For the answer to my question, read today’s blog post!
Okay, so where was I in describing the 2011 Virtuoso Chairman’s Event when my eyes slammed shut last night? Right, now I remember. We had the opening meeting, an event so positive that we all kept discussing it on our ride to Opposite House, a unique hotel in the Chaoyang District. It sits among shops that are the originals that are copied in the Pearl Market and Silk Market . Opposite House, owned by Swire, the largest Coca Cola bottler next to Coke itself and owner of Cathay Pacific and a myriad of other recognizable named companies. Opposite House’s name derives from the placement of houses in a hutong
Entering Opposite House is walking into an organic piece of art! Reclaimed wood floors, native sandstone walls, rooms on the perimeter of a soaring roof high lobby that features two ribbons of woven stainless steel suspended from the center of the ceiling. Anthony Ross, Area GM, and his staff converted the lobby area into a contemporary dining venue and he hosted a most amazing contemporary Chinese luncheon. Service by servers dressed in eggplant tops and ballooning black jumpers was impeccable and the food (things I recognized and those that were a mystery to me) was a foodie’s delight! Meg Maggio, owner of the art gallery, Pekin Fine Arts, described the art scene and private art tour options available in Beijing. Meg, originally from Boston, practiced law in Beijing before turning her passion for collecting art into a full-time vocation.
The site inspection at Opposite House was no less spectacular than the meal and, I might add, cleverly tucked between the main course and dessert! Rooms and suites, 99 in total, are minimalist yet warm and inviting. Sweeping floor to ceiling windows provide a meld of inside and outside with electrically operated black-out shades ensure a good night’s sleep. A lower level restaurant and bar cleverly use the diffused light offered by the main structure and even provide light to the subterranean and spectacularly unique swimming pool. Can you tell I was impressed by this property? Who wouldn’t be?
We returned to Raffles with just enough time to layer up for our ride to the Summer Palace. Raffles, an iconic property, in the center of everything and a short walk to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, has a historic presence in Beijing. As Diane Baker, Raffles VP, described this property and the other unique properties in the Raffles group, as offering emotional luxury. How true! Scattered around the property are photos that provide a history of Beijing in the 20th century and all photos were taken on site!
We had a police escort on our drive to the Summer Palace, a replica of the West Lake area of Hangzhou (which I had the joy and privilege of visiting on a trip to China last month with Imperial Tours). We arrived in record time, actually ahead of schedule, and only Aman, who operates a hotel adjacent to the Summer Palace, could host this event and make it look effortless! We gathered at the edge of the lake and slowly watched the sun set. We also had a demonstration of a man practicing calligraphy on the pathway, using only a long handled brush and water, as his medium of choice. Just in front of the setting sun stood the famous bridge, 17 steps so at the top the emperor could be at 9, a number associated with the emperor and meaning longlasting.
After the sun had set we strolled through the grounds of the Summer Palace and came to an area cordoned off just for us Virtuosos. We then spent a fascinating couple of hours dining our way around a small lake while being entertained by traditional dance, chamber music, ancient Chinese music, dancers with swirling fabric, all accompanied by dramatic changes in the hues of the lighting. It was one of those evenings that I wanted to capture in my heart and mind to adequately describe it to you AND to my grandchildren. I can hear myself telling them about it when they are old enough to understand the rare opportunity their grandma experienced. In fact, someday they will probably say, “Grandma’s on her reminiscing roll again! Let her roll!”
Appropriately clad for an outdoor event (layers and more layers), I was still grateful to move indoors for the site inspection of the Aman Summer Palace. Having been newly baptized as an Aman junkie after my stay last month at Amanfayun, I was equally impressed with this property…and the warmth, too! Dessert, along with painting and craft demonstrations, was provided in the main hall before we reluctantly boarded our coaches for our ride back to the city.
This morning provided a very special shopping opportunity because Nancy Kim, Managing Director of Imperial Tours, assembled a group a vendors, offering us a chance to purchase some select items of clothing, jewelry and décor. You know, of course, that I had to purchase a few baubles, right?
Now we’re off to a luncheon ON the Great Wall of China, hosted by St. Regis hotels. Stay tuned!