from the archives: massage of a lifetime

Mandarin Oriental Central Park view

High above Columbus Circle in Manhattan, the Mandarin Oriental has an over-the-top spa with spectacular views of Central Park. And while raising the bar for service and ambiance, it is also raising the bar on what the market will bear for a simple rubdown. With the recent surge of affordable qi gong joints popping up all over major cities — not to mention practically every nail salon now offering to rebalance your chakras for $20 — you’d be hard-pressed to pay more than $100 bucks for an hour of qualified deep-tissue attention. Even nearby, high-end day retreats such as Bliss and Sanctuary top out at $200 for a hot stone or lomi-lomi massage. However, in the rarified world of the Mandarin-in-the-sky, a no-frills massage will set you back about a cool $500. Read more HERE.

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england on the up

This is the summer Great Britain stakes its place on top of the world. Buoyed by the 2012 Olympic Games, homegrown architects and designers – already recognized for thinking big – have taken the sky as their limit with vertigo-inducing  success. In celebration of all things great and not-so-small, here’s a look at a handful of the country’s newest gold medal views.

Emirates Air Line, London (164+ feet tall), Opened June 28. London Mayor Boris Johnson fulfilled his pledge to build the UK’s first urban cable car with the opening of Emirates Air Line – get it?. The three-quarter mile long river crossing, stretches between Greenwich and the Royal Docks in East London and has the capacity to carry up to 2,500 people per hour in each direction – the equivalent of almost 30 buses. For a “360 degree tour,” there’s an option to make it a non-stop journey.

The Shard, London, (1,016 feet tall), Opening February 2013. The View from the Shard is already one of the capital’s most sought after visitor attractions – and it doesn’t even open until next year! Expect high-speed lifts to transport the public to a dizzying viewing platform, where views promise to extend for an amazing 40 miles across the city. At 1,016 feet high, it’s not only one of the most ambitious architectural endeavors in the UK, but also the tallest building in Europe. Luxury hotel group Shangri-La will launch a new hotel inside The Shard, also in 2013. Personally, I can’t wait to hear about the spa.

ArcelorMittal Orbit, Olympic Park, London (377 feet tall), Opened July 28. The ArcelorMittal Orbit rises over the Olympic park giving a funky new perspective to London from its freshly redeveloped home in the East End. The UK’s tallest sculpture to date, the swirling structure took 18 months to construct and required 1837 feet of tubular red steel to form the lattice superstructure. The result is a bold statement of public art that is both permanent and sustainable. Designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond and sitting between the Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, the ArcelorMittal Orbit has become quite literally a beacon of the Olympic Park during the Games, with 250 coloured spot lights individually controlled to produce a digital combination of static and animated effects – including a 15-minute moving light show each evening after the Games.

Up at the O2, London (174 feet tall), Opened June 21. This summer, Londoners are being given the opportunity to climb an icon with this ambitious new attraction combining an exhilarating active outdoor challenge with a completely different perspective on the capital. The 90-minute experience takes visitors on an uplifting guided expedition across the roof of The O2 via a tensile fabric walkway suspended 174 feet above ground level. An observation platform at the summit will enable climbers to take in outstanding 360 degree views of the city and its many landmarks, including the Olympic Park, Thames Barrier, The Shard, Historic Royal Greenwich and Canary Wharf, before descending back to base.

Weymouth SEA LIFE Tower, Dorset (174 feet tall), Opened June 22. Situated along one of England’s most scenic stretches of coastland, Weymouth Bay is also home to some of the country’s best sailing waters and will host the Olympic and Paralympic sailing competitions this summer. Soaring high above England’s first natural World Heritage Site the Weymouth SEA LIFE Tower rotates a full 360 degrees for spectacular view of the Jurassic coastline, Chesil Beach and the island of Portland.

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the same – only better

When Hurricane Omar slammed into Nevis back in 2008, the island sustained limited damage and was up and running in relatively short order. One resort, unfortunately, got positively thwacked: Four Seasons Resort Nevis. As a long-time fan I know I wasn’t alone in feeling terrible about what happened. The intimate retreat was special: not only did it sport a low-key vibe, effortless chic and unspoiled environment, it was also the largest employer on the island. Forced to shutter for almost two years it put a serious damper on the local economy while leaving regular guests to wonder if what returned could ever live up to the original. Well, I hope the past few days of teases have whet your whistle because after a two-year, $100-million dollar renovation my favorite Caribbean resort is back.  And it’s blissfully the same – only better.

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it’s the thought that counts

I’m a luxury hotel junkie. If I had my druthers I would live in one permanently. Some people find it impersonal – I think it’s heaven. The friendly faces, the room service, the myriad little extras designed to be  not-so-surreptitiously slipped into an outward bound valise. Once upon a time a good hotel was heralded by two essentials: intuitive staff and bespoke toiletries. (To this day if I close my eyes I can instantly recall Claridge’s in London, the bars of Floris soap sensuously wrapped in a wax-coated paper. Tokyo will forever be associated with the Park Hyatt in my mind - and miniature bottles of a then-unknown Molton Brown, as exotic as the ingredients inside.) It holds true today, for the most part. Yet at the same time more and more hotels are falling over themselves to lure back guests with in-room trinkets and takeaways. Some of them are practical, like the personalized business cards on my desk at the Washington, DC Fairmont. Some are fanciful, like the monogrammed robe that was waiting for me at The Plaza. What’s impressive, ultimately, is the thought that goes into each – elevating a run-of-the-mill hotel stay into something memorable. My pick for this month’s best of the best comes courtesy of the DC Fairmont. An elegant and portable solution for gentleman: credit card collar stays.

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new views: naboisho

It was somewhat disheartening to leave the perfection of Sala’s Camp for a new untested lodge but my original plan for this trip had always included seeing two different parts of southern Kenya. At Sala’s I was on the great Serengeti plain, practically along the Tanzania border. Here at Naboisho Camp in the private Naboisho Conservancy I’ve left the Masai Mara for a few days and moved eastwards, up to a higher elevation in the hills. The landscape is full of thorny Acacia trees and lots of scattered rock. There’s less of the grand open space found in the Mara but at the same time there are a lot more places for animals to hide and I’m hoping this new site brings with it new experiences in the wild. One thing’s for certain, it’s aesthetically a lot more Wallpaper than Sala’s Camp.

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listening to your elders

Jamaicans have used traditional bush remedies to heal and nurture their people for centuries. At Fern Tree, the spa at Half Moon, the creation of a unique Spa Elder is a natural extension of this tradition. Part healer and part herbalist, the Spa Elder is designed to unite both traditional remedies and the present day spa experience by building local ingredients such as fruits, herbs, flowers, bark, and roots into the foundation of each treatment as well as spa philosophy. Consultations with the Bohiti – literally, “one who knows the wisdom of both plant and spirit worlds” in the native Taino language – can be used for advice on indigenous skin or body treatments; a detailed prescription of therapies suited to individual needs; or simply for learning about Jamaican herbs and rituals. It’s a brilliant idea. And the kind of service you’d expect to find at a lifestyle and wellness center or at a more traditionally defined luxury resort, like the bespoke Spa Shaman at Four Season Resort Nevis. With such a bounty of knowledge at their well-trained fingertips, the Spa Elder is a real resource for both spa novice and hardcore spagoer alike. After reading me and sensing my need for a deep detox, Elder Stella suggested I try the Cerasee Body Scrub, a mix of herbs and ground cerasee combined with essential oils to slough off dead skin. (Cerasee is known throughout Jamaica as a great skin cleanser with the ability to both sooth and heal. It’s also frequently brewed into a tea and used as a weekly detox – and occasional hangover cure.) Followed up with a moisturizing massage, I left the spa feeling lighter, brighter and tingly clean all over. As for the detoxifying effects of the cerasee, that became explosively clear only a short time later – after which I made a mental note to go in search of it in tea form.  The moral of this particular spa story: listen to your elder.

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wishlist: top of the world, ma

Located at the very top of the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, the newly opened Ritz-Carlton looks to be taking luxury to new heights in every sense of the word.  Occupying floors 102 to 118, it’s the tallest hotel in the world – set in the world’s fourth tallest building – with breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour and the iconic Hong Kong skyline at every turn.  Of the hotel’s six restaurants the jewel in the crown looks to be tapas-inspired Ozone on the 118th floor, which also has the distinction of having the world’s highest al fresco terrace.  The indoor infinity pool on the same floor – another world’s highest? – features an LED ceiling for anyone grown weary of the constant panoramic views.  And since you’re not exactly worried about privacy 1,600 feet up in the air, the floor-to-ceiling windows at Spa by ESPA promise to create an urban sanctuary unlike any other. Smack in the heart of the city, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong looks like it might very well be not only the tallest hotel in the world, but also one of the best.

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