Lap of Luxury – Gstaad

By Shereen Shabnam

After a few days of rest and relaxation in Zermatt, Switzerland, I was keen to introduce my teenager who loves snow and cold weather to Gstaad. After exploring numerous parts of the country using the Swiss Pass on the way to Gstaad, before venturing to Gstaad, we arrived to a quaint railway station where our driver was waiting to take us to Huus Gstaad, which is one of the most welcoming and homely hotels in the area.

Gstaas is a playground for holidaymakers who prefer a touch of exclusivity for their holiday experiences in a unique landscape that is full of tradition, sports, delectable cuisine and culture. A walk around the town is the perfect antidote to cheer oneself up while trying out hand made chocolates and local cheese platters.

To many, Gstaad is known as a major ski resort and a popular destination amongst high society and the international jet set but it is a perfect place for adventure tourism as well.

While my teenager enjoyed river rafting thanks to the wonderful staff of the Huus Gstaad Hotel, my favourite part of the visit was going up the mountains for tobogganing, watching my daughter try different games and inhaling the fresh crisp air that makes the lungs feel good.

The countryside in Gstaad offers a versatile and diverse sports programme with hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and golf. Gstaad is also a wellness destination and guarantees an unsurpassed variety of leisure activities, spas, healthy cuisine, sports centres and indoor swimming pools.

Set amongst soaring mountains and prestigious international boarding schools, Gstaad is a popular holiday destination for royalty and celebrities. Cable cars connect surrounding ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg, with hundreds of kilometers of all-level pistes and cross-country trails.

We started our journey at the centre of Gstaad, which is the most popular and fell in love with the shortest “shopping mile” in Switzerland. With luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets, the car-free resort was a delight as we walked along the picturesque promenade and tried some of the local delicacies.  explored the local galleriesand exclusive shops.

Retail therapy in Gstaad is a delight with designer stores that include Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chopard, Brunello Cucinelli, Prada, Moncler, Ralph Lauren, and Cartier as well as boutiques that stock labels such as Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana, Tod’s, Burberry, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Marc Jacobs.

Food lovers will be happy to note that Gstaad is also a paradise for fine diners, with more than 100 restaurants ranging from cosy raclette restaurants to acclaimed gourmet venues. Our most memorable meal was a five-course meal at Ultima Gstaad.

Leaving Gstaad is not easy as the wonderful views from cosy terraces, the picturesque mountains, fresh alpine air, gourmet cuisine, indoor games near warm fireplaces and outdoor adventures leaves an imprint on the heart and soul.

Each time I visualise a perfect holiday now, my mind wanders to the warmth of the staff and the cosy lobby area of Huus Gstaad and this ultimate hospitality is what makes it a destination that attracts visitors back to the beautiful alpine heaven more than once.

 

 

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Natural Perfection – Sun Siyam Iru Fushi – Maldives

By Shereen Shabnam

There are very few countries in the world that come close to the beauty of my home country Fiji Islands and theRepublic of Maldives is one of few that does come close. Located in the Indian Ocean, Maldives has 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atollswith almost 400,000 inhabitants.

We recently ventured into Maldives to visit the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, a paradise resort known for luxury, romance, water sports, picturesque clear blue sea and tropical bliss. Being an islander I love the sun, sand and sea when on holiday and the marine world in Maldives is known for its beauty, especially the coral reefs that are home to a variety of marine ecosystems.

During my first two days at the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, I explored the cool and contemporary spaces, stylish interiors, and beautiful gardens around the island. I was offered water based activities such as scuba diving, fishing, swimming, water skiing, wind surfing and snorkeling but I opted for a sting ray feeding experience and a boat ride to spot dolphins at play – both experiences were magical.

Guests at Iru Fushi can enjoy the unspoilt islands of Noonu Atoll, where Maldivian past life is reflected with boat builders working meticulously sanding wood to reveal a silken finish, children being educated about local marine species and farming of fruits and organic vegetables.

My room was a water villa on stilts with a small glass on the floor that gave me a view of the area below serving as personal coral garden and natural aquarium. The area felt like having a large natural swimming pool that protected me from the ocean waves and strong tidal currents beyond the villas. Close by, other guests enjoyed walking on the soft sand and sun bathing before jumping into the crystal clear waters.

Spas are my weakness and the resort offers a 20-room tropical spa with an enormous range of treatments, including massages, relaxation therapies and facials set in a tranquil environment. It is the perfect place for a beauty break.I enjoyed walking barefoot along the cobbled paths; the white sands and watched the palm trees as they gently leaned into the breeze after my massage session.

While waiting for my flight, I waited at the hotel’s private lounge near the airport where I tried a refreshing welcome drink, a quick snack and a short shoulder massage. Designed to be the one of the best airport lounges in the Maldives, the spacious private lounge can be used by guests arriving to The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi.  The lounge also has a children’s play room, outdoor balcony, free WiFi, computer stations as well as showers and changing facilities.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi’s Deluxe Beach has Villas with Pool, Pool Beach Villas, Sunset Horizon Water Villas or Infinity Water Villas. The resort features 221 luxury oceanfront villas, including 70 over-water bungalows, 14 restaurant and bar choices with a wide range of activities.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is 45 minutes seaplane journey from the capital, Malé, where Velana International Airport is located. Guests are met by a uniformed team member on arrival and then taken on a 10-minute drive by shuttle to the seaplane terminal to the designated seaplane lounge while waiting for the seaplane boarding call.

Visit Sun Siyam Iru Fushi and take in its vibrant local life, which has been influenced by various cultures and yet remains unique and a perfect holiday destination with relaxing days that are long and sun-filled and nights that are exciting and energetic. I just wish I could experience this mesmerizing award-winning resort for longer.