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'!
A combination of the refined taste of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser & the David Collins Studio mean Mandarin Oriental, Msheireb, Doha is a jewel of a hotel.
My stay blew my mind but I tried to do too much. I managed to meet a number of former colleagues, and important contacts, but there was no time to see Saif Al Thani, who I used to mentor. As I had to tell him, next time.
Still miss my butler Fiona; treasure my Mandarin Oriental yukata (Japanese robe); ate the best 'club floor food' of my life in the MO Club and cannot compliment hotel Manager Thomas enough. We first met at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok and he is a consummate hotel professional. It was also an honour to, finally, meet GM Martin. Lastly I HAVE to thank Chef Jonas for my personalised raspberry sorbet.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) better than perfect stay. Hope the photos below explain this from the balloons in my Maybach; to the rose petals & Media Room in my suite; nitrogen frozen fruit treats by the pool; my face on the ice cream tubs and a farewell like no other. Tips: order the a la carte dumplings at breakfast; make sure you can use the MO Club and visit AmBAR & Gelato.
I travelled from Madrid to Barcelona on the high speed Ren Fe train. It only took 2 /12 hours but it was not really worth paying for Premium Class, as I was still even charged for water.
In Barcelona I got to see lampposts designed by Gaudi but it is Antoni Gaudi's, still unfinished, Sagrada Familia that must been seen and it is well worth paying the Euro 26 to view the breathtaking interior.
My host in Barcelona is far from a fan of Social Media but you may spot his pink shirt in one of the photos below.
I adored my stay in Barcelona. Excellent, reasonably priced, meals out; friendly locals and a walkable place. Hope the photos below encourage you to visit this special Spanish city.
Sorry for my silence but I have been very busy with Banking Consultant related issues.
I have constructive feedback for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class re: the large inflexible dining table that is part of their new A350 configuration and the surrender of Four Seasons control to Wolfgang Puck over the CUT bar at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.
At the same time I must highlight the Grant Achatz truffle cocktail sent to my Central Park view 49th floor suite at Mandarin Oriental New York; the truffle cheeses, with grated fresh black & white truffles and Bresaola air-dried, salted beef from Uruguay to welcome me at my Hudson suite at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown Town and chilled bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne at both hotels.
Also need to thank Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for the roast duck congee breakfast, being added to their menu the following week, to celebrate Chinese New Year in London.
Will upload photos re: all this when I have more time but feel free to ask me about all this, when you see me.
Chic Paris at Christmas. The Four Seasons George V with Legendary Jackie; Veuve Clicquot at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris with Charismatic GM Philippe & Delightful Emilie; & Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris with Charming Louise - Paris, France - December 2019
The French strikes did not prevent www.sifrew.com having a spectacular time experiencing Paris at Christmas.
At the Four Seasons George V Jeff Leatham's Christmas decorations were even more dazzling/ opulent than I expected. I was sad to hear Jackie will be retiring next year but this will present another good excuse to visit Paris.
At the Mandarin Oriental, Paris I drank Veuve Clicquot champagne with charismatic GM Philippe and then delightful Emilie showed me the spectacular four bedroom The Parisian Apartment. It was interesting to see a piece of Zhuang Hong Yi art in the lobby of this hotel. His work is currently featured at 45 Park Lane.
At the Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris Dorchester Collection's charming Louise treated me like a VVVIP. It was interesting that my very dry Grey Goose martini there was better than at the Four Seasons George V. I also drank Perrier Fine Bulles for the first time and was fascinated to see a Lego model of the hotel in their exquisite lobby, Lego is the Christmas theme for The Savoy in London.
Hope the photos below give you a taste of how stylish Christmas in Paris is & why it was a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) experience.
An Extraordinary Gray's Inn Dinner; the Cavalry & Guards Club; a new Ede & Ravenscroft Suit; Work as a Banking Consultant; a Christian Louboutin Christmas Tree etc, an Epic Month in London - London, UK - November 2019
November 2019 was the month where I began working as a Banking Consultant again, as the same time it was a month crammed full of unforgettable London experiences.
There was lunch with an exceptional friend from my Bank of England days in Helix restaurant at the top of The Gherkin building, with awe-inspiring views. A Shrewsbury School drinks party in the Cavalry & Guards Club in Piccadilly and a Christian Louboutin Christmas tree at Claridge's but it was a dinner hosted by The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn that was a highlight of a spectacular month.
I was invited to this Inns of Court dinner by a barrister I first met during my Qatar days. It took place in 'The Hall', which dates from 1559, under a portrait of the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lady Hale of 'prorogation fame' and I sat next to a judge who presides over criminal cases. It seemed fitting that I wore my new Ede & Ravenscroft suit and it was also a chance to wear one of my new Turnbull & Asser shirts & Gucci shoes. I even joined in with the singing at the end of dinner!
Hope the photos below evidence why November 2019 was a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) legendary month.
I have settled back into my London life. Personal training with Bart at Virgin Active, Barbican and enjoying my swims there.
I am living in my redecorated Barbican place again, with its Dorchester Hotel bed, personalised Frette sheets from Harrods, new Ligne Roset table from Heal's etc. Just the 'Four Seasons at Park Lane' window boxes to recreate again.
Since I moved back to London Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has officially reopened. I visited on the day this occurred. On that, notable, occasion I met Rodolphe & Marco in the Mandarin Bar and was served a divine truffle gin martini that was not yet on the menu. Legendary GM Amanda also came for an inspiring chat.
On my second visit I brought one of my unbelievable friends from Shropshire and got to try more cocktails and snacks being developed for the menu and was presented with a Mandarin Oriental teddy bear, MO tie pin and MO key ring, to add to my MO clufflinks from Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur.
On my latest visit I decided to try their Hyde Park breakfast with Moet champagne, a choice of truffles or caviar and a spectacular view of Hyde Park. Breakfast ended up being better than I could possibly have imagined. Even the bellhops on the lobby stairs greeted me by name, the gorgeous dining room is so bright and impressive, the other guests as refined as I found before the deeply unfortunate fire and Amanda and her staff (eg Silvia the House Manager) seem reinvigorated/improved, what a contrast with when The Savoy in London reopened.
Hope the photos below help you to understand why it was such a special day.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) hotel, with '7 teddy' staff and a '7 teddy' champagne/truffle breakfast.
Emirates First Class; a Suite at Four Seasons Seoul Overlooking the Gyeongbokgung Palace; an Iranian Kaviari Caviar Afternoon Tea at Mandarin Oriental; a Louis Roederer Brunch at Sukhothai & My 50th Birthday - Bangkok, Thailand - January 2019
My year could not have started better.
Emirates First Class
On my Emirates A380 (double-deck) First Class flight here I was given a double portion of caviar & had another shower on a plane.
Four Seasons Seoul
My trip to South Korea next month has been confirmed. At Four Seasons Seoul I will stay in a suite overlooking the Gyeongbokgung Palace & be able step into North Korea. Also intend to visit the Lotte Hotel re: my Lotte New York Palace bag.
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok want me to try their new Iranian Kaviari caviar afternoon tea & I am meeting a friend from my Shrewsbury School days there tonight.
I am going to the Sukhothai on Sunday for their Louis Roederer champagne brunch again and cannot wait to see Botan to talk about Seoul, while reading the Weekend Financial Times.
My 50th Birthday
Friends from Uruguay, Sweden, Qatar etc have confirmed they will be flying in for my 50th birthday celebrations in the UK at the end of March.
It is going to be a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) 50th birthday year.
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!
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.
This 'Celebrity Fan' stayed at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London before its recent refurbishment and was eager to see what the over GBP85MN spent had achieved.
Marie (the hotel's PR Director) and Ines were kind enough to give me a tour and even arranged a complimentary lunch in Bar Boulud. I have eaten there before & also in Daniel Boulud's New York places.
The refurbishment is stunning, with all the attention to detail and additional light but it was my fellow dinners in Bar Boulud that evidenced the class/caliber of this London institution of a 5 star hotel. The 'great & the good' of Bermuda always stayed there during the 6 years when I lived, and worked, in Bermuda.
A Mandarin Oriental Fan Has a MO Celebrity Fan Stay at Mandarin Oriental, New York in a Premier Central Park View Suite - New York - April 2018
This Mandarin Oriental 'Fan' has quite a history with this luxury hotel group. From spending the only Christmas I did not spend with my family at Elbow Beach in Bermuda, when it was managed by Mandarin Oriental, to unforgettable stays at the Oriental in Bangkok, when the legendary Amanda Hyndman was their GM, to stays at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco (when it still existed), to interviewing for my Qatar job at the Mandarin Oriental DC, to stays in Barcelona, Miami, Hyde Park etc and being shown Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong etc.
I first stayed at Mandarin Oriental, New York when I was living in Bermuda, shortly after it first opened in December 2003.
On my most recent stay Manager Israel made sure I was treated as a 'Celebrity Fan' with a beautiful suite overlooking Central Park, hotel cars and a reserved table in The Aviary, NYC. A 7 'teddies' stay without any doubt and such a contrast with The Ludlow Hotel, New York and Mr & Mrs Smith travel.
When I worked in Bermuda the 'great & the good' used to stay in the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park. Thanks to Peter in their Digital Marketing Department my dream to stay there came true.
This Edwardian-style hotel opened in 1902 as the Hyde Park hotel. It was originally built as Gentleman's Club but there was a fire there.
It was acquired by Mandarin Oriental in 1996 and reopened in May 2000 after a major (GBP57MN) renovation and redesign of the restaurants & bars. The hotel hosted Margaret Thatcher's 80th birthday party and, in 2011, it also hosted the UK Royal Family's pre-Royal Wedding party for the Crowned Heads of State attending Prince William's wedding the next day. I have eaten in 'Dinner by Heston' (Blumenthal) in the hotel, Foliage (when it was in the same space) and Bar Boulud in the basement.
As part of my stay at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, I invited one of my best friends, the mother of my godson, to afternoon tea there.
I have had coffee in The Rosebery Lounge at the hotel before and always wanted to try afternoon tea in this indulgent room.
Thai Afternoon Tea at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok with Louis Roederer Champagne; Meeting with Amanda, the General Manager; Tour of the Refurbished Authors' Wing & Seeing Perfect Mayuree from Guest Relations - Bangkok, Thailand - March 2016
I wanted to see the refurbished Authors' Wing at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok and meet GM Amanda & Mayuree from Guest Relations again.
What better way to do this than by coming for afternoon tea, said to be the best in Bangkok, if not in Thailand.
I stayed at the Mandarin Oriental New York shortly after it opened in 2003 and decided to try their breakfast again. It is worth going there for the views alone.
Having stayed at the Oriental in Bangkok, I could not come to Hong Kong without a quick visit to the Mandarin. I was surprised to find the 1960s style lobby unchanged since my last visit more than 10 years before, when I came to Hong Kong on a business trip from Bermuda.
I was nervous that my second stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok might not live up to the first. However, as soon as I got into the BMW Series 7, was handed freezing cold towels and the classical music was put on I knew I was completely wrong.
At the hotel I was handed a flower garland before I entered the doors and welcomed back with genuine warmth. I was taken up to my suite to check in, staff on the way said “welcome back Kuhn Simon” with cheerful enthusiasm. I was back at my Bangkok home.
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.