On a side note, I've been shy of the blog this week. The Spam has been killing me! (Although you have to laugh at lines like "Come and get a free kama sutra lesson. On us." Can they not see the irony in that?) And sometimes, after writing for 10 hours all day on books, all I want to to do is get out of the house and go for a walk, or a run, or see someone, a friend – anyone – rather than type more blog posts, emails, Facebook messages or any other online social stuff. It's all very important, I know, but I really hope you can forgive me at the moment. I'm drowning in chapters, and praying to the literary gods to let me be finished with the editing process soon! Oh, to be at a hideaway like these...
Oh – the Garden Tour itinerary is coming along very well. Will post details soon!
CASA MORADA, FLORIDA KEYS, USA
My favourite hotel in the world is The Moorings in the Florida Keys, where we recently had our faux honeymoon. (www.themooringsvillage.com) But as loads of celebs camp out there, and photographers too (although they're mostly on fashion shoots), your best bet for privacy is right across the road. The Casa Morada is the creation of three of Ian Schrager's former executives, and is a gorgeous old retro motel tarted up for the modern aesthete. It's hidden down a palm tree-lined back road, and part of it is on a tiny island reached by a foot bridge. The views are sublime (it's on the Gulf side of the Keys so superb sunsets are guaranteed), and the bar (above) is fabulously low-key. I love it. I could hide out here forever. You could take your top off here without a care in the world. There's also a great little clamshack/bar a few metres down the road called Lorelei that goes wild with dancing, bands and general bonhomie on weekends. It's the Keys as it used to be. (Above two photos are also Casa Morada. NB Their website pix are terrible! Don't go by them; the place is beautiful.)
Casa Morada's 'Reading Area'.
It even looks good in black and white.
Casa Morada's views. Too, too beautiful.
PEPPERS PALM BAY, THE WHITSUNDAYS, QUEENSLAND
Oh, Peppers. What can I say? Any place you can only reach by sea plane or boat is a place to love, in my opinion. This idyllic hideaway is slap-bang, like an olive in a cocktail, in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Hidden by palm trees, it's the kind of place you can lose your bikini top for days and nobody would care. (Although a sarong might be appropriate in public areas.) Surprisingly few people know about this place, although perhaps that's a good thing? Let them all go to Hamilton Island instead.
These are the luxury cabins. This was mine, right on the water, above. I adored it. The resort is so tucked away, nobody even comes into this cove, apart from lost yachties and people on day trips from Hayman who want to try Peppers' (cheaper) fare. So Kate, you can hang your bikini on the balcony without a care. Peppers' staff would probably offer to launder it for you.
This is how you reach Peppers Palm Bay. By sea plane. Then a tiny dinghy from the plane to the beach. I think there's a catamaran too? It's the cheaper option. But I'd opt for the seaplane. Because this is what you may see on the way, if you do a little detour...
The extraordinary Great Barrier Reef.
One of the great natural wonders of the world, Australia's GBR is beautiful. It stretches for more than 344,400 square kilometres along the Australian coast. (133,000 sq miles). Just incredible. I never get tired of looking at it from the air. Go to Peppers Palm Bay and take a day trip out to the reef. They'll even let you snorkel off the sea plane. It's still the best thing I've ever done. Anywhere.
Here's another place near Peppers where the seaplane can drop you off, if you so desire. Whitehaven Beach. It's just a hop, skip and eloquent water landing away from the resort, and yes, it really is that devoid of crowds. And the water really is that colour. The paps will have a hard time getting here.
This is me working. (Truly. I know you don't believe me.) Don't laugh, but the bag is an old Sambag that I use to carry my groceries in! We were in and out of sea planes, boats and salt water for 3 days, and told not to bring anything valuable on the Whitehaven trip. Just our flip flops, and our bathers. No wallets. No jewellery. So I bought my Sambag, which I sometimes travel with because you can throw it away. (All I took on this day was a bottle of water, a throwaway camera and an apple.) One woman did bring her Hermés. And, naturally, it got wet. But she was so mesmerised by Whitehaven she barely cared.
CAPELLA AND ARAJILLA LODGES, LORD HOWE ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
Lord Howe should not be confused with Norfolk Island, another far-flung outpost of Australia. Norkolk is the one with the pines on it; Lord Howe has the kentia palms and the coral reef. (Palms are its biggest export; they've made the islanders fabulously rich.)
Lord Howe is an island so tiny you can ride your bike around it in a few hours, and yet it has all the best bits of Australia, including the aforementioned spectacular reef fringing the island, which is home to schools of tropical fish, a dozen gorgeous beaches, and two dramatic mountains to climb.
It also has great hideaways, including the magnificently designed Capella Lodge, co-owned by Dick Smith's daughter, and Arajilla hideaway, which is just as swish.
Last time I was on Lord Howe I used this old bike to get around the island and go from photo shoot to photo shoot. It was the perfect transport. There's nothing better than cycling around an island on a summer's afternoon.
This is Capella Lodge, my favourite place to stay on Lord Howe. Isn't this sublime? Don't you want to come now? Australian explorer Dick Smith says Lord Howe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I think I have to agree.
www.lordhowe.com | www.arajilla.com.au
THE BALE, BALI
I once had the opportunity to interview Herbert Ypma, author of the bestselling Hip Hotels series of guides. I asked him (as you do) what his favourite hotel in the world was. The Balé, he replied. Some time later, I understood what he meant, when I booked in for a work stay. It is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary places in Asia. Lots of people have a love/hate relationship with Bali, but if you love architecture, the hotels offer some of the best design in the world. Let me show you, with some snaps of the gorgeous Balé.
Each villa at The Balé is enclosed within its own high walls, so privacy is assured. The top photo is actually my villa. The photo below is the private entrance to a larger suite. I was offered the larger one but was so overwhelmed by the size I politely asked for a smaller one! I think I'm the only guest who's ever wanted to downsize their room.
Each villa comes with its own luxurious house, its own plunge pool and its own decadent outdoor area – complete with double daybed and twin deckchairs. Oh – and there's a fully stocked bar hidden at the back of the bedhead. Very convenient. (Look – I'm so cheap I took the same flip-flops and sarong on this trip. How embarrassing.)
The best bit, in my opinion, was the glam bathroom, from which you could step straight down into your private plunge pool. Here in Australia we can't do this sort of thing as our laws require that we have fences around our pools. So you can imagine how indulgent this was for me? I'd wake up and step straight in for a swim. Kate, you could do this too. Forget the bikini here.
The design of the outdoor shower was so elegant, I tried to take measurements and do a diagram, to show The Loved One back home. My hand-drawn picture didn't look anything like this though.
Oh – and they give you a 'Soap Menu' in your bathroom. Yes, you could use them all. They were all free.
(And yes, I went topless. Miss Kate, I think you're hiding out at all the wrong places.)