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F1RST Selects

Consider this our highlight reel. Here, we’re spotlighting the stories and features from F1RST Magazine that we’re loving most at the moment.

We’ve got accounts of life-changing adventures, ideas for spending a weekend in your favorite city, corporate Q&As, talks with cultural change-makers, and so much more. This always-changing list is sure to inspire, engage—and make your travel experiences that much better.

Pretty Pretty Pugliese

Pretty Pretty Pugliese

Rocco Forte’s newest idyll gathers the ingredients for laid-back luxury.

In the hardscrabble earth of Puglia grows a lifestyle ruled by simplicity. For centuries, the sun and heat here have dictated the architecture and daily rhythms. Meanwhile, necessity nurtured the food and spirit of hospitality. Today, from these austere traditions, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Masseria Torre Maizza casts light on a modern kind of luxury—free from distracting adornment and confining ritual—that lets the goodness of essential ingredients shine through.

Down a chalky road hemmed by stacked stone walls and stands of 700-year-old olive trees sits Masseria Torre Maizza. Part plantation, part fortress, masserie have a particular local pragmatism that combines a lord’s luxury with a farmer’s frugality and a soldier’s sobriety. Masseria Torre Maizza, opened in April as Rocco Forte’s twelfth hotel, is no exception.

The 16th century villa forms a citadel over the forecourt, and grapevine-laced pergolas surround a large pool behind. Beyond, an arched gate leads to a garrison of rooms reaching toward the Adriatic across a landscape softened by ponds and putting greens. Crisp and relaxed, the forty rooms range from breezy ocean-view doubles to sprawling suites with private gardens and plunge pools. Stone floors and vaulted ceilings, tailored linen, handcrafted ceramics and pops of sun-bleached color tame the modernist take on traditional furnishings.

Sensuous essential

As farmers and fishermen the Pugliese were never rich, but always knew their ingredients. This created Puglia’s cucina povera, “poor food”, which says more about its simplicity than its paucity. At Carosello, the hotel’s destination restaurant, dine on reinvented local classics featuring exquisite quality and ingenuity: like the olive oil that is Puglia’s green gold, or its burrata enriched with oozing buffalo cream, or shells of orechiette made with grano arso—burnt grains, once a field scrap, now a delicacy—sautéed with rapini leaves or chickpeas echoing Arab influences from centuries ago.

When the sounds of wind and sea and songbirds beckon outdoors, Torre Maizza’s spa offers a wellness program, including yoga or body and facial treatments in the gardens using olive oil, and sea salt and apricot scrubs. Excursions go even further: just a few miles down the road to the hotel’s private beach club, or on an exclusive mini-cruise to nearby fishing towns and swimming spots. In Alberobello discover Puglia’s UNESCO-listed trove of beehive-shaped trulli homes, and learn about and how to make the region’s ceramics, jewelry, olive oil, wines, pasta and other foods.

Luxury, you see, is easy.

 

Seeking Wellness in Austin

Seeking Wellness in Austin

Miraval’s newest resort and spa takes relaxation and reconnection to a whole new level

The world feels frenetic, people are too connected to their phones, and friends barely have enough time to catch up over coffee, let alone to spend a few days together really reconnecting. You’ve heard it all before. Let us offer a new antidote: Miraval Austin, the newest resort and spa from the renowned wellness brand, which joins the Tucson flagship as a top destination for wellness warriors.

CELL PHONE FREE

About 30 minutes from downtown, Miraval Austin sits on 220 acres near the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, with a view of Lake Travis. “I was immediately impressed by all the beautiful lush green trees and thought it was the perfect setting for a wellness resort,” says Christina, who recently visited with friends Awilda and Debbie for a long weekend of relaxation. “When we pulled up to the arrival area, I loved the use of all the natural woods and the open, airy feeling of the arrival lounge, with the view out onto the hills.”

The three friends each checked into one of the resort’s Hill Country King Suites, which offer king-size beds (“I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud,” says Debbie), an indoor shower—that leads straight to an outdoor shower—and other special touches, like a sound bowl and meditation cushion.

And then they checked their devices at the door: While there are specific spots to power up (and you can use your phone on airplane mode to take pics), the resort is resoundingly cell phone-free. “I loved this! It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be—maybe I was at a point in my life where I needed this more than I knew,” says Awilda.

Bonding—35 Feet in the Air

Miraval Austin offers an extensive (and many included-with-your-stay) roster of classes, with a rotating daily schedule. While there, the friends tried a number of these—from yin reiki yoga to a tarot card workshop to floating meditation.

Of the floating meditation class—think meditation meets aerial yoga—Christina says, “You are ensconced in a beautiful lavender silk scarf hanging from the ceiling and you lay down and gently rock in the scarf while you are guided through a meditation that gives you a sense of safety and warmth.”

But the highlight for the trio? Swing and a Prayer, where you’re suspended 35 feet in the air, and then swing down.

“It wasn’t just an adrenaline rush, it was a way to free yourself—to set an intention and choose something to focus on that you need to let go of—and putting the choice and power to let go literally in your hands,” says Christina. “When you are up there, it’s you who makes the decision on when to let go and soar through the air. It gave me such a sense of empowerment and reminded me how strong of a person I am”

And it also offered a bonding moment. “I’m a person who does not hesitate to jump in and get things done,” says Awilda. “But when I was holstered up 35 feet in the sky, let’s just say, I was not releasing the rope to swing down! It took coaching from my support system below, assuring me it would all be ok.”

It was the most memorable part of the weekend for Debbie: “I was really scared and walked away feeling proud, happy, emotional, fulfilled and lighter all at the same time. I highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting the property.”

Treatments and Farm-to-Table Eats

Along with classes and activities, Miraval Austin is home to the 20,000-square-foot Life in Balance Spa, which, while large, still has an intimate, relaxing feel. The friends each tried  different treatments—from Christina’s Jade-Meridian massage, to Awilda’s 100-minute Pradhana Veda Ayurveda treatment (where she fell asleep, it was so relaxing!) to Debbie’s Naga massage, a Miraval exclusive. “I booked this treatment on our last evening at 9 p.m. and floated off to my room for a great night sleep right after,” she says.

But no girls weekend would be complete without some great eats and conversation. The property has three dining options, with all meals and drinks (except wine and alcohol) included. At the signature Hilltop Crossing Kitchen, the food is either local—or comes straight from the resort’s 10-acre Cypress Creek Farm & Ranch. Pro-tip: “I’m a popcorn gal and they had the tastiest herb popcorn that they served in the cafe area, which went perfectly with a glass of wine or cocktail,” says Debbie.

Recharge and reconnect

With so many classes, activities and offerings—there are also culinary classes, horseback riding, wellness counseling and so much more—the resort truly offers a chance to disconnect with the outside world, to recharge with friends, and, most importantly, to reconnect with yourself.

“I feel it’s so important to find time for yourself,” says Debbie. “Practice self-care, self-love and hit that reset button.”

Hong Kong Homecoming

Hong Kong
Homecoming

Rosewood’s new flagship redefines the art of hospitality

The Rosewood Hong Kong hotel opened this year as the brand’s flagship property—its twenty-sixth, including Paris’ famed Hôtel de Crillon, New York’s historic Carlyle, and the Mansion on Turtle Creek, where Rosewood first received guests on a private Dallas estate forty years ago. Despite Rosewood’s world renown, Hong Kong still holds special significance for its owners.

FAMILY MATTERS

Sonia Cheng’s family has owned the land at Victoria Dockside for three generations. She remembers pedaling her bicycle along the water here as a little girl, the views across the harbor to Hong Kong Island’s jagged skyscrapers and towering peaks. Long before that, it had been a key shipping terminus and railhead on the mainland, until Cheng’s family turned the centrally located promontory into a park and cultural center. So there’s a particular tenderness to her voice as she describes their newest venture here.

“With Hong Kong evolving from a business and financial center to becoming a true global cultural capital,” says Cheng, CEO of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, “I wanted to create an iconic property that not only showcases the city’s rich history but also reflects its bright future.”

At the epicenter of Kowloon’s business and entertainment district, the Rosewood Hong Kong is a destination in its own right. A water front promenade designed by the architects behind New York’s High Line connects the hotel to K11 Musea, an innovative office space with high-end retail, dining and art venues designed to lure young creatives. A few steps further lie the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Cultural Center, and the shopping mecca of Canton Road. A few blocks inland, a more local-style business district will satisfy even the hungriest Instagrammer.

Inside, meanwhile, the hotel is a model of Rosewood’s residential approach to luxury and creating “A Sense of Place”. Materials varying between mineral tones and metallics dispel any notion of institutionality. The service is obliging but never obsequious. The experience is more that of a lavish penthouse than a large hotel. And indeed, the Rosewood Residences are designed for extended stays. Guestroom floors greet you at the elevators with spacious salons, where you can relax with a book before retiring to your harbor-view room or gather with friends before going down to dinner. The eight bars and restaurants offer contemporary takes on Cantonese and international flavors, and private rooms for family-style service.

“Rosewood Hong Kong sets bold new benchmarks for design, guest experience, cuisine, and culture,” says Cheng. “Our ambition is to create a new world standard for ultra-luxury hospitality and a focal point of the vibrant Hong Kong lifestyle, reflecting its incredible dynamism, style and diversity.”