New horizons in Oman – Dunes by Al Nahda

“We can’t go for dinner. It’s flooded,” might just be the most atypical sentence uttered in a desert.

Read my full post here: Our Man on the Ground Travel

Ocean Encounters – a photographic exhibition by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

Recent high-profile activism led by environmentalist Greta Thunberg has succeeded in refreshing the global conversation on climate change. Protecting our oceans, which play a pivotal role in the balance of ecosystems, have figured heavily in the debate. Most certainly it calls for multinationals to be held socially accountable. As ever, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts lead the way with Ocean Encounters – a photographic exhibition to be held at Shangri-La Hotel Paris and Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard London in support of its innovative SANCTUARY project.

Shangri-La’s Care for Nature project SANCTUARY was set up in 2010 with the sole aim of biodiversity conservation and habitat protection. Each property, in the group, works on individual projects that are monitored and tracked. Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives’ Reef Care project focuses on replanting fragmented corals to regenerate the reefs. The resort has successfully planted over 2,000 healthy corals. Up to date the group has 16 SANCTUARY projects in place worldwide.

The latest initiative is Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives and Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius’ collaboration with National Geographic’s award-winning photographer Greg Lecoeur. Spending time in the waters surrounding Shangri-La’s resorts in the Maldives and Mauritius Lecoeur has captured the beauty of the underwater worlds which surround the resorts. Shot entirely in the Indian Ocean the images have captured Hawksbill turtles, spinner dolphins, whale sharks and sperm whales. The exclusive series of images will go on display to inspire visitors to learn more about the Indian Ocean environment and what could be done to protect it.

A childhood spent in Nice along the Mediterranean Sea means this is a cause close to Lecoeur’s heart. He has travelled extensively around the world photographing life underwater and sharing his experiences to raise awareness of the fragility of ecosystems and the urgent need to preserve biodiversity. His work won National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year in 2016.

“The waters surrounding the Shangri-La Resorts in the Maldives and Mauritius are teeming with life, creating incredible opportunities to encounter marine animals; a true underwater paradise for divers,” says Lecoeur. “Through sharing my photography of this world, I am proud to contribute to Shangri-La’s SANCTUARY project to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity protection.”

“We were thrilled to bring Greg to our islands in the Indian Ocean and explore the marine life of the Maldives and Mauritius,” said Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’s Executive Vice President, Operations – Middle East, India and Indian Ocean John Northern. “His extraordinary photographs capture the stunning beauty that surrounds our resorts and we hope will inspire travellers to protect the ocean and perhaps even travel to the Indian Ocean to witness its beauty in person.”

There’s more

To coincide with Ocean Encounters Shangri-La Paris’ Le Bar Botaniste team have lovingly shaped The Nautilus cocktail (€27). Made with oyster leaf–infused gin, dill-infused vodka, Noilly Prat and smoked salt the cocktail is sure to please.

Furthermore, the team at CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Paris have created a 60-minute Indian Ocean-inspired treatment for those who wish to support the SANCTUARY project whilst nourishing their own wellness.

The GōNG Bar team at Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London support the cause with The Azure cocktail (£18) made of bergamot-infused gin, Blue Curacao, saline solution and sea samphire. Be sure to order your cocktail with a cause on your visit.

A percentage of proceeds from the sale of cocktails and spa treatments will be contributed to SANCTUARY.

When and where

29th October – 22nd November 2019 at Shangri-La Hotel, 10 Avenue d’Iéna, 75116 Paris. 20 images will be displayed on the ground floor’s public areas.

30th October – 15th November 2019 at Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9QU. In London the images will be split between three floors with five on show at the ground floor entrance, five on the 35th floor lobby and five more in the Sky Lounge on the 34th floor.

Prints of Lecoeur’s work will be available to buy priced between €250 to €850 with all proceeds contributed to SANCTUARY. They will be on permanent display at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa and Maldives and Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius after the exhibitions in Europe.

For more information visit: www.shangri-la.com/

The artisanal food culture of Aube Champagne

Champagne. The epitome of all that is refined in the world. A word that triggers feelings of joy, jubilance and victory. A drink that has become so synonymous with better living that it’s almost impossible for others to vie for a brush of its limelight.

If wine is the pilgrimage then the region of Champagne-Ardenne is its high altar. This department located in northeastern France is the modest home of the most renowned sparkling wine. The town of Les Riceys, in Aube Champagne, is the only town with three AOC-certified wines. There are certainly fine Champagne Houses in the region which may more than fairly be described as artisanal producers. Champagne Gremillet, Rémy Massin & Fils are family-owned vineyards unquestionably worth visiting. Rémy Massin & Fils, a fifth generation producer since 1865, with 20 hectares of vineyard harvests grapes without the use of herbicides to benefit from the region’s characteristics. Champagne Gremillet produces just 500,000 bottles in its cellars per year from 42 hectares. The House adheres to the purest traditions and blends exclusively from first pressings.

So what of other produce in the region? If the terroir is capable of delivering the most prestigious wine of the world then surely it should follow that it is just as contributory towards other foods. Well, I found out that it happens to be just so. The region produces ham, cheese and truffles.

The town of Troyes also produces a gourmet drink that barely leaves its boundaries. This is mainly as much of the small batches produced are bought by the town’s residents and whatever is left might be sold to visitors.

Alexandre Krumenacher

Prunelle de Troyes is the name of the drink and it has been distilled in Troyes since 1840. The liqueur is developed from the stones of blackthorn fruit which grows in the region. Records show that in 1900 the recipe was awarded the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition. At the time the drink was named Champagne Prunelle but renamed Prunelle de Troyes, in 1995, at the request of the Champagne Winemakers’ Committee. Cellier Saint-Pierre which produces the drink is located at 1 place Saint-Pierre – 10000 Troyes and it would be foolish to visit Troyes and not visit the cellar.

Philippe Formont runs the house which was purchased by his father in 1933. Alexandre Krumenacher is in charge of the distillery where he’s been employed for 15 years where the entire process happens by hand. “Our process is from the 19th century and it is the story of the birth of La Prunelle de Troyes. If we change the process, it won’t be the same story. Today the distillery is at its maximum production with only 13,000 bottles per year,” Alexandre tells me.

The small distillery occupies a historic building in Troyes which sits opposite the regal Troyes Cathedral. “Our cellar is the oldest building in the city. It was used to store a tenth of the harvest which was always given to the church. Then the Canons lived in the house which occupied the space where our shop now is.  Afterwards, wine merchants occupied the cellar to store their wines and also built the distillery,” explains Alexandre.

Stéphanie

The next stop on this artisanal journey was the charming village of Chaource renowned for its floral crust cheese. Fromagerie de Mussy at 30 Route De Maisons-Les-Chaource – 10210 Chaource is the unassuming dairy belonging to Stéphanie and Christophe who together produce the only cheese in the region permitted to carry the artisan label. “I bought the fromargerie in 1995 when I was 23 years old and single. It has always been owned by women. Then I met my husband and he is now the main cheesemaker,” Stéphanie adds as she walks me outside the cold room where milk becomes Chaource cheese in just five days. Once that happens it’s wrapped, labelled and delivered to Paris and other major cities.

All of the milk required for the cheese-making comes from within 15 kilometres and in 2018 Fromagerie de Mussy produced 62 tonnes of cheese between just six people. As well as the signature Chaource Stéphanie also produces cottage cheese, cream and 13 other regional specialities. Locals and passers-by bring empty pots and leave with exactly the amount they might need. It would not do to waste artisanal produce.

As I concluded my journey it had me thinking. With the festive season approaching it may bode well to skip the conventional Christmas markets and delve a little deeper in favour of an artisanal food road trip through Aube Champagne. Champagne, liqueur and cheese all hand-made by people you’d meet face to face. If nothing else think of the stories you could tell around the dinner table.

_________________________________________________________

Getting around: The best way to get around Aube Champagne is by car. Information on car hire can be sought at the Tourist Information Centre in Troyes located at 16, rue Aristide Briand – 10000 TROYES. You may also telephone them on: 03.25.82.62.70