The Luxe Life by Gary Walther

gw November 20, 2003: Saigon, 14 Years On
Hanoi may be Vietnam's Vatican, the seat of orthodoxy, but Saigon is its vitrine, an increasingly glossy shop window for seemingly everything. Looking at an upper-story window of the Diamond Department store, I saw the image of an elderly goateed gentleman on a red background--a posterized Ho Chi Minh, I thought. Then I realized it was Colonel Sanders. The let's-do-business atmosphere is why the giant Sanyo video sign across from Ben Thanh, the main market, seems right at home. Read more of Gary Walther's return to Saigon.

November 6, 2003: A Second Look at Sandy Lane II
For storied luxury hotels, this is the era of the big-budget remake, with a plot that goes like this: The great hotel, largely living on its glamorous past, gets an enormously expensive facelift and then the critics carp that the soul of the property has been scrubbed away along with the years of neglect. But Gary Walther says critics should look again at Sandy Lane in Barbados, which reopened in 2001 after a redo that cost about $2.5 million a room.

September 4, 2003: A Premier Perch
With the suburban tide of Vence lapping at the hills and the town itself inundated daily with daytrippers looking for cut-rate Provencal mystique, the Chateau Domaine du St. Martin's demeanor seems above it all. Gary Walther is on the scene.

July 10, 2003: Footloose in Utah
The Red Mountain Spa in southwestern Utah is set in "a miniature Zion Park," according to resort geologist Ken Puchlik. The spa combines exercise, diet, fitness assessments, spa treatments and relaxation into one package at a moderate price. Gary Walther has the lowdown.

June 5, 2003: Getting Naked and Going Cuckoo
Mineral-laden waters earned Baden-Baden the moniker Civitas Aurelia Aquensis during the Roman Empire and, by the 19th century, the city was called "the summer capital of Europe." Like Bath and Saratoga Springs, Baden-Baden has long been a flame for moneyed moths and Gary Walther installs himself at Brenner's Park to take in the spas, scenery, food and giant cuckoo clocks of the Black Forest.

May 8, 2003: Have Passion, Will Travel
Now that Iraq is on the road to democracy, can we talk about making love instead of making war? Just for a minute? Because the war was far more telegenic than the aftermath is going to be, and, sooner or later, you're going to want to escape from this Middle East remake of Birth of a Nation--and with your significant other. Which is why Gary Walther has put together this list of eight romantic destinations.

February 27, 2003: Uncorking Napa
"My dentist makes wine," John Thoreen, director of the wine center at Meadowood Resort, tells Gary Walther. "That's how Napa ticks." Being on a first-name basis with Napa's smaller wine producers makes Thoreen tick, too. He's Meadowood's Vineyard Concierge, so to speak. For resort guests, he unlocks the gates of Napa Valley wineries that are either not open to visitors or only open by appointment.

October 10, 2002: Globe-Trotting
Gary Walther has reports from New York and Connecticut; New Brunswick, Canada; San Francisco and Sonoma County; and Umbria, Italy. On his list of goodies: superlative new restaurants and suave nightspots; extraordinary big-city hotels and charming country lodgings; great bespoke suits; and wonderful olive oil and cold-smoked salmon.

September 12, 2002: Past Perfect: Château De Bagnols
One of the top château hotels in France, the Château de Bagnols is the product of one Englishwoman's passion. Helen Hamlyn bought the property, 15 miles north of Lyon, in 1987, when it was derelict. She spent in excess of $10 million to restore it and to create what she tells Gary Walther is "a hotel for people who don't like hotels."

August 15, 2002: Provence's Most Beautiful Dining Terrace
On his way to Marseille Airport after two sun-shot weeks in the Vaucluse, Gary Walther stumbled on the Abbaye de Sainte Croix and had lunch on what could be the most beautiful outdoor dining terrace in Provence. He's got all the delicious details and also offers a shortlist of other dining, wine and ceramic discoveries.

July 18, 2002: Luxury Where You'd Least Expect It
For the premiere edition of his column, Gary Walther visits Canoe Bay, a Relais & Chateaux resort in Wisconsin. What's singular about Canoe Bay, he says, is that it takes you far away, but isn't, in fact, that far away.

Copyright © 2001-2004 by Gary Walther.