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lifestyle Harry Becher’s Grand Tour Harry Becher, renowned man about town and sought-after social fixer for both corporate entertainment and private clients, reflects on his European travels. Over the past twelve months, I’ve had the great good fortune to visit some of Europe’s most beautiful locations. I was worried that the economic gloom of the PIGS crisis (no, not swine ‘flu, but the economic turmoil affecting Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) might overshadow the vibrancy and energy of many classic destinations. Thankfully, I was very wrong. First, there was the 24 hour extravaganza in Venice. I was a Venetian virgin, so the chance to explore one of the wonders of the world was incredibly exciting. We landed and were whisked by private water taxi straight to the formidable Bauer Il Palazzo Hotel, which sits on the Grand Canal overlooking the Santa Maria della Salute church and the most amazing line-up of superyachts - and it wasn’t even the Biennale. After a delicious dinner at Antiche Carampane, we were taken to the Misericordia to see the ever young and compelling Bryan Ferry singing a plethora of Roxy Music favourites. An extraordinary night, followed by a delicious breakfast al fresco as the morning sun bathed the harbour in a rosy glow. So this is what all the fuss is about. Next up was the Monaco Grand Prix. Previously scarred by the madness and mayhem of Monte-Carlo on steroids, I would have been hesitant, but for the invitation of a kind, generous and (crucially) well-organised friend. From Nice airport, I was taken by taxi bike (a novelty for me, and so much quicker than the car) to the port, to board a beautiful Mangusta 75… Later, we were given an amazing table in the bay window at the American Bar at the Café de Paris. For Formula 1 and Laurent Perrier lovers there is nowhere better to watch the race. You see the cars for less than a second per lap, but the sound is incredible. The race was followed by a night in and out of Jimmy’z nightclub, the Amber Lounge and the Buddha Bar, all over-priced and over-crowded – but isn’t that the point? Later in the year, my Italian ‘fixer’ and I took a client to look for locations for her 40th wedding anniversary. This was a whirlwind trip: from Florence to Stromboli and then Lipari (in the Aeolian Islands, which my Feadship-owning client rates as her favourite cruising area). Here, we dined at a wonderful local restaurant called Kasbah, set in an old Sicilian puppet theatre with a beautiful lemon garden. We dined on tuna carpaccio, aubergine rolls with tomato and baked ricotta, and swordfish cakes with caponata - all utterly delicious washed down with a lovely wine called Principe di Corleone – cue the godfather theme tune. In September, I flew down to the Côte d’Azur for a bit of late sunshine. What was supposed to be a Tour of Great Vineyards ended up something much more exciting... We found ourselves being chauffeured down to a little port near Èze, where a glamorous tender picked us up and took us to the most magnificent yacht. The next morning, I woke with a hazy head to discover we were now heading west down the coast towards the Porquerolles Islands. The captain assured us that Port-Cros is home to one of the best-kept secrets in the South of France - L’Hostellerie Provençale. He was not wrong – there is nothing swanky or glitzy about this place but its low key, local vibe, warm welcome and simple menu was the perfect day-after-the-night- before cure. Finally, we headed towards St Tropez. I had heard an ugly rumour that this once beautiful port had been ruined by over-development, so I was pleasantly surprised by the ten minute walk from the port down to the hidden gem that is Plage des Graniers – a lovely, understated public beach, more relaxed and less ‘showy’ than Pampelonne – for a lunch of moules and a bottle of crisp, cold Chablis. This was followed by a great night wandering through town and into the infamous Les Caves situated below the Byblos Hotel. Some people may say this town has sold its soul, but I disagree. For people watching (and a good dance to cheesy Euro House) St Tropez remains unbeatable. HB It all started with a long lunch at the Hotel du Cap. ” { 73 }


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