Travel dream boards and destination wanderlust can be sparked in a number of ways. The stories and places encapsulated by the diverse food culture of the world as shared by the late Anthony Bourdain is a prime example.
So, if you're looking to whet your appetite when it comes to amazing hotels, then you'll want to check out the second season of Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby - set to kick-off on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174) from Thursday 19 July @ 21:00.
The five-part aspirational travel series sees writer and critic Giles Coren and international chef Monica Galetti team up to explore extraordinary hotels around the world.
With behind-the scenes insights, compelling characters and experiences of local life beyond the hotel lobby - the series will bubble-up unique locations - including Cape Town's Silo Hotel - the V&A's trendy new Silo District - home to the Zeitz MOCCA.
So if you've ever wanted a know what it takes to run this industry, you'll get a first has look as they work along-side hotel visionaries, owners and workers to uncover the motivations and backstories of some of the most amazing hotels on the planet.
But the highlights don't only include the Silo hotel though, but also whale sighting in Polynesia, visit with the Mapuche, Chile's indigenous people who inhabited Chile and are battling against cultural extinction with a dying language.
Traveller24 caught up with Giles and Monica to find out a bit more...
- Can you share any insights to Polynesian culture after working at the Brando - what justifies the £11k price-tag?
Monica: ” It’s the clientele that they go for but if you look the technology the hotel is doing you would understand why. For example protecting marine is unbelievable, using things like the current of ocean to provide air conditioning for the hotels. You have benefits for the environment and the future of the island which is to be respected and also it costs money to do so. And then also there is the privacy that they provide for A-listers is also a huge benefit.
"But overall the money is going to great things.
“As for the Polynesian culture, I come from Samoa, so for me it is almost like going home and seeing the local people. Clearly they are working on this island to better themselves and absolutely love what it is doing to protect their language and their culture which is being supported by this hotel.”
Giles: "Polynesian culture is one, which in some degrees, is in retreat like so many indigenous cultures all over the world, whether that’s in South Africa, America or Australia. Most of where it’s preserved is done artificially. So yes, there is some insight in the show, Monica Galetti my co-presenter really covers that because she herself is Polynesian, albeit from Samoa. We cooked some food in the old fashioned Polynesian way. We highlight a little bit of dancing etc. There is some contact with the culture but it is a tourist hotel in the end.
I’m not sure £11k is necessarily right. When they do the script they tend to find out the most expensive room at the most expensive part of the season. I think you could stay there a lot cheaper if you organise it in advance. The reason that things are expensive at the Brando is because it’s a tiny atoll where everything has to be imported, similar to the way things are on Caribbean islands.
"They have an incredibly high level of luxury across their offering, including its restaurants and the very fine foods they serve. The guests who frequent the Brando, expect to be able to find everything there that they would back home and to provide this on a tiny island in the South Pacific, makes it very expensive."
- You have a fear of heights yet did the 2 000m above sea level zip-wire rope course along the cliff edge at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman, would you do it again and describe what it was like?
Giles: No. (Laughs) I never knew I had a fear of heights. Because I’m not an adventurer or a thrill seeker, I’ve never encountered these things before. I’ve been invited to do a bungee jump in the past and said no. And with the show they have asked me to do similar activities, in Chile they wanted me to jump out of a cable car and zip down from a rope, 100m to the ground, which I refused. This time around, they didn’t tell me about that zip wire. What I was told was that I had to do a traverse of a cliff in Oman, and I’d be attached to the wire all the way along, what I didn’t know was that once I got to the end there would be a zip wire to get to the other side. When I arrived at that point I was genuinely surprised and what you see on the show is me furious, scared and very angry with the production crew, I got quite emotional. Generally I haven’t been scared of heights but during the show, in an attempt to really explore interesting situations I’ve found out some of my weak spots!
- Middle Eastern countries can be perceived as oppressive and staunch, your thoughts after Oman?
Monica: ”It’s the least oppressive, as women are free to drive and go to schools definitely one of the leading countries.”
Giles: "That’s a fair observation about many Middle Eastern countries. Oman is trying to modernise and is a little bit more relaxed in some ways, however there are very conservative elements. We try to get women involved in the show but there aren’t any women working there, it’s just not culturally how it’s done. It can be challenging filming in Middle Eastern countries and even though the spot we visited in Oman was quite liberal, women and men don’t generally mix in public and there are prohibitions on alcohol, yet you also have a western hotel based in Oman where men and women do mix and alcohol is consumed. It’s a paradoxical situation which makes for interesting TV."
- Unpack Switzerland's health and wellness tourism concept for us - seriously, mineral-rich H2O, known locally as 'blue gold', and a water sommelier experience?
Monica: "Oddly that bar was always empty (Laughs)
"I'm married to a sommelier so it will always be wine first for me. As a hotel the experience is fantastic – sure you do worry to try and be healthy but it’s also about spoiling yourself.
"You can get your health checked and it’s ideal if you’re recovering from certain operations. And who knows, if you’re feeling bad after eating a burger, then you could just go have some lipo (Laughs) It’s very different and I’ve never experienced anything like it. Fixing your teeth while on holiday – clearly there are people who like to do that. Worldwide there is a wellness move for hotels and restaurants geared to towards healthier options for people.
Giles: "On first review it does seem ridiculous and extravagant and I was certainly skeptical. The bizarre job we have as presenters and journalists is to explore and uncover what the attraction is.
"Unquestionably after a week at a spa like that, we felt pretty good by the end of it. It was all quite charming and very Swiss. Since the dawn of man, people have gone to the Swiss Alps and other similar places to take the waters, refresh themselves and get away from the city. There are all kinds of benefits to it, but I’m still very happy to be drinking London tap water!"
- You visited the Silo in Cape Town, did the water crisis impact the experience at all for you? What was the stay like?
Monica: "We were there when it was at it’s peak. It was impressive to hear about the ways people could save water but frighting to know a city could be brought to its knees like that. Overall I think the Silo is a fantastic opportunity to invest in the future talent of South Africa, with the family-owned hotel providing the opportunity to for it to be showcased in the hotel. It goes to show the benefits of hotels who are invested in their people.
"For me one of the key experience of the series was going to visit the township in South Africa outside the city centre – and while every country has its issue, I’ve never experienced anything like that right in the middle of so much wealth. It’s so unbalance – human kindness is not restricted to what I felt while in the township – sleeping on floors, houses hammered together with no fresh air. When you are standing in it you just feel helpless. That for me was something that really affected me a lot."
Giles: "One of the jobs I had was going around with a guy fitting water fuses onto all the taps, to reduce the water pressure, however the baths weren’t connected. When I arrived I unfortunately didn’t know this. My room had this huge bath and I really wanted to enjoy it but as the baths weren’t connected I was discouraged from indulging and this did impact on the experience. It made for an important part of the show.
"Many of the places we go to film have similar challenges, like Oman, in an atoll in Polynesia, or in Kenya where water is a huge political issue. Hotels use a lot of water and finding sustainable ways to do the laundry, to keep the guests and staff clean, keep the hotel clean etc. is all a very big part of the experience. This show is focused on how to run a hotel and how to make it work in the environment so a crisis like the water issue in Cape Town, would absolutely become a very big part of the show. However it was still a great experience. I always love Cape Town and always have a good time there. I haven’t been for years and it was nice to see the development at the waterfront and get out into the winelands. "
- £50m revamped Castle in Ireland, falconry, silver service and four-poster bed tests - Can you elaborate on this sheer ‘charm’ to overcome the obstacles?
Giles: "When you go to Ireland to make a travel show it’s very important and difficult to avoid all the clichés, i.e. Guinness, leprechauns and saying how charming everything is. But it’s hard to get away from it as the people are so terribly nice, chatty and “charming”.
"What’s interesting for me, working there, is I’m not Irish or charming. What’s special about it is that it’s a massive medieval castle with very fine dining and silver service, which could all be a bit daunting but because it’s Irish it gives it a certain amount of charm, which is lovely. Personally, if I go to a place like that and there is falconry and shooting and riding, I’d really want to be waited on hand and foot, I certainly wouldn’t want to be working but unfortunately that’s not the case.
- Can you sum up any key hospitality trends after filming this 5-part aspirational series - any hotel specific examples?
Giles: The biggest one is the environmental one - all hotels now have to move towards being environmentally friendly. Wealthy people travelling the world, broadly speaking, are educated, they understand the danger that the planet is in from all sorts of issues lead by sustainability. Ten years ago similar guests would see a card from the hotel offering to not change towels or sheets daily, and this would go unanswered. Nowadays if you are travelling the world and you’re lucky enough to be staying at a hotel you should be following best social practice.
"So even if it’s not an eco-hotel, and many of them are, where they recycle their own grey water, create their own composting for growing their gardens and employing within the local community. These are all important elements and you’d still want to see that type of thing happening at all hotels. You don’t want arrive in Cape Town to find the staff have been flown in to run it, you want local people getting local jobs. Those are all key factors.
"Then obviously one of the big things is that every hotel has to have a spa. Which I personally think is a ridiculous waste of time, money, space and energy. I think the money could be better spent on other things. But guests seem to demand it.
"Food is another massive element. Hotels always feel that they have to get out and forage for food, and learn how to make the local food etc. which I think is a very good thing.
"I also think getting out into the local community is important. In Cape Town we visited a couple of the local townships. A lot of hotels do work in the local communities, which is imperative to give back to the communities you operate within. The hotel will run projects, which feed kids in the townships and if the guests can get involved then that’s great.
"Thirty Years ago you would have experienced some inauthentic experience in the hotel that was meant to represent the local community, if you can reverse this and get guests to have an authentic experience within the local community then that can only be beneficial.
- Which hotel exceeded your expectations and why?
Giles: I quite liked the Swiss one. Initially when I found out about this series I was more excited about going to Kenya, South Africa and Polynesia and Chile and Ecuador. With Switzerland I just thought there would be a load of people speaking German and eating cheese.
"But when I got there the hotel was brilliant fun. While I had expected it was focused on elderly people having medical procedures, when I got there I enjoyed it quite a lot. I had endless medical check-ups and slept in a machine which measured my sleep rhythms.
"A holiday is about having me time and relaxing and you’re actually indulged here by having constant access to doctors. While I thought talking about your ailments would be boring, it was in fact brilliant."
SEE - PICS: Find your escape at the world's best hotels - three of which are in SA