JANUARY Winter is the perfect season for settling in on the island of St. Barts, lounging around the aptly named Villa at the Top (011-590-279038), a sumptuous spread that has 360-degree views and looks down on everything around it–literally. The five-bedroom villa comes with its own staff and offers optional catering services. Don’t forget to buy lots of Ligne St. Barth suntan products for days spent on such favorite beaches as Saline and Flamands, and make sure to bring something fun and flirty to wear to dinner at Maya’s or Eddy’s.
Try to get down to Auckland before the end of the month to catch the final yacht races of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which goes on to challenge New Zealand for the prestigious America’s Cup, also in Auckland, beginning February 19. The right thing to pack, or to pack in, for this trip would be something from the sporty new Louis Vuitton Cup 2000 collection.
FEBRUARY Consider celebrating Valentine’s Day in a romantic yet regal apartment in the Palazzo Arrivabene in Venice, which comes with a private garden, a frescoed ballroom and furnishings that have been in the same family for centuries. Or take an entire villa outside Padua; the palazzo, designed by Palladio, was built in 1588. Contessa Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, co-owner of The Best in Italy, can arrange for the rental of either (with staffs), as well as chefs and musicians for ail unforgettable candlelit dinner, and art historians, drivers and guides for memorable day trips. (011-39-055) 223064; fax: 2298912; www.thebestinitaly.com.
MARCH You’ve been putting it off, but it really is time to see what’s up in Las Vegas. Stay in one of the villas (each with its own pool, Jacuzzi and butler) at the Bellagio (888-987-6667) and stroll through the hotel’s Villa Bellagio arcade, popping into Armani, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Prada and Tiffany. Dine at Picasso, the hotel’s premier restaurant, under the direction of chef Julian Serrano (formerly of Masa’s in San Francisco). Or try the Vegas outposts of such top restaurants as Le Cirque, Circo, Aqua, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime, Charlie Palmer’s Aureole and Chinois, and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and Trattoria del Lupo.
Then go from kitsch to connoisseurship, flying to Holland to shop for a Rubens or a rare Dutch landscape painting at the Maastricht European Fine Art Fair (March 18-26). Don’t miss Axel Vervoordt’s exhibition; this antiques dealer extraordinaire is a favorite of Ralph Lauren and other tastemakers. Since Maastricht is only about 110 miles from Amsterdam, pop up for a peek inside the Van Gogh Museum, which has a strikingly modern new wing of gray stone and titanium steel. You may be surprised by how chic Amsterdammers are looking these days.
APRIL Catch spring in all its glory at those wonderful inns up and down the coast of California–Auberge du Soleil, Stonepine and San Ysidro Ranch (800-735-2478 for all three Relais 8: Chateaux hotels) and Post Ranch Inn (800-527-2200). Be sure to have dinner at chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa (you’ll need to reserve a month or so in advance). End up in Los Angeles for the big Egyptian show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (March 19-June 4), with priceless objects borrowed from twenty-nine museums, including the Louvre and Berlin’s Agyptisches Museum. And don’t miss the new Getty Museum; Kay Evans at Decorative Arts Study Tours (415-447-7671) can arrange a private tour.
MAY If you haven’t seen the Guggenheim in Bilbao, only a fifty-minute flight from either Madrid or Barcelona, now’s a good time. Frank Gehry’s masterpiece museum–an ethereal vision in titanium and steel–is more like sculpture than architecture and has changed the face of this gritty postindustrial city.
Stop in Paris to savor springtime on the Seine. Stay in one of the two hotels that are the talk of tout Paris: the completely restored Hotel Meurice (book the brightened Dali Suite, right across from the Tuileries; 800-223-6800), and the Four Seasons George V (800-332-3442). Dine at Restaurant Alain Ducasse, where, this time of year, the celebrated chef should be doing something wonderful with white asparagus. Stop by the reopened Centre Georges Pompidou (you’ll have to come back in 2001 to see Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie, which is closed until 2001). And don’t miss a performance by Jessye Norman (May 10, 12, 15 and 20) at the newly renovated–and spectacular–Theatre du Chatelet (011.33.1.40.28.28.40).
JUNE Arrive in London and check in to one of the top-floor suites at The Connaught (800-223-6800 or 011-44-171-499 7070). Have the concierge get you tickets for a performance at the brilliantly redone Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (the Kirov Ballet and Opera are on this month). And don’t forget Glyndebourne (May 20-August 27), where you’ll be able to catch Le nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Peter Grimes and Jenufa. Tickets go first to members, and the waiting list is closed at the moment; call (011-44-1273) 813813 a week before each performance, but after April 24, for returns–one way to get a ticket. Or sponsor an opera for about $160,000, which entitles you to purchase tickets–a theater party your friends will never forget; call (011-44-1273) 812321. Eat at Gordon Ramsay (in the old La Tante Claire, now moved to the Berkeley Hotel) and marvel at the city’s incredible new attractions: the London Eye Ferris Wheel, across from Big Ben and certain to be the talk of the town (remember, Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it first went up); the new Tate Gallery (connected to St. Paul’s across the river by Sir Norman Foster’s Millennium Bridge) and–why not?–Richard Rogers’ Millennium Dome in Greenwich, now that the crowds are gone. Save time for Ascot (June 20-23) and the gala lawn parties that accompany it; buy a fabulous ostrich-feather hat from Philip Treacy and pick up a hamper at Fortnum’s. If you don’t already have your annual badges, join Atlanta’s Ken Ward Travel (800-843-9839) trip, which includes an afternoon in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot on opening day.
JULY Get in the spirit for a patriotic Fourth of July at the Tall Ships festival (June 29-July 2) in Newport. Rent Rosecliff, one of the grand mansions of the Gilded Age, and dress for the glittering dinner and bah at The Breakers on the 1 st (call the Preservation Society of Newport County, 401-847-1000, to arrange both).
Then head to Europe to visit those friends who’ve begged you to stay at their villa in Cap-Ferrat. Haunt the local markets, play tennis at the quaint Beaulieu tennis club, and enjoy eating outdoors in the evening. If you want to extend your European idyll, call API Travel Consultants (800-401-4274) and have their agents perform a miracle: book a villa at the last minute outside St.-Tropez (you’ve just been invited to English millionaire Tony Murray’s annual summer party); hire a yacht with a classical scholar on-board and visit Greek and Roman ruins; or pick up some last-minute tickets for August’s Salzburg music festival.
AUGUST Trade your cell phone for a fishing rod at The Point (800-735-2478), the former Rockefeller estate on Saranac Lake that re-creates the bygone luxury of the Great Camps in New York’s Adirondacks. Run off to Botswana (August 22-September 4) with the Wildlife Conservation Society (212-439-6507), staying in luxury tented camps and traveling with an expert from the Bronx Zoo. The safari visits the Okavango delta, Linyanti, and Victoria Falls in neighboring Zimbabwe (think about signing on for WCS’ Galapagos tour next July).
SEPTEMBER Head to Florence for a look at the restored Uffizi, which was crippled by a terrorist bomb in 1993. The upper-floor galleries have been expanded to three times their previous size. Stay at the sumptuous Villa San Michele (800-223-6800), a former monastery in Fiesole, which overlooks all of Florence. Ask the concierge to arrange a visit to the restored 15th-century garden of the Villa Medici, just down the road; the villa was the girlhood home of Iris Origo, the Anglo-American author, horticulture expert and wife of an Italian nobleman.
Devote part of the month to salmon fishing in Scotland, at Kinnaird (800-735-2478), the elegant country house on the River Tay in Perthshire. Save time for walking the grounds of the 9,000-acre estate and sitting before one of the many fireplaces, sipping a single malt before dinner.
OCTOBER Get a head start on your Christmas shopping in Marrakesh with a stay at the nearby Amanjena (011-212-4403-353 or email@example.com. ma), the latest resort in the ne plus ultra Aman chain. You can scour the souks for such exotic presents as embroidered slippers, Berber jewelry and carpets.
Or, use the same excuse to travel to India, staying at the opulent Rajvilas Oberoi Hotel (800-223-6800) outside the walled city of Jaipur. Don’t miss a visit to the Gem Palace, where you can stock up on wonderful jewelry. And if you want to see more of India, charter the Oberoi private plane.
NOVEMBER Cool off in Bhutan, the last independent Buddhist kingdom of the Himalayas and a country that only recently got television (there are still no traffic lights). Arrange a private tour with Geographic Expeditions (800-777-8183), traveling with a Tibetan Buddhist expert and visiting remote temples that require special permission (you’ll stay in guesthouses built by the royal family).
Then spend a traditional American Thanksgiving, getting the family together at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut (860-868-9466), or the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia (540-675-3800). Both have gourmet chefs, rooms with fireplaces, and beautiful American scenery right outside their front doors.
DECEMBER Attend the opening of La Scala in early December. Tickets are almost impossible to get, so sign up with the Teatro alla Scala Foundation USA (212-838-0168) for its annual pilgrimage to Milan: five nights at the Four Seasons; seats on opening night and the gala party after the performance; lunches and dinner at private palazzi; and behind-the-scenes tours of museums and fashion houses. The $10,000-per-person price includes a donation to La Scala.