My leisurely safari finale at intimate luxury camp in South Africa Makalali Conservancy

Article and photos by Josette King

The beds were draped with mosquito netting

The beds were draped with mosquito netting in the Chilton Suite.

After three weeks of an exciting southeastern Africa itinerary that had me bouncing from off the grid havens to some of most sought after safari destinations in the region, I was beginning to feel worse for the wear by the time I reached Little Garonga. I knew right away that I had arrived at just the right place to unwind before the long journey home. Set deep into the privately owned, self contained 22,000 hectare (85 square mile) Greater Makalali Conservancy, west of the world famous Kruger National Park, and with only three secluded guests accommodations, Little Garonga was an intimate, no pressure luxury retreat that focused as much on relaxation and self indulgence as it did on traditional game viewing activities.

Cheetahs at the waterhole

The water hole provided some great game viewing opportunities

The first word that came to mind as I settled into my room was Zen, not a term I usually associate with the African wilderness, but a feeling doubtless reinforced by the miniature Buddha statue in the center of my coffee table sandbox. Then there was the serene elegance of the room itself, filled with light and decorated in the pale colors of the dry season bush, and the low wooden yoga bed, paired up with an inviting white canvas hammock strung across my thatched veranda. Already I could feel my breath slowing down.

A young zebra heading to the waterhole

A young zebra heading to the water hole

Even the game drives were laid back, with our low key guiding team well familiar with the habits of the Makalali resident game. They knew to position our vehicle where the game would come to us: rhinos oblivious to our presence as they browsed within feet of us, lions coming up from the river, cheetahs on their way to the water hole; it was a lovely opportunity to say goodbye to the African wildlife. Even the notoriously shy steenbok came to pause for a picture. But when I think back on my visit to Little Garonga, what I remember most are the quiet dinners under the stars, on the lodge’s deck romantically lit by the dancing flames of the fire pit and myriad votive candles, and the huge African sky reflected in the sapphire swimming pool.

Superb gourmet lunch at Paris tea salon

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

The Mariage Freres shop and tea room

The Mariage Freres Marais shop and tea room

On a chilly winter Friday we skipped lunch in order to sample the offerings, in the late afternoon, at Tea Salon Mariage Freres Marais, a popular tea salon (and shop) on the Right Bank of Paris, France. While we were well acquainted with the company for its eternally crowded street facing tea shop it was the first time we ventured into the 150 meter establishment behind the shop. The tea salon, which occupied space on the ground and first floors and employed 20 staff, could accommodate up 32 people.

A collection of tea pots from the tea museum

A collection of teapots from the tea museum

Before sitting down, we took a few minutes to climb up a narrow spiral staircase on the left side of the shop to a first floor tea museum where the company displayed items from the early days when the founders, Henri and Edouard Mariage, traveled the world in search of tea, as well as antiques donated by clients and friends. We were on the site of the original shop from the foundation of the company in 1854, a staff person explain.

Documents and memoriabilia of Mariage Freres early days

Documents and memorabilia of Mariage Freres early days

The Marais tea salon we visited was established in 1986. Over the years, three others opened their doors in Paris: Mariage Freres Rive Gauche, 13 rue des Grands-Augustins, 75006; Mariage Freres Louvre, Carrousel du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001; and Mariage Freres Etoile, 260 rue du Faubourg St-Honore, 75008.

The Snob Salad

The Snob Salad (click to enlarge)


Delicious match toast were served with the Snob Salad

In the tea salon, as in the shop, young men dressed in tailored pale linen suits, provided attentive and polite service. A limited menu was on offer from midday into the early evening. On the ground floor, the rear wall featured a tea canister display and counter. Small tables scrunched together in groupings of two or more made up the rest of the salon. A glass ceiling allowed the dim winter light in, making us wonder how pleasant the room would be in spring. After taking our coats one of the servers escorted us to a table on the right side of the room. An English speaking server provided us with a house copy The French Art of Tea which featured information on the nearly 700 teas on offer.


In the foreground, the glass teapot and glass teacups in a black tray while the more common teapot is in the background, filled with Marco Polo black tea

Green tea with jasmine flowers

The Neige de Jasmin (Jasmine Snow) green tea was served in a glass teapot

I had a Snob Salad and my companion had a Nostalgie de Pondichery, both house specialties. His dish was served only between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. It consisted of an assortment of mini sandwiches: duck foie gras, Empereur Chen Nung flavoured smoked chicken, Vert Provence tea flavoured vegetables, mini smoked salmon croque monsieur served with tea and a pastry from the Chariot Colonial. The Snob Salad consisted of duck foie gras, smoked salmon, shrimp, enoki mushrooms, saffron wheat, haricots verts (green beans), violet artichoke hearts and mesclun, Paris-Singapour tea vinaigrette, and Matcha green tea toast covered with a napkin and served on its own plate. On a subsequent visit, we ordered the Snob Salad (I couldn’t help myself), and a Louvre Club sandwich with smoked chicken, fromage frais flavoured with Empereur Chen Nung tea and coriander, crushed tomato spread, mesclun side salad with toasted pine nuts and bacon with tea and a pastry from the Chariot Colonial.

Tea sandwiches and salad

Nostalgie de Pondichery, a selection of tea sandwiches (click to enlarge)

Selecting a tea was a daunting experience given the vast selection on offer. On our first visit, we shared two types of tea. First, with the savory course, we had Neige de Jasmin (Jasmine Snow), a delicate green tea with Jasmin blossoms from China served in a glass tea pot. Glass tea pots were reserved for “spectacular teas” such as yellow teas, teas with flowers or teas with silver or gold, a staff person explained.

With the sweet course we had Marco Polo, a black tea with a mysterious blend of fruit and flowers from China and Tibet. There was also a Marco Polo Rouge made with red tea although we didn’t sample it that day. The Marco Polo was served in a French ceramic pot with a metal cover which kept the tea hot for up to one hour. A tea pot consisted of four cups of tea. Those with the tea leaves still in the pot, like our green tea, could be refreshed with hot water.


Etoile Mysteriuse Breton shortbread cheesecake with French meringue morsels, and raspberry coulis

Gold wrapped chocolate in raspberry sauce

Gold wrapped chocolate in raspberry sauce

We sampled the Carre D’Or 24 carats Dark chocolate entremets flavoured with Black Magic tea, salted butter caramel and chocolate cake wrapped with gold leaf, red currant coulis; Splendeur du Tibet Marco Polo tea infused creme brulee; and Etoile Mysteriuse Breton shortbread cheesecake glazed with “Very Beautiful” Fruit Tea, authentic French meringue morsels, and raspberry coulis. We liked everything prepared by Daniel Milliner, executive chef, and his team.


The salon’s teacup was branded as was the dinnerware

Creme brule with tea flavors

The Splendeur du Tibet Marco Polo tea infused creme brulee was our favorite dessert

The foie gras with the Matcha toast was the most memorable. Of the three salty dishes my favorite was the salad and my companion’s was the Nostalgie de Pondichery. Of the three desserts, our favorite was the creme brulee. We liked the Mariage Freres tea salon because in addition to an intimidating selection of world class teas and gourmet treats it offered us the flexibility of eating at the time of our choosing (assuming there was availability) rather than at the strict restaurant meal times. This was a convenient option when we had a busy day. While the selection was limited the quality was outstanding. We plan to return at the first opportunity. Tea Salon Mariage Freres Marais, 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg,75004 Paris, France,,,+33 1 42 72 28 11

Right Bank boutique hotel my new Paris favorite

Article and photos by Josette King

 Rue Royale and Place de la Concorde at night.

Rue Royale and Place de la Concorde at night.

Although I am a regular visitor to Paris, it had been years since I had set foot around the Rue Royale, the short street that runs between Place de la Madeleine and Place de la Concorde, within the posh Right Bank enclave where the first and eight arrondissements meet. There, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore on one side, and Rue Saint-Honore on the other, share a directory of addresses that represent the Gotha of French and international haute couture. Then just around the corner, Place Vendome is home to some of the world’s most renowned jewelry houses (Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Boucheron, Chaumet et al.).

The bedroom of the Opera suite.

The bedroom of the Opera Suite.

Being of one mind with Lady Windermere (“I can resist anything but temptation.”), I suppose I instinctively felt it best not to venture too far into this bastion of enticing luxuries until my recent stay at Le Burgundy, a five star boutique hotel that opened in 2010 on Rue Duphot, just off Rue Saint-Honore.

Originally, the winning argument for my choice of Le Burgundy was its in house spa, complete with 15 meter (50 foot) long swimming pool, hammam and sauna, a rarity among boutique properties in Paris.

The winter garden opened onto the dining room.

The winter garden opened onto the dining room.

That it had already garnered a solid reputation for the luxury of its accommodations and excellence of its service had only faintly registered in my awareness, until I checked in. From the warm welcome of the doorman who relieved me from my bulky carry on bag before I had even made it through the front door to the reception staff who had me settled in my suite in record time, the tone was set. The service was attentive and unobtrusive every moment of my stay.

There was an arching waterfall at the far end of the pool.

There was an arching waterfall at the far end of the pool.

My spacious second floor suite, Opera, (the eight suites were named after some of the most iconic nearby landmarks) was an intimate urban retreat decorated in an understated classic style with contemporary touches and the latest modern amenities. I especially enjoyed the vast bathroom with its top of the line whirlpool bathtub and oversized walk in shower with high pressure rain showerhead and six moveable body jets. And then, for the ultimate Parisian apartment luxury, the bedroom’s French doors opened onto an inviting private terrace surrounded by large tubs of lush shrubbery.

Place Vendome was only a few minutes’ walk from Le Burgundy

Place Vendome was only a few minutes’ walk from Le Burgundy

It was a pleasure to relax there between marathon visits at the nearby Musee du Louvre and Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, a museum of contemporary arts.

And yes, I did enjoy window shopping around this chicest of Paris neighborhoods every time I stepped outside Le Burgundy. But beyond its privileged location and excellent accommodations and service, it was the unique indulgence of starting each day with an invigorating swim followed by a scented eucalyptus and citrus steam bath that propelled Le Burgundy to the top of my favorite Paris addresses.

Same outstanding seafood Paris restaurant, updated name

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

Chef Akihiro

Chef Akihiro Horikoshi in the kitchen

A little over a year ago we visited Table d’Aki (see New Paris restaurant offered exceptional seafood in unassuming setting), a small Left Bank restaurant in Paris, France, and were impressed with the chef’s fish and seafood dishes. On our return to the restaurant almost a year later, we were pleased to enjoy an outstanding seafood meal.

When we arrived for our early lunch (12 noon) we noticed the restaurant had a new name. Instead of Table d’Aki it was Table d’Akihiro. When we asked about the change the chef explained that Aki is a diminutive of his first name and Akihiro is his full first name. That day, we found the chef alone and hard at work.

Perfectly prepared and tasty scallops

Perfectly prepared delicate scallops

It was Chef Akihiro Horikoshi who opened the door and welcomed us in; he took our coats, settled us down in a corner table and provided us menus. Moments later he took our order. He remained alone, cooking and serving, until we left. None of the other diners who arrived after we did seemed to mind.

The closely placed tables were set with all the necessary implements such as spotless tablecloths, napkins, cutlery and glasses. The small dining room ended in the chef’s open kitchen. It looked pristine. Single bulbs hung from the ceiling and heaters kept the place comfortable. The bathroom was immaculate.

Sole with a touch of curry

We ordered the sole with a touch of flavorful curry

As before, the menu was limited to seafood and fish. That day, the choices were one appetizer option, two main course options and one dessert, all prepared by the chef himself.

We ordered one appetizer each, the same main course and shared a dessert which the chef kindly split in the kitchen. The appetizer was a scallop dish with a vegetable puree foam and three perfectly cooked scallops. The main dish was sole  with Asian spices and a touch of curry. Dessert was a dacquoise, two layers of thin and light cake with a vanilla cream center.

A light and tasty dessert

A light dessert was perfect to complete lunch

Every dish was superlative, especially the scallop and fish. Had we realized how good the dessert would be we would have ordered one each. Table d’Akihiro (49, rue Vaneau, 75007, Paris, France, +33 1 45 44 43 48) is on our list of Paris seafood favorites for future visits. I would recommend it to our friends who are more concerned with the meal than an elaborate delivery and famous setting. What Chef Akihiro Horikoshi’s restaurant lacked in staff and elegant amenities it made up for manifold in outstanding food.  In a city known for its many dining venues this small restaurant stood out for its perfectly prepared fare.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Wishing you a wondrous, healthy and safe 2014 from all of us at Simon & Baker Travel Review and Luxury Travel Review!