©istockphoto.com / SimonDannhauer
Government-sponsored incentives are drawing retirees to Panama.
From superior benefits for retirees and an assortment of visa options, to the captivating sights and real estate options available, there is much to see and even more to experience as a resident of Panama.
For retirees in particular, the benefits offered through Panama’s programs have crowned it as “one of the top retirement destinations in the world,” according to Stephanie Villarreal, president and Realtor for Your Panama Real Estate Connection. She notes that the government-sponsored “Jubilado” retirement program provides impressive discounts on a range of expenses, including dental/eye exams, medical consultations, restaurant bills, airline tickets and even car purchases. What is needed to qualify is an annuity/pension-like income of $1,000 USD per month. Having good, affordable medical services like, amongst others, the Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital in Panama City is another added benefit, Villarreal says. New residents find themselves taking on the Panamanian lifestyle in no time at all.
The process of immigrating to Panama is relatively simple as well, Villarreal says, and with the help of experienced law professionals, the process is straightforward and easy.
Basilica of the Mother of God is prominent in Casco Viejo, where churches dating back hundreds of years blend with activities for those of all ages.
Photo ©istockphoto.com / rchphoto
“We work alongside attorneys to assist our clients with immigration and residency,” she adds. The Panama Friendly Nations Visa, for example, is also a popular special immigration program for citizens of selected countries who have professional or economic ties with Panama.
Those exploring their immigration options should also understand the differences in lifestyle of Panamanians, from “slower pace of life” to the fact that Spanish is the country’s main language. However, every difference also offers an opportunity to learn and experience the unique nuances of Panama. “Things in Panama move slower than in North America and Europe,” says Villarreal, “but with our team’s extensive knowledge and experience of how things work in Panama, we can assist our clients to adjust to life in the country.”
Adjusting to life in Panama can come easily with the help of the right brokerage team who will help guide potential buyers to their dream home or neighborhood. Villarreal says her team recommends that buyers should visit the country first to get a feel for what Panama is all about. “There are established ‘expat’ communities in Panama City, various communities at the beaches … there are many clubs offering get-togethers, bingo, Spanish courses and more.”
Add this to the plethora of good restaurants, cafes and bars amidst the cobblestone roads and churches of Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old quarter, and the amazing beaches and archipelagos, and there’s too much to fit into one trip. So, perhaps, make it a trip to last the rest of your life?
The finest property in Portugal, in the most prestigious location in the country, has been put on the market – and it could be yours!
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal offers Quinta de Lago, one of the most exciting and exclusive resorts in Europe, boasting some of the most spectacular and beautiful villas in the Algarve. Founded in 1972, this 800-acre residential estate borders miles of golden coast along the Atlantic Ocean, with views of sprawling pine forests and some of the world’s top golf courses. You can rest assured this area will remain pristine, with a strict 8 percent building restriction as part of the UNESCO Ria Formosa bird sanctuary, ensuring your investment will prosper for years to come.
On over 44,000 square feet of land, with over 16,000 square feet of living space, this 8 bedroom villa includes high-quality kitchens with full equipment, a 4-level glass electric elevator, and full fitness equipment. Enjoy a movie with friends and family in the 12-person theater with 4 Control system touchpanels, and Lutron light switches and thermostats. A wine gallery freezer in the basement is stocked with top Portugeuese wines and champagne, and drinks can be enjoyed in the basement bar lounge.
.Six indoor and outdoor gas fireplaces provide ambience, and the villa is decorated with top indoor and outdoor furnishings. Enjoy the luxurious outdoors with 3 heated pools and an outside lounge, and top garden Quinta landscaping. With spectacular views, amazing amenities and dazzling details, this luxurious villa is sure to impress. €20,000,000
Photos courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal.
Maroon Bells ASPEN / COLORADO
Photo: Vkoulampet / wikimedia commons
Originally named for the abundance of aspen trees in the area, Aspen’s abundance has grown exponentially in terms of luxury, from fine restaurants and world-renowned ski resorts to some of the most artistic and culturally stimulating experiences. These aspects and more are appealing to buyers and continue to shape Aspen’s diverse, high-end lifestyle.
Though the market is plentiful with a large inventory of luxury property options, the Aspen market is finite due to local and state development rules that restrict building in certain areas of the town, according to Craig Morris of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. “Supply and demand are always in favor of our sellers,” he says, but adds that what people want is nearly always achievable. These demands result in an interesting balance of both classic, historic homes with original architecture, and newer construction primarily built on “teardown” properties.
This interweaving of old and new structures is special to Aspen, says Carrie Wells of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate, as it further adds to the character of the town and continues to bring in affluent buyers seeking luxury amenities. She notes that particularly in downtown Aspen, the “core,” new residential developments are not permitted and current properties have become more valuable. Wells, and other agents like Robert Ritchie of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, say buyers have grown to cultivate lifestyles in Aspen to fit their own needs. Bespoke estates are either renovated internally, increasing their worth, or new homes are being built more beautiful and upscale than the last. Though Aspen seems to be constantly changing, Ritchie says changes help “shine it up” and ultimately makes the town look good.
And truly, “looking good” is an understatement when considering the luxury and culture that exist in every corner of the city. From an exclusive G650 club and top-rated restaurants to a variety of world-class ski resorts and outdoor amenities, Aspen’s elite can find their true home in a place like this. Whether you hit the slopes or visit the Aspen Music Festival every year, Aspen is a place that can fit any lifestyle, which to buyers is often a priority. “We live in our own little fantasy world and people often suggest that living here is not ‘the real world,’” Morris says. “It’s the ‘real world’ to those that decide to put living and lifestyle at the top of their list, and when they do, they never look back.”
Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate
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Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty
Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE GLOBAL 2019 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.
All photos courtesy Tourradar.com
Now that the holidays are over and business is back to usual, it’s time to get excited about where you’re traveling in 2020.
Unique Homes and Tourradar.com have rounded up all the buzziest destinations for the year ahead so you can start planning your next great adventure!
If you’re hoping to reconnect with nature this year, Costa Rica is the answer. It’s where tropical backgrounds are the norm, as is exotic wildlife, robust coffee flavours and the relaxing wellness retreats waiting for travellers beachside.
Stroll across suspension bridges up in the forest canopy and find yourself completely and utterly face-to-face with Mother Nature while in the dreamy cloud forest region of the country in Monteverde. 90% of Costa Rica’s energy is created by renewable sources, and they’re on track to become one of the first carbon-neutral countries this year. Play your part by choosing to spend vacation time in a country that’s going above and beyond to make a difference to our global climate crisis.
Just in case activities like hiking volcanoes, surfing and zip-lining through lush hilltops isn’t your thing, Costa Rica is also home to cities tailor-made for an escape, from San Jose to Puerto Viego. While there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica, the natural beauty and jungle life definitely come first place.
It’s been a couple of years now that people have been talking about Bhutan and for good reason. The country proudly boasts a nearly untouched natural landscape that will stun even the most well-travelled among us. Already the world’s only carbon-negative country, taking a breath of fresh air means something entirely different in Bhutan.
Nestled tightly in the Himalayas, you’ll find plenty of mountain trails capable of delivering you some awe-inspiring views in Bhutan, like those of Paro Taktsang – also known as Tiger Nest – it’s an iconic sacred Buddhist monastery that sits cliffside. There’s also the chance to see ornate palaces from as far back as the 17th century and national parks that are home to rare and exotic wildlife like the Himalayan black bear and red panda.
If you’re hoping to make 2020 the year for some spiritual respite, a visit to the world’s real-life Shangri-La is in order.
Easily enjoyed in under a week, the Emerald Isle is full of pursuits that balance adventure, nature and history with ease.
The only road trip you’ll need for 2020 is along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometer route that you can tackle in parts during your first visit. Embrace the elements along this sprawling route and enjoy discovering small-town life, coastal landscapes and secluded beaches across the country.
The sooner you visit, the faster you can start conquering your resolutions. Just make sure your trip itinerary includes a stop at the Blarney Castle where the famed Blarney Stone is located. As the legend goes, those who hang upside down and lay their lips on the stone is bestowed the gift of gab, which will help to ensure you get everything you want and more out of 2020.
Home to one of the world’s most impressive networks of waterfalls, Argentina is teeming with extraordinary natural wonders that put travellers in the centre of it all. For example, visitors to the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls can enjoy kilometres of trails that will take you in and out of lush forests and within arm’s reach of the waterfalls themselves. If you’re in search of something a little cooler, then Glaciar Perito Moreno will not disappoint. You can witness the soaring beauty of this glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. And thanks to the park’s extended network of steel catwalks and platforms, Perito Moreno is one of the world’s most impressive and accessible glaciers.
You want a city escape with fiery music, and experimental takes on classic dishes, Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, is an essential stop on your 2020 adventures. Argentinians know their way around beef, and their steaks will wow your tastebuds. You can end your night in Buenos Aires by visiting a tango bar and working off your dinner in a flurry of dance moves taught to you by local experts.
Looking to include world-class wine? Just head to Mendoza (Argentina’s wine country). You can learn how the grapes are grown and cared for in the thick of it all. We promise once you’re walking alongside the farmers, hearing their stories firsthand, a glass of Malbec will taste all the more satisfying.
Want to learn about other potential travel destinations? Visit Tourradar.com for more opportunities!
People who come to Tamarack rarely want to leave. A fortunate few don’t have to.
The Village at Tamarack is the latest ski-in/ski-out residential addition to the renowned Tamarack Resort in Idaho’s scenic Valley County. Located 90 miles north of Boise and nestled at the base of the Payette River Mountains at an elevation of 4,900 feet, Tamarack is more like a small, inviting hometown than your typical sprawling, mega-resort destination.
Surrounding The Village is Tamarack Resort, a four-season, boutique-style resort with world-class skiing for every skill level. This area welcomes families to the good life without pretense. Here, what you see is what you get. And what you see is nothing short of spectacular, no matter which direction you turn.
There’s the towering beauty of the mountains, the quiet majesty of the pine forests, the peaceful depths of Lake Cascade, and the rushing waters of the Payette River. Many of these vistas can be taken in from the comfortable perch of your own inviting residence at The Village at Tamarack.
This pedestrian-friendly alpine town is home to narrow, winding lanes, unexpected shops, eclectic dining options, and 129 well-appointed condominium residences—all just a few hundred skiable yards from the nearest lift.
3,600-Acres. Four Distinct Seasons. Unlimited Possibilities.
When you live at The Village at Tamarack, you can ski out to the lifts in the morning and ski in from the slopes at the end of the day. Then again, skiing is just the beginning of a long list of outdoor activities your family will share at The Village.
In addition to Alpine, Nordic and backcountry snow skiing, Tamarack boasts snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding in winter. In the summer months, there’s water skiing, wake surfing, sailing, and paddle boarding on beautiful Lake Cascade, as well as fly fishing and white water rafting on the renowned Payette River. Zip-lining, golf, mountain biking, birding, hiking, and guided adventures can be enjoyed from spring well into the fall.
For you, downtown is downstairs.
After a day of nonstop activity on the mountain, slow down and relax in The Village’s retail district, located just below your residence. Mingle with neighbors at one-of-a-kind boutiques, bars, and coffee shops. Escape to the spa to relax and unwind after a long day on the slopes. Enjoy family-friendly meals at restaurants ranging from casual cafes to gourmet dining establishments.
Not far from Tamarack, there’s even more to see and do in the laidback, western-style towns of Donnelly and McCall. Boise, America’s most livable city in 2019, is also just an easy road trip away.
With so much to do outdoors, you may never want to come inside. Once you do, however, you’ll be met by warm, inviting, carefully considered interiors.
The Village’s first offering of luxurious, fully furnished condominium residences ranges from comfortable studios to spacious penthouses with multiple indoor and outdoor living areas. Most floor plans feature natural stone accents, full kitchens with waterfall islands, and inspiring views from nearly every angle.
Select floor plans include outdoor dining spaces and additional interior lock-off areas—which can be treated as guest space when needed or separated for rental use in the property’s management program.
Whether The Village at Tamarack is your primary residence, a second, or even third home, it’s likely to be one your family returns to for generations to come. Given the area’s low cost of living and family friendly environment, there’s no better place to raise kids. For adults, Tamarack is an ideal location for refreshing the spirit, rekindling connections and strengthening family ties.
Ready to make this enviable resort life part of your life? Get in touch with Trisha Sears,
The Village at Tamarack’s exclusive onsite broker.
Owning a home at Tamarack Resort may well be the chance of a lifetime. But with only
a limited availability of residences, the opportunity to own at the Village won’t last anywhere near that long.
In a quiet, gated community in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, this grand home offers 24-hour security. Inside, the welcoming stairway at the entry leads to the great room and main living, which open to the pool area.
“As you walk down the stairway entrance you feel like you are walking into a grand ballroom,” says listing agent Jaime Gould of Coldwell Banker St. Croix Realty.
The home also features three bedrooms, three full and one half baths, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-car garage.
“This home is good for people who like to entertain and have guests stay with them,” says Gould. “Each bedroom has its own area, so if you need to get away or have peaceful quiet time you can.”
With the guidance of experts, travelers are able to experience more than simple sightseeing.
Spanning across Africa, Europe and The United States, these expert-led trips — curated by Architectural Adventures — blend world-class vacations with a deep appreciation for culture, history and architecture. Serving as the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, Architectural Adventures plans each trip alongside knowledgeable architectural experts — unlocking the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance behind the world’s most notable architecture.
©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck
©istockphoto / TomasSereda
“In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city.”
Whether she’s embracing the local language, indulging in local cuisine, or exploring historic architecture, Sophia Gruzdys — an Architectural Adventures expert since 2017 — brings her own perspective to each tour she plans.
The licensed architect and educator has led tours in Barcelona and Rome, and will lead two Barcelona tours in 2019. “In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city,” Gruzdys explains.
In Rome, travelers explore a wide range of architectural styles — including Contemporary, Fascist-style, Art Deco, and Renaissance. Meanwhile in Barcelona, travelers visit Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família and recently opened Casa Vicens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Bareclona Pavillion, and the modern urbanism of the @22 District. “It’s fascinating to compare the styles that emerged in our culture in different periods of history in different cities,” Gruzdys says.
Gruzdys, who encourages travelers to engage with local languages and embrace local culture, values the importance of hands-on experience. “It’s so rewarding to travel with people who are interested in the architecture — and to share their enjoyment. Each time I visit the sites, I’ll notice something new, and continue to learn from the experiences of others,” she says.
©istockphoto / TomasSereda
“I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures.”
San Antonio, Texas, United States
First discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1600s, San Antonio’s identity has always been strongly rooted in Mexican culture, history, art and architecture. From exploring the city’s Spanish colonial past at the Alamo and other UNESCO World Heritage Missions to cruising along the San Antonio Riverwalk, those who travel to San Antonio will be deeply immersed in local culture.
Jane Martin — architecture educator, historian and resident of San Antonio — will lead her first trip with Architectural Adventures in 2019 in her hometown. “I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures,” she says. “There is a lot to see in San Antonio, and I am constantly discovering new things. There are a great variety of architectural styles — with everything from Spanish Colonial, all the way to International Modern.”
Travelers will also visit Sir David Adjaye’s cutting-edge Ruby City, the newest of the city’s world-class museums, and learn about historic Pearl Brewery, now a 22-acre complex with housing, retail and fine dining. “I hope this trip helps to bring San Antonio to the world, encourages people to sign up for the tour and enjoy the city,” Martin says.
©istockphoto / Marco_Bonfanti
From marveling at Milan Cathedral, touring Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper), to visiting the UniCredit Tower, those who travel to Milan will surely learn a great deal from Architecture Adventures expert David Rifkind.
Leading a nine-day tour in 2019, the architectural history professor and practicing architect will explore the city’s range of historic architecture, as well as its recent cultural renaissance — which led to the creation of new museums, sustainable architecture, and Contemporary art exhibits. “I was surprised to learn that architects tend to be very interested in Contemporary architecture,” notes Rifkind, who also finds that non-architects tend to be more interested in historic structures.
Rifkind’s trip to Milan will bring together a unique group of travelers, consisting of both architects and non-architects from around the globe. “The dynamic of the people on the trip really does impact the experience in a really positive way,” Rifkind says. “Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical. It has been rewarding to learn how travelers experience places that I thought I understood.”
While Rifkind understands the importance of an informative lecture, he also highly values hands-on learning. “It is really fascinating when a relatively small group of people experience a city together,” says Rifkind, who made unique contributions for this trip to contrast classroom learning.
“Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical.”
©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck
“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture.”
From volunteering in Tunisia for the Peace Corp to lecturing at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan, Architectural Adventures expert Stanley Ira Hallet’s range of cultural experiences has prepared him to lead a tour throughout Morocco in 2019.
“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture,” says Hallet. The trip will include visits to the Hassan II Mosque, the French-designed Habous Quarter, and the Majorelle Garden (a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden).
Whether travelers are exploring the ancient capital of Mauretania, Volubilis, visiting the medieval school of Bouanania (which was built in the 1300s), or marveling at the Sahara Desert, Hallet says they will partake in a “completely different urban experience.”
Hallet, who also has a passion for photography, hopes the trip will offer travelers a more complete story of Morocco.
Chalets originated in Switzerland and other alpine regions and are best known for their wooden features, prominent eaves, and convenient proximity to ski slopes. These cozy yet high-end chalets have something for everyone.
The careful decor paired with ultimate comfort is ideal for a secluded vacation among the mountains and nature. The spacious rooms and added details are also perfect for entertaining family or friends.
Photo courtesy of Ultimate Luxury Chalets.
Photo courtesy of Ultimate Luxury Chalets.
Choose a chalet for a romantic getaway, a cozy family gathering, or an exciting stay away from home with friends.
Chalets usually offer stunning views of the mountains and easy access to world-class skiing, but it is becoming more and more common for chalets to include a pool or spa area as well. Whether it’s a hot tub, jacuzzi, infinity pool or other water feature, they are as luxurious as a resort. Outdoor pools and spas are nestled among the finest views, offering a truly serene experience.
Why Choose a Chalet
Chalets are great for entertaining family and friends. The spacious homes allow each guest to have their own privacy while keeping everyone together. The large rooms are perfect for relaxing after a great meal or a long day on the slopes.
Surrounded by mountains, nature, and most likely plenty of snow, chalets are a world away from the hustle and bustle. Whether you’re escaping the city or trying to reconnect with nature, the gorgeous views and surrounding wilderness is sure to impress.
Find Unforgettable Chalets Around the World
Options for chalets are plentiful, but these are the top locations that offer luxury and more.
Les Gets, France
Courchevel Tourisme, France
Photo courtesy of Ultimate Luxury Chalets.
Start planning your next dream vacation in a luxury chalet!
New Zealand’s boutique luxury gem, The Marlborough Lodge, recently completed the property’s third stage of a four-stage renovation. The new additions feature a stand-alone spa, guest entertaining area with a bar, retail store, wine shack and other enhancements.
Just in time for New Zealand’s summer season, the new refurbishments and additions continue to add to the lodge’s unique appeal as a premier luxury lodge in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. One of New Zealand’s newest luxury lodges, The Marlborough Lodge offers the perfect basecamp to discover the bounty of Marlborough, a region rich in culture, nature, food and wine and more.
The Marlborough Lodge’s third stage of renovation centered on converting the on-site 1913 chapel into a small spa, guest entertaining area with bar and retail shop. The renovated chapel measures approximately 592 square feet, and the spa measures approximately 183 square feet. Open seven days a week by appointment, the spa menu focuses on offering massage treatments initially with plans for adding additional wellness treatments including facials, hair masks and other rejuvenation and relaxation treatments based on guests’ needs.
With deep green walls, Moroccan-inspired lighting, candles from New Zealand artisan makers Ashley & Co., and more, the spa interior evokes tranquility from the moment upon entering the room. Angela Dillon, co-owner and managing director of The Marlborough Lodge spearheaded the design and interiors of all the new spaces, taking her inspiration from the variety of textures and colors throughout the main lodge. The refurbished structure has been designed to flow on from the main house and fit with the lodge’s overall aesthetic and theme. Natural tones mix with the original chapel Rimu wood and exposed beams made from 100-year-old kauri wood.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Head Chef Sam Webb oversees the food and beverage offering at the lodge’s The Harvest Restaurant, open to lodge and non-lodge guests. Focusing on fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced produce, Head Chef Webb’s a la carte menus is complemented by a selection of wines with an emphasis on New Zealand, but includes an international selection. Guests can enjoy dining at the Chef’s Bench or taking a tour with the Chef through the lodge’s extensive vegetable and fruit garden, cooking demonstrations and more.
The lodge store carries products made from the Marlborough area working closely with local craftsmen and artisans with items such as bags, caps and clothing designed just for The Marlborough Lodge’s guests, while the new wooden wine shack across the creek offers the perfect space to enjoy private wine tastings from the plethora of extraordinary winemakers in the region.
Photos courtesy of Marlborough Lodge.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.
Bespoke Experiences is “your friend in the city,” creating your customized, luxury private journey from Nashville and New Orleans to San Diego and San Francisco.
By Sarah Binder
Photo courtesy ©istockphoto.com / SeanPavonePhoto
It’s vacation time, and you’re heading to a city you have never been, but one of your friends lives there. What do you do? Chances are, you called that friend weeks ago to help you plan where to go and what to see, and they know exactly where to take you because they’ve known you for years.
Even if you don’t know a soul in Nashville, New Orleans, San Diego or San Francisco, Bespoke Experiences is ready to fulfill that role for you. The New Orleans-based luxury travel company crafts private and completely customized journeys led by licensed local tour guides dubbed Experience Architects (EAs).
“We consider them more ‘your friend in the city’ who just happens to be exceptionally knowledgeable and well-connected. They are our guests’ local link to everything that is currently going on, as well as to the regional history, explaining the cultural narrative in a language and style that is compatible with the guests’ interests, demographic and pace,” explains Jennifer Simpson, the company’s founder and chief experience officer.
“Our EAs are first and foremost hospitable, always looking to make the guests’ needs their first priority. They have a vast, broad and diverse regional knowledge of the city, the surrounding region and its people,” she adds. “They are charming and charismatic, can adapt on the fly and are exceptional problem-solvers.”
Experience Architects provide guests with an intimate look at their desired destination, but first, the Bespoke Experiences operations team establishes a personable, open and collaborative relationship with every client to learn their travel style, preferences, interests, budget and additional considerations. This process entails an extensive initial phone interview followed by many phone and email exchanges between the guest and the team.
“This one-on-one effort, and the attention to detail required to execute each diverse experience requires an inordinate amount of time and a Herculean effort,” says Simpson.
Combining close attention to their guests’ details with extensive local connections, Simpson’s team creates multi-faceted activities that connect clients to a destination in the most personal ways. To call these experiences “tours” would be doing them a disservice.
“Recently, a guest celebrated a milestone birthday in New Orleans with a few of her closest family and friends after overcoming a major health crisis. We arranged for a personalized Second-Line parade through the French Quarter with her own brass band, umbrella, police escort and courtyard lunch reservation at the conclusion. At the finale of her time in the city, we arranged for her birthday dinner in the private home of a local celebrity musician whom she happened to admire,” Simpson says. “There, he and his band performed a private concert and served them a home-cooked meal that he and his wife prepared. Then, everyone relaxed and chatted like they’d all been long-lost friends. She, and all of the guests, wept with joy when she learned of the surprise.”
Simpson draws on her previous professional experiences to cater to a well-traveled, well-educated and affluent clientele — she used to own and operate a pharmaceutical event/meeting planning business that served a similar audience. At one point while living in New Orleans, she was attempting to convert her Canadian pilot’s license to an American one at the Lakefront Airport. While talking with a fixed-base operator, she learned that more than 1,500 private aircraft were flying in for the impending Super Bowl, which led to an “aha moment.”
“We realized there weren’t any organizations in place to service this small, elite market once they were in town,” she explains. “There really wasn’t anyone catering to the luxury niche.”
In many cases, the ultimate in luxury travel means gaining exclusive access to experience top landmarks in unique ways. Through connections with the Louisiana State Museum, Bespoke Experiences has been able to provide guests with unique opportunities to enjoy Jackson’s Square, the city’s most popular attraction.
“A local physician had a visiting Catholic colleague who’d never explored St. Louis Cathedral, and he wanted to go above and beyond for his guests. We coordinated to gain behind-the-scenes access with the Archdiocese. Unexpectedly, the timing of our visit corresponded with the burial of a recently deceased Archbishop, so the guests were also able to witness aspects of an in-church burial that no one typically sees,” she says.
In addition to the birthplace of jazz, Bespoke Experiences launched services in Nashville — the Music City — in April 2017. The company has helped guests snag prime seats at the Grand Ole Opry (where, if you’re lucky, a star like Blake Shelton might pop up). For those who are unsure what to do, but have a particular interest, Simpson can design an itinerary focusing on Nashville’s influential history, visiting sites from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, or its eclectic architecture, including the “Mother Church of Country Music:” the Ryman Auditorium, constructed with flawless acoustics.
As Bespoke Experiences looks toward the future, it is focusing on both short- and long-term goals. The team has an ambitious “26 by 26” goal to be operational in 26 North American cities by 2026. In the near future, it will roll out its custom, luxury private tours in Chicago and Toronto this year.
Simpson and her team implement a strategic approach to selecting new destinations, asking several questions to evaluate the possibilities. “We look at several factors: What destinations are our clients requesting? What destinations are making the ‘Top 10’ North American travel lists domestically and internationally? What destinations align with our key guest offerings (history/culture/culinary/lifestyle/landscape/architecture)?” explains Simpson.
Regardless of location, she will continue to guide her team and ensure positive client experiences by emphasizing a simple principle: the Golden Rule.
“Bespoke Experiences is aspirational to me. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” she says. “Bespoke is how we wish to be treated while we travel: with kindness, courtesy and friendliness. With respect for my time, my money, my interests, my style of travel and my family dynamic. This honesty, integrity and sensibility influence our business acumen.”
Photos courtesy Bespoke Experiences