With everyone asking me about my first foreign trip since my father's death last year, I must post something. On Social Media I have been accused of operating 'fake accounts' since I got back and, at times on this trip, I found it difficult to believe what was happening myself.
The trip started in the BA Concorde Lounge, before a 10 hour British Airways First Class flight to Houston. My friends in Houston managed to hold a beautiful cocktail party in my honour, despite 113°f temperatures.
I started my time in Nashville with a 'Boy George & Culture Club' concert. 'Berlin' were the support band & 65-year-old Terri Nunn stood of a chair very close to me to sing their last song.
At Four Seasons, Nashville I found out we had lost my relative Ann Clwyd, who loved the Kurds & mineworkers, when no one else did. Tony Blair put out a beautiful statement about her.
At that Four Seasons I was given a Veuve Clicquot experience where I drank La Grande Dame with Eliza. Her dad (Norbert Putnam) played bass guitar on 120 of Elvis' tracks and was in the support band for the Beatles when they first played in the US.
The food scene in Nasville is insane. I had one of the best meals of my life at 'Locust' and the gourmet fast food at 'Joyland' blew my mind too.
At that Four Seasons I also learnt Simon Casson had stepped down as a President of Four Seasons (he, kindly, emailed me). With Christian Clerc having left too, the phrase "to lose one President may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness" sprang to my mind. However, exceptional young staff like Brian on the bar, & Meagan by the pool, give me hope for the future of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
At The Guest House at Graceland Greg & TC gave me a Vernon & Gladys' suite, based on Elvis' Palm Springs home and Elvis whisky & wine. Sitting at Bonnie and Robert's bar there was engrossing listening, & talking to, such a fascinating range of Elvis fans.
My Ultimate VIP Tour of Graceland was another dream come true.
At The Peabody Hotel in Memphis I was given their Presidential Suite, where Presidents Reagan, two Bushes & Clinton have stayed, as well as Michael Jackson. They also made me an Honorary Duckmaster, during the ceremony for this I dedicated this Memphis honour to my legendary Veterinary Surgeon dad.
I ended this extraordinary trip with 5 nights at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami. It is interesting that Mandarin Oriental are far kinder than Four Seasons over my rates at present. My Peruvian dinner with GM Flavia was remarkable, as much for her company, as the sublime food.
At that hotel comments to Victor on the bar about the ice at breakfast meant I found large cubes of ice at breakfast the next day, as well as when I used their attractive infinity pool. Must also sincerely thank Stephen Head of F&B and Julian Head of Housekeeping.
Will be sad when that Mandarin Oriental closes at the end of 2024. The new Mandarin Oriental hopes to open in 2030.
You will find more photos of gifts & comments about noteworthy members of staff on Instagram, Twitter, Threads & Facebook. A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) trip. When you meet me I can show even more photos and prove I am no 'fake'!
What a month. From a moving Shropshire funeral, funerals of younger people are always particularly difficult; to one of the most elegant weddings I have ever attended, you could feel the love at both events; to Chefs Alain Ducasse & Wolfgang Puck preparing a 'Four Hands Dinner' for me at 45 Park Lane.
45 Park Lane also produced a cocktail for me from The Beverly Hills Hotel, that was not on their Sunday lunch menu. As that meal, the black truffles on Chef Elliot Grover's sublime roast beef tasted better than ever. I also got to eat in Chef Yannick Alleno's Pavyllon at Four Seasons at Park Lane, before it opened to the public and was back on Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square's roof sipping a cocktail. Must also mention Chef Tom Booton's revolutionary breakfasts at The Grill by Tom Booton at The Dorchester again.
Finally I have to talk about mum & the excellent food scene in Shrewsbury. As part of the two weeks I spent in Shropshire during the month, I tried to spoil mum with meals out. My hake at La Piazzetta in The Square was sensational, our steak frites at Cote were delicious and the spicy cooked breakfast at C Sons, Shrewsbury is still morishly good. A family friend also took mum and me around his stunningly beautiful garden. Mum was almost back to her old self, talking about garden design, that afternoon.
Hope you enjoy the photos below and they demonstrate what a memorable month June 2023 was in my life.
This week I will meet Chef Alain Ducasse and Chef Wolfgang Puck, Chef Elliott Grover & he will prepare my dinner together at 45 Park Lane.
Dorchester Collection, & Chef Tom Booton, played a significant role in my May 2023. Watching the Coronation flypast from The Dorchester roof, drinking Veuve Clicquot champagne in the rain, and a Coronation Day lunch in The Grill by Tom Booton at The Dorchester, with two appetisers and three desserts!
Four Seasons also played an important role with me spending Coronation Day morning at Four Seasons at Park Lane talking to a charming Saudi mother & daughter and Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square updating Issy's Beefeater outfit regarding our new King.
It was also a month where I was given Concorde glasses by another Barbican resident and sat next to a Concorde menu from 1977 at the second Veuve Clicquot Sunny Side Up Cafe. This led to a kind email from my friend Edouard de Nazelle in Reims.
I managed to visit Shrewsbury twice during the month. Dad losing his fight with Parkinson's, and mum's falls & diagnosis with dementia/ Alzheimer's, mean it was September 2022 when I last travelled abroad. Do not know what I would do without my friends. I look at a note from Tim in Houston each day and it helps gives me strength. Should also mention Jennifer at Naked Jam. Such a kind & talented lady and a good friend to mum & me. The good thing is mum seems far happier and less anxious. This means planning for my trip to Four Seasons Hotel Nashville can start.
Hope the photos below convince you it was a very special Coronation Day; Chef Tom Booton's breakfast is the best in London; mum is safe & being very well-looked-after; & the remarkable job Bruce did with my Barbican window boxes.
Mum's 80th birthday meant two trips to Shrewsbury in the month of February 2023.
The love mum's friends showed to her made me feel better over all we are dealing with at present. She was inundated with gorgeous flowers, countless cards and generous gifts. Welsh relatives ringing on the morning of mum's birthday , a cake from Shrewsbury Market Hall & an afternoon tea hosted by great friends of mum & dad made it a remarkable day for mum.
I did my best to spoil mum with a birthday cake; birthday dinner at Riverbank Bar & Kitchen (problems with their on-line reservation system) and Sunday lunch at The Armoury. The latter must be one of the best Sunday lunches in Shrewsbury.
This short month was, therefore, packed for me. Oliver from Shrewsbury School Foundation took me to lunch at St James's Hotel & Club; Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square served me caviar at breakfast; had a manicure with my haircut at Truefitt & Hill; ate Chef Elliot Grover's Wolfgang Puck Oscar menu at 45 Park Lane; enjoyed fish & chips at Four Seasons at Park Lane; and my work as a bank board member at Jordan International Bank Plc continued.
Hope the photos below do justice to mum's 80th birthday. My birthday again on 29 March. Chef Elliott Grover's Wolfgang Puck Spago Beverly Hills experience at 45 Park Lane is booked on 30 March and I will be staying at The Manor House Hotel in Moreton-in-Marsh in The Cotswolds at the start of April for another special lady's 80th birthday.
I felt very privileged to be staying at Four Seasons, Doha, as Qatar prepared to host the 2022 World Cup.
This Four Seasons has a very special place in my heart. I moved to Qatar in 2005, just as it was opening and got to know Four Seasons legend Simon Casson, its first GM.
The Pierre-Yves Rochon refurbishment has lightened & refreshed the whole look and Hermes bath products are a welcome change. However, the refurbishment is not yet complete & so a detailed account is not appropriate.
I would like to thank Milos for looking after my friends & me so well, including refreshing my Veuve Clicquot champagne and GM Shadi for our fascinating chat.
I have sent the hotel some suggestions (eg reintroduce frozen grapes at the pool) and hope to stay again, after the Libary Bar & Cigar Lounge has reopened.
Hope the photos below explain why this was a '6 teddy' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) stay, despite the on-going refurbishment. Tips:- this is a resort hotel & so your sleep may be disturbed by music. If the lights from the new fire prevention systems cause problems, alert the hotel, they can do something to reduce this problem.
Cannot thank my mother, Kathy, Alejandro, Four Seasons, John & Bilal, Jolee etc enough for all they did to help to make it such a memorable birthday again.
Hope the photos below help to demonstrate that it was another '7 teddy' birthday
The start of March, my birthday month, was overshadowed by a period of non-COVID-19 illness.
February 2022 was a month where I managed to spoil my exceptional mum for her birthday and visit my dad in Shropshire.
In London I ate lunch at The Wolseley again, always better than I remember; had breakfast at 45 Park Lane, reading The Wall Street Journal in paper form for the first time in years & tried Silverleaf, the Pan Pacific, London, which reminded me of the bar at Four Seasons, Seoul, far from a bad thing.
I also sent my remarkable godson Miles an Easter chocolate gift to celebrate his recovery from COVID-19.
Must mention how thrilled I am that John Scanlon is going to be the new General Manager of The Beverly Hills Hotel. He really deserves this but I will really miss him here in London.
Hope the photos below evidence another Si Frew perfect 6 weeks, despite my busy new job and a bout of bad illness.
Foreign Air Travel Is Stressful & Fraught, But Worth It - Madrid & Barcelona, Spain - September & October 2021
I last left the UK in December 2019 for a New York trip. Concerns about further UK lockdowns meant I decided to go to Spain in September/ October 2021.
The idea was to try Iberia Business Class again flying to Madrid & British Airways Club Europe again flying back from Barcelona.
The purpose of the trip was to stay at the new Four Seasons in Madrid; the new Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid; meet friends from Uruguay & Munich in Madrid; & see my Dubai friend in Barcelona and stay at his elegant place there.
Business Class seating on the Airbus A320 planes both airlines used was disappointing but food was better than I expected.
The main difference was between the crews. Nothing was too much trouble for the British Airways crew, while the Iberia crew did not care. My Apple New York charging cable was not compatible with the Iberia International power sockets and the crew were not interested.
The main points of interest with both flights was the importance attached to scraps of paper on the ground saying "docs OK" (evidencing compliance with COVID-19 documentation requirements) and the fact it was the first time I had entered a European country since Brexit. At Madrid EU & Swiss nationals had short immigration queues, while we British joined the problematic 'Rest of the World' queue. That took so long Four Seasons started calling me to ask where I was.
On the Madrid flight it made me smile that British Airways state that their merger with Iberia is now complete but good customer service is still so obviously lacking at Iberia. Since my flight they have asked for a Direct Message ("DM') on Twitter about my Iberia complaints but have still not replied to any of my four messages. All this reminded me of my Business Class flight from South Africa to Madrid, with Iberia, where I asked for water and was told that would come with my meal.
My advice is still to avoid Iberia at all costs and only pay for Business Class on the London to Spain routes if you are certain you will be flying on a A350.
Today I learnt my brother had sorted out his flight home. This, combined with the fact my sweet young niece will be in Shropshire for Christmas, means my COVID-19 Shrewsbury Christmas is shaping up well.
Last week John (GM of 45 Park Lane) showed me their stunning new swimming pool. I was one of the first non-staff members to see it, and have agreed not to post my photos, but can assure people it is one of the most beautiful indoor pools have ever seen.
This made me think about the fact I was shown the Private Members Club at Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square, before its members, and stayed at Four Seasons Resort: Dubai at Jumeirah Beach & Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay before they were open to the public. My meeting with Four Seasons Founder & Chairman Mr Sharp, as his private home in Toronto, really did change my life.
On the #travelblog front, it was also interesting that Grant Campbell has been appointed as the first GM of Nobu Hotel London Portman Square & Anne Golden at the first GM of Pan Pacific London. Despite the damage the COVID-19 restrictions have wreaked on the hospitality industry, it does not seem to have reduced my extensive network of General Manager contacts.
England's lockdown2 was made better for me by more Daniel Humm breakfast granola from Claridge's. I am still using the Davies & Brook jar it came in this time and was honoured to be one of the only people to see the Claridge's lobby during lockdown2. I also managed another Shrewsbury trip, ladened down with Fortnum & Mason gifts again.
People who see me over Christmas & New Year should feel free to ask me about the November 2020 photos below. Hope everyone has a special Christmas & better 2021!
During August my Middle Eastern banking work was overshadowed by the tragic explosion in Beirut.
The UK Government's 'Eat Out to Help Out' initiative meant I had the best (steak) burger for years at Paternoster Chop House, with a breathtaking view of St Paul's Cathedral; drunk Thums Up Cola at Dishoom for the first time since my India trips, while working for the Bank of England; ate truffles at breakfast outside at The Connaught & saw their new 'coffee foam art'; ate Dim Sum from heaven with caviar, edible gold & black truffle at Hakkasan, Mayfair; ate Mark Hix's exquisite food again at 1 Lombard Street, with their sublime service; & ate the best cooked rump steak of my life, with anchovy hollandaise & triple cooked chips, all for GBP10 at Hawksmoor.
At the same time I was honoured to be invited to revisit the Four Seasons' Private Members' Club in London. This gave me the first chance to view Four Seasons' 'Lead with Care' global COVID-19 safety program formulated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International's assistance.
I also managed to visit my indomitable parents in Shrewsbury again & see my exceptional Qatar friends at the Everyman Cinema at King's Cross before they, finally, headed back to Doha.
Hope the photos below, which include ones of my niece (now an elegant young lady), my dashing godson & legendary parents, put smiles on your faces & illustrate what a busy month it was. It was also the month where my face was the first thing you saw on the Virgin Active website!
Celebrating a Birthday in the Midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis - Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK - March 2020
When I received this personalised Veuve Clicquot signature arrow tin with its iridescent lid, I felt confident about my 2020 birthday. The original plan was to stay at the new Four Seasons in Madrid to celebrate, I know their General Manager from New York & Hong Kong and so it would have been an exceptional trip.
Since then the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has halted travel, closed hotels, restaurants, gyms etc and changed our lives.
I am now in Shrewsbury in Shropshire helping my parents with their self-isolation. My birthday will, therefore, be a small family affair. Today is my 'Birthday Eve' and so I have decided to post some photos to cheer us all up.
Stay safe, healthy & positive all at this difficult time & hope the photos below make you smile too. My awesome mum will ensure I have a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) birthday tomorrow.
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.
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.
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.
Another James Bond Moment at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort - Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas - June 2018
It was more than 15 years since I last visited Bahamas, when I came on a business trip from Bermuda, and I was keen to see the place again. It was around that time that I also started visiting Cayman Islands, also on business trips. In many ways Cayman Islands is a different place and so I was keen to see Bahamas again.
The One & Only in Bahamas becoming a Four Seasons in 2017 was the perfect excuse and learning the 2006 remake of Casino Royale was filmed there made me even more excited.
John Kentish-Barnes from Four Seasons at Park Lane was now the hotel Manager, while John Conway is still the General Manager, and so I knew I was going to have a memorable stay. However, the genuine warmth of the Bahamian staff blew me away. The word 'paradise' is sometimes overused but I think The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort - Bahamas, and their extraordinary staff, truly deserve this description.
'Last' Night in London in an Exquisite Westminster Suite at Four Seasons at Park Lane - London, UK - April 2018
I was nervous about staying at Four Seasons at Park Lane so soon after legendary GM John had left. However, Manager Mali ensured it was another memorable stay in opulent surroundings with exemplary Four Seasons staff.
It was just a pity I did not get to meet new GM Lynn, as she was not yet in place. However, I did leave a #travelblog www.sifrew.com. baseball cap for her.
Four Seasons at Park Lane remains one of the best Four Seasons in the group and a hotel Mr Sharp can still be justly proud of.
A Cold But Awesome Further Stay at Four Seasons New York Downtown, in an Executive Suite, for New Year - New York - December 2017 - January 2018
For my 16th New Year stay with Four Seasons in New York, I booked the Four Seasons New York Downtown again.
This was my third stay at this hotel and I was so pleased I did. They gave me a beautiful suite with train set, Veuve Clicquot champagne on ice, a cashmere Four Seasons hat to keep me warm and even left hot chocolate for Issy.
When I arrived Steven (Director of Rooms) greeted me before I even said my name and I immediately knew this was going to be an epic New Year stay.
Divine Christmas Stay in a Deluxe One Bedroom Suite at Four Seasons at Park Lane, London, UK - December 2017
I have an incredible history with Four Seasons at Park Lane. I first stayed there as part of a Paris, New York and London Four Seasons 'themed' trip from Qatar. It had not been refurbished at that stage and I wrote to Mr Sharp (Founder & Chairman) saying it should not be part of Four Seasons. He wrote back 'agreeing' and it shut down shortly after!
I then stayed there again after the refurbishment, when they left Sichuan pepper and Parmesan popcorn in my suite, relating to an 'incident' three years before.
The service & attention to detail in this uber luxurious Four Seasons is legendary and I knew I must stay there on this Christmas trip to wish Four Seasons star GM John congratulations on his 35 years with Four Seasons.
I was so glad I did. My suite, with a working fireplace, took my breath away and everything about the stay was beyond perfection. An incredible way to end Christmas before flying back to Cayman Islands for a night before Four Seasons New York Downtown again for New Year.
I visited Four Seasons, Ten Trinity Square in London on the first day it opened, and have been shown their private members' club and residencies, and they had been storing Veuve Clicquot I did not want to take to Cayman Islands for 8 months. This was, therefore, the natural choice for my first hotel of Christmas 2017.
I wanted it to be a special start to Christmas and Four Seasons, Ten Trinity Square exceeded my expectations by far. It truly is a 'seven teddy' hotel now.
I am thrilled that Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square has opened in the City of London.
It is based in the impressive 1922 former Port of London Authority building designed by Sir Edwin Cooper and has been redeveloped by Chinese Reignwood Group. This is the building the inaugural meeting of the United Nations was held in in 1946 and it also appeared in the James Bond movie Skyfall.
Its location by the Tower of London means that, just as when I lived in Qatar for almost 10 years, I can walk from my Barbican home to a Four Seasons.
When I said I was travelling through London after my GCC Tour, John (GM of Four Seasons Park Lane) generously offered use of their 'Early Morning Arrivals Suites', so I could have a shower.
In the end I had a shower; got a delicious light breakfast; rested for a few hours while admiring the views of London from the spa at the top of the Park Lane Four Seasons; got my iPhone6 recharged; and gained a new member of the 'gang'.
I cannot thank John, & his brilliant staff, enough for all they did for me that morning.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻 (7 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - John Stauss is definitely another 7 'teddy' Four Seasons GM and his opulent London hotel, with its friendly & helpful staff, fully deserve this top rating too.
Four Seasons Bahrain Bay's 'First Customer' returns for a Third Stay in a State Suite - Manama, Bahrain - May 2016
I first stayed in Four Seasons Bahrain Bay before it was open to the public & officially became their 'first customer'. I have stayed there again since and decided a third stay had to end my GCC Tour.
Greg (the General Manager) & Bob (the Manager) feel like old friends now and the hotel has gone from strength to strength over the 15 months since it opened.
Four Seasons Bahrain Bay now exemplifies the best of Four Seasons in terms of service, F&B & facilities and I am so proud to be known as its 'first customer'.
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.