The London Season is one of England’s oldest surviving traditions, a grooming and social introduction club for the city’s elite that still plays an important role in the upper echelons of British high society.
As chairman of The London Season, Jennie Hallam-Peel works to preserve some of English society’s oldest rites of passage, such as the 200-year-old Queen Charlotte’s Ball and The Berkeley Dress Show at the House of Lords in London, which both help to orchestrate promising futures for the selected debutantes, who now come from all walks of life. The events also raise substantial sums of money for charities, both in the UK and globally.
Jennie, herself a former debutante whose mother and grandmother were presented at court before the Second World War, travels extensively and lives between London, Sussex and Dubai with her husband David. She recently debuted the London Season Debutante Ball in Shanghai, and will bring it to Dubai in November 2012. From wild boar hunting in Macedonia to holidays at Mick Jagger’s beach house, here Jennie shares her most treasured travel experiences.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi coast has always been top of my list, especially the hill-top village of Ravello, with its iconic cathedral square, glorious gardens, ancient villas and astonishing views. In the summer the Wagner festival in the open air is unforgettable. The Hotel Caruso Belvedere is truly magical. My favourite suite has a private garden with breathtaking views over the Amalfi coastline, and this combined with the amazing food and local wines make it an incomparable destination.
Agra and Udaipur, India
For an exceptionally spoiling holiday, stay at the Kohinoor suites at Amarvilas in Agra. To glimpse your first view of the Taj Mahal from your enormous bath strewn with rose petals with a glass of champagne in hand is surreal. The entire team of staff greets guests at the entrance and private butlers anticipate every wish. At Udaivilas in Udaipur, if you can tear yourself away from your private 50-foot swimming pool, your butler will arrange a private pontoon on the lake for a romantic dinner.
Here we stayed at Mick Jagger’s house, Stargroves, complete with full staff and situated directly on stunning L’Ansecoy Bay, touchingly filled with mementos and memorabilia. Life is very social on Mustique and we were met with a raft of invitations to drinks parties and dinners at amazing houses. The social epicentre of Mustique is Basil’s Bar, where everyone on the island converges after dark, arriving via buggies supplied to each house. Lobster and rum punch picnics are part of the fun, and to wake up and walk alone on a deserted beach and watch the sun go down over a cloudless horizon is a little bit of heaven on earth.
Burma is so unspoilt and special. The people are so welcoming and we felt like intrepid explorers as there is little tourism. We stayed at the Governor’s Residence in Rangoon, in a gorgeous tropical garden in the diplomatic quarter, then took the Orient-Express Road to Mandalay cruise down the Irrawaddy River, spotting villages along the way. We then flew to Lake Inle to stay at the Princess Inle Hotel, and spent our days boating around the lake and stopping at local silver markets – time out of the 21st century.
Our most adventurous holiday was wild boar hunting in Macedonia. It has an amazing culture, reflected in the architecture, food, wine and stunning churches and palaces. We stayed at the Kamnik hunting lodge near Skopje, whose owner arranged VIP entry into the country through the diplomatic gates, which he can do for all guests. A shooting range in the basement provides practice, and with archaeology tours, vibrant nightlife and overwhelmingly hospitable people, Macedonia is a fabulous destination for an unusual holiday.
One of our most memorable holidays was in Egypt at the Mena House Oberoi in Giza, an amazing relic of a bygone era where we were given the Montgomery Suite, filled with artefacts and mementoes of the Field Marshall, with a huge terrace overlooking the pyramids. We took a camel ride around the pyramids after they had closed to the public, led by two elderly Egyptians in robes, and felt thousands of years slipping away. To see the sun rise over the pyramids is a truly amazing experience.