A Culinary Genius In Doha

The Scottish-born chef Gordon Ramsay originally set out to become a professional soccer player, switching to catering college at age 19 following a knee injury. He went on to train under chef Marco Pierre White before deciding to specialize in French cuisine, working alongside Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in London and Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon in Paris. His first Michelin star came in 1997, when he was chef at Aubergine. When he was 33, his own venture, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, was awarded three Michelin stars. Today, his ever-growing chain of restaurants stretches from Los Angeles and New York to Paris and Hong Kong, and he continues to appear on television series such as Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef. The chef launched two restaurants in 2012 at The St. Regis Doha: Opal by Gordon Ramsay, which serves classic western dishes in a bistro-style environment, and a fine-dining space, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.
Which dish do you most enjoy cooking?
I love cooking all sorts; what I make depends on what mood I’m in and how long I want to spend in the kitchen. In my recent TV cooking series Ultimate Home Cooking, it was all about making tasty food at home: nothing too fancy, but great fish dishes, pies, desserts.


Is there anything you’d rather buy than make?
No. Cooking your own food is always a better and healthier option. I’m a big believer in cooking at home with the family. My kids do a lot of the cooking in the house and it’s much more enjoyable.


What do you eat when you’re home alone?
Something quick and simple, such as a good-quality steak with salad and a homemade dressing. I always like to see what’s in the cupboard: you’d be surprised what you can make with just a few staple ingredients.


What would you order from the menu at The St. Regis Doha?
From Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, I would choose the carpaccio of Scottish scallops. At Opal, the lamb burger with mint is one of my favorites, although I try different dishes every time I am there. I always ask the chef to create mini versions of dishes on the menu so I can sample all of them.


How do the dishes there differ from your other restaurants?
Opal is very similar to Bread Street Kitchen in London, and obviously Gordon Ramsay Restaurant is inspired by my three-Michelin-starred flagship restaurant. However, we do make changes to reference the local culture, the flavors that are popular in the region, and the fresh ingredients that we can get.


When you were a child, what was your favorite food?
Eggs Benedict. I’ve always loved having it in the morning; it’s all about the hollandaise sauce.


Which meal most reminds you of home?
Beef Wellington, which has become one of my signature dishes. It’s very versatile: you can change what meat you use (I recently used lamb) as well as the spices and secondary ingredients.


Which is the dish you’re most proud of?
King crab tortellini with lemongrass and tomato vinaigrette. It is simple and fresh and always impresses.


What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?
Getting the first Michelin star for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (and of course getting three a few years later). But every time I’ve opened a restaurant it has been a really proud moment. I now have 25 globally and 13 in London, and there’s more to come. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my restaurant business, TV career and wonderful family.


Are there any foods that you think are overrated?
No, although anything that is processed or poor quality is never good in my book. I grew up in a household with very little money so we ate some horrible food – spam. That definitely isn’t something I’d eat now.


What do you enjoy most about Doha?
The people. They have always been very friendly and extremely professional.


If you could revisit a meal that you’ve had in the past, what would it be?
I’m very lucky in that I eat out a lot and get to experience lots of different styles, concepts and cultures. The most recent amazing meal I’ve had was at Quique Dacosta in Spain. I was in the area filming for television and found myself in a terrible restaurant. We wanted to show them what amazing service was, so I took them to Quique Dacosta; it was fantastic.


What’s the secret to running a restaurant really well?
You have to have a great team. I definitely do, and when I’m asked who does the cooking when I’m not there, I say it’s the same people as when I am there. To run a restaurant, and certainly to be a chef, you have to have passion for what you do, work hard and persevere.
Your address: The St. Regis Doha





Ramsay’s repertoire
Bleu lobster salad, croquant of celeriac and apple
with homardine sauce

Terrine of duck foie gras, dried apricots and almonds,
strawberry vinaigrette

Buttered truffle and guinea fowl with sweet potato purée,
chestnuts and mushroom mix


Gentleman Racer

Goodwood House might have remained just another of England’s lesser-known stately homes were it not for the fact that its present incumbent, the entrepreneurial Earl of March and Kinrara, has put it well and truly on the map as the site of the Festival of Speed and Revival events which attract car enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. But while visitors to the interior of the rambling 17th-century property get an impressive display of Sèvres porcelain, furniture by William Kent and paintings by Canaletto and Stubbs, they are seldom privy to the contents of Lord March’s office, which is crammed to the ceiling with an eclectic mix of the sort of car and motorcycle-related trinkets that are commonly known
as “automobilia”.


Lord March began the collection in the 1970s. “My grandfather, the aristocrat-turned-racing driver Freddie March, used to send copies of Veteran and Vintage magazines to me at school, and one of the things I’m most attached to comes from that time of my life,” he says. “It’s a copy of The Treasury of the Automobile by the American cartoonist Ralph Stein, which was one of the first of the big, full-color car books to be published during the 1960s. I used to love the pictures of great cars such as Type 35 Bugattis, and I’d spend hours doing drawings of them. “My grandfather was a very good model-maker. He made lots of models of cars and aircraft, some of which I still have. I’m also trying to collect all of the original Goodwood motor-racing-event posters produced when he originally operated the circuit between 1948 and 1966.”


One of the pieces Lord March most cherishes is also one of the smallest: a trophy in the form of a cigarette lighter engraved with the image of a horse. “My grandfather won it when the Lancia Car Club staged the first hill climb event at Goodwood in 1936. It represents the start of motorsport at Goodwood, which makes it very special. I also have his tattered silk scarf and armband from his racing days, and a lovely Roy Nockolds pencil drawing showing him winning the Brooklands Double Twelve in 1934.”


But it is since the first Festival of Speed 21 years ago that his collection has really taken off. “People just give me things,” he says. “I have hundreds of model cars, dozens of crash helmets. One of my favorites is the helmet worn by the great American driver Dan Gurney when he was racing Ford GT40s. It is incredibly flimsy. “I also have a couple of Stetsons which were gifts from famous drivers. One came from Jim Hall, co-founder of the 1960s racing firm Chaparral, who presented it to me after I became one of relatively few people to drive one of the cars. The other belonged to the legendary NASCAR racer Richard Petty – it’s massive and decorated with strange animal bones and bits of fur. It’s possibly the maddest thing in the whole house.”


The 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place June 25 to 28 2015, and the Revival, September 11 to 13 2015, in Sussex, England. goodwood.com

Mexican Waves

Mexican Waves

For decades in the second half of the 20th century, Mexico City was dismissed as one of the most dysfunctional cities in the Americas, struggling to cope with a population edging past 20 million and an unfortunate geological site. Founded by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island on Lake Texcoco, the city had been built on soft soil which, as well as subsiding on a regular basis, was vulnerable to flooding and earthquakes. As other cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio flourished, constructing ever-higher skyscrapers, Mexico City had to be content with sprawling outwards, creating a conurbation that, futurists warned, was spiraling out of control.


Fast-forward to 2015, and how things have changed. The city is now a beacon of urban-design brilliance and all the world’s architects want a slice of the action. As architect Zaha Hadid observes, “Mexico City has the most amazing buildings – from Luis Barragán’s masterpieces to Félix Candela’s ‘shell’ building to really strong Brutalist and Mid-Century Modern structures.” In the past few decades, too, the city has undergone a renaissance, with a new generation of buildings by high-tech architects and designers. As well as a center of finance, Mexico City has become a hub for art, design and creativity, with an economy the size of Peru’s.


“Construction started to boom here even when other parts of the world were in recession,” says architect Ezequiel Farca, who works both in Mexico City and Los Angeles. “Architecture and design are going through a great phase now and are poetic and free enough to create something bold and full of imagination. Young architects are inspired by the Mexican masters, which you can see through their use of color, proportion and building techniques. At the same time there is a revival of furniture design and a greater appreciation for design icons such as Clara Porset and William Spratling.”


In the past ten years, not only have charming old buildings been given new life, but a mass of hotels, restaurants and stores have sprung up alongside the city’s 150 museums. New landmarks include the Soumaya Museum, designed by Fernando Romero, with its sinuous, futuristic form made of metallic, hexagonal reflective plates to house an art collection amassed by telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim Helú. Next door sits the Museo Jumex, designed by British architect David Chipperfield for fruit-juice giant Grupo Jumex’s contemporary art collection. Also winning admirers is the Chopo Museum, whose glorious extension by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos is an addition to an original 1902 building by Bruno Möhring.


Working alongside local architects are a slew of big international names. British starchitect Norman Foster is coming to town to build, with local hero Fernando Romero, a much-needed new international airport. Argentinian architect César Pelli, who designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, came to Mexico City to build The St. Regis Hotel Tower in 2008, and Richard Meier is busy designing the Reforma Towers, a mixed-use project on main thoroughfare Paseo de la Reforma.


“Thanks to the constant relationship between Europe, North America and Mexico, architects and designers have found Mexico the most beautiful place to express their individuality and have constantly added to the city,” says Emmanuel Picault, a Frenchman who settled in the city when he was 18. “There is still a feeling of liberty and joy that brings people here.”


All of these projects highlight the vibrancy of Mexico City today. But they also add a new layer to a metropolis that has one of the most multifaceted histories of any city in the Americas. This is a city that has reinvented itself many times since the days of Montezuma, when its population was already a great deal larger than that of London.


When Hernán Cortés and his successors began work on a new colonial capital, it was the ruins of Aztec temples and palaces that they used as foundations for their own buildings. Cortés himself ordered the construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral – the oldest in Latin America – alongside the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor. Centuries later, the architects of “New Spain” continually sought to layer their own designs over those of previous civilizations. Although the later modernizers of the 19th century adopted Spanish and European architectural styles – with influences from Gothic architecture, Spanish neoclassicism and Hispano-Moorish motifs – they were equally inspired by the local mestizo population, creating a style of architecture that was uniquely Mexican.


Walk around Mexico City today and one can observe the process of cultural fusion that has helped to shape the capital. In some parts, such as Colonia Roma, Condesa and Juárez, it is possible to see the French influence of the 19th century and again when Art Nouveau emerged, French-trained architects ruled, and villas sprang up all over the more desirable suburbs.


In other parts, exciting 20th-century architecture dominates: buildings that were created after the end of the revolution in 1920, when a process of re-evaluation began. While some architects, such as the country’s greatest Modernist Luis Barragán, found inspiration in the simple purity of Mexican adobe houses, others looked to Europeans such as Le Corbusier. By combining both – the pure geometry of Modernism and the organic warmth and character of traditional Mexican architecture – local architects created a regional fusion with a rich personality all of its own.


If there is one architect whose legacy looms the largest in the city, it is Barragán, who died in 1988. His warm, sensitive but contemporary buildings – among the few Modernist examples loved by traditionalists, too – are full of vivid color, rich textures and integrated gardens and fountains. The ranch house that he designed for Folke Egerström in San Cristóbal is considered one of the greatest delights of 20th-century architecture and a celebration of both the architect’s and client’s love of horses. Barragán’s Chapel and Convent in Tlálpan are a hymn to light and serenity, while his Satellite City Towers on the Querétaro Highway are a much-loved public landmark. The architect’s own house in Tacubaya is open to the public and an essential stop on any architectural tour of the city.


As well as creating a distinctive architectural lexicon with his own buildings, Barragán also inspired a generation of local architects. They included the great Ricardo Legorreta, who shared his passion for color and texture expressed in vivid, modern forms, and designers such as Félix Candela and Teodoro González de León, who injected Mexican architecture and design with an energy, dynamism and ambition not seen before.


There are plenty of other individualists, too, who have imparted their own specific style on the landscape. Agustin Hernández, for example, takes inspiration from the pyramids, patios and ziggurats of Mayan cities, inventing houses that look like concrete spaceships on slender supporting pillars, hovering over the hills around Mexico City. Adamo Boari and Federico Mariscal created the Palacio de Bellas Artes in the 1930s, inspired by a mixture of neoclassical, Art Deco and Art Nouveau design and graced with murals by Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. And Juan O’Gorman built a home-cum-studio for Rivera and Frida Kahlo, designed in an early Modernist style but full of color, light and drama. The list goes on.


“We love mystery and surprises,” Ricardo Legorreta once said. “Even in our way of being we are quite mysterious. We say we are a simple people but we are extremely complicated. The depth of the architecture we create is the depth of Mexico and its people.” 


Dominic Bradbury writes on design and architecture. His latest book,
Mid-Century Modern Complete, is published by Thames & Hudson/Abrams


Your address: The St. Regis Mexico City


Images: René Burri/Magnum Photos, Adam Wiseman, Inigo Bujedo Aguirre/Viewpictures.co.uk



Fernando Romero's Soumaya Museum



Enrique Norten's Chopo Museum extension



Luis Barragán's Satellite City Towers



Inside Romero's Soumaya Museum




Ezequiel Farca, Architect


National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Located in Pedregal in the south of the city, an example of great urban planning, where you can spend the whole day looking at the wonderful modernist buildings, gardens and museums.” unam.mx

 Vasconcelos Public Library. “By Alberto Kalach, this is one of the most impressive contemp­orary buildings in Mexico City.” bibliotecavasconcelos.gob.mx


Casa Barragán by Luis Barragán. “Always inspiring because of the use of light, space, mat­erials and color.” casaluisbarragan.org

Emmanuel Picault, Designer and Gallerist 


National Anthropology Museum. “Unforgettable.” mna.inah.gob.mx

Anahuacalli Museum. “Diego Rivera’s last atelier.” museoanahuacalli.org.mx

Teotihuacan. “The most powerful archaeo­logical site close to Mexico City.”

American Beauty

Twentieth-century New York was full of fashion role models: high-society ladies whose wardrobes were as stylish as any European aristocrat’s, whose jewelry was priceless and whose elegance was the result of years of devoted attention. But none had quite the grace of Babe Paley.


Babe was the style icon of her day. The leader for a decade of the Ten Best Dressed list and an inductee into the Fashion Hall of Fame, she was a friend of and hostess to some of the most famous people in America. Babe was part of a circle alongside supposed wartime spy Gloria Guinness, actress and fashion designer C. Z. Guest, Hollywood socialite Slim Keith, Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, and Pamela Harriman, daughter-in-law of Winston Churchill and a future United States Ambassador to France. Truman Capote (a friend until he wrote an unflattering, minimally fictionalized exposé in 1975 that severed their bond) called these elegant women “the swans”, due to their propensity to group and glide through society like graceful birds.


What made Babe stand out from the rest of the swans was her compelling presence. As her friend, jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, put it, Babe Paley, like the Mona Lisa, had a face that was both memorable and elusive. Eerily attractive and supremely charismatic, she was a product of a time when society figures were household names – and when women were schooled to be the epitome of elegance.


“One look from Babe and you melted,” Lane says. “You fell in love with her the moment her marvelous eyes looked at you. Every waiter in every restaurant fell in love with her. She made you feel that she was in love with you. If she walked into a room, people didn’t quite stop breathing altogether, but they held their breath for a minute. She had an aura.”


She also knew how to live in supreme style. After her marriage to CBS founder William S. Paley in 1947, she established an estate, Kiluna Farm, on Long Island, where the couple spent weekends and guests included the likes of Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly and David O. Selznick. In Manhattan they occupied a magnificent suite at The St. Regis, which Babe remodeled with the help of society decorator Billy Baldwin. “I was in my early twenties when I first saw their apartment at The St. Regis,” recalls Lane. “It was a corner suite, and it had been tented by Baldwin. There was a wonderful birdcage chandelier hanging in the middle of the drawing room.”


As David Grafton, who wrote the definitive biography of Babe and her family, The Sisters: The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters, describes the apartment: “Using yard upon yard of Indian cotton… Babe transformed the space into an exotic fantasy.” Later, when she and her husband moved into their 20-room duplex at 820 Fifth Avenue, while still keeping her St. Regis suite, Baldwin “recreated their old St. Regis living room, which he had installed originally as a jewel-like library”.


Babe didn’t have to work her way up in society. She was born into it on July 15, 1915, to Harvey Cushing, a pioneering brain surgeon, and his wife Kate, a gracious but determined society hostess in Boston. As Grafton writes, “Early on, the Cushing sisters learned to entertain and cater to the comforts of an eclectic mix of personalities, many of whom were masters of their own medical or social fiefdoms.” The late Millicent Fenwick, a friend of Babe’s and a New Jersey congresswoman, remarked, “Each of the girls, and especially Babe, entered the world convinced that they were the most attractive young women in the world, combining beauty and brains.”


Barbara was the youngest of the five Cushing children – hence her nickname, Babe – and she and her sisters were groomed from the start to marry well, a goal that became a virtual profession for their mother. Kate proved instrumental in engineering the 1930 marriage of her first daughter Betsey to James Roosevelt, eldest son of Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Minnie would eventually marry Vincent Astor, Jr., who owned The St. Regis in New York.


In 1940 Babe married Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr., grandson of one of the founders of Standard Oil. She had been working at Vogue, less as a day-to-day line editor and more as one of the magazine’s legions of young, socially prominent women forging connections with designers of the day – the likes of Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Cristobál Balenciaga. She was still at Vogue when the couple divorced in 1946, and she first met the significantly older, still-married Paley.


Their union in 1947 was, in some ways, unlikely, in that Paley, although powerful, was the son of Jewish immigrants – a detail that remained unsettling for Babe’s WASP mother at a time when such issues mattered among America’s elite. But with his intellect and contacts, and her social abilities, the couple became the hub around which high-society events revolved.


While powerful men need not be handsome or even charming, powerful women, especially in the mid-20th century, had to be beautiful. While Babe certainly possessed the beauty, she also had, as legendary interior designer Mario Buatta says, “substance and a sense of humor. I remember being at a client’s house for lunch one Sunday. Babe was at the table, about ten of us, and she was very quiet for some reason. But then she secretly put a piece of spinach on a front tooth. Finally, one of her friends at the table pointed it out to her. It got her the attention she wanted and it brought her into the conversation – a skill she never had any problems with.”


David Jannes, an art collector and former PR who handled some of New York’s most glittering society events, says, “You have to remember that Babe Paley and the women in her circle were true individuals. The society women of today don’t stand out in the way people like Babe Paley did. She dedicated her life to beauty – in her personal appearance, the objects she acquired, the people she surrounded herself with, the homes she made at The St. Regis and Fifth Avenue and elsewhere.”


The couple entertained CBS stars such as Edward R. Murrow, visiting dignitaries and politicians, and writers including Capote, who once famously said of his former friend, “Babe Paley had only one fault. She was perfect. Otherwise she was perfect.” Style was everything at their Fifth Avenue apartment. Sheets were ironed twice, once in the laundry, and once on the bed. Menus were archived to avoid serving the same meals to returning guests. Visitors complained of not being able to get into the bathroom because there were so many flowers. To cap it all, Paley had amassed a distinguished art collection, a centerpiece of which was Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse (previously owned by Gertrude Stein, and which now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, a gift from Mr. Paley).


Much has been written about Babe and Paley’s troubled marriage, both then and subsequently. Paley was devoted to Babe and keenly aware of the cachet she brought him, yet he was also a conspicuous womanizer. “Bill was Bill
and she knew it,” says Kenneth Jay Lane, who maintained a close friendship with Paley after Babe’s death. “She adored him. He was a fascinating man and much of her role was to make him happy.” Yet Capote, quoted in Gerald Clarke’s biography of the writer, said, “I never met anybody who was so desperately unhappy as she was… Once she tried to leave [Bill] and I sat down and said, ‘Look… Bill bought you. It’s as if he went down to Central Casting. Look upon being Mrs William S. Paley as a job, the best job in the world.”


Throughout her decades-long tenure as a society leader, the embodiment of high fashion, and a fundraiser for her favorite charities, Babe also occupied a role that could only have existed in her day. Certainly to fashionable women in New York, but also to those in the far reaches of America, Babe Paley was a recognized name, the exemplar of style and grace. Such was her power that one warm day, upon leaving a Manhattan restaurant, she removed her scarf and tied it to her purse. Paparazzi recorded the moment and “in no time, women throughout America were tying scarves to their handbags,” recalls Grafton. “So great was Babe Paley’s charisma that women of all ages and from every walk of life would do nearly anything to emulate her. They wanted not only to look like her but to be like her.”



Portrait by Horst P. Horst, 1946

Although Babe died in 1978, she is referenced for her style and look as if she were still attending parties and opening the door to her apartment to receive guests. “I think one of the reasons Babe endures is that she doesn’t look outdated. She looked like a modern-day woman even in the late ’40s and ’50s,” remarks Annette Tapert, who included a chapter about Babe in her iconic book, The Power of Style. “There’s also the fact that her name keeps getting passed down in style folklore. Young girls at fashion magazines today invoke her name.”


Poignantly, it was probably in part the pressures of maintaining the image of style icon and socialite supreme that created fissures in her marriage and contributed to her premature death. While Paley liked to see his wife project an image of impossible glamor, forever draped in furs and the most expensive jewelry, Babe’s love of fashion and design made her an early champion of the unconventional pantsuit. As she aged, rather than attempting to preserve an illusion of youth, she eschewed hair dye and presented her graying locks to the world.


Like many other women of her time, Babe also smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Just a day before she entered a New York hospital to begin treatment for the lung cancer that would eventually lead to her death, she called her friend Kenneth Jay Lane, and invited him to meet for lunch. “She showed up wearing a long strand of big green beads,” he says. “I loved them. I said, ‘Babe, are those…’ and she said, ‘Yes.’ They were emeralds and I’d never seen the necklace before. ‘I haven’t worn this for years,’ she said, ‘but I knew you’d love them and I wanted to wear them for you.’ That’s the kind of person she was.”


Your address: The St. Regis New York


Images: Horst P. Horst © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis, CBS Photo Archive/Contributor, Erwin Blumenfel D © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis


With William S. Paley at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s
inaugural ball

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.


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
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