Zen Diagrams

In his adopted homeland of Singapore, Tan Swie Hian is not just one of the most famous painters in the country, but one of Southeast Asia’s best-known poets. In 1993 a museum was built to house his masterpieces, and another – covering a square mile of wooded mountain range – is under construction in Qingdao, China. His works are carved into the rock faces of the Three Gorges on the Yangtse River, and painted onto sacred Buddhist sites. As a result, prices for his works have skyrocketed. When his 2013 Portrait of Bada Shanren was auctioned in Beijing last November, it fetched just over $3.3m – quite an achievement for a self-educated painter.


Yet it was for his poetry that the Indonesian-born artist first achieved recognition. Having completed a degree in English literature, he published a collection of poetry in 1968 entitled The Giant – today considered one of the region’s most important works of Modernist verse. His first brush with professional painting came when he took his first and only job, in the press office of the French embassy, where he was encouraged to contribute drawings to a Malaysian literary magazine. When the French ambassador officiated at his first exhibition in 1973, his second career
was launched.


It was at this time, too, that the artist had another awakening – of a spiritual kind. Tan had long been a practising Buddhist, and for a time considered giving up art in order to give himself fully to meditation. Thankfully, he didn’t, and he has subsequently won countless awards, from the Gold Medal at Salon des Artistes Français, Paris (1995) to the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum (2003). In China, in particular, his work is collected avidly – hence the construction, begun in 2001, of The All-Wisdom Gardens in Qingdao, which is currently about one third complete, and where some 200 stonemasons are engaged in creating huge works of art under Tan’s direction.


What makes Tan different from other artists? What he’s trying to communicate, he says, is “love”. It is evident in whatever he does, whether calligraphy or paintings of trees, mountains, gardens and flowers, which he injects with a spiritual energy. “My aim is to create something that shows how a free mind functions,” he says. “It’s like a hummingbird flying forward, backward and sideways, soaring, swooping or hovering in midair.”


Tan Swie Hian Museum, 460 Sims Avenue, Singapore; tanswiehian.sg


Your address: The St. Regis Singapore


A Smile, 2008

“I made this piece to show how misfortune and happiness walk hand in hand in life,” says Tan. The painting includes a two-line couplet which reads: “The red lava flows, and a hundred flowers bloom. The acid rain pours, and a thousand birds fly”


A Sea Change, 1986

Much of Tan’s work also reflects his fascination with the practice of meditation. “One can meditate on the sea until the sea boils, rises to love you and weaves a celestial web of interconnected beings,” he says


A Holy Mountain, 2007

Tan’s devout Buddhism is evident in his continual celebration of the natural world. This painting was inspired by one of his own fables, called A Holy Firefly, about a firefly determined to attract countless other fireflies to a holy mountain. “When night fell, the whole mountain and its heart phosphoresced, visible as well to the shore beyond”

Let There Be Lights

Just over a decade ago, the chandelier was languishing in design Siberia, deemed a fusty form of lighting that had no place in a chic modern interior. But no longer. In a quite remarkable reversal of fortune, today the chandelier is one of the most exciting, challenging and sexy objects in interior design, and big-name designers are creating dazzling chandeliers that are light years away from the traditional designs of the past.


One of the latest to create a sensation is architect Daniel Libeskind, who won the competition to design the masterplan of the World Trade Center reconstruction. Unveiled at last year’s Salone del Mobile, the trend-setting design fair held annually in Milan, his Ice chandelier fuses mathematics with the centuries-old craft of hand-blown glass. Commissioned for the Czech lighting company Lasvit, the chandelier features a series of clear-glass, angular pieces that fall like icicles from a reflective glass plate. Light shines through each glass piece, illuminating the edges to give the chandelier a shimmering, ice-like luminosity. 


All of which is a far cry from the chandelier’s origins. The earliest chandeliers, in the 14th century, were simple wooden crosses with spikes for fixing candles to, raised to the ceilings of churches and monasteries by a rope or chain. Over the next two centuries the chandelier developed its more familiar shape, with arms to hold the candles, and moved from public buildings into private homes. Chandeliers in the houses of the prosperous were made of wood, wrought iron and tin. In wealthier residences, they were more finely crafted and fashioned from gilded bronze, known as ormolu, as well as brass. In palaces, precious metals, such as sterling silver, were used.


The creation of lead glass, or crystal, transformed the chandelier into an extravagant and glittering centerpiece. From the late 18th century onwards, hugely ornate chandeliers were found in the palaces of Europe and Asia. The Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, built between 1843 and 1856, is dripping with chandeliers made by the French crystal company Baccarat, the most spectacular found in the Ceremonial Hall. A gift from Queen Victoria, it remains one of the largest chandeliers in the world, weighing 4.5 tons and featuring 750 lamps and hundreds of Bohemian crystals.


Today’s models are equally eye-catching – but very different in design. Take the Gabriel chandelier, for instance, designed by Studio Bouroullec for the palace of Versailles. Made to hang above the immense neoclassical Gabriel staircase that is the public entrance, the 40ft-long chandelier resembles an illuminated string of pearls hanging from the ceiling, the soft glow of the many crystal-encrusted LED bulbs changing with the daylight.


The Gabriel chandelier was made by Swarovski, the Austrian crystal-maker that has been at the forefront of the chandelier revival. Its Crystal Palace Project, launched in 2002 and curated by interior designer Ilse Crawford, had the ambitious goal of creating chandeliers with an aesthetic rooted in the 21st century rather than the 19th. The project got off to an inauspicious start. “At that time the classical chandelier was not taken seriously by the contemporary design set. Initially when I approached some well-known designers, most of them refused,” says Crawford. However, a posse of young designers took up the challenge, and their concepts were groundbreaking. One chandelier was made entirely of rose-pink crystals in the form of a haute-couture ball gown. Another was made of crystal prisms and resembled a glistening block of ice. Most unexpected was Tord Boontje’s Blossom, shaped like a flowering cherry-tree branch.


In the years since, many of the world’s most respected designers and even architects have realized the chandelier’s potential to thrill. “Manufacturers of chandeliers started to be interested in working with contemporary design rather than sticking to pastiche tradition,” says Crawford. The result has been some extraordinary creations. Award-winning architect Zaha Hadid’s limited-edition Fade, for example, incorporates 86 floor-to-ceiling cables, set at a 45-degree angle to create a fluted cone wrapped by 2,700 internally-lit crystals. Belgian designer Vincent Van Duysen’s Cascade is a series of LED-lit crystal strings that fall from the ceiling to resemble a torrent of water, while Beau McClellan’s Reflective Glow is officially the world’s largest chandelier. Suspended from a glass atrium between two office complexes in Qatar, it is 126ft long and lit by more than 2,300 hand-ground optical crystals and 55,000 LEDs.


Modern chandeliers also incorporate materials other than crystal into their design, such as copper piping and leather. Jo Whiting’s stunning chandelier for UK interior designer Abigail Ahern is made up of hundreds of small squares of porcelain, each of which has been hand-rolled in muslin for added texture. “Modern chandeliers evoke all the grandeur of the past, but have an edgy new update,” says Ahern.


No longer simply a light, the chandelier is now a work of art, too. “It is more fluid, more unique in design,” says Lisa Santana from Unitfive Design, responsible for the amazing rock chandeliers – 8,000 individually-made rock crystals suspended on hand-forged metal frames – at The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. “Now it’s possible to develop one-of-a-kind pieces that are a piece of art. They have become a reflection of one’s sense of style and fashion.”


Most recently, it is the development of the LED that has allowed greater scope. “LEDs flood the crystal with light, allowing it to do the talking,” says Billy Canning, chief lighting designer for the Irish crystal company Waterford. Although known for its traditional designs (its chandeliers are in London’s Westminster Abbey), Waterford stepped into the modern arena in dramatic fashion with a spectacular LED ball for the 100th anniversary of the annual Times Square Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve, 2007. The design of 672 Waterford crystal triangles lit by more than 9,500 LEDs made for a wonderful spectacle as it descended the flagpole.


However, even traditional chandeliers are enjoying a surge of interest as their star quality is once again appreciated. Baccarat’s Zenith 84 was also unveiled at Salone del Mobile, its glittering opulence a sharp contrast to the bare stone walls surrounding it. A reminder, if one were needed, that the chandelier has the power to transform even the most austere of spaces.


Your address: The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort


Vincent Van Duysen’s Cascade


The Gabriel chandelier designed by
Studio Bouroullec for the palace of Versailles

Label of Love

In 1927, the year that The St. Regis hotel opened its new wing and ballroom on 55th Street, a Jewish-German teenager left his home in Berlin to try to find work in New York and to pursue his love of jazz. At first he lived rough in Central Park, walking by the grand hotel to find work in the city’s docks. By 1939 he had founded Blue Note Records, the most iconic jazz label in the world and the epitome of style and cool. His name was Alfred Lion.


The city in which he arrived had already become the jazz capital of the world. The first jazz record had been cut there just before the end of World War I,
and soon after dozens of venues had sprung up all over the city, from grand ballrooms to tiny spaces. Besides well-known spots such as the Cotton Club in Harlem, where Duke Ellington made his name, a thriving underground scene had evolved around 52nd Street, where musicians gathered to experiment with the form – and imbibe a drink or two – in the small, smoky interiors. It was here that Lion hung out.


When he wasn’t in clubs, Lion spent a great deal of time at Milt Gabler’s Commodore Music Shop on 52nd Street, talking to the owner and his brother-in-law, Jack Crystal (the father of comedian Billy Crystal),
 who worked at the shop and helped run gigs at a nearby club. Gabler not only sold records but had his own label, which in April 1939 would put out one of the most important political records ever made: Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, about the lynching of black men in the Southern states.


Alfred Lion’s new Blue Note label had released its first 78rpm disc a month earlier, and while it didn’t have the political resonance of Gabler’s release, it had arguably just as significant an impact. In the last days of 1938 Lion had gone to a landmark concert at Carnegie Hall, showcasing black music from spirituals to swing, and then had been a guest at the opening of Café Society, the first club in the city in which blacks and whites were treated as equals, greeted at the door with the words “Welcome to Café Society, the wrong place for the right people”. Having spoken to Gabler, he suddenly knew what he wanted to do: get boogie-woogie pianists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis to make some recordings.


In those days, very few records were pressed – and when they were, artists often weren’t paid. So when Lion spoke to the artists, and promised not only to pay them, but to pay them well, the deal was sealed. A studio was booked on the West Side of Manhattan, a bottle of whisky was procured, and Ammons and Lewis performed a series of solos and duets. At the end of the session Lion didn’t have enough money to cover both the studio time and his artists, and had to return some weeks later for the masters. When he listened to the discs back at his apartment, his life was changed: “I decided to go into the music business.” He pressed 25 copies each of BN1 and BN2, the former featuring two slow blues tunes, and the second two boogie-woogie numbers. With no distribution in place, he offered them by mail order at $1.50 each.



A selection of classic Blue Note sleeves featuring
Francis Wolff’s photography and the definitive designs,
playing with lettering and white space,
pioneered by Paul Bacon and Reid Miles

Over the next quarter of a century Blue Note Records not only became the leading jazz record label, but went on to release music by just about every great name in the genre, from Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk to John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Jimmy Smith. It also produced some of the most distinctive and beautiful covers in the business, with sleeves that were works of art in themselves. Lion’s boyhood friend Francis Wolff, also Jewish, whom Lion had helped to escape Germany in September 1939, took many of the mostly black and white photographs. The arresting graphics, with their echoes of the Bauhaus, were pioneered by Paul Bacon, who describes his early work as “graphic visions of the music. They were drawn by hand and represented the best I could do at the time with two colors.”


In 1954, Bacon was joined by another young designer, Reid Miles from Esquire magazine. While continuing to use Wolff’s portraiture, Miles placed a heavy emphasis on lettering and graphic marks, using stencils and woodblocks, which he intended to represent something of the rhythm and tone of the music. Ironically, given that Blue Note album sleeves have become the benchmark against which all album designs are measured, Miles was not a jazz fan. But he had a talent for reducing the feel of the music into a simple, modern design that reflected not only the revolution that was taking place in music, but in society. With their spare aesthetic, cropped photographs and glorious colors, even today, they look as fresh and revolutionary as they did then: the epitome of cool. And they were clever, too, reflecting Lion’s belief that jazz was an expressive medium to be taken as seriously as any other high art.


When swamped with work Reid Miles would farm out jobs to friends, including
a young Andy Warhol, then a struggling artist desperate for commissions. Warhol produced four album sleeves, three of which were for guitarist Kenny Burrell. Warhol would go on to create one of the most celebrated pop album covers of all time – the banana on the front of The Velvet Undergound and Nico – but his designs for Blue Note were not on par with those of Miles and Bacon.


The St. Regis New York is proud of its longstanding connection to jazz. Count Basie and Duke Ellington played at its historic rooftop ballroom, and celebrated modern-day exponent Jamie Cullum gave a private acoustic show at its King Cole Bar & Salon in October as part of the Jazz Legends at St. Regis series. Blue Note, too, has endured down the years and moved with the times, under the same guiding principle on which Lion established the company in 1939: allowing musicians the opportunity to make records with “uncompromising expression”. Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter, Derrick Hodge, Ambrose Akinmusire, Wayne Shorter and Jason Moran are just some of the names who record for Blue Note today and they, like just about everyone who has preceded them, make records that are the soundtrack to New York City. Records that define jazz in both their sound and in their look.


Uncompromising Expression: Blue Note: 75 Years of The Finest in Jazz by Richard Havers is published by Thames & Hudson and Chronicle Books; thamesandhudson.com; chroniclebooks.com
Your address: The St. Regis New York


Images: Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images, © 2015 Universal Music Group

The contact sheet for Herbie Hancock’s Inventions & Dimensions album of 1963


The finished cover

Carlos Huber

What do you recollect of the scents of your childhood?


Although I’m absolutely in love with plants, I’ve actually always lived in apartments. But growing up in Mexico City I remember, when the elevator doors would open, always discovering a new flower arrangement that my mom had made. So the scent of flowers would always welcome me home.


How does your love of place and history connect to perfume?


More than any other sense, smell is linked to memory. As abstract and evanescent as a perfume can be, in our minds it is always tied to a concrete time and place. I’ve always been very connected to the discovery of a new city, a new landscape, through its aromas. With each of our scents, I want to guide you through a journey. That’s why it’s very important for me that the perfumes be “transparent”, that you are able to smell each ingredient so that you recognize them as clues in the story.


What was it like to train under Rodrigo Flores-Roux at Givaudan US?


When he discussed a specific note, or an historic perfume accord, he would set it up
in its period so I would understand the world around it. It was a cultural history
of perfume.


How would you describe your work?


I see myself as a fragrance architect: designing the scent so it highlights the significance of a beautiful story. I strive to be meticulous. The more of the picture I can paint for you, the more connection you will find with your life.


Your scents allude to historical events such as the meeting of Louis XIV
of France and María Teresa of Spain in 1660. What inspires you about
such moments?


History is my favorite subject. I read about the meeting of the French and Spanish courts in 1660 when the Peace Treaty of the Pyrenees was consolidated. For Fleur de Louis I investigated not only what they used as perfume, but also what they used to scent the room. The king’s cousin said that the pavilion where they met was so new that it still smelled of pine and varnishing tar.


What are the most exotic locations you have visited in your
perfume adventures?


Waiheke Island in New Zealand: it’s full of honeysuckle and jasmine. And Sydney is such a fragrant city – full of star jasmine in late spring, magnolias in the early summer, and frangipani later on. My favorite ingredients are gardenia, magnolia grandiflora, vanilla, lavender and rosemary, from Mexico, Australia, Spain and France.


You live in New York. What is the olfactory character of the Big Apple?


The waterways are definitely important. I love the Hudson for its sharp, briny scent.


And the aroma of home?


I like to buy fresh flowers and to change them depending on what’s in season, to experience a new scent. I also love burning candles. In the living room there will be a green floral (the St. Regis scent actually), in my bedroom something warmer, and in the bathroom something mossy and green.


What is the story behind the perfume you have created for St. Regis?


The ambient scent and candle are inspired by Mrs Astor’s ball, held at her Fifth Avenue home on January 29, 1900. Guests were greeted by the scent of American Beauty roses, the hostess’s favorite flower. They made their way down halls lined with potted palms and pillars of apple, quince and almond blossom. From there, they would enter a ballroom decorated with red roses, white lilies, yellow jonquils,
violets and carnations. Our scent is a custom composition that is historic, modern, truly signature.


Does perfume allow us access to something akin to a sixth sense?


Absolutely. Perfume can create a reaction almost like a vibration. It can excite, remind or attract you to something that’s beyond rational explanation.



Istanbul is crammed with colorful shops vying for attention. But the emporia that really snag the eye are those selling pyramids of gelatinous cubes in acidic greens, pinks and reds, dusted with icing sugar. More than mere candy, this Turkish Delight or lokum is a visual and toothsome feast, in a riot of flavors such as rosewater, cherry, orange and apricot, with delicious additions such as cinnamon, ginger and nuts. Today the sweet is also gaining respect from leading restaurants and shops around the world. Most notable is Zeynep Keyman’s Lokum Istanbul store, designed by interiors guru Anouska Hempel. Keyman aims to revive lokum in fashionable circles by placing it in chic boxes adorned with Ottoman Toile de Jouy and fez-like tassels. Basic lokum is made from water, sugar, a stiffening agent, floral ingredients such as rosewater, and flavors ranging from fig to pomegranate. One can see why C.S. Lewis, in The Chronicles of Narnia, chose Turkish delight as the White Witch’s lure for poor Edmund. It is the perfect perfumed temptation. lokumistanbul.com

Gauguin’s Polynesia

In 1891, it took Paul Gauguin 63 days to sail from Marseilles to Tahiti. This year, it took me 22 hours to fly from Paris. The reception each of us received couldn’t have been more different. Whereas the arrival of the 43-year-old French painter, sporting shoulder-length hair and a cowboy hat, caused much mirth, I’m greeted at Faa’a International Airport with strumming ukuleles and a garland of heavenly scented flowers. It is warm and sunny, the hills are alive with tropical colors, the gorgeous blue ocean is fringed with joyful white-capped waves. Everything is instantly, and emphatically, de-stressing. As the artist put it in Noa Noa, the enigmatic illustrated journal he began on his first trip here: “Little by little, step by step, civilization is peeling away.”


Gauguin’s paintings inspired by his time in French Polynesia have become synonymous with our image of the South Seas. With their rich and glowing hues, strong outlines, confident-faced nudes, lush landscapes and underlying mystery, they are unfailingly exotic. They sing of heat, natural abundance, sensuality and spiritual succor, and the world loves them. In 2003, when the landmark Gauguin-Tahiti exhibition was held at the Grand Palais in Paris to mark the centenary of his death, more than half a million people queued to see famous works such as Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary) and Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?


Inevitably, there is commercialism. The gift shops of Papeete, the island capital, are awash with shopping bags, tablemats and even flowerpots exploiting the painter’s masterpieces. Today a 332-passenger ship, Paul Gauguin, cruises the Society Islands, as Tahiti’s central archipelago is known. This name was bequeathed by Captain Cook in 1769, who drily observed in his journal how “more than one half of the better sort of the inhabitants have entered into a resolution of enjoying free liberty in love, without being troubled or disturbed by its consequences”. It’s a reminder that Gauguin was but one of many visitors to confirm the multiple charms of French Polynesia. Two decades after Cook, the Bounty mutineers famously demonstrated the lengths sailors would go to in order to stay in its warm waters, just as writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Rupert Brooke and Somerset Maugham spread the word in later years.


Tahitian women in a banana grove,
looking as though they have stepped out
of a Gauguin painting


Sunsets in the South Seas are as magnificent
as anywhere on Earth. Above is majestic Mount Rotui
on Mo’orea, one of many peaks on the island
that made a great impression on Gauguin


As the critics like to tell us, though, Gauguin’s paintings were a fantasy. He yearned to escape bourgeois routine, to find the primitive and essential. Unfortunately for him, the London Missionary Society got here first. In the Musée de Tahiti et des Îles, I contemplate black-and-white photos of local families taken from the 1860s onward, in which all the women wear decidedly unrevealing full-length dresses known as “Mother Hubbards”. My driver-guide is entertainingly blunt on this. “First the English came, telling us to cover up,” he says. “Then the French came, telling us to undress. We prefer the latter.”


Tahiti is actually two islands linked by an isthmus, and as I drive around its figure-of-eight, admiring the mighty forest-cloaked mountains and black-sand beaches, it is not hard to find scenes straight out of Gauguin. A horse grazes in a field of luminous grass, mangoes ripen on a table, vahines (Polynesian women) with long dark hair and a bright flower behind the ear relax on the beach. “Everything in the landscape blinded me, dazzled me,” the painter wrote. Once here, it was natural to paint a red close to a blue. “There is a continuing supposition,” argues his biographer David Sweetman, “that Gauguin invented his own Tahiti, particularly in respect of his colors, but one can only hold to such a view if one has never visited.”


Most visitors use Tahiti only as a stepping stone to the other islands, but it is worth a tour. Highlights include the Plateau de Taravao viewpoint, the dramatic surfing spot of Teahupo’o, and Mataiea, where the painter retreated to live in a bamboo hut. It’s sad but understandable that there are few original works by Gauguin to be seen on the island and that the Gauguin Museum, which has them, is currently closed for lengthy renovations. If you want to behold the art that resulted from this great creative adventure you’ll need to visit major galleries in cities such as New York, Boston, Paris and St. Petersburg.


But the real subjects are everywhere. Looking across from Tahiti to the graph-like peaks of neighboring Mo’orea for the first time, I’m as stunned as Gauguin was. “The mountains stood out in strong black upon the blazing sky,” he noted, “all those crests like ancient battlemented castles.” At times the sunsets here are so magnificent they fill the sky like a prelude to the Second Coming. Why isn’t everyone on their knees praying, I wonder? Because this is a tropical outpost of France, and everyone is far too busy buying baguettes, puffing on cigarettes and driving erratically.


Gauguin never made it to Mo’orea, but I can’t resist whizzing over by high-speed ferry, which takes 35 minutes and provides a chance to mingle with the sturdy, tattoo-covered, ever-smiling Tahitians who so enchanted the French painter. Here I join a Jeep tour that takes a roller-coaster drive inland to savor panoramic views and visit pineapple estates and marae (historic sacred sites). While French Polynesia is traditionally seen as a place for scorching romance and sipping coconut cocktails on the decks of over-water bungalows, it clearly offers much more: 118 islands, in fact, sprinkled over an area the size of Europe, but with just 275,000 inhabitants. Rather cheekily, Air Tahiti, the domestic airline, prints its route map superimposed on this continent, with Papeete standing in for Paris and its services shooting off to the equivalent of Bilbao, Stockholm and Istanbul. Point made – French Polynesia is one huge, adventure-packed chunk of paradise that cries out to be explored. Diving the shark-filled Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa, swimming with whales in Rurutu, visiting the pearl farms and vanilla plantations of Taha’a, admiring the coral churches of the remote Gambier archipelago – it is all most enticing.


One place on most wishlists is Bora Bora, a 50-minute flight west of Tahiti. “So beautiful they named it twice” quip the t-shirts, and its reputation as a scenic stunner is deserved. The island presents a sensational pairing of dramatic tooth-like peaks and bewitching blue-green lagoons, and owes its fame in part to the Second World War, when U.S. forces built an air base here following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among their number was a young naval officer, James A. Michener, whose 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Tales of the South Pacific, which inspired the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, shone a spotlight on this balmy paradise. Until the 1960s, when tourism started to develop, Bora Bora was one of the few places you could fly to in French Polynesia, and it has since developed a reputation as the destination for honeymoons and landmark celebrations.


“Have you ever seen green clouds?” a boatman asks as I speed across its divine waters. He points up to the sky, and I see what he means. At times the lagoon here is so intensely emerald that the sunlight bouncing off its surface gives the puffy clouds above a mesmeric, jade-like sheen. Gauguin would have noticed such things, I’m sure, just as he would have appreciated the tremendous sunsets now enjoyed by guests at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, which rests on an eastern motu (islet), with a necklace of luxurious over-water villas, offers grandstand views.


For me, it isn’t the soaring silhouette of Mount Otemanu backed by an apricot glow that most impresses; it’s the sights after sunset. When the sun has slipped away but the darkness of night, heralded by the first silvery stars, has yet to take hold, the sky becomes a magical, fleeting shade of indigo. You might even want to paint it… On the other hand, by this time you will surely have sipped a cocktail or two, such as the intriguing watermelon-infused Bora Mary, the signature drink at The St. Regis. Then it will be time for dinner, perhaps on the beach, à deux, with flaming torches. A little poisson cru à la Tahitienne, some roasted spiny lobster with mango. Could life ever get more romantic?


Gauguin returned to France in 1893, where 42 of his Tahitian paintings were exhibited that autumn in Paris, receiving little acclaim. These include the now-celebrated Vahine No Te Tiare (Woman with a Flower) and Manao Tupapau (Spirit of the Dead Watching), which are today in galleries in Copenhagen and Buffalo respectively. Two years later the artist was sailing south again, on a trip from which he never returned. His entire life had been spent rejecting things: wife, children, France, friends, agents, Van Gogh… The final destination this time was the Marquesas Islands, which lie almost 900 miles north-east of Tahiti. For the 19th-century adventurer, let alone a man now ill, penniless and despondent, it was the equivalent of a voyage to Mars.


It took Gauguin five days to sail here from Papeete, but I choose to follow in his wake aboard Aranui 3, a “freighter to paradise” that carries both passengers and cargo. It’s a comfortable but unconventional cruise – there are lectures and entertainment, but the crew are informally dressed and there is a clear sense that we are here to do important work supplying French Polynesia’s far-flung islands. We deliver everything from cars and cement to peanut butter, and then pick up copra and noni fruit for export. One of the deepest joys of this voyage is being lost amid the vast blue saucer of the South Pacific. At night, up on deck, relishing the warm breezes and a sky peppered with stars, I can’t help thinking of the Polynesian navigators who ventured across these waters in their huge canoes as early as 2000 BC.


While the crew get busy loading and unloading, passengers take excursions. One key stop is the 78 coral atolls known as the Tuamotus, where the horizon is adorned by a long trail of cartoon desert islands. Renowned for their diving, this is where another great French artist, the 60-year-old Henri Matisse, came in 1930. Like Gauguin, he was drawn to Polynesia’s extraordinary light and color. On Fakarava he went snorkeling, donning wooden goggles to admire the vivid fish, corals and “undersea light like a second sky” – sights that would inspire later works, such as the two Oceania cut-out wall-hangings, dancing with vibrant fish, corals, jellyfish, birds and leaves, that are now in the National Gallery of Australia.


Ten degrees south of the equator, the 15-strong Marquesas are the island group farthest from any continental land mass. Their atmosphere is markedly different from Tahiti, and it is easy to believe they were once peopled with club-carrying cannibals tattooed from head to toe. Rising to 4,000ft, their steep volcanic peaks are blanketed with thick forests that confine village life to narrow valleys and beaches fringed with a waving green sea of coconut palms. Serial escapists can’t keep away. In 1842, Herman Melville jumped ship on Nuka Hiva, his experiences inspiring his first best-selling novel, Typee. Jack London passed through in 1911, and in 1937 a young Thor Heyerdahl lived on Fatu Hiva for a year, trying to lead the simple life as the world moved towards war.


Gauguin only made it to one of the Marquesas, Hiva Oa, and today his simple grave lies in a hilltop cemetery overlooking the capital, Atuona. It is often adorned with flowers and mementos from the trickle of fans who make it here, and I am moved to pay my respects, too. As with many great artists, Gauguin’s personal life was far from exemplary, but no one could argue with the sensational work he created in his “Studio of the Tropics”. He painted his dreams, but after my 2,000-mile tour through the enchanting islands of French Polynesia, I have only one conclusion: the reality is even better.


Your address: The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort


Images by Getty Images, Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos, Ferdinando Scianna, Bridgeman Images

A Mo’orea man displays his traditional tattoos.
The word “tattoo” comes from the Tahitian “tatau”,
dating back to a time in Polynesian society
when nearly everyone was tattooed,
to indicate genealogy and rank


Self-portrait with the Yellow Christ, 1890,
painted on the eve of Gauguin’s first trip to Tahiti

A Little Place I Know

The Western-inspired restaurant in Park City by Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen

Purple Sage, 434 Main Street, purplesageparkcity.com
If my wife and I get time for a quiet dinner together, this is where we go. Although Purple Sage has been here as long as I can remember – and I’ve lived in this city for 14 years – it’s the sort of place you could walk by and not really notice. From the outside, it’s pretty small and quaint: one of many galleries, restaurants and bars in the lovely historic brick buildings on Main Street. Inside, though, it’s quite contemporary and funky, and really narrow – just wide enough for a row of tables down one side and a small passageway alongside. It’s all really cozy: between the tables they have hung beautiful cream pieces of fabric painted with sage leaves, creating intimate booths, and it’s lit with pale purple glass lights. The back’s slightly different, with a bar painted with cowboys and broncos and Rocky Mountains by local artist Wes Wright. Although the décor is fun, it’s the food we go for. We both always order the same thing: after a cocktail, I have the veal meatloaf with poblano chilli peppers and pine nuts, and my wife has the butternut ravioli. Also, the waiters are clearly all ski-nuts who ski by day, and work here at night: they have that grizzled, outdoors look about them, and clearly love their lives. There are a lot of great restaurants in Park City, but this one is warm, relaxed and homely, so just right for us.

American freestyle skier Fuzz Feddersen competed in three Olympics and coached the gold-medal-winning 1998 US Olympic team. Last year the CEO of Flying Ace Productions was inducted into the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
Your address: The St. Regis Deer Valley

The 17th-century pharmacy in Florence by Anna Friel

Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, Via della Scala 16, smnovella.it

This is the most beautiful store I have ever been in. You could easily miss it, because it’s tucked away in a road not far from the train station, and only has a little sign outside. But once you’re inside, you can’t believe how much there is within its walls. Founded by Dominican friars, it first opened its doors to the public in 1612.
I discovered it 12 years ago with friends from Siena who had taken us to Florence for the day. Going in through its grand doors was like entering a scene from Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume. You can feel the history – and of course, smell it. The minute you enter, you are met with the most incredible fragrances of flowers and essential oils, as well as beautiful ceramic medicinal jars and stunning frescoes on the ceilings. It’s a place to take your time while kind, very knowledgeable members of staff explain about the ingredients in each bottle, and let you sample them. There are 300 types of soap, powders, lotions and perfumes, all made from natural ingredients, using recipes that are hundreds of years old. It’s a place in which I could spend all day learning. If you don’t know what you like or even what suits you, the staff will introduce you to different substances until you do. I usually end up with a few perfumes that I use on their own and combine occasionally to create an entirely new blend. That’s fun, because you’re creating something totally original. I also almost always buy Melgrano Terracotta Pomegranate home fragrance, which is a mix of rose and sandalwood, and a candle that smells like the interior of a local church. I never visit Florence without going there; it has become a treat I look forward to.

The Master Cleanse, starring Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel, is released this year
Your address: The St. Regis Florence

The craft boutique in Singapore by Daniel Boey

Tyrwhitt General Company, 150a Tyrwhitt Road, thegeneralco.sg

You’d never know from the street that this nondescript pre-war building is Singapore’s hippest creative hub. Look around and all you’ll see are hardware stores and old traditional businesses, and around the corner an ancient Buddhist temple. Even on the front of the building, there is only a sign saying Chye Seng Huat Hardware (which is now closed, the space having been turned into a coffee shop). But go inside, climb a flight of stairs, and you feel like you’ve stumbled upon the Magic Faraway Tree. The space is full of incredible curiosities, all designed and made in Singapore. One of the three owners, Sam, is like a walking encyclopedia on the Singapore crafts scene, and can tell you everything about the pieces he stocks and the people who make them. He also runs great workshops over weekends, teaching skills that range from leathercraft and printmaking to ceramics and floral arrangement. Every time I go in, I’m like a kid in a candy store, because there are always creative people hanging out; you might meet musicians, artists, culinary people, the fashion lot, all coming for inspiration, or to make something. It’s also useful because I am constantly on the lookout for new creatives to collaborate with. And there are fantastic items to buy every time I go there, all displayed as they would be in a hardware store on perforated wooden boards, and ranging from a Star Wars-themed lithograph to badges, wallets, skateboards, scent and books by local artists. What’s nice is that it’s a world that is really creative and far from the commercialization of normal retail outlets. It’s a place that feels like a home.

The Book of Daniel: Adventures of a Fashion Insider, chronicling the adventures of Singapore’s “fashion godfather”, is published by Marshall Cavendish
Your address: The St. Regis Singapore

The gourmet deli in Abu Dhabi by Joanne Froggatt

Wafi Gourmet, Nation Galleria Mall, 1st Street, wafigourmet.com

The very last place you’d expect to find a traditional deli is in a smart mall in the middle of a city of skyscrapers. From the outside, it looks like any other high-end delicatessen. But the minute you walk in, your senses are overloaded with delicious aromas and incredible delicacies arranged in beautiful patterns and colors, and the most impressive hampers I’ve ever seen. It’s owned by Dubai’s H. E. Sheikh Mana Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and is packed with every edible treat you could want, from olives, pickles, oils and salads to pastries, lentils, tagines, fresh breads, fresh fish and kebabs as well as sweet treats such as dried fruits, nougat and ice cream; the list goes on and on. The best thing of all is that you can sample it all before you buy. When I was there recently, we ended up trying cabbage stuffed with mild, creamy labneh cheese, bright pink pickled turnip, eggplant stuffed with tomatoes, walnuts and chilies, and a selection of olive salads, which were all fresh and delicious. I like the fact that you can take the food home, or eat it on a lovely balcony with views of the beach; plus, the waiter can bring you a selection, so you can try new things. You’re encouraged to take your time, so we ended up also trying a selection of traditional sweet pastries, which involved lots of syrup, pistachios and cashews – heaven! – and Moroccan tea served in a beautiful silver pot. In a modern, bustling city like this, it is the perfect place in which to sit for a while, look out to sea and watch the world go by, with a tummy full of treats. The deli is always full of locals, too, smoking shisha and having leisurely lunches, which is probably the best recommendation you could ever want.

Joanne Froggatt has twice been nominated for an Emmy Award for her performances as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey, and won a Golden Globe in 2015
Your address: The St. Regis Abu Dhabi; The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

Jane Goodall

1. Cornwall, England, 1939
When I was four, the Second World War broke out, so I was taken by my uncle from London, where we lived, to Cornwall. One morning I collected a bucket of “shells”, only realizing that they were living snails when they escaped all over the living room. I was so upset that my family had to turn everything upside down to find them all, so I could take them back to the sea.


2. Germany, 1952
After the war, my mother dispatched me to Germany to teach me that not all Germans were evil. The country had been divided into four, and my uncle and aunt lived in the British section. They introduced me to a family whose three children I was to teach English. I was on my own, had never left home before, and the mother in the house was horrible and treated their dogs very badly. I was terribly homesick, but I rode a lot with the youngest daughter and learned to rely on my own resources.


3. England to Nairobi, 1957
Going off to Africa to stay with a school friend was probably the most exciting journey of my life. I’d earned money as a waitress to buy a liner ticket to Kenya, and for 21 days I had a fantastic time, sharing a cabin with three other girls and flirting with all the officers. The really magic part, though, was leaving grey skies behind and seeing flying fish and dolphins, and smelling exotic flowers and spices wafting from the land.


4. Kenya, 1957
Having read so much about Africa, when I landed I felt I was home. I’d got a job as secretary to Louis Leakey, the paleoanthropologist. In the Serengeti in those days, there were no roads; to find our way to the Olduvai Gorge, we retraced tracks from the year before. We put up tents and camped. The nearest water was 40 miles away, so we had just one glass each to wash ourselves per day. I almost bumped into a rhino and was followed by a lion, and in the three months there, I saw only a few other people: Borana herdsmen.


5. Gombe, Tanzania, 1960
Leakey had found me funding to study chimpanzees in Gombe, on Lake Tanganyika, but the officials there insisted I had a companion, so my amazing mother came with me. After driving for days in our Land Rover and camping at night, we reached Kigoma, only to discover that the Belgian Congo had erupted in civil war and there were traumatized refugees everywhere. Of course, we had to help; one day I must have made 2,000 sandwiches. When we eventually got to Gombe, three weeks later, I remember climbing the mountain overlooking the lake and hearing baboons and birdsong, and smelling grass and woodsmoke in the air. It was magical. I put my bed under a palm tree, and felt I had arrived.


6. Republic of Congo, 2002
Michael Fay – the brilliant biologist who walked more than 2,000 miles across central Africa – found a forest surrounded by swamp where animals had never been exposed to people, and wanted me to go and see it. It was an exhausting journey. My feet were so blistered I had to bind them with masking tape. We were up to our waists in water and mud. But we saw chimps, monkeys and gorillas,
and the area is now a national park: the Goualougo Triangle, known as “the
last Eden”.


7. Alaska, 2013
Getting to Alaska took days on several planes, the last one a four-seater that landed on a beach where Disney made that wonderful film, Bears. On our very first night we saw them: several grizzlies, fishing for salmon and digging for clams. A mother and two cubs were as close to us as just across a room, and paid absolutely no attention to us. They were absolutely beautiful. That film, I think,
is the best Disney has made.


Jane Goodall’s latest book, Seeds of Hope, is published by Grand Central. She leads the worldwide Roots & Shoots youth-led community action and learning program