New openings grab all the press, but some places
just get better with age. Here are some real gems
that are as great now as they were 30 years ago
Some hotels have glamour deep in their DNA, none more so than The Cotton House (above), an 18th-century coral warehouse and sugar mill that is one of only two hotels on Mustique. Created by Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, who bought the island back in 1958 when it was wild and unknown, and with interiors by his friend the stage designer Oliver Messel, the hotel’s 17 luxurious rooms, suites and cottages have been full of a heady mix of royalty, rockstars and bohemian types for half a century. Thirty years ago, guests might have seen Princess Margaret strolling along the sand. Today, you’ll find Stella McCartney, Mick Jagger and The Middletons.
Along similar lines, Shangri-La Le Touessrok (main image) in Mauritius, remains top of the list for the rich and famous – back in 1986 Prince Andrew and Fergie honeymooned at this laid-back, luxury hideaway. The hotel’s seen a £31 million investment since, so it’s out with classic Mauritian design and in with a sleeker, more minimalist style, including a Givenchy spa. Thankfully, the hotel’s relaxed, carefree spirit remains the same. More glitzy is the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio, an old-school, Art Deco beachfront icon that has remained wonderfully glamorous for the past 90 years. People-watching with a cocktail by the huge outdoor pool is as fascinating as ever – the drinks, and the hotel’s more flamboyant guests, equally good value.
Lastly, a mention must go to The Imperial, New Delhi, which opened in 1936. Guests at this grand hotel in the 1980s would have found it in the full throws of renovations, as a member of the original family that owned the hotel took on the project with gusto. Today it’s as magnificent as ever, with an amazing treasure trove of paintings, sculptures and murals.
When Scott Dunn launched in 1986, The Venice-Simplon Orient Express was in its infancy – its first trip only took place in 1982. Kentucky businessman James Sherwood had spent a total of US$16 million purchasing 35 sleeper, restaurant and Pullman carriages, the majority from the 1920s and 30s. Today these features are intact, and with retro style comes old-fashioned manners – guests wear black tie to dinner, cabins come complete with butlers, and there’s nothing like sharing the day’s adventures with fellow travellers at the new champagne bar.
There are so many talented safari companies, but the experts at Robin Pope Safaris still take some beating. The very same year that Andrew Dunn launched his first luxury ski holidays, Robin left the camp he was managing and launched his own – Tena Tena. Since then the company has expanded hugely, offering walking safaris, river safaris, and more lodges – including the new Stanley Safari Lodge in Livingstone. Behind all this, though, remains the same family-friendly ethos, and incredible expertise.
Since the eighties, Zermatt in Switzerland has become ever-more popular. It’s still the same pretty, car-free village, with slopes perfect for mixed-ability groups, but you’ll now find smart boutiques and many wonderful restaurants too.
Once only for hardcore skiiers, Jackson Hole (above) in the US – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – also now has far more for beginners to enjoy. The deep powder, steep slopes and off-piste, however, remain.
No matter how many fashionable hotspots emerge, there’s one place people keep coming back to: the Amalfi Coast (above). Whether it’s the spectacular, rugged landscape, picturesque villas or the fragrant lemon groves and olive trees, it’s as popular now as ever. Thankfully this cultural landscape was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, so there’s little risk of it becoming over-developed.
What could be more fun than whizzing head-first down a kilometre long toboggan track at over 50mph? Pretty much nothing. Which is probably why – despite the arrival of snowboards, paraskiing, snow funboards and snowscooters – The Cresta Run in St. Moritz, Switzerland, is still everyone’s favourite activity. OK, so the ski anoraks aren’t quite as vivid now as they were 30 years ago, but the queues are just as long...
And last but not least... the best bar in the world. The Long Bar at Raffles in Singapore still has it all – a great atmosphere, slick service, sumptuous surroundings and a crowd that makes you want to settle in for the evening. Guests sip on gin-based cocktail The Singapore Sling, which was invented here in 1915, and toss peanut shells on the floor in the Malayan plantation-themed surroundings (it’s the only place in Singapore where littering is permitted). A good drink always stands the test of time.