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Luxe Travel: Yachting, Spa, Golf, and More in California

Wednesday, 23 Jan 2008 08:32 AM

By Karen T. Bartlett

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Valentine’s Day is closing in, and she’s expecting something beyond the chocolates and flowers, maybe even better than some Tiffany drop earrings. Well, I’d recommend the chocolate and a little sparkly something in any case, but why not whisk her away to a place beyond your most romantic dreams?

Yachting and More in California

Got a couple of days to spare and $50,000 jingling in your pocket? The Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club in Redondo Beach is pleased to present its La Mer Fantasy for two. Your oceanside suite, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, comes with a fireplace and claw-foot bath, as well as Caviar Collection skin-pampering products from Neiman-Marcus and, naturally, Loro Piana cashmere robes.

You’ll be met at the airport by your chauffeured Bentley, sip Cristal champagne from Baccarat flutes, and sightsee in a Ferrari. There’s a sunset yacht cruise for two (well, four if you count the captain and butler), a very sensuous in-room couples massage, and a lobster dinner served en suite by a private chef. And that’s just day one.

On tap for day two is a helicopter flight to Catalina for lunch or 18 holes and a glam dinner at the exclusive Trump National Golf Club, followed by more couples nurturing in the Portofino spa. Your return to LAX is preceded by a private harbor tour and breakfast onboard your yacht. Go to www.hotelportofino.com for more.

Emirates Palace Grandeur

Vacation like a king — or a visiting president — in the Palace Suite reserved for President Bush who recently stayed there in Abu Dhabi. The New York Times calls the gated pink marble Emirates Palace the most expensive hotel ever built, with 64,000 square feet of 22-carat gold leaf, 1,000 chandeliers, 200 fountains, a dome higher than St. Peter’s, an archway larger than the Arc de Triomphe, and a white sand beach shipped in from Algeria.

Your gold and silver-hued room, with its Swarovski crystal chandelier, comes with 24-hour personal butlers, Hermes bath amenities, endless scattered rose petals, a laptop and a 61-inch plasma TV in the language of your choice.

A night in the best room in the palace? Just a tad over $12,000. For more, go to www.emiratespalace.com.

Romance in Zululand

Thanda means "love" in Zulu, and Thanda Private Game Reserve is South Africa’s top award-winning safari destination in northern Zululand.

Your three-day romance package at Thanda includes a decadent Ukubhocwabhocwa (massage) or Ukwelashwa Umzimba (body treatment) in the exotic bush spa, two daily game drives in search of "The Big Five" (lion, rhino, elephant, water buffalo, and leopard), a romantic torchlight dinner in the bush, surprise romantic turndowns, warrior rituals, Zulu dancing, and return flight to Johannesburg; $5,600 for two. Visit www.thanda.com.

Caribbean Idyll

For the bargain price of just $50,000 a week, I know of a lavish white beachfront Moorish palace with a 3,000-square-foot balcony overlooking the water that's just right for the proposal of a lifetime.

Your private enclave is Cerulean Villa in Barnes Bay, Anguilla. It comes with a discreet staff of 14, a dramatic domed ceiling, stone floors, intricate mosaics, a pool and a fountain. Naturally, there's champagne and caviar for Valentine's night, and the lavish, oversized pillows required for any Moroccan romance.

You have privileges at the super-luxe spa and new Greg Norman golf course, too, but it might take some effort pry yourself off the pillows to go break that sweat. Go to www.ceruleanvilla.com.

World’s Priciest Truffle

There’s nothing frugal about this little baby.

A whole pound of chocolate La Madeline au Truffles would set you back $2,600, but it’s much more elegant to present just one, on it’s own little bed of sugar pearls, with the coveted Knipschildt label. That’s a mere $250. Deemed by Forbes magazine the most expensive chocolate in the world, La Madeline au Truffle packs a sensuous punch with a ganache of 70 percent Valrhona dark chocolate, heavy cream, sugar, truffle oil, and vanilla, enveloping a rare French Perigord truffle.

It is enrobed in Valrhona chocolate and then rolled in fine cocoa powder. Knipschildt’s Café Chocopologie is absolutely the best excuse I know for a trip to South Norwalk, Conn. Or, order your truffle online at www.knipschildt.com.

[Editor’s Note: Get the latest luxury travel tips in your e-mail. Sign up here.]

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