Business Class. Continental who is flying from Newark to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen is busy converting its fleet to fully flat beds.