Ms Luxe Loves ...a legendary doorman

It has been 50 years since Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Punchi Banda carried his first barrel of beer into the tap room at the Galle Face Hotel. Now - at 71 years old - he is the luxury hotel's doorman standing proud each day in starched white uniform and copious amounts of gold braid, Yes, the hardworking Mr Banda is still earning his keep at Sri Lanka’s most iconic hotel.  At 152 years old itself Galle Face is also Sri Lanka’s oldest hotel and clearly its employees are incredibly loyal (and in some cases almost as venerable).


 Previous doorman Kottarapattu Chattu Kuttan, (who died in 2014) was still at work at the age of 94. At the time of his death Mr Kuttan had served at the hotel for 72 years and was “one of the oldest hotel employees in the world “. (I am just amazed he wasn’t the oldest –who are the others? Where are they now?)  Mr Banda was trained by the legendary Mr Kuttan and plans to follow in his mentor’s footsteps by continuing to work at the hotel for many years to come. 
So what makes these men so special? 


“Mr. Banda is more than just a doorman. He is the face of the property,” said Sanjeev Gardiner, chairman of the Galle Face Hotel. “He’s the first person guests see when they arrive and often the last person from the hotel they see as they depart. In his role he embodies the hotel’s grace and charm.”

 Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Punchi Banda was barely out of his teens when he began work at the property on July 17, 1966. By then the hotel, which opened in 1864, was already more than 100 years old. In his first ten years, he worked his way from backroom bar staff to security guard. Forty years ago, he began greeting guests as a doorman, and he’s still at it today. 

 Over the years he has welcomed many famous guests including Indira Gandhi, Marshal Tito, Fidel Castro, and Yuri Gagarin. He’s greeted many former Sri Lankan presidents and prime ministers. And once, he held an umbrella for one Arthur C. Clarke, author of 3001: The Final Odyssey (which was penned at the hotel).

 Men like Mr Kuttan and Mr Banda are special, in their upright countenance and benign gaze we see the history of the hotel industry –and its magic. Cult of youth? Who needs it! 

Happy 50 years Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Punchi Banda. I salute you.

Luxury loves... playing princess

 NOW I don’t wish to brag but I once attended the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace (and I've still got the hat to prove it).  I can’t say I really got up close and personal with Her Maj since when she walked along the special ‘lanes’ shaking hands with her subjects I was in the second row  peaking between a woman in a David Shilling creation better suited to Royal Ascot and a rather large man in a morning coat. Nevertheless seeing inside select rooms as we walked through into the palace gardens and strolling the gardens themselves was a special treat.  
Since then I’ve never quite recovered from the idea of royal tea so I was delighted to discover that the luxurious The Lanesborough  hotel, London is celebrating both Princess Charlotte of Cambridge’s first birthday in May and Her Majesty The Queen's official 90th birthday in June, with an extravagantly blush-coloured afternoon tea.

Crowns and cupcakes
 The specially created Pink Princess Afternoon Tea will be served in Céleste, which has to be one of the most spectacular dining rooms in London.  A glass-domed roof lets in the city sky, chandeliers have a diamond sparkle and those taking tea are reflected in the myriad of gold-frame mirrors which grace the power-blue walls look a little as if they are all sitting in a giant piece of Wedgewood china. Rather fitting for a royal tea.

Head Pastry Chef Nicolas Rouzaud has created a selection of pretty pink pastries including a ‘Flower Dome’ rhubarb cheesecake, a strawberry mousse ‘Rocher’, a cherry cream éclair and a raspberry sablé biscuit.   The cakes are moulded to look like tiny crowns studied with pearls or delicate pink daisie  and seem almost too good to eat …almost.   There will also be traditional fresh baked scones with jam and clotted cream, finger sandwiches and choice of 38 teas, including flowery offerings such as Rose of the Orient, White Rose and White Peony infusions.

Pink Princess Tea

It is  very fitting that one should celebrate these two historic birthdays in The Lanesborough because the hotel is only a short stroll from Buckingham Palace down Horse Guards Parade in one direction and a tiara-throw from Knightsbridge and the shops beloved by royals - Harrods, Harvey Nicholls and the like - in the other.   
Those wishing to extend the regal experience could book in to the impressive Royal Suite, which at £26,000 a night, is said to be the most expensive suite in London.
 The Pink Princes tea will be served from 1 May to 12 June 2016http://www.lanesborough.com/


Ms Luxe Loves ..a dedicated dessert restaurant

WHAT is better than cake in a café? A café that serves only cake – well, sweet things to be exact. On 3 March, Regent Street's Hotel Café Royal opens London’s first dessert restaurant. Sweet tooths of the world rejoice.
 I have officially died and gone to cake heaven because these aren't your common or garden crème caramels or cheesecakes. Oh, no no. These are edible art works. Executive pastry chef Sarah Barber mixes a wild imagination with enviable skill to serve up a sweet treats across a range of tasting menus and, better still there are optional wine pairings.
 So let me rephrase –what is better that cake in a café? … A café that serves primarily dessert AND wine to match. Bliss.

London's first Dessert Restaurant
Sarah Barber is an artist working in sugar spun creations and gateaux. Her impressive portfolio includes a wide range of establishments, from five star hotels to Michelin-starred restaurants and the finest patisserie shop. She’s known for her contemporary, playful style. So I know Regent Street is that little bit sweeter for her presence at Café Royal Hotel.

 Who could resist a ruby-red Queen of Hearts extravaganza of raspberries, champagne and roses?

 Who wouldn’t want to tumble down the taste rabbit hole with the ‘Sarah in Wonderland’ menu which will feature five courses. In this case there are preliminary savoury dishes, such as White Rabbit with Acapella cheese but really it is all about the sweet stuff. And who could resist a ruby-red Queen of Hearts extravaganza of raspberries, champagne and roses? Certainly not me. Or the Mad Hatter (BFG, kirsch and cherries). Always one to obey instructions (when it suits) I’ll also delight in delving into the ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’ dish which features a Snickers bar and a chocolate malt shake. So slimming.

Jaffa Cake toadstools
Those who loved the dishes nanny used to serve will love the perfect puddings served up in the three-course ‘Childhood Memories’ menu. Second childhood? Bring it on. Nostalgia rules here with Barber’s innovative twists on nursery food such as Jaffa Cakes and rhubarb & custard. There is also a ‘Pick-n-Mix’ menu which allow guests to curate their own selection of four dishes. You can include savoury options but why would you?

Queen of Hearts
But what about the wine I hear you ask. Sorry …mouth full of ice cream…just a moment … .The wine options are impressive. For example, wine flights include sparkling Prosecco di Valdobbiadene with the Milky Way; Henriques y Henriques madeira with the Jaffa Cake; and classic dessert wines such as Château Roumieu, Sauternes with the Eat Me, Drink Me. I have always loved the golden glow of the café’s Siena marble – now that I know there is an evening Dessert Restaurant, I’ll love it even more.
 The Dessert Restaurant menus will be available from 6pm to 10.30pm daily. www.hotelcaferoyal.com

Ms Luxe Loves ...unexpected passion

LOOKING for love this Valentine's Day? Then get a room.

Not only is Airbnb giving more convention accommodation pause for thought, it may also be taking on the dating agencies. According to the new online Airbnb series ‘When Strangers Meet’, guest-houses are a hot beds of romance (if I may put it that way).


 Well according to Airbnb: “It happens when you let your guard down. When you open up to new adventures. Or, as everyone and their mother says: Finding 'the one' happens when you’re not even looking for it". To prove the point the company is sharing the stories of some couples who met and fell in love through the serendipitous circumstance of an Airbnb.

Hosan and Adi
It was a case of love-all when during Wimbledon, Frank Moser and Bree Chisholm met in London whilst Frank was playing tennis for his home country of Germany. They each took one private room in an Airbnb and it was love at first sight. They are now a couple, and they continue to stay with Airbnb when travelling around the world for his tennis tournaments. 

Then there the long distance love story of Hosan from New York and Adi from Zurich , who met in DC “I love to tell my friends about this international dating site called Airbnb. I never would have imagined meeting someone like this, especially not at this time when I wasn't looking for a partner. I never planned on ever getting married,” Hosan explains. “But I think that’s part of why we’re right  for each other: We’re both adventurous. We see the world in a lot of the same ways.”

Megan and Tocco
 As for Megan and Tocco, they met through a chance encounter on Airbnb whilst Megan spent her summer break from graduate school on a five week trip to Berlin. Megan saw a tattooed stranger staring at her across a crowded café. He left love notes on her Airbnb apartment door and now they are married and have a newborn baby.
Shannon and Josh
 Shannon & Josh met through Airbnb when Shannon stayed the night in Josh's father's guest room. Though she left the next day, when she made the move back to San Francisco a few months later, Josh was the first person she contacted. They have been inseparable ever since. 

So there you have it - romance is alive and well and available in a stranger’s bedroom somewhere in the world …all you have to do is book in. www.airbnb.com

Ms Luxe loves ... buying a private island

I HAVE always wanted my own private island, who wouldn’t? Now however it seems my dream might just become a reality because according to Vladi Private Islands - the world’s number one island broker - if you can afford a car, you can afford an island.
 The proof is in the print run of the company’s 2016 calendar which in stroke of marketing genius matches 12 cars with 12 islands currently up for sale. I could for example, swap my 1984 Audi Sport Quattro ($US401,500) for remote Reids Island in Canada or my 2013 Aston Martin Centennial DB9 ($US693,000) for Carberry Island in Ireland. If only I had either.

I am intrigued by the idea of buying a ‘bargain basement’ private island

Sadly the island brokers (who have apparently sold over 2650 islands since business began 40 years ago ) don’t have anything I can swap for a dated hatchback, or even my brand new sporty number, which frankly I love so much I wouldn’t swap for just any old exclusive island anyway…
Nevertheless there are a few bargains to be had amongst the 440 currently on sale (who knew there were so many). There are several I could purchase and still have change left over from $US200,000. Wait. I just happen to have that amount right here in my back pocket. Not.
 I am however intrigued by the idea of buying a ‘bargain basement’ private island. An unusually large number of bargains appear to be in Novia Scotia. Indeed the islands off Myers Point Loop in Head of Jeddore are even being offered as a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE offer. A marketing technique I had previous thought was restricted to souvenir T-shirts.
 For only 150,00 euros I could also have Mannion Island picturesque Dunmanus Bay, Ireland which looks green as a emerald but is offered as is” and does not feature “a house, building, structure or ruins”. Ruins presumably being a plus.
A better bet shelter-wise might be Haloah Island in New York state, a tiny 0.37 acre gem complete with fully (and beautifully) furnished weatherboard house and glass conservatory . on sale for a dollar short of the budget at $US199.000. I am also keen on Ilsa Mongon in Chile, off the coast of Valdivia 850 km south of Santiago de Chile. Which I could have for only $US160,000.
 I note that many of the islands are in chillier climes; Sweden, Norway and the north coast of England also feature. What would it cost me to while away my days on a more tropical paradise?
I could buy stunning Raidhigga Island on North Ari Atoll in the Maldives for EUR 4,700,000 or half of Motu Fara in French Polynesia for a mere EUR 988,800. Although since its only half who knows what the neighbours would be like. Then there’s Joe’s Cay in the Bahamas, with white sand beaches and palm trees, available for $US2,225,000.
 Sadly only “serious offers will be considered” – which rather counts me out.


Ms Luxe Loves...fast Italians

I AM  in love with an Italian; sleek, suave, sophisticated and very, very fast. We spent one weekend together and my life will never be the same again. The worrying thing is my husband is in love too - with the same Italian. This could end in tears.

The love-object in question is a Ferrari California and the weekend a decadent two-day guided trip down Australia's East Coast south of Sydney with a company called Prancing Horse. Its not the first time I've fallen for a fast car ..there was that time in Positano ... but that's another story. 

 Of course you have to be a certain kind of rich to actually own a Ferrari because there is a reason the words "Flash' and 'Ferrari' start with the same letter: Think film stars, financiers, formula one racing drivers. If you're shy and retiring get a Volvo. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy driving other people's.

 This particular  weekend combines gourmet food, luxury accommodation, spa treatments and the chance to drive a selection of faster-than-light Ferraris. As well as the California the selection includes the F430, 360F1 and F355 Spider.

I almost expect the car to ask me to slip into something more comfortable as I lay back in the required driving position

The cockpit of a Ferrari (this is not a mere car interior) reminds me of an ultra-stylish bachelor pad, all beige leather, state of the art technology - and a tendency to have you half horizontal before you know it. I almost expect the car to ask me to slip into something more comfortable as I lay back in the required driving position in the Ferrari F430 coupe.

Once I'm behind the wheel  It doesn't take me long to understand why you never see an ad for 'Ferrari for sale -one careful owner' - this car invites you to put your foot down, it begs for it in a sexy Italian accent, it purrs for pure acceleration. I always knew i was meant for life in the fast lane...
I've definitely got scarlet fever. Red is the only colou that counts darling. Although I'm told If you see someone driving a blue Ferrari it probably means they have more than one. But  apparently "you always remember your first".

My pick of the World's Top 5 Ferrari Tours HERE   

PS I love little red Vespa-style scooters too! Don't you?


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