HOTEL IL PELLICANO
Big cats are notoriously elusive and tiger safaris especially require a fair dollop of managed expectations. Which is why Jawai – where leopards are the thing – is so extraordinary. This smart Rajasthani safari camp is in a district of small villages and farms rather than a wildlife sanctuary, and leopards are highly visible, coexisting in almost supernatural harmony with the human population (there hasn’t been a leopard attack in more than a century). The camp itself melts into a landscape of acacia forests and mustard fields, the horizon studded with the smooth-sided granite hills where the leopards live. Its nine suites are in spruce, canopied safari tents outfitted with chrome campaign desks and crimson lampshades and cushions that echo the red turbans of the local Rabari herdsmen. Winding paths lead to a splash pool, a dining tent, and a clearing where guests feast on thali curry by starlight. This is safari but not as you know it: at dusk, watch the sleek silhouette of a female leopard padding down a rock face, ignoring children on the dusty road, while music plays noisily from a nearby temple. There’s magic at play in Jawai, and it’s of the most bewitching, tail-twitching variety.
HOTEL CRILLON LE BRAVE
The Vaucluse, that part of Provence where agriculture is the culture, may be lavender-scented and Grenache-splashed, but it is also tough and down to earth. Viewed from the terrace at Hôtel Crillon le Brave, its weather-beaten greens, browns and mauves take on a Cézanne-like allure. The once-desolate village where this 36-bedroom hotel has been evolving elegantly since the early 1990s is a settlement on a low flank of Mont Ventoux, yet, with a glass of Viognier and a featherlight piece of aubergine tempura in hand, you could be soaring sky-high over the plain. As well as the expansive, half-roofed terrace bar and restaurant, where a jazz band plays and the ex-Negresco chef sends out gastronomically plated pork and mountain lamb, there’s a nominally less glamorous bistro, tucked into one of the many stony nooks that are so unfakeably ancient, mossy and charming. A pétanque piste lies hidden just beyond the swimming pool, and a new adults-only sunbathing corner seems like a wonderfully sensible idea when families are splashing about in the afternoon. You may have the pleasure of walking along a narrow street or passing the old church to reach your room. Big, cool and very quiet, they combine chic linens and mineral tones of grey and heather with original tomette floor tiles and whopping wardrobes. If the huge walk-in showers don’t soothe your woes, a new spa in the vaulted former stables provides treatments suitable for everyone from heavily pregnant women to Tour de France emulators.
LAKE GARDA, ITALY
In truth, Villa Feltrinelli does not require its official prefix of Grand Hotel, for those who care about such things know exactly what it is. Its highly ornate, neo-Gothic turreted form, in bands of gold and terracotta, has stood since 1892 in the little town of Gargnano on the edge of Lake Garda, described by DH Lawrence as ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth’. The villa and its park were created as a family summer retreat by the sons of lumber magnate Faustino Feltrinelli, who frequented it until the war when Mussolini was housed here under German guard for over a year. It was returned to the family, but years of neglect and different ownership followed until hotelier Bob Burns restored it, beginning a new chapter in 2001. This is a house of Venetian mirrors and frescoed walls, of Liberty-style stained-glass windows and carved wooden ceilings, of service as plentiful and polished as the silver; where art is original and paper hand-made, fabrics bespoke and gardens tiered with ancient lemon trees. Twenty-one bedrooms ensure exclusivity, some in the grounds, others in the villa; all are sumptuous, marble bathroom floors heated. There’s a swimming pool in the lawn next to where croquet is played. Down by the lake, two private boats await. This is a place for those who yearn to escape, to indulge in lobster and langoustines, truffles and tiramisu, and to sleep on the finest of pillows in lakeside tranquillity.
Berkeley River Lodge
By John Cicioni