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
Traditional style and elegant comfort provide an unparalleled way to explore the very best of Scotland. I learned this onboard the luxury Belmond Royal Scotsman train over five fabulous days from Edinburgh across the scenic Highlands.
As the train pulled out of Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, I sipped my coffee, watching the sun chase the morning mist from the mountaintops. I was ready to discover Scotland in full luxury, from the soaring Highlands and fine whisky distilleries to its heritage, wildlife and landscapes.
This was my sixth time onboard Belmond trains. The iconic Venice Simplon Orient Express, the Eastern Oriental Express from Thailand to Singapore, the Hiram Bingham from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and the brand new Belmond Andean Explorer were all unforgettable.
My double cabin was all I could expect, compete with full bathroom and shower, two twin beds, and an everchanging view outside my large window. I had a desk and plenty of storage for my clothes. Ceiling fans and controlled heating ensured comfortable temps. Butler service is also included.
I quickly remembered how lounging and dining on the move were a rich part of the luxury train experience. Meals were served in the mahogany-paneled dining cars. Days started with a hearty Highland breakfast or continental dishes before an outdoor activity. Lunches were delicious and ranged from a bowl of steamed mussels overlooking the harbor to seared salmon served on the train. Afternoon teas were indulgent as we shared stories with our fellow guests. Evenings brought cocktails and candlelit dinners.
Dinners were both formal and informal, usually on alternate nights. Tuxedos or kilts for gentlemen. Cocktail dresses for ladies. For informal dinners, a jacket and tie was still recommended. Dressing up was part of the fun and paired perfectly with the lavish feasts. The chefs sourced top quality ingredients from game-rich glens and rivers of wild salmon, all served with regional specialties.
Daily activities ranged from a morning of clay pigeon shooting in the great outdoors to a highland safari before lunch, followed by a visit to a ruined castle or a whisky distillery.
One of my favorite afternoons was spent at Ballindalloch Castle, one of Scotland’s most romantic castles. Set in the magnificent Spey valley, the castle has been the home of an aristocratic family since 1546. There we were greeted by Mrs. Clare Nancy Russell, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen as her official local representative. I spent the afternoon with my new Royal friend Mrs. Russell having tea and scones and gossiping about the Royal Family.
It’s worth noting my very first night in Edinburgh too. The official hotel for The Royal Scotsman is The Balmoral Hotel – the Grand Dame of the city. Right off Prince Street, it’s a two-minute walk from Waverley Station, with stunning views of Arthur’s Seat Hill, the Royal Mile, and Edinburgh Castle. My room was on the 5th floor. Right by Suite 552, chosen by J. K. Rowling to write the final sequel of “Harry Potter.” I knew I was off to a magical start. – Carlos Melia