Raise a Glass to Australia
I created an itinerary that highlights the best of two states: Victoria and South Australia. In Victoria, you’ll explore the state’s capital, Melbourne, from its historic architecture to its exciting restaurants. Daytrips will take you to Victoria’s wine region, the Yarra Valley, and Phillip Island where you’ll see a sight you’ll never forget: Phillip Island’s Penguin Parade, perhaps followed by an aquatic adventure to Seal Rocks. The wine continues to flow in South Australia, with a few days to explore the world-renowned Barossa Valley. You’ll conclude your Australian trip on Kangaroo Island where you’ll share the beach with sea lions and indigenous Australian wildlife.
Our itinerary includes several opportunities to meet some of the country's most famous residents—on Phillip Island, Kangaroo Island, and at the Healesville Sanctuary in the Yarra
You’ll start your Australian odyssey in "Marvelous Melbourne." After you are transferred to the Lyall, your hotel for the next three nights, you’ll be met by a local architect and guide. Your private walk through the city includes rides on the beloved trolley cars and exploring the city’s famous laneways and arcades including the iconic Victorian-era Block Arcade. Other architectural gems include the General Post Office and the Gothic Bank. After lunch at local favorite Rosa’s Canteen you’ll head out on a guided bike tour on the riverside Yarra Trail. You won’t need to feel any guilt enjoying the 10-course degustation dinner at Michelin starred Vue de Monde, one of the city’s hardest to get tables with a stunning 55th-floor location with unmatched views.
Exploring Melbourne's Cultural Highlights
Today you’ll have a day full of art and culture, nature and beach—exactly the combination that Australia offers like nowhere else. On the itinerary are guided visits to the Ian Potter Centre on Federation Square, the Centre for Contemporary Art, and The National Gallery. Next, you’ll stop and smell the flowers at the Royal Botanic Garden before lunch at local hotspot Arbory Bar & Eatery. Melbourne’s longest bar is the result of the conversion of the abandoned Sandridge Railway line and runs alongside the Yarra River. Finish the day with a sunset walk on the city’s most famous beach, St. Kilda, just outside the city center.
Great Ocean Road
You’ll be met in the morning by a car and driver as you head out to the Great Ocean Road for a day of adventure on one of the world’s most breathtaking drives. The area is home to eucalyptus forests and many resident kangaroos and koalas. On your guided visit to the area, you’ll stop at The Twelve Apostles, one of Australia’s most photographed natural wonders. Enjoy a late lunch before heading to the Loch Ard Gorge, a small cove lined by cliffs with two small beaches, prior to returning to Melbourne. This evening enjoy an “emo” or emotion-stirring dinner at world famous chef Ben Shewry’s Attica featuring modern Australian cuisine.
Enjoy an excursion to Phillip Island Nature Park, just over an hour outside of Melbourne, to experience one of the world’s most charming natural phenomena, the Penguin Parade. At the end of a day fishing the nearby waters, the island’s resident penguins return to their home amid the dunes of the island. Observers can watch the birds returning from their day from a respectful distance. Others stops on Phillip Island include the Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island Heritage Farm, and the Wild Ocean EcoBoar Tour to Seal Rocks.
Before heading inland to the Yarra Valley you’ll spend a night at Big Blue Backyard, an eco-retreat with three cabins in the shade of the tea trees of the Mornington Peninsula. You’ll join a swim experience at Polperro Dolphin Swims,meeting the wild bottlenose dolphins of Port Phillip Bay. After you dry off, you’ll continue on for a visit to the Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove for a degustation lunch including a wine tasting and viewing of the owner’s sculpture collection of some 20 works by leading contemporary artists.
Days 6 and 7
You’ll start the morning with a daybreak horseback ride and a visit to the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs before you depart for the Yarra Valley, Victoria’s wine country, with a two-night stay at the Chateau Yearing in a Yarra Suite with sweeping views of the valley. Visits to Yearing Station and Yearing Farm include wine tastings. Start your second day with a hot-air balloon ride over the vineyards followed by a visit to The Healesville Sanctuary. Here you’ll meet many of Australia’s most famous four-legged residents: kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, and perhaps the most popular of them all, koalas. Afterwards enjoy lunch and tastings at the Balgownie and Domaine Chandonwineries.
Days 8 to 10
This morning, you’ll fly from Melbourne to Adelaide to explore South Australia. After landing, you’ll transfer to The Louise, one of Australia’s finest luxury lodges, where your Seppeltsfield suite is waiting for you with its gorgeous, vineyard-facing terrace. This evening you’ll dine at Chef Ryan Edwards’ award-winning Appellation, enjoying a 5-course dinner featuring South Australian cuisine. Arise early the next day to explore the Barossa Valley, an oenophile’s dream. Along with the hundred wineries found here, make time to stop by the Barossa Farmers Market to taste the local produce. At the Penfolds Lab you will learn the art of creating a fine wine as you craft your own signature blend.
Arrive on Kangaroo Island
An hour’s drive from the Barossa Valley to the Adelaide Airport followed by a half-hour flight will bring you to Kangaroo Island where you’ll stay at the stunning Southern Ocean Lodge. The property that vies for the title of one of Australia’s most chic and high design lodges is an exceptional base to experience the island. After arrival you’ll head to lunch where you can enjoy Chef Jack Ingram’s inventive cuisine. For an easy entry into your first day on the island, a coastal walk with a guide will take you along the limestone cliffs of Hanson’s Bay.
Days 12 to 14
You’ll have three days to explore Kangaroo Island, and the Southern Ocean Lodge offers guided visits led by their qualified staff and guides. Among the excursions are hikes to visit the coastal landscapes that include landmarks like the Remarkable Rocks, Cape du Couedic lighthouse, and Admiral’s Arch. Opportunities to view wallabies and koalas grazing abound, while a nocturnal visit to Hanson’s Bay Sanctuary is a unique experience, letting you observe those residents of the island who are most active at night. A visit with a naturalist to Seal Bay will let you meet the island’s majestic sea lions. Between wildlife sightings, leave some time for a treatment at the Southern Ocean Lodge’s spa.
Depart for Home
Before you begin your journey back home, or on to your next destination, we will arrange for visits to the studios of several local artists—a final chance to purchase a unique piece that will always remind you of your visit to Kangaroo Island.
"Bedda", or Beautiful Sicily beckons as the Mediterranean's Melting Pot showcasing ancient civilizations from Roman to Greek, Arab to Byzantine and Phoenician to Norman amongst seemingly endless ancient wonders, monuments, temples and natural attractions.
Follow in the footsteps of Archimedes as I craft your own, Personal Odyssey from Palermo to Taormina.
Arrive in the chaotic and cosmopolitan Medieval and Baroque capital city of Palermo with a private transfer to the most legendary hotel in Sicily, The Grand Hotel et des Palmes, the grande dame of Palermo.
After you're settled in, take in a visit to the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia followed by the Palazzo dei Normanni, Palermo's greatest palace and The Cappella Palatina whose history dates back to the 9th century's Arab emirs.
Tonight's dinner outside of town in the country house of Ristorante Graziano where you'll enjoy creative dishes that include taglioni and local seafood.
I have arranged a private, after-hours opening of the Museo Archeologico Regionale, and tour with head docent of one of the greatest museums in all of Italy, dating back to the 13th century.
Afterwards, a visit to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini (Catacombs of the Capuchins) and then some R&R at Mondello Beach.
That evening, I have secured the top table for dinner reservations at Il Ristorantino with celebrated, top-chef Francesco Inzerillo. You are set up in The Chef’s Kitchen and will be given insider’s tips on how he prepared tonight’s meal along with a signed, family cook book with recipes hundreds of years old.
Take in a lovely drive from Palermo to The Kempinski Hotel Giardino di Costanza in the southwestern part of the island set amongst the olive groves & vineyards boasting a luxurious spa and fantastic beach as well.
On your way from Palermo, a visit to Monreale whose cloister & cathedral represent the largest concentration of Arab, Byzantine & Norman art in a single locale and next the ancient Doric, Greek temple of Segesta and stunning amphitheater.
Enjoy a private excursion to Sicilian wine country, from the infamous Marsala to the lesser known Zibibbo amongst rolling hills of carpeted, hidden vineyards between Salemi and Marsala. You will learn the art of winemaking and craft your own, custom blend that will be shipped home to the US for your enjoyment.
A visit to the hilltop town of Erice today (ancient Eryx) reveals medieval streets, 2 stunning castles, a lovely church and ancient Punic, Elymian and Phoenician walls dating back to the Middle Ages. The gleaming, golden Temple of Aphrodite once enticed ancient mariners. I have arranged a private horseback excursion and lunch outside of town for you both.
Your private guide will transport you South towards the Temples of Agrigento for a stay at The Rocco Forte, Verdura Spa & Golf Resort in Sciacca.
Unwind with a spa treatment and some private Sicilian classes on Homemade pasta, Sicilian Coponata, Pastry and chocolate.
An active, private excursion to Agrigento with local guide of The Valley Of The Temples amongst the olive groves & almond orchards.
I have arranged a dusk, private, candle lit dinner amongst the grounds with private chef.
Travel to Taormina with a side stop at Piazza Armerina whose Roman villa on the outskirts of town features the most extensive mosaic pavements of the ancient Roman world.
On arrival to The Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina, you enjoy a visit to the Teatro Greco and afterwards we’ve arranged a private table at Taormina’s finest restaurant, Casa Grugno whose modern Sicilian cuisine is renowned.
Today enjoy an active & adventurous, private excursion up Mount Etna including helicopter arrival at sunrise and sunset, trekking amongst the summit craters and a stop at the frigid waters of Gole dell'Alcantara, a series of stunning gorges.
An all day visit to South to Siracusa, playground of Plato, Saint Paul & Archimedes. Located in Ortygia the Temple of Apollo is considered the oldest Doric style, Greek temple in Sicily. Your private guide has arranged evening wine and cheese amongst the Temple’s grounds.
Enjoy a relaxing day at the Paradise Beach Club with VIP Bungalow, where Greta Garbo once frolicked. That afternoon enjoy a stroll and shopping amongst the charming square of Piazza IX Aprile overlooking both the sea and Mount Etna. Returning that evening to an exclusive Dolce & Gabbana cocktail party and Fashion show with VIP Red Carpet entry and prime seating.
VIETNAM & LAOS
Days 1-3 Hanoi and Lào Cai
Arrive in Hoi An and take the Victoria Express luxury train to Lào Cai, where you will stay at a luxe suite at Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa. Activities include market tours, cooking classes, and visits to villages of the region's ethnic minorities, including the Dao, Flower Hmong, and Giay peoples.
Days 4-6 Hội An
Venture to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Hội An, exploring the town and trading port with a private guide. Highlights include historic houses, dragon statues, handicraft shops, art galleries, the Japanese bridge, and the vibrant market.
Your accommodations are none other than the stunning Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai, which also provides custom touring opportunities for visiting farms and local cottage industries around the rice paddies. We have also arranged a fun vintage Vespa tour through the UNESCO-protected Old Town, followed by a private visit to the Hindu temple complex at My Son Sanctuary.
Days 7-8 Huế and Cần Thơ
Visit Huế, Vietnam's former imperial capital, and tour the old Imperial City and Citadel Fortress. The following day, take a boat tour of the famous Cai Rang floating market in Cần Thơ.
Days 9-12 Luang Prabang
Transfer to Laos via private jet and arrive in Luang Prabang and the stunning Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao, located atop the famous Hill of Kites. That evening, enjoy a "Mystery Dining Night" — starting at Belmond's Doc Champa Bar, then heading out by private tuk tuk to 4 of the best hidden-gem bars and restaurant's in town. The second night, you will be treated to a "500 Candles Private Dinner Experience" in an UNESCO-protected garden, featuring a traditional Laotian menu with perfect wine pairings and exquisite desert. To cap off the evening, we have arranged a release of floating lanterns into the sky.
Next, enjoy a day of private touring, starting at the National Museum (located in a former royal palace) and Wat Mai temple. Take a private cruise up the Mekong on Belmond's uber-luxe private boat, culminating with a private sunset visit to the Pak Ou caves.
The following day, we have curated a private cooking class at the Kuang Si waterfalls, including a visit to the morning market for ingredients. Make your own lunch with the guidance of a star chef who will demonstrate traditional Lao techniques. Afterwards, take a cool swim in pools. On the way back to the resort, visit the Asiatic Black Bear Rescue Center for an up-close education about the plight of these endangered animals. We've also arranged an elephant trek along the Nam Khan Rive. Help clean and feed these beautiful beasts before they join the trek in the river as you walk by their side (no riding, no animal abuse — this is a conservation group). Cross the Huay Not stream and enjoy a fresh meal and a visit to the nearby butterfly sanctuary.
Start your final day in Luang Prabang with the old Buddhist tradition of alms-giving, as monks leave their pagodas to take offerings. Next, enjoy a private royal encounter with Prince Nith, visiting his studio and residence. The prince holds a deep passion for Lao folk arts, and is a renowned artist himself. He is also an expert in the traditional gold thread embroidery that adorns the Lao Palace, along with carving, painting, and wood working. His residence has a stunning collection of artifacts from the Old Court of Luang Prabang. End the day by participating in the baci, a ceremony of blessing, good will, and good luck, before dinner surrounded by lotus ponds at Manda de Laos Restaurant.
Days 13-16 Con Dao Islands
For the last days of your adventure, head to Six Senses Con Dao for some rejuvenation in the beautiful Con Dao Islands. Activities include scuba diving, tropical rain forest trekking, and a private yacht excursion around the archipelago. The whole region is a pristine national marine park. On your last night, enjoy a private, romantic beachfront dinner on the shores of Ong Dung Bay.
Beyond Rome: A Journey Through the North
We created an itinerary that captures three aspects of Italy. You’ll begin in Rome and follow in the footsteps of emperors and popes. Then continue to Tuscany and towns where the Renaissance was born. Finally, your head filled with art & history, relax in the Lake District. Along the way, we’ve arranged stays at Italy’s most legendary hotels, including members of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Fontana di Trevi is, as it should be, one of the most visited landmarks in Rome. Seeing it is worth the blind stumble through narrow stone streets and alleyways. But do so at night (and in the rain, if possible) to be rewarded with the stunning sight of the immense baroque fountain lit before a dark and shining background, like a scene from a Fellini movie. This is when the Trevi Fountain is at her most beautiful and most magical self.
Renaissance Art Along the River. We've arranged for a transfer from your hotel to Rome’s central train station for the short journey to Florence. The city boasts an embarrassment of riches in the form of museums, art galleries, palaces, and churches, with so many world-famous works of art and buildings that the hardest thing is not deciding what to see, but rather what you won’t have time to see. One place that undoubtedly deserves a fair share of your time is the Uffizi Gallery, situated along the Arno River and housing the world’s premier collection of Renaissance art, donated by the Medici family from its private collection. We took take care of ticket arrangements in advance so that, at the Uffizi and other sites, you’ll spend more time admiring works by Botticelli, Leonardo, and Caravaggio and less time waiting in lines. From the Uffizi, you can also visit the Galileo Museum next door, and walk along the north bank of the Arno River to grab lunch with views of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio from Caffe dell’Oro in the Portrait Firenze hotel.
While the Tuscan city of Siena can get overshadowed by Florence, her big sister to the north, the city is well worth a day trip to stroll the pedestrian-only medieval lanes radiating out from the Piazza del Campo in the city center. This central square is unique in the country for its shell-like shape and design, with the brickwork depicting nine radiating fans, symbolizing the Council of Nine who oversaw its design in 1349. It’s also the site of Siena’s famous Palio, a horse race around the edge of the square that happens twice each summer. At the origin point from which the nine fans radiate sits the Palazzo Pubblico, with its nearly 300-foot-tall tower, the Torre del Mangia. Climb the tower’s 400 steps to experience an exceptional panoramic view of the square with the historic city stretching out around it. After you have built up your appetite, we will send you to his favorite restaurant in town, whose name he only shares with friends and clients.
Live Like Royalty on Lake Como. Lake Como is legendary for the ornate villas and sprawling gardens that line its shores, sitting between the shimmering water and the sharply rising foothills of the Alps. There’s a long history of the rich and famous maintaining homes here—from elite Romans and European kings, to kings of Hollywood like George Clooney. In the picture-perfect town of Bellagio, you can walk through the lakefront gardens of Villa Melzi. We send clients looking to vacation like royalty—literally—to the palatial Villa d'Este in Cernobbio. The luxury hotel, which is often voted among the world’s best in various surveys of travelers and travel advisors, occupies two historic mansions, one the 16th-century residence of the Cardinal of Como and the other built for England’s Queen Caroline, the wife of George IV.
Santa Caterina del Sasso. Visit the Cliff-Face Monastery of Lake Maggiore. After breakfast, we arranged a car and driver to take you for a day at another one of Italy’s lakes, Maggiore, which is about 40 miles to the west of Como. There, a private boat will take you to one of the world’s most picturesque monasteries, Santa Caterina del Sasso, clinging to the face of a rock cliff rising above the lake. Alberto Besozzi, a merchant, built a small church here in 1195 after finding shelter from a storm, though the existing buildings date to the 13th and 14th centuries. The northern convent is the oldest, built upon 13th-century walls with a refectory on the ground floor and the monks’ cells on the next. Your guide will point out portions of a 16th-century fresco depicting the Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria and then lead you through the inner courtyard to the church and the bell tower, which overhangs the lake.