Picnics of a lifetime
Grand Dame Affair
Making the news recently for its USD180 million (thereabouts) refurbishment, La Mamounia is a bona fide Marrakech institution. Right on the edge of the old city, La Mamounia—mere moments away from the Djeema el Fna square and the medina—is the mother of all luxury hotels here. This 18th century royal wedding gift was recast in 1923 as hotel, later rising to become the Art Deco Grande Dame of the city. French interior maestro Jacques Garcia stepped in three years ago and turned her out as the star of the contemporary luxury scene, this time with an air of true North African opulence.
As travelers rediscover this classic watering hole, they’re also finding out that the concierge team has developed a reputation for coordinating lavish picnic experiences for guests. The cuisine of Executive Chef Fabrice Lasno and chefs Alfonso Iaccarino and Jean-Pierre Vigato (of two-star Michelin fame) gets packed into a picnic basket for a sojourn overlooking the Atlas Mountains. Transport for this outing is handled by the hotel’s signature garnet red Jaguar Daimlers and Range Rovers.
The Air Up There
Formerly the home of one Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief of India, the Oberoi Wildflower Hall is reminiscent of the Alpine Eagle’s Nest, without the bad karma. At 8,250 feet above sea level, the resort makes for a magnificent picnic location, although the hotel is most famous for its spa offerings. A protected environment since 1879, the splendid views of snowcapped mountaintops and verdant valleys are simply too good to pass up. Possibly in recognition of its peerless environs, the staff have taken care to offer some prime picnic options within the grounds of the surrounding Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary.
Picnics are organized within the dense pine and cedar forest, with guests having the option of bringing a gourmet picnic basket with them as they explore or having the entire affair set up at a predetermined location.
Named after one of the fabled Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Ubud Hanging Gardens is well-known as a tranquil retreat for those in search of inspiration. Terraced into the hills of the Gianyar region, the resort consists of 38 private villas, each with heated infinity plunge pool. While both the villas and the French/Asian Beduur restaurant offer spectacular views and sumptuous comfort, the resort has of late also been recommending a hearty picnic for guests.
Whether on the banks of the Ayung River, which runs alongside the resort, or within the already lush grounds, the staff go to great lengths to create and serve up a feast of native Balinese dishes.
Less than two hours by car from Washington D.C. is the quaint resort town of St. Michaels, Maryland, home to a 25-acre waterfront property called The Inn at Perry Cabin. Marked by Colonial-style architecture, extensive landscaped gardens and oodles of Ol’ South charm, this 19th century property is quite the romantic getaway.
Leaving aside the creature comforts, guests can take a bicycle out and share a delightful picnic on the lawn, complete with picturesque views of Chesapeake Bay. The standard for this particular picnic hamper is canapés and a bottle of chilled rosé.
Dukes of Hazard
Situated off the eastern coast of Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, Saffire Freycinet is a brand new luxury boutique property that opened its doors June 1, 2010. Rising up from the wilderness, the resort has just 20 rooms, all with lovely views of the Hazards Mountains and the shores of Wineglass Bay, as seen here.
Saffire Freycinet will arrange for a quiet gourmet picnic experience for two, overlooking the Hazards. While the grounds of the resort are the very picture of tranquility, the picnic lunch is actually at nearby Schouten Island, which is open only to guests. Ferried by Saffire’s 12.5 metre Naiad, guests visit seal colonies and comfortably experience the local flora and fauna—all the while enjoying Tasmania’s finest wines and cuisine.
To Dream of Africa
Once described as the “Camp David of Africa,” by co-owner Ivor Ichikowitz, the Molori Safari Lodge is a blissfully malaria-free 90-acre enclave within South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve. Favored by the continent’s heads of state for both getaways and clandestine meetings, the property is also rumored to be a hit with celebrities such as Kate Moss, Lily Allen and Mischa Barton. Of course, the Lodge was not called Molori, which means “to dream” in local language Setswana, because of its roster of guests or even its location within a spectacular African landscape. Guests come to experience the dream of old Africa, complete with prides of lions, herds of elephants, packs of hyenas and cheetahs—all with full luxury trappings. A day in the wild can be complemented by a picnic on the Star Deck overlooking a watering hole popular with the aforementioned game.