The French concept of l’art de vivre alludes not just to the art of living, but to the art of living well. It takes its cues from France’s particular penchant for the finer things in life: wine, dining, fashion, even romance.
The modern wellness lifestyle, so often fuelled by clean eating and ‘low and no’ cocktails, can seem far removed from such sybaritic pleasures. But who says self-care can’t go hand in hand with champagne moments? A touch of the Epicurean never goes amiss – and guilt-free indulgence can be achieved by enriching the mind, body and soul with culture and inspiring destinations (as well as the finest food and fizz).
One brand that understands this better than most is Belmond, which has recently appointed a glamorous council of ‘Good Living Experience Makers’. From pioneering producers to wellness gurus, this council comprises experts who are curating one-of-a-kind experiences across Belmond’s portfolio of luxurious and spectacular places to stay.
The Pioneering Producers: Gala Gordon Isabella Macpherson
Actor Gala Gordon and producer Isabella Macpherson believe that the key to a life well lived is creativity. They should know; together, they have created Platform Presents, a production company that champions the brightest rising stars in the fields of writing, acting and directing with star-studded poetry galas, prizes for playwrights and innovative premieres.
They make time for travel, too. Gala, whose dream dinner party guest would be Oscar Wilde (who famously stayed at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel), names hiking in the Nilgiri Mountains in India as her most inspiring adventure to date. For Isabella, the best trip is closer to home in the Scottish Highlands, where she spent every summer of her childhood exploring, fishing and hiking.
Remarkably, they share the same desert island book, explaining that Other Men’s Flowers, a poetry anthology collected by Lord Wavell, would be the words they’d want with them on every journey.
Uniting their shared love of verse and travel, the pair will curate an anthology of poems inspired by Belmond’s rich heritage and portfolio – think everything from Belmond Hotel Cipriani to the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. They will also host a special poetry workshop at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily, in 2020, on the very same terrace from which DH Lawrence wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
The Classical Muse: Clemency Burton-Hill
Aged two, Clemency Burton-Hill was transfixed while watching a violinist perform at a Christmas carol concert. From that moment her musical destiny was decided. Today she is Creative Director, Music and Arts at New York Public Radio and has written two novels, as well as Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day, in which she shares her passion for music and its timeless ability to unlock emotions.
‘Music has been the passport to many of the most extraordinary travel experiences of my life,’ she says. ‘I feel that it is a mode of travelling in itself.’ Her personal mantra for good living revolves around music, which she refers to as ‘an incredibly powerful connective agent’, but her advice for living well is ‘to be empathetic and curious and kind, and still find time for yourself to develop the things that really inspire and ignite your passion.’
In her role as a Belmond Good Living Experience Maker, Clemency has curated six playlists inspired by Belmond destinations around the globe, from Italy to Laos. ‘I have been so inspired by the different type of properties and the cultures in which Belmond hotels are located,’ she says. ‘I’ve also thought about how to use music at different times of your day, for different emotional states and moods.’
The Soul Sisters: Nadia Narain Katia Narain Phillips
In the thrilling throes of travel, wellness can often take a backseat. Days can slip by in a happy yet hazy blur. But for every Belmond guest, there is an exclusive ‘Morning Ritual’ on offer, which promises to awaken the senses and ground the mind.
The brilliant brains behind this daily ritual are wellness experts Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips. Having reached the top of their chosen fields – Nadia as a yoga teacher to the stars and Katia as a health food pioneer – the sisters joined forces, co-writing two bestselling self-care books.
It’s hard to think of two people better placed to become Belmond Good Living Experience Makers. For Katia, whose favourite travel experiences include lots of trekking and outdoor experiences, the concept means carving out space in the day to do something for herself, whether that’s walking, swimming or eating. Her top tip for finding peace while travelling is to find some natural space to spend time in. ‘If you’re near the ocean, jump in and rinse off the whole travel vibe,’ she suggests.
For Nadia, whose most memorable travel experience was visiting Tibet, it’s all about finding a ‘little bit more balance’. The morning ritual created by the pair is all about balance and being present in the moment. ‘It starts with a breathing technique, creating an instant feeling of calm,’ says Nadia. ‘It’s a ritual that you can take with you and carry on,’ adds Katia.