I decided to 'break' my London to Bangkok flights with a stop to see my Australian lawyer friend in Dubai. Little was I to know what a memorable three nights it would be.
Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach; A Pre-Opening Guest Returns
It started taking the Emirates First Class limo straight to Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach for breakfast with Resort Manager Bob, who I know from when I stayed at Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, when I was their 'First Customer' (and twice again after that).
As we approached the hotel I was stunned by the lavish foliage that had grown since my first visit.
Bob & his team were outside the hotel waiting for me. We eventually recreated the photo, with Mr Simon Casson, from my first stay in November 2014.
I was treated as a returning VVVIP, as I was walked through the hotel, with so many warm 'welcome backs'. I ended up eating breakfast with Bob & Mariana (their PR & Communications Director) outside on the Suq terrace.
Veuve Clicquot was served, Executive Chef Gilles Arzur personally prepared a sublime egg dish for us with lobster, caviar etc and there were new 'members of the gang' on the table.
The Four Seasons conversations over breakfast were fascinating and time flew by. After photos as we were leaving, a complimentary Four Seasons BMW took me to my friend's place.
'Sunday Lunch' on the QE2 in Dubai
The next day, after some mouthwatering duck fat poutine at dinner at Barbary the night before, we had the Middle East equivalent of 'Sunday lunch' on the QE2 on a Saturday.
On our way to board the ship we saw some mega private yachts, including Dubai, which was commissioned by Brunei's Prince Jefi and is now the world's second largest private yacht (it can accommodate 115 people) and is HH Sheik Mohammed Rashid Al-Maktoum's 'boat'.
On the QE2 we both got roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish. The Lido (the only restaurant onboard open that lunchtime) is more cafeteria than First Class. We were given a table by the windows and its was too hot there. However, the quality of the Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes etc were surprisingly high.
We had paid for a tour after the lunch but a mix up on the QE2's side meant this never occurred and, after making complaints, have been told I will be refunded.
Burj Khalifa: Seeing the Private Residences
After this we went to be shown some of the private residences in Burj Khalifa. The views from there blew my mind.
Ending the Weekend Looking at Burj Al Arab & the Dubai Sunset
Next it was the beach at Jumeirah Al Naseem for cocktails watching the sunset and Burj Al Arab. There can be few places in Dubai with a view this good.
Four Seasons Hotel DIFC: Treated as a VVVIP Again
On my last evening in Dubai I returned to Four Seasons Hotel DIFC this time. I met their 'new' General Manager Lorenzo. I loved chatting to him about Armani Hotels, Dorchester Collection & Four Seasons.
We ended our meeting recreating my photo with Carlo (the previous General Manager, now at Four Seasons Amman, which I hope to visit again soon).
Next I had martinis with an ex-Qatar colleague in the Luna Sky Bar looking out at Burj Khalifa. Lorenzo was too kind and arranged for Four Seasons to cover my bill.
Ending My Dubai Stay in Style with Breakfast at Burj Al Arab
I decided, after such unbelievable stay in Dubai, I must end with breakfast in Burj Al Arab. This took place in the Sahn Eddar lobby lounge.
Breakfast was even more elaborate than I expected, served afternoon tea style (see the photo) with sashimi salmon, French cheeses etc.
I picked the lobster Eggs Benedict. My only moan would be I would have preferred lobster flesh, rather than the lobster salad 'sandwich filler' the eggs came on. However, this ex-Cayman Islands being given a Burj Al Arab turtle, to add to my 'gang', more than made up for this slight disappointment. I will call this gold edged turtle 'Dart II'.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) stay in a '7 teddies' city. Cannot thank Four Seasons and my Australian host enough for all they did not make it so awesome. My Tips:- do not be put off by the decor at Burj Al Arab & avoid sitting by the windows on the QE2 in Dubai.
Four Seasons, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Royal Mega Private Yachts & 'Sunday Lunch' on the QE2: Dubai, a City of Superlatives - Dubai, UAE - January 2018
A 50th Birthday YEAR Celebration Starts with a Sublime Stay at The Dorchester in a Mayfair Suite - London - January 2019
My 29 March 2019 50th birthday, & the related Brexit date, are fast approaching. I had to make my first hotel stay of 2019 The Dorchester and my stay there could not have been better.
I was given an elegant Mayfair suite, with a spare shower room; balloons in the shape of 50; my first birthday cake & champagne.
I visited Four Seasons at Park Lane and 45 Park Lane during me stay. At the former I finished writing the invited to my 50th birthday parties and then staff brought me dinner (tempura shrimp from heaven) without me even asking, just as at the Four Seasons George V in Paris, they can 'read my mind' and at the latter their genial GM John came for a cheerful chat.
I should also mention a fantastic chat with Janice at The Dorchester, I had perfect chats with so many of their unbelievable staff. I should finally mention the guitar player in The Bar at The Dorchester. Love the live music on Wednesday's in that bar.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) start to my 50th birthday YEAR. My Tip:- make the most of Mayfair, London, the luxury hotels there, & their staff, blow my mind.
Madonna & Now This Brand Ambassador Stays in La Mansion at Four Seasons, Buenos Aires - What a Last Hotel Stay in 2018 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - December 2018
Mandarin Oriental Taipei told me as much preparation & thought went into my visit as when Katy Perry stayed with them in Taiwan.
It was, therefore, almost 'appropriate' that I should follow Madonna's lead and stay in Suite 100 in La Mansion at Four Seasons Buenos Aires as my last hotel stay of 2019.
From a Mercedes ride from the airport with Sam that was full of giggles; to a sublime complimentary Sothy facial; to a Diego Maradona/ Lionel Messi Number 10 Argentina 'Simon' football shirt; cocktails outside with Lisa & then my wise Uruguayan friend; to the best bathroom of the year, a '7 teddy" stay that only Veuve Clicquot could have improved!
Happy New Year to all the readers of #travelblog www.sifrew.com, on 29 March 2019 I hit 50!
A Brand Ambassador Stays at Belmond Hotel das Cataratas on the Day LVMH Announced Details of Their Acquisition of Belmond. This was Toasted with Veuve Clicquot Champagne with a View of the Awe-Inspiring Iguazu Falls - Brazil - December 2018
We decided Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, was the place to stay on our visit there.
On the day when we were flying from Rio, LVMH announced details of its US$3.2 Billion acquisition of Belmond. An auspicious night for this Brand Ambassador to be staying at a Belmond in such a jaw-dropping location, surround by 700,000 acres of National Park & in a prime location next to the Iguazu Falls. We were able to watch Iguazu Falls while toasting this with Veuve Clicquot.
Eduardo Bressane, the GM, had given me a special rate and Fabio (Front Office Manager) and his team could not have looked after us better. The thoughtful welcome amenities left for Issy & me (eg a capoeira outfit for Issy edged with jaguar print to mark the birth of jaguar cubs in rainforest; Veuve Clicquot on ice for me etc) put Four Seasons Hotel Sao Paulo at Nacoes Unidas to shame. It was a memorable stay in what is clearly a quality hotel, which will only get better under LVMH's ownership.
We visited Paraguay to 'Duty Free' shop and also crossed the Brazil/ Argentina border for the day to see the Iguazu Falls.
The main issue I observed during these visits was the lack of rigorous border controls in this border region. Not only was my Yellow Fever certificate not checked but my passport was also not asked for during some of the crossings. I also noted that there is a large Arabic speaking population living in this border area.
In my role as a Banking Consultant, most recently focusing on Anti-Money Laundering & Countering Terrorism Financing in Cyprus & Cayman Islands, this raised red flags for me. We associate this area with the proceeds of Nazi crimes but there are clearly more current issues people should be concerned about when dealing with clients from this region.
We could not visit Brazil without a two night stay in Rio. The rooftop pool at the Fasano features in the logo of #travelblog www.sifrew.com and I have stayed at the Belmond Copacabana Palace on a number of occasions.
This time I got to walk on Ipanema Beach as the sun was coming up and shop at Shopping Leblon for the most exotic socks of my life.
Another stay in Rio, with my phenomenal friend from Uruguay, that I will never forget!
Complimentary Stay in a Four Seasons Executive Suite at the 'Very New' Four Seasons Hotel Sao Paulo at Nacoes Unidas: The First Four Seasons in Brazil & my First Four Seasons Executive Club Lounge - Sao Paulo, Brazil - December 2018
I stayed at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach & Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay before they opened to the public and wanted to stay at the first Four Seasons in Brazil, when I heard about Four Seasons Hotel Sao Paulo at Nacoes Unidas while staying at Mandarin Oriental Taipei a few months ago.
When I went to Mr Sharp's private home in Toronto, when I lived in Qatar, we discussed a Rio Four Seasons. However, Sao Paulo was the choice for the first Brazil Four Seasons in the end and GM Michael Schmid kindly offered me a complimentary stay, when I asked to try it.
I travelled overnight from Punta del Este, Uruguay to experience my first Four Seasons Executive Club Lounge; take a look at Barcelona-based Ignasi Monreal's book of paintings 'Four Seasons: The Art of Hospitality'; swim in my first negative edged indoor/outdoor swimming pool and encounter Four Seasons in Brazil.
It was a bit of a disappointed that, despite the effort I made to do this, Four Seasons Hotel Sao Paulo at Nacoes Unidas did not put much thought into the welcome amenities in my suite but the Brazilian owners of the property were visiting the hotel at the same time as me, so I guess the hotel was caught a little off guard.
Just as with Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, I have decided it is unfair to 'teddy score' the Sao Paulo Four Seasons at this early stage of its development. It is impressive that the 'spirit of Four Seasons' is firmly established in Brazil, after only two months, and the issues I encountered are just a feature of any new luxury hotel. I am confident they will be addressed very quickly.
Christmas Came Early With My Lufthansa Business Class Flight From Frankfurt to Buenos Aires - December 2018
A series of mistakes/problems (eg bad journey advice from a black cab driver in London over the time it takes to get to Gatwick; my Lufthansa plane from Heathrow, London to Frankfurt was late & the connection time at Frankfurt being too short etc) led to a fraught start to my South American trip.
However, in the end the 14 hour flight from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires, upstairs on a Boeing 747, literally 'flew by'. The crew were friendly & helpful; the roast goose 'Christmas dinner' with red cabbage and potato dumplings excellent; the entertainment system with Bose noise cancelling headphones; good; the fully flat bed with a good quality pillow, large blanket & mattress topper had a quality feel; Van Laack sleep shirt was a nice touch; and L'Occitane products in the wash bags are still being appreciated here in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(6 out of 5 'teddies') - a high quality Business Class service but no champagne in the Lufthansa Lounge at Heathrow; too short a connection time in Frankfurt, combined with lack of privacy with the Business Class seats, prevented a higher 'teddy score'. My Tip:- run at Frankfurt!
Despite a pre-Christmas trip to see my remarkable friend in Punta del Este, Uruguay; the new Sao Paulo Four Seasons; the Belmond hotel at Iguazu Falls ('Cataratas'); Paraquay; and the Buenos Aires Four Seasons again, I had to see the Christmas decorations by the hotels & businesses in Mayfair, London.
Four Seasons at Park Lane helped with this by looking after my luggage for a few hours and I was impressed by the monumental, & stylish, nutcracker toy soldiers in their lobby, my photo does not do justice to the crystal covered one. Christopher Kane's work at Scott's restaurant on Mount Street, the Diane von Furstenberg Christmas tree at Claridge's and The Connaught's Christmas tree by conceptual artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin at night all deserve special mentions. Along with Head of Guest Relations Emily at The Dorchester for her entertaining chat with me.
Hope you enjoy the photos below. A true '7 teddies' effort by the hotels and businesses in Mayfair, London.
The Ultra Luxurious Petra VIP Lounge at the Queen Alia International Airport - Amman, Jordan - November 2018
My journey back from the Far East to Shropshire included a stop in Amman, Jordan. My Royal Jordanian Business Class ticket did not allow me access to the Petra VIP Lounge but an important Jordanian contact & friend, from my almost 10 years working in Qatar, wanted me to experience this VIP lounge and staff from his bank arranged this.
I was overjoyed I tried this experience. The decor of this lounge reminded me of my suite at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, while the level of service was reminiscent of the BA Concorde Lounge at JFK, with staff asking regular flyers about their university studies etc.
Early in the morning this lounge had a hushed monied feel that was a perfect place to recharge before my London flight. There is a separate dining area with a large selection of hot & cold foods.
This luxurious experience made me even more excited about staying at Four Seasons Amman again next year, once their refurbishment is complete.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(6 out of 5 'teddies') - an ultra luxurious airport lounge but would need to offer champagne, & a waiter service food area, to gain 7 'teddies'. My Tip:- jump at the opportunity to use this lounge, if you are lucky enough to be offered the chance.
Hilton Pattaya: A Dream Second Stay and a Wedding that was the Highlight of my Far East Trip & a Day I will Never Forget - Pattaya, Thailand - November 2018
Sofitel So, Bangkok; Christian Lacroix & #travelblog www.sifrew.com - More Dreams Come True!!! - Bangkok, Thailand - November 2018
Meet Greta, a Christian Lacroix dressed teddy bear specially created for #travelblog www.sifrew.com by Sofitel So, Bangkok.
Pinnpratch at Sofitel So, Bangkok created her and she is a spectacular piece of art.
I have named her Greta, after someone I adore in Puna del Este & she will be accompanying us to 'the wedding' of some of our best friends in Thailand tomorrow.
Feeling so blessed here in Bangkok.
The Louis Roederer Champagne Sunday Brunch at Sukhothai, Bangkok is the Best in the World - Bangkok, Thailand - November 2018
I have sampled brunches in Qatar, Cayman Islands etc but never anything like the Louis Roederer champagne brunch at Sukhothai, Bangkok.
As soon as I met F&B Manager Botan I knew I was in for an exceptional experience. There was Wagyu beef, Unagi sushi, oysters from Jersey, live music inside and as much Louis Roederer champagne as you could drink.
I will certainly be returning to try this brunch again after the Thai wedding I am attending and before I leave the Far East later this month.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(6 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - a brunch that is the manifestation of luxury with the quality of the food. My Tip:- speak to Botan. I am going to Four Seasons Seoul after speaking to her!
A Mandarin Oriental 'Celebrity Fan' has a Stay at Mandarin Oriental Taipei that Blew My Mind - Taipei, Taiwan - November 2018
A Michelin Star Chef from Mandarin Oriental Milan cooked for me; I was served vintage Veuve Clicquot wherever I wanted it; the hotel is an architectural masterpiece & this Brand Ambassador has never been treated better.
Issy's new Taiwanese outfit is a masterstroke, my 'I'm a FAN' business cards with a QR code taking you straight to the #travelblog www.sifrew.com site are winners and Manager Frances & her team are all exceptional.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(7 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - a '7 teddy' experience without any doubt that has left me speechless. People must stay at Mandarin Oriental Taipei!
Taiwanese people are some of the most avid readers of #travelblog www.sifrew.com.
I only became aware of Eva Air recently but, as soon as I booked Mandarin Oriental Taipei, I knew I had to fly with this Taiwan airline that partners with Hello Kitty.
A '6 teddy', 'First Class', friendly experience I will never forget.
Restaurant Suhring - Michelin Starred German Food Exquisitely Reinvented in Bangkok - Bangkok, Thailand - October 2018
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok: An Unbelievable Stay, Even for a Mandarin Oriental Celebrity Fan, in Their Dame Barbara Cartland Suite - Bangkok, Thailand - October 2018
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok is one of the world's legendary great hotels. It has been open for more than 140 years & is known as the 'Grand Dame' of Bangkok. I get nervous before each stay at this iconic hotel that it will not be possible to match my last experience but my stays keep getting better, which is truly unbelievable.
This time 'new' GM Greg & legendary Guest Relations Director Mayuree waiting outside for me in the steamy Bangkok heat; I was given the Dame Barbara Cartland suite; lunch with GM Greg; the pool staff welcome me back as an old friend & even presently me with a teddy bear of their own; and a final evening drinking with senior staff from Mandarin Oriental's Head Office in Hong Kong, having spent the previous evening with a senior member of staff from Jardine Matheson, blew my stay out of the water.
Strongly Recommend Flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok via Amman with Royal Jordanian in Business Class on Their 787-8 Dreamliner Planes - October 2018
When I was looking for flights to Bangkok and saw that Royal Jordanian Business Class was a viable option, I knew I had to fly with this airline for the first time.
I am friends with the owners of the Four Seasons in Amman & am due to stay there again next year, once their refurbishment is complete, and have some astonishing Jordanian friends.
A friend at Boeing told me to pick the flights where 787 Dreamliners were used and sitting next to the charming young son of the Chairman of the airline on the flight to Amman made my day. I cannot recommend the flights I took strongly enough.
Before I left for the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok & the Far East I decided to spend one more night at The Dorchester. I had intend this to be a 'low-key event'. However, nothing The Dorchester does is unexceptional and on this trip they gave me an updated version of the Park Suite I spent my 40th birthday in. I almost cried when I saw its beauty & recalled that 'historic' dinner in The Dorchester's Penthouse & Pavilion.
This, along with a private viewing of 'Mono Scripto', the Bob Dylan exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery on Bond Street and dinner with some exceptional friends at Dishoom made it a '7 teddies' 24 hours I will never forget.
Completing my 18 months in Cayman Islands gave me a chance to spend some quality time with my incredible parents, before another big adventure in. the Far East.
During my time in Shropshire my brother hosted an impressive family birthday Sunday lunch; I got to have lunch with my awe-inspiring godmother; went on a Tanners Cellar Tour with dad; visited Chester with mum & day, including lunch at The Chester Grosvenor; had lunch with a special family friend who got me thinking about Bank of Bermuda (now part of HSBC) etc; squeezed in a day in London to see the Bank of England & Annabel Shaw (Four Seasons Director of Residences Twenty Grosvenor Square - the former US Navy building) and I had drinks with friends from my Prestfelde & Shrewsbury School days. Hope the photos below help you understand what an unforgettable time I had.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(7 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - spending time with my unbelievable parents is always a '7 teddy experience' but so much else during my time in Shrewsbury & London could not have been better (eg lunch with my indomitable godmother). What UK memories to take to the Far East with me.
Flying American Airlines First Class, & staying at The Dorchester, meant I had to return from Cayman Islands to find a Rolls-Royce.
The Dorchester helped me celebrate by giving me one of their gorgeous Dorchester suites again, hotel legend Amanda Hyndman met with me, I (finally) met Four Seasons' Lynn Brutman, Dorchester butlers repacked my luggage beautifully and some of my best friends from my 10 years in Qatar joined me for drinks.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(7 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - no return to the UK could have been better. I must thank Robert, Janice & Emily at The Dorchester, John at 45 Park Lane, Lynn & Irene at Four Seasons at Park Lane & Amanda Hyndman at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for all they did to make my welcome back to the UK so special.
I have too many people to thank for my 18 unforgettable months in Cayman Islands. My parents, & so many special friends, for visiting me, and there are too many incredible people in Cayman Islands I hope I never lose contact with.
There are a few photos below from my last two days in Cayman Islands but they do not do it any justice!
Four Seasons Midtown New York - a Manhattan Icon Returns to Its Glory Days - New York - September 2018
News of a US$120MN refurbishment, and a new Swiss/German GM who is very well known to a number of my hotel contacts, meant I had to give Four Seasons Midtown New York another chance. This Manhattan icon has such a special place in my heart I could not give up on it.
This hotel is back to cutting edge Four Seasons perfection with a reinvigorated staff and a new light & airy look in the 366 guest rooms/suites.
An awesome '7 teddy' stay and so good to leave the region with such incredible memories.
Four Seasons New York Downtown: A Martini with the New GM - Mr Sharp's Four Seasons Spirit is Truly Alive in New York - August 2018
Thomas, the Four Seasons New York Downtown Manager, was recently promoted to their GM. He was helping with The Ocean Club in Bahamas' change to a A Four Seasons Resort when I was in New York at New Year.
I have known Thomas since his Four Seasons at Park Lane days and so had to meet his to congratulate him on this richly deserved appointment.
I was so glad I did. Thomas will be a '7 teddy' GM and has created a service culture at Four Seasons New York Downtown that exemplifies the essence of why Four Seasons is such a special brand. Our meeting further evidenced he will be one of the Four Seasons' legendary GMs.
Si Frew has lived in the UK, Bermuda, Qatar, Cyprus & the Cayman Islands. During this time he met Whoopi Goldberg (in Claridge's), Mike Tyson (in the Concorde Lounge at JFK) , Gordon Ramsay (in the Doha Four Seasons), Chris Eubanks (in The Dorchester), Cherie Blair (in Bermuda & again in the Doha Four Seasons) etc. There are funny stories attached to all these interactions, feel free to ask Si about them when you meet him.