Off the Grid Getaways
March 11 2011 by Michael Gelfand
The monotonous beat of business travel has a way of grating on one’s soul. Same destinations, same cabin crew, same hotel, same clients… so much so that when it comes time to do a little traveling for pleasure, the last thing you want to do is the same-old same-old. But we’re not talking Eurail passes and backpacks here—you want a vacation that tweaks your cultural curiosity, stimulates your appreciation of history, excites your sense of adventure, and exceeds your expectations for amenities, epicurean delights and relaxation.
With that in mind, we’ve focused on an eclectic trio of foreign destinations that offer the unique settings, high-end services and attention to detail required to make your next trip off the grid one you’ll remember for the ages.
Nestled into the hillside of SoufriÃ¨re, St. Lucia, and perched above 600 acres of lush tropical estate and beach below, Jade Mountain specializes in spectacular sights and creature comforts that make worries float away. Each of the resort’s 24 luxurious “sanctuaries” has sleeping and living areas that flow seamlessly into an infinity-edge pool—the fourth wall of each room is intentionally missing—delivering a jaw-dropping panoramic view of St. Lucia’s twin Pitons and the Caribbean. If you’re a non-swimmer, there are five large Jacuzzi suites sans infinity pool. When and if you become motivated to actually leave your room—none of which have radio, TV or telephone—there’s plenty to do. Boutique spa services, internationally renowned SSI/PADI scuba diving and snorkeling, biking and full water sports facilities, 12 miles of hiking trails, as well as a host of on-site restaurants and bars are readily available by foot or shuttle, including Jade Mountain Club, which is run by James Beard-award-winning chef Allen Susser.
Located in between Marrakesh’s old medina and the new city, La Mamounia blends the opulent details of old-world Morocco with contemporary services and amenities. Designed in 1922 and built around a huge, verdant 20-acre park full of exotic fruit trees, the recently renovated hotel—which offers a wide range of well-appointed rooms, suites, and riads—garnered industry awards soon after reopening last year by recapturing the magic, mystery, glamour and tranquility that once prompted Winston Churchill to call it “the most lovely spot in the whole world.” On-site attractions include an enormous pool, a world-class spa, a fitness center, tennis, squash, a driving range and billiards, plus four topnotch restaurants and five acclaimed bars. Only 15 minutes by car from Marrakech-Menara airport, La Mamounia is moments away from the famous Koutoubia mosque, the medina’s spectacle-filled town square, dJemaa el-Fna, and the delightful sensory overload that is Marrakesh, but in a world all its own.
Built between 1590 and 1603 and rebuilt in 1890 after a fire, the distinctive and stately Schloss Velden is a stylish lakeside manor house—painted a memorable goldenrod hue— that sits elegantly on the shores of Austria’s largest and warmest alpine lake, WÃ¶rthersee. Located in Carinthia, the country’s southernmost state in the Eastern Alps, this jewel of the Austrian Riviera is just a few hours’ drive from Vienna, Milan, Munich and other European gateway cities, deftly balancing cosmopolitan shopping, spa, fitness and wellness programs, and luxurious dining experiences with a host of year-round casual and rustic activities, including horseback riding and horse-drawn sleigh rides, access to four golf courses (as well as “white” golf on the world’s largest frozen-lake golf course), mountain climbing, indoor and outdoor pools, walking and skiing (Bad Kleinkirchheim, Nassfeld, DreilÃ¤ndereck and Gerlitzen, are all nearby).