Luxury Hotels

Slovenia – New York – Mongolia

Slovenia’s incoming tourism will benefit hugely from Tour De France 2020, which ended in Paris yesterday – the annual event’s youngest-ever winner, Tadej Pogacar, 21, saw his fellow countryman Primoz Roglic awarded second place ( Pogacar rides for UCI WorldTeam UAE Team Emirates, whose main sponsors are obviously Emirates Airline, plus Abu Dhabi and Milan-based Colnago bikes). Now, therefore, is the time to find out more about Slovenia, a land-locked 7,827 sq mile country bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic. Its two million population is led by President Borut Pahor, a career politician, and the Slovenian Tourist Board is led by CEO Maja Pak, who ma de a significant presentation at Virtuoso in 2018 on how Slovenia has avoided over-tourism. Tourists already love such places as Lake Bled, and countryside glamping is popular. Top-ranking cityhotel is Delta Holdings’ 165-room InterContinental Ljubljana, in the capital: GM is Milos Cerovic (Girlahead recommends a 540 sq ft Deluxe Room overlooking the Old Town).


Style includes simplicity, and Tom Ford has it (would that we can expect Tom Ford hotels in future). Take his current fashion items. Among the plethora of indistinguishable and unwearable clothes from the current New York Fashion Week, only one idea stands out. Take a loose-fit, V-necked sweater, say in soft plum, or palest lavender, and wear it over same-colour equally-loose silk ‘pyjama bottoms’, held up by a black waistband bearing the letters TOM FORD.


Style is also yearning for, and achieving, a trip that you never thought possible – staying in a luxury yurt (tent) in the distant steppes of Mongolia.  From May through September, French globalist Frédéric Roman-Hauduroy oversees temporary camps that allow you to live, as it were, at one with local villagers. Sleep in 290 sq ft traditional round yurts, with four-post beds, comfortable furniture (and, a couple of minutes’ walk outside, odor-free dry toilets; instead of showers, you are brought water-saving moist towels perfumed with pine needles). A separate yurt holds the restaurant. All food is cooked on-site, by a culinary team headed by a chef from the Mongolian president’s palace. Breakfast can include home-baked breads and croissants. Lunch and dinner is your choice, international or Mongolian, say khorkhog, local lamb cooked on hot stones – no problem with gluten-free or other diet requirements, says Roman-Hauduroy, who explains that all supplies are driven in from the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, 180 miles away. Rates include breakfast, and all-inclusive rates are popular: pay-extra alcohol ranges from ‘remarkably good’ local beer, at US$4, through to finest Champagne, naturally chosen by the French boss.

Most spend at least two nights at Sweet Gobi Geolodge. Day time is for camel and horseback riding, archery, hiking and visiting monasteries (cameras can be re-charged, and WiFi is available on request). Typically, after Sweet Gobi, guests will then go on to one of Step’In Asia’s other camps, for different scenery, fauna and flora.  The best way for Americans to plan the entire trip, says Frédéric Roman-Hauduroy, is to fly in via Beijing which allows up to 144 hours’ visa-free transit, more than enough for this itinerary. MIAT Mongolian Airlines has 43 Beijing-Ulaanbaatar flights each month, and there are several other carriers available. Flight time is just over two hours. From Ulaanbaatar take an hour-long private plane, or a 4×4 Land Cruiser (3.5 hours) on to the camp. After your yurt experience, overnight at Shangri-La Hotel, Ulaanbaatar, before starting the trip home.

Frédéric Roman-Hauduroy is insistent his camps do not harm the landscape at all.  At the end of every season yurts and other structures are painstakingly taken down, and components stored in containers until the following year – it takes a week to remake a camp. Locals who work for Step’In Asia appreciate that in place of rent, the company pays to a community fund that supports education and training.


And, to finish, here again is a reminder to listen to the current MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST, via