In search of travel's bygone days

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014

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Too often, modern-day travel can feel sanitised and rushed, leaving you yearning for the era of gracious, slow-paced touring on a grand scale.

The next time you head to the airport at the beginning of a holiday dressed in tracky dacks, a neck pillow firmly wedged on your shoulders, prepared for the ordeal ahead, imagine how things could be.

Picture yourself slipping through the Swiss countryside on the Belmond Orient-Express, your Louis Vuitton steamer trunk neatly stowed by a delightful bell boy with a minimum of fuss. Your fedora tilted at a jaunty angle, you take to the bar car, where you exchange witticisms with fellow world travellers.

Once you have arrived at your final destination, your hotel sends the Bentley to pick you up. Your bags are whisked to your suite, where your butler is drawing a bath and pouring a drink.

Your shoes are shined, your luggage unpacked, your washing done and returned, folded in a box and wrapped in tissue paper.

You head out for a tour in the Bentley. You then dine in a place where the service is effortless and discreet.

After a perfect nightcap and a good night's sleep, you are up and off on a day of bespoke activities that hark back to a slower time when it was the quality, not the quantity, of experience that mattered most.

Louis Vuitton steamer trunk and fedora aside, this retro fantasy can become contemporary reality. Thanks to renewed interest in the Golden Age of travel, hoteliers and tourism operators are creating offerings that will tantalise even the most discerning tourist.

LODGINGS

What Play lord of the manor.

Where Otahuna Lodge, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Details Rated as one of the finest of its kind, this 19th-century New Zealand lodge in the Canterbury countryside oozes gentility.

From May to September you can book the whole lodge. The Lord of the Manor package includes a five-course degustation dinner with matched New Zealand wines.

Inspiration Otahuna's original owner, Sir Heaton Rhodes, who grew daffodils, collected stamps and loved the fine yet simple things in life.

224 Rhodes Road, Christchurch, New Zealand, otahuna.co.nz; About $6480 a night for 10 people.

Etiquette Bring your wittiest dinner party repartee.

What Live like the royals of Rajasthan.

Where Talabgaon Castle Heritage Resort, Jaipur, India.

Exemplifying travel of yore, Secret Retreats is a collection of Asian properties, carefully curated to provide certain criteria, chief among which is charm.

Take just one example In the countryside outside Jaipur is a 150-year-old fort that was built by a member of Jaipur's ruling royal family. It has a polo field and offers camel safaris and horse treks with visits to villages to experience local traditions and cuisine. Talabgaon Castle Heritage Resort, Village Post Talabgaon, Dausa; secret-retreats.com. From about $150 a person a night, including breakfast.

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Inspiration Former Miss World turned human rights ambassador and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai at her most regal.

Etiquette Practise saying "Namaste" and remember to pack your jodhpurs.

DINING

What A grand New York affair.

Where Eleven Madison Park, New York City.

Details The fifth best restaurant in the world, according to the San Pellegrino list of the 50 best, also strives to recapture the essence of all that is, was and ever will be grand about New York dining in a menu that pays homage to the classics.

A sense of style, romance, occasion, manners and impeccable attention to detail pervade here. A glorious art deco space peppered with suited-up waiters and salted with sparkling crystal adds visual spice to David Humm's divine modern fare.

11 Madison Avenue, New York, elevenmadisonpark.com.

Inspiration Dorothy Parker and her Algonquin Round Table cronies.

Etiquette Eleven Madison Park has a no-jeans policy. Dress for dinner.

What Private beach picnic.

Where Orpheus Island, Queensland.

Details Boasting "more private beaches than guests", Orpheus Island, 80 kilometres north of Townsville, offers a fabulous fantasy of privacy and seclusion.

Take the helm of a motorised dinghy, with a gourmet picnic basket and chilled champagne on board, and head for your exclusive pristine bay, a perfect place to get down on bended knee and whip out that engagement ring with an enormous diamond.

Orpheus Island, Orpheus Island National Park, Queensland; orpheusisland.com.au.

Inspiration Jackie and Aristotle Onassis on vacation.

Etiquette The experience might be a little bit fancy, but this is Queensland. Relax.

TRANSPORT

What Riding the rails.

Where The Railway Touring Company, Europe.

Details TripAdvisor is sprinkled with disgruntlement at episodes of breakdowns on the Railway Touring Company's rail tours, but as the company points out, these steam trains are old and, if you want a heritage experience, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. That said, there are plenty of happy punters too.

The 2014 program includes a new Caucasus Mountains and Russian Black Sea 10-day tour of Southern Russia using carriages and locomotives belonging to the North Caucasus Railway.

This tour starts on September 25 and costs from £3600 a person (NZ$6993); railwaytouring.net.

Inspiration Christie's Belgian detective Hercules Poirot.

Etiquette Take out your earbuds and strike up conversation.

What Balloons at dawn.

Where Cappadocia, Turkey.

Details There are many places where you can experience the romance of balloon flight, but few are better suited to a dawn balloon ride than otherworldly Cappadocia in Central Anatolia.

Extraordinary natural formations and the carved cities of Goreme and Babayan lie within a high, arid plain punctuated by volcanic peaks.

About 20 companies run ballooning adventures out of Goreme. On Trip Advisor, Butterfly Balloons is top for safety, lack of crowding and overall experience. Champagne breakfast, anyone?

From €175 (NZ$280); butterflyballoons.com.

TOURS

What Scents and bubbles.

Where France with Peregrine Reserve.

Details Perigrine's "journeys" celebrate the slow travel of days gone by and savour time, immersing small-group participants in the distinct aspects of a place.

In June and September this year, the Champagne and Provence itinerary includes private tours through Taittinger House and Maison Perrier-Jouet. There are also tastings at Bollinger, Pol Roger, Laurent-Perrier and Billecart-Salmon; a private provencal cooking class with a Michelin-star chef and a perfume masterclass in Paris, where participants come away with their own signature scent.

From about $12,530; peregrinereserve.com.

Inspiration French author Colette and the woman she is credited to have discovered, Audrey Hepburn.

Etiquette It is called a tasting for a reason - no guzzling.

What Joining the jet set.

Where Four Seasons Private Jet Experience.

Details If you are going to spend the kids' inheritance, you may as well do it in the style of the golden era, when even the plane journey was an event.

Hotel company Four Seasons offers month-long world tours by private Boeing 757, beautifully fitted out for just 56 passengers. The next, in April 2015, covers Paris, Lisbon, Milan, Istanbul, St Petersburg and Prague. The theme is "backstage with the arts" and gives participants exclusive experiences, while staying at Four Seasons hotels.

US$69,000 ($80,805) a person twin share; fourseasons.com.

Inspiration Stylish bazillionaire Howard Hughes and his hangar of private planes.

Etiquette A private jet it may be, but still put your tweezers and other sharp items in your checked-in luggage.

PASTIMES

What Golf in the green.

Where Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate, County Clare, Ireland.

Details If the luxurious accommodation in the stately 1551 home of a branch of the O'Brien clan does not inspire thoughts of the golden age, then going 18 holes on one of the world's most outstanding golf courses should.

If that still is not posh enough for your fine sensibilities (although it worked for Bill Clinton, Johnny Cash, Bono and Jack Nicholson), there is always a spot of onsite falconry, clay shooting, archery, fishing and some serious fine dining to elevate matters.

The gardens are the stuff dreams are made of.

Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland; dromoland.ie. See the website for package options.

Inspiration Bing Crosby in tartan plus fours and a beret with a pom-pom on it.

Etiquette If you are going to wear tartan plus fours, make sure they are the O'Brien tartan.

What Nobilit-Ski.

Where Schloss Igls, Innsbruck, Austria.

Details Sharing your apres-ski experience with riff-raff? How very modern.

Schloss Igls, on the outskirts of a village on the sunny plain above Innsbruck, is a sprawling, private chateau that sleeps 35 or so for exclusive one-party use.

With an in-house restaurant-style dining room, indoor swimming pool, fabulous grounds and a maze of rooms with gable windows and Juliet balconies overlooking the countryside, it is an experience fit for European aristocracy.

Schloss Igls arranges bespoke packages, including limousine transfers, mountain guides and ski lessons. There are even detox and revitalisation therapists.

There is an adjoining apartment available for private use as well.

Schloss Igls, Innsbruck, Austria; schloss-igls.com. Prices on application.

Inspiration Princess Grace and her young brood in Aaron knits and beanies on the slopes.

Etiquette Bend ze knees.

SERVICE

What The butler did it.

Where The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne.

Details The Duke of Windsor stayed at Melbourne's Grand Hotel in 1920 and, to honour the fact, it changed its name to the Windsor.

Ever since, it has provided service fit for royalty. In an era when every second hotel boasts butler service, the Windsor takes that very seriously.

Available with the Victorian and Royal Suites, which feature private dining and entertaining areas, the butler will mix drinks, serve food, run a bath, polish shoes and even sew on buttons.

If the garment is beyond repair, concierge will organise a private showing at Chanel or other boutiques in Collins Street.

Hotel Windsor, 111 Spring Street, Melbourne; thehotelwindsor.com.au.

Inspiration Those original hipsters, Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII.

Etiquette The butler may sew on buttons, but don't pack all your mending for him/her to do.

What Bespoke spokes.

Where Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, Canada.

Details In the golden age of travel, a little exercise was deemed good for the constitution and complexion. In that spirit, members of Fairmont's President's Club, the brand's complimentary guest loyalty program, are privy to a bike butler.

The bike butler ensures guests are up to speed for their cycling adventures by tuning the BMW cruise bikes, fitting helmets and making sure cyclists take water, maps, directions and tips.

The hotel is on Vancouver's seawall in Coal Harbour, the perfect starting point for a leisurely family cycle tour of the city or a vigorous, solo workout ride in the early morning.

Fairmont Pacific Rim, 1038 Canada Place, Vancouver; fairmont.com.

Inspiration Doris Day in pedal-pusher pants, riding round the MGM back lot.

IMBIBING

What The daintiest afternoon tea in the world.

Where The Orchid Conservatory, Hotel Majestic, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Details The Majestic Hotel, built in 1932 is the kind of colonial hotel a vintage lover relishes. It has had a radical renovation under the YTL Hotels banner, which saw it reopen after 28 years.

Bright young things relive the glamour of the hotel's pre-World War II heyday, with high tea in the Orchid Conservatory. The dainty nibbles and fragrant floral companions make it a perfect way to recover one's composure on a steamy day.

Inspiration The exquisite 1930s Chinese-American movie star, Anna May Wong.

Etiquette Dress flapper fabulous and never point your pinkie.

5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin; majestickl.com.

What A dreamy martini.

Where The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London.

Details The Connaught's shiny black martini trolley comes to you in a decadent throwback to the elegance of eras gone by.

Depending on your mood, choose from a menu of homemade essences such as lavender, coriander, cardamom, ginger, grapefruit, vanilla and liquorice to enhance your drink served in a pretty etched glass, but don't be fooled by the gentility of the white-gloved cocktail maker who always stirs, never shakes the venerable London hotel's version of the classic.

These are serious drinks, the kind Ernest Hemingway famously said made him "feel civilised".

Inspiration Novelist W. Somerset Maugham, who also liked his martinis stirred, not shaken, as distinct from James Bond who preferred the opposite.

Etiquette As Dorothy Parker said, "I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three, I'm under the table. After four, I'm under my host."

CRUISING

What Adventures in paradise.

Where Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Details Brush up on the lyrics to Bali Ha'i and board the MS Paul Gauguin, a golden-age inspired small luxury ship that explores the culture, wildlife, history and cuisine of "the world's most interesting destinations".

A 14-night itinerary between Cairns and Singapore, departing on June 25, evokes a time when this region was relatively unexplored.

Think elephant rides in Benoa, Bali, strolls through rice fields and cooking classes.

Steam-train rides and plantation tours may unleash your inner Gauguin.

From US$4220 ($4942) a person; wiltrans.com.au.

Inspiration Mitzi Gaynor with her knotted shirts and natty shorts and romantic silver fox Rosanno Brazzi in South Pacific.

Etiquette Temple scarves and sarongs are a must, and no gin before 11am, no matter how hot the tropics are.

What Atlantic crossing.

Where Queen Mary 2.

Details This is the classic ocean voyage on a classic ocean liner - Southampton to New York and vice versa. Some even do the trip both ways. Cunard's seven or eight-night cruise across the Atlantic Ocean on the magnificent Queen Mary 2 is a chance to relive the days when ships were the main mode of intercontinental travel.

With no stops, except on some journeys, which include Halifax, Nova Scotia, this cruise is an exercise in immersion in ship life.

Brush up on your bridge, mahjong, napkin folding, flower arranging, water colour painting, dancing lessons and history lectures, not forgetting that perennial seatime favourite, bingo, as this beauty ploughs through the Atlantic.

Queen Mary 2's 10th anniversary westbound crossing leaves Southampton on May 9. From $2279 a person; cunardline.com.au.

Inspiration Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember.

Etiquette Once you go formal, you will want to go again.

SHOPPING

Where Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai.

What In-room shopping.

Details Think jewellers coming to a hotel suite to show their sparklers to a Hollywood Golden Era movie star before the Oscars.

Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai has partnered with the fabulous Oriental fashion label Shanghai Tang on a 24-hour in-room shopping service, perfect for surprising a loved one with a special souvenir.

111 Pudong South Road, Pudong, Shanghai, China; mandarinoriental.com/shanghai.

Inspiration Glamorous Nancy Kwan playing Suzie Wong in the eponymous film.

Etiquette It is bad manners to go home without a gift, especially when getting one is this easy.

What Suiting up.

Where Henry Poole & Co, Savile Row, London.

Details Established in 1806, Henry Poole has made jackets, suits and trousers for the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Napoleon III, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Dickens and royals from around the world.

This venerable Savile Row tailor also invented the dinner jacket, or tuxedo, as it was coined by New York's adopters of the garment.

The story goes that in 1865, the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII asked his tailor and friend Henry Poole "to cut a short celestial blue evening coat to be worn at informal dinners at Sandringham".

And so the dinner jacket was born - a must-have for every discerning travelling gentleman. What better place to have one made.

Henry Poole & Co, 15 Savile Row, London; henrypoole.com.

Inspiration Dashing, debonair Cary Grant.

Etiquette Be patient. Good tailoring takes time.

Julietta Jameson has been writing and travelling for 25 years and in that time has never set foot in a backpacker hostel. But she has an extensive collection of five-star hotel mini toiletries.

- FFX Aus

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