Into the glitter bin
Luxury is a concept that has many meanings and dimensions and is ever-evolving. In, say, the 1980s, it meant glittery hotels with gold taps, spa tubs and morning-suited butlers. Three decades on and truly savvy travellers are harder to impress. Luxury is now more likely to be about privacy and seclusion.
Getting off the grid for a digital detox (no connectivity, that is, and three cheers from me on that score) is a luxurious thought and there are many places where this can be achieved in great style. Increasingly, I like the idea of “appropriate luxury” more than any sense of excess. It always seems a small miracle when remote places can deliver thoughtful extras; it makes you think about the logistics, the chain of delivery, the sheer effort and determination to provide, say, cut flowers in an African lodge or fresh produce on a tiny coral cay. Other things may not work so well at such far-flung accommodation (gremlins are known to interfere with generators; the creepycrawly wildlife is frequently investigative) but, goodness, here is a dewy rose on the breakfast tray and a hot-water bottle in the bed.
T&I this week is all about luxury but not in a proclaiming sense, although you could charter a megayacht (Page 6) for a lively $1.3 million for seven days. But for most of us this is voyeuristic fantasy; plonk me, please, somewhere connected to nature, such as Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula (P4) and provide a base camp that might be fivestar, however is not all silly frills but earthed and organic and within striking distance of outdoorsy pursuits in air so clear and crisp you could almost reach out and snap it.
For our Little by Little feature (P10), we asked contributors to recall memorable hotel experiences. In every case, it was about kindness from staff and management’s intuitive sense of how to treat guests. Helen Anderson describes the comfy ritual of “bed tea” at a plantation bungalow in upcountry Sri Lanka; at the super-glam The Brando in French Polynesia, Christine McCabe remembers not just the elegant accommodation and true-blue lagoon but the unsummoned macarons, their fillings made from honey harvested on the atoll. At the Maison MK in Marrakech, AZB Knight tells us that each morning a silver stool is placed outside guestroom doors “bearing a Thermos of strong, hot coffee — it appears without being requested or discussed; you can take it or leave it.”
In The Maldives, swimming with turtles at Amilla Fushi (P8) is a particular, silent pleasure. This new resort at Baa Atoll uses variations of “house” for its accommodation styles and if you want to dine in your Lagoon or Ocean Reef House, then order “home delivery” not “room service”. A pizza comes in a “take home” box and the implicit invitation is to sit back and relax, a cheesy, garlicky slice in hand, and observe “Maldivian TV”, which is, naturally, the big, blue view beyond. It really does feel like spending a feet-up afternoon in a home away from home. Now, if only I could work out how to disconnect that blinking Wi-Fi.