It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
First in Service co-founder Erika Reategui recently spent time in Australia—first for business, and then for fun. Here, she tells us a bit about her experience, and how she made the most out of a business trip extension.
I recently traveled to Australia for business—and then decided to add a few extra days to my trip to enjoy a bit more of the country. And though it had been several years since the last time I was there, the beauty of Australia captured me just as it did the first time I visited, and I fell in love with the country all over again.
As many know, it’s a long flight from New York, where I’m based: About 22 hours. But I didn’t let that deter me. The thought of seeing Australia again was exhilarating. On this trip, I stayed in Sydney and the Barossa Valley in Southern Australia. The city is magnetic and the diversity of Southern Australia allows you to experience first-hand many of the amazing attractions that Australia has to offer.
I arrived in Sydney and checked into the Park Hyatt Sydney, which served as my home for the next four days. The hotel is sleek and stylish in design, with a zen feel thanks to the artwork and the overall experience. I loved that my room offered a view of the Sydney Opera House from the balcony—it was a constant reminder that I was in one of my favorite cities in the world.
Before diving into full days of meetings, I decided to climb Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. I booked a sunset climb, which combines the regular three-and-a-half hour climb with amazing sunset views of Sydney and the Opera House. To ascend the steep stairs and walk the narrow passageways, I was suited up with climbing gear, a suit, gloves, hat and a headlamp, all while being secured with a lifeline wire rope. It’s an exhilarating feat that culminates in breathtaking views.
After that amazing experience, it was time to get to work: there were lots of meetings and appointments on the agenda. But thanks to the Park Hyatt’s combination of top services and the pleasure of having a butler, I was able to work and unwind at the same time.
After three days focused on work, it was time for my “executive escape”—an extension of my trip, where I visited the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Locals say you can find the most attractions in Australia in this one state. And they’re right: I spent two days visiting wineries and feasting on top wines and foods. The perfect refuge for two days of epicurean delights? The Louise, a luxury lodge set against delightful vineyards.
Some of the amazing things I was able to do in the Barossa Valley: Experience a restaurant and winery that puts the wine first, creating dishes to pair with their stellar wines, instead of the usual, opposite way, which finds wine to go with food; drink a tawny (port wine) from the year of my birth (you can choose any year in history you fancy); and have a picnic breakfast in a forest with kangaroos hopping about nearby, who are enjoying their own breakfast.
After this visit, I headed back to Sydney for two more days, where I explored the artsy and vibrant neighborhoods of Chippendale and Redfern. I stayed at the Old Clare Hotel, which has a cutting-edge style in a neighborhood with an industrial feel—similar to Tribeca in New York. It was invigorating to visit galleries and admire the street art and murals. My time in Sydney contrasted between contemporary luxury at the Park Hyatt to happening and trendy at the Old Clare.
I also made sure to find time to visit The Rocks for a morning walking tour with an aboriginal guide. This is a must do: you’ll learn first-hand about the aboriginal traditions and history, which dates back thousands of years before European settlement in Australia.
With that, my trip drew to a close. Being able to combine work and fun was a wonderful way to spend my time in Australia—and I would recommend it to anyone who has to travel for work, if they’re able to add a few extra days. You have the opportunity to conduct business, but also see a bit more of what the country has to offer—whether that’s tours and city sights, or traveling a bit off the typical path. For me, visiting Australia again, this time with a week to do so, gave me the chance to truly enjoy my time—and come back inspired and happy.