I am a true believer that luxury is in the eye of the beholder, as someone Greek almost once said (they were talking about beauty)! I wouldn’t like to be misunderstood though, my husband will no doubt read this and I don’t want him thinking that its ok for us to go camping on all future getaways so long as I have a lovely view when the tent door is unzipped… I absolutely love a few nights in a luxurious and fancy hotel where the staff dote on the guest completely, but that isn’t all that luxury means to me! Fortunately my husband (Mr P) has a similar way of thinking, so we make great travel partners! We are all time poor – so the biggest luxury is having the time and money to get away, switch off and ‘ctrl alt delete’ effectively! A 5* luxury hotel will of course deliver this pristinely (the Chedi Muscat, Qasr al Sarab, Round Hill and the Chewton Glen are masters in my humble opinion) but there’s more to it for me!
Space to ourselves
Privacy – it is such a treat! Day in day out we sit on the train or stand on the tube in close proximity to other people that we don’t even know and that certainly won’t smile or chat! So a little bit of time away from other people is a real luxury. Travelling in the shoulder season is a great way of firstly saving money but secondly on having peace and quiet. When we visited Jamaica a few April’s ago we were the only people staying in a little boutique property on the south coast. It wasn’t posh by any means, but we did have a private pool and beach that a 2 person villa could never have offered. We are also big fans of the UK staycation and there is nothing better than finding a gorgeous cottage near the sea and then splashing out on fine food and wine as a treat from the money saved by not needing flights or a hire car. Again – shoulder season travel in the UK will always mean lower prices and less people, but it often means a shorter break can be booked. Often a couple of days away from the office is enough to recharge.
Something simple there is never normally time for
I like Polly’s post about Valentine’s Day and just doing something different at home – a complete luxury in a busy life! Home is where the heart is and so you shouldn’t need to look for luxury, just to spend time enjoying it! For us most recently it was a sailing regatta in Sardinia. Mr P and I are both fond sailors but haven’t had the time recently to do as much as we would like, when we both had the opportunity to join a scratch crew for a week of sunshine (champagne) sailing there was no stopping us! We had the best week – if a doctor could have prescribed medicine for us this would have been it. We were with great friends and new friends for a week enjoying our favourite hobby. We laughed so much our sides hurt and as a result of the camaraderie the yacht racing went from strength to strength as the week progressed (notwithstanding some of the sore heads amongst the crew from ‘enjoying’ themselves too much)!
A unique and rustic experience
I always go looking for something different to the mass-scale rectangular room hotel options when I am researching a trip. If they happen to be boutique and rustic then I’m a happy bunny! These sorts of hotels are often locally owned and more so we’ve found that the owner is fully involved in running the hotel and cares about the guest experience. I had long been nervous about visiting Greece as it seems such a busy touristy place, but then last year I discovered the Peloponnese where life goes at a much slower pace, less tourists take the 3 hour drive but for those that do the reward is the most gorgeous countryside and charming hotels. We stayed a stunning property called The Kinsterna hotel and it was like a little piece of heaven! Similarly in Jamaica up in the mountains is a haven called Strawberry Hill where the air is clear and the bird song is deafening and the only noise. It is also nice to find something different be that a tree house in South Africa which we enjoyed during our honeymoon or a lighthouse off the coast of Maine where we are staying this June!
No wifi or 3G
Sit by a pool in any hotel and look around, how many people are fiddling with an iPhone or iPad and posting selfies of themselves in paradise rather than enjoying paradise and not needing to be constantly on the go and contactable? Most people! Not me! I will be honest, I do love to lurk on social media and see what is going on at home, but you won’t catch me posting anything until I am home. I love the idea of being away from it all (although I do read the news, depressing as it is) and I think more hotels and self-catering accommodations should actually make a point of advertising that there isn’t any WiFi by the pool or that there is no 3G coverage in the cottage. When Mr P and I have had the luck to stumble across this it has been lovely – we actually have to talk to each other! Clearly being in contact with the outside world is necessary – for emergencies at home or to stay in touch with a loved one that isn’t with you, but we’ve always made it work when needed. Once Christmas we were in the middle of Pembrokeshire with no phone service and on Christmas day we went for an early morning walk to call our parents to send best wishes! Another time in Devon I had to resort to standing on the kitchen work top to call home when a member of my family was ill. But the rest of the time we were blissfully disconnected from social media!
Making the travel part of the experience
One of the most exciting parts of any trip overseas for me is the flight – I am fascinated by the fact we can ‘fly’ (I understand the physics but it still baffles me) and I love sitting with my nose pressed against the window watching the clouds go by. More than that though, I like being able to travel in luxury – my 5ft10 frame does not like being creased up into a tiny seat so I love the airmiles I collect through work and credit card spending and spend them wisely on as much first class air travel as possible! Getting to the airport and entering the sanctuary that is a first class lounge means the holiday starts the moment security has been cleared. Being able to sleep en route or at least sit comfortably is even better. And then homeward bound, as far as I am concerned the holiday hasn’t finished until we’re back on the motorway heading home from the airport (having slept well on the flight back to London). We are very lucky to be able to amass airmiles as we do, but then again the amount of time that we spend away from home with work needs some making up for!!
Having the opportunity
In my dad’s father of the bride speech when we got married he said something that I still reflect on – that we are the first generation to have the sort of opportunities that we do and that we shouldn’t leave them for later if we can do them now. The opportunities we have aren’t matched across the world, we lead privileged lives and there is no escaping that. But the opportunity that it brings is incalculable – I think of some of the things we’ve done that 30 years ago wouldn’t have been possible! I am still incredibly annoyed I am too young to have flown on Concorde, to me that would have been the most incredible opportunity!
1. The dictionary definition is “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense” – perhaps it is time for a rewrite as great expense doesn’t necessarily buy luxury! We all know what we enjoy the most and I expect most of us plan any trip or treat with the expectation of finding something that we know we will enjoy and like. That is a luxury in itself and that’s what I think it is all about!
Thank you so much Anna, for such a wonderful post, brimming with fantastic stories of your adventures, with some really important lessons on luxury for the travellers amongst us! For those of you that are not yet acquainted with Anna's blog Penelope & Parker's Travels, you need to get yourself over there for a browse! It contains a huge array of luxury travel treats and wanderlust-inducing posts. The last time I had a binge on the blog it convinced me to start planning my next getaway - which is testimony to Anna's engaging and convincing writing style and beautiful photography.