Artisans of Leisure tours are private and tailor-made, emphasizing the arts, cuisine,
people, landscapes, traditions and luxury hotels that make each destination unique.
Longitude 131°, an award-winning luxury safari camp facing Ayers Rock (Uluru), has risen phoenix-like to reclaim its place as one of Australia's great destination hotels. A freak bushfire in October 2003 destroyed 12 of the hotel's 15 rooms—freestanding cabins with tented fabric roofs and unobstructed views of Ayers Rock, the great sandstone monolith that is the Outback's most famous symbol. The unfortunate incident had some positive outcomes. Longitude 131° made enhancements such as an upgraded reception and a new outdoor dining area to enjoy the hotel's gourmet contemporary Australian cuisine under the stars. Also, the spinifex, desert oaks and other foliage is resurging. Click here to view our Australia tours.
Already one of Japan's premier contemporary art destinations, Benesse Art Site Naoshima recently added another cultural asset to Naoshima Island. The Chichu Art Museum opened July 18 with permanent installations of several Claude Monet "Water Lilies" paintings, a Walter De Maria sculpture, and three James Turrell pieces. Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, the Chichu (lit. "in the ground") was built into a ridge overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, mirroring Benesse House, the twelve-year-old concrete and stone hotel/contemporary art museum (also designed by Ando) on the adjacent ridge. Naoshima's other contemporary art assets include the outdoor sculptures at Seaside Park (including a hot tub by Cai-Guo Qiang) and Art House Project—installations inside various traditional buildings such as a Shinto shrine, two centuries-old houses, and an Ando-designed wooden structure. One of the main destinations on the Artisans of Leisure tour "Contemporary Art of Japan," Naoshima can also be included in any of our tailor-made tours in Japan.
French chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse has turned the former hunting lodge of the dukes of Tuscany into L'Andana, a boutique country hotel set in 500 hectares of gardens, vineyards and olive groves. The hotel has two buildings and 33 rooms, most with fireplaces. The restaurant uses vegetables, wine and olive oil produced on the estate to craft traditional Tuscan cuisine with the Ducasse touch. L'Andana makes a great base for day trips to historic towns such as Siena, San Gimignano, Massa Marittima and Lucca, vineyards in the Chianti Region, and Etruscan and Roman ruins in Roselle and Vetulonia. Explore the nearby countryside by going horseback riding in the pinewoods and sand dunes of the Maremma coast, or bird watching in the Orbetello Natural Reserve. Guests can enjoy the nearby beach and L'Andana's cooking school, swimming pool, tennis courts and other facilities. Travelers we've recently sent to L'Andana have come back raving about the hotel, the service, the food and the location. Look for L'Andana in our upcoming Italy tours or call us at (800) 214-8144 to book it now.
Autumn is our favorite season in Japan. It runs from mid-October to early December and brings crisp air, clear skies, and red, orange and gold maple leaves. The onset of koyo (autumn foliage) here is as celebrated as the arrival of cherry blossoms. One of the best places to enjoy the season is Kyoto, where the vibrant colors of koyo contrast with the rustic temples, Zen gardens and Shinto shrines of the ancient capital. Autumn also brings seasonal taste treats. Look for earthy matsutake mushrooms, firm and sweet kaki (persimmons) and nashi (Asian pears), buttery kuri gohan (rice with chestnuts) and grilled sanma (Pacific saury). Click here to view our recommended Japan tours, all of which can be booked during the autumn months.
Maple leaves in Kyoto
November to May is an ideal time to visit Southeast Asia. "Southeast Asia in Style"-our most popular tour in the area-spoils travelers. This tour includes some of the world's most luxurious hotels—the Oriental Bangkok, the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi and the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai. Private touring emphasizes the sights and activities that best capture the region's unique history and charm, such as narrow residential canals in colorful Bangkok, jungle ruins in Angkor, superb spas and restaurants overlooking rice paddies and rivers in Chiang Mai, and galleries and cafes in leafy Hanoi. Book now!
River rafting, Four Seasons Chiang Mai
Drag yourself away from the captivating city of Florence for this daylong excursion through the countryside of the Chianti and Val D'Orcia regions. First stop: the Carthusian Charterhouse, a monastery just outside Florence where monks use centuries-old methods to distill liquor and perfume. Next, head to Sant' Antimo. At the Abbey there, set against hills covered in olive groves, vineyards and wild forests, listen to white-robed monks sing the haunting melodies of Gregorian chant. Stop for lunch at Montalcino. This quintessential Tuscan medieval village—perched on a hilltop with gorgeous views over the valley below—produces excellent wine (Brunello) and has wonderful restaurants serving local specialties such as cured meats, goat cheese with sweet fruit preserves, and wild boar stew. From here, head to Bagno Vignoni, an ancient hot spring village with a huge steaming rectangular bath as its main square. Popes, aristocrats and saints once came here to bathe in the healing waters. En route back to Florence , venture the short distance to Pienza. In the 15th century, Pope Pius II turned his hometown into a model of Renaissance town planning. Today, it has not only a beautiful piazza and cathedral, but also the best pecorino cheese in Italy. (Artisans of Leisure tours to Italy are currently being booked on request—look for our published tours online soon.)
Carthusian Charterhouse, Tuscany
After a day touring Mughal gardens, havelis (courtyard mansions) and bazaars, retire to India's most romantic hotel, the palatial Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, Rajasthan. It's hard not to feel like royalty amid the gold leaf-covered domes and hand-carved columns of the Udaivilas. But to get that feeling all the way to your toes, there's The Banyan Tree, a white mini palace-cum-spa. While enjoying a sandalwood scrub, rose milk bath or aromatic massage—blended oils rubbed deeply into your skin—you can gaze over the surrounding pool, past a stone gazebo and out across Lake Pichola. After, stroll your temporary dominion, 30 acres of manicured gardens and marble courtyards. Artisans of Leisure India tours also feature magnificent Oberoi properties in Ranthambore (near a national safari park), Agra (overlooking the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (in the Pink City of Rajasthan).
The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place the tea and 14 sprigs of the mint into a teapot that holds 6 cups of water. Fill the pot with boiling water and stir in the sugar. Cover and steep for 4 minutes. Place 1 sprig of mint in each tea glass and pour the hot tea over the mint and serve. Makes 6 cups.
This simple, delicious recipe comes from "New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living," a new coffee table book from Susan Sully and Clarkson Potter Books. Contemporary Moroccan culture comes alive in recipes for saffron-scented tagine and eggplant caviar, images of tiled fountains and whitewashed courtyards, and long descriptions of the country's finest ryads (traditional inns). Meryanne Loum-Martin, contributing editor to the book and a renowned Moroccan culture expert, runs one such ryad, the Jnane Tamsna in Marrakesh. Surrounded by organic vegetable gardens, palm trees and calm, the Jnane Tamsna is one of the special destinations on on the Artisans of Leisure tour "Ryads of Morocco."
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Garden in Marrakesh