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Getting away from luxury hotels

Temple visit in Egypt

Just occasionally even the most ardent addict of luxury hotels needs to escape – to the wilds.  Or maybe to tombs in Upper Egypt. One of the most glorious away-from-it-all trips in the world is a Nile cruise on the Oberoi Zahra (the gal loved her time so much she still carries a postcard of the ship).

Is it really a ship?  It looks more like a floating hotel, with luxurious suites that all have an entire wall of glass looking out over the water.  Zahra is self-sufficient, even carrying bakers who produce some of the best breads in the world.

What with amazing service, and a top-deck pool, and an excellent spa, what more could you want, other, of course, than visits to tombs and other historic sites along the way.

Car near The Observatory, Sydney

Yacht-like ships are one way of getting around.  Proper cruise ships, as long as they are small, are another. Guess which Silversea route I will be on this Christmas and New Year?

Last year we sailed magnificently through the Panama Canal, something that every self-respecting young lady should do once even if she has no technical acumen.  This year I will be back on board. Where?  Watch this space.

But there are other types of transport too. Cars stand out when they are, well, different – like this wedding car near The Observatory Hotel in Sydney.

Motorbike in Gstaad

And everyone needs a sidecar experience, as I had in Gstaad.   Last time there, I travelled by train, and was met by a marvellous new Rolls Royce belonging to Gstaad Palace, one of Europe’s finest luxury hotels.

The car only negotiated two bends, went a total of quarter of a mile, and we were there.  It was tempting to say to the driver once more, please, James, and do not spare the horses.

Gstaad Palace does have less swanky cars; you would not travel in the Rolls up to its Walig Hut, the 18th century alpine hut high above the treeline where you can overnight in chic cheap, keeping warm under real furs.

Staff bikes at The Stafford by Kempinski, London

Bikes, pedal bikes, are my real love, and whenever I see a stack of bikes belonging to the staff of any hotel I know that there is a healthier, and more enterprising, workforce than, say, a staff entrance with people slouching out to their cars, or the nearest subway, and puffing hard as they go.

Bikes are piled high in the private courtyard behind The Stafford, which is now Kempinski’s hotel in London.  They have just launched a horseback riding service, for hotel guests rather than staff of course.  They call this horsierge… perhaps the term would win a prize, perhaps not.

Bicycle at The Leela Palace Udaipur

Particularly since my time with guru Nathalie at The Bulgari Hotel & Residences London a couple of days ago I am becoming more biased than ever.  Keeping fit is increasingly essential to keep up with the world.

I loved my cycle ride at the Fairmont Georgetown in Washington DC, using one of the BMW bikes that are available for guests in all Fairmont hotels in North, and South, America.  I loved cycling at the Kameha Grand in Bonn, along the river bank.

Ever since I came into contact with the sleek silver bikes at the Copenhagen Airport Hilton I realised what good marketing it is to have bikes named for the hotel (The Atlantic Kempinski in Hamburg does a good job in promoting itself on its bikes, too).

Mark Andrew, left, boss of The Fairmont Georgetown, Washington DC

In Udaipur, the bikes at the Leela Palace are bright yellow, and instantly recognisable.  This is a good thing as cycling from there is, well, pretty dangerous (it might be less hair-raising, actually, to borrow an elephant!).

Where else are there great hotel bikes?  In Tokyo, at all top luxury hotels, from Four Seasons to Peninsula and Ritz-Carlton. On Vancouver Island, the Wickaninnish Inn has ‘city bikes’, no gears but fine for cycling on the flat.

Orient-Express’ Inn at Perry Cabin has these city bikes, too, although theirs have three gears, and back-pedal breaks – I cycled north from the luxury resort to Miles River Yacht Club.

In Sao Paul, Hotel Unique arranged for Gabriel and Lincoln to show me the locale

There are general managers (think Mark Andrew at The Fairmont Georgetown in Washington DC) who take a cycling guest out for a spin. Sometimes, as at Hotel Unique in São Paulo, there are concierges who thoughtfully work with philanthropic locals who simply love inviting out-of-town visitors to take a spin, and see the sights.

If bicycle makers, say of the calibre of BMW or Giant, would only set up a global network of cycle rides for visitors, they would get my vote for the Nobel Peace Prize – which would surely be more suitable than this year’s ridiculous award, to the big-wigs of the EU.

And now, gal, bike away, and get ready for the next trip.