Short cuts


It is hard to imagine more of a dream trip for cycling fans. After a season in which they have devastated the competition, Mark Cavendish and his sprint “lead-out” riders Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel will ride alongside guests on a long-weekend trip to Tuscany next month. Open to a maximum of 15 guests, the weekend will provide plenty of opportunity to talk to Cavendish, who at 26 is already being referred to as the greatest sprinter in cycling history. Based at a five-star hotel close to Quarrata, Cavendish’s Tuscan training base, there will be rides of about 50 miles per day.

The trip runs from October 7 to 10 and costs £6,000.


When BMI cut its route to Mallorca, London-based digital marketing entrepreneur Clive Jackson wondered how he was going to travel to and from his holiday home. His solution was to found Victor, a free-to-access website aimed at making private aviation accessible to a wider market by brokering seats on the empty legs of jet charters. Launched last month, it already has 140 aircraft on its books and almost 400 members, who can charter planes (and offset some of the cost by selling spare capacity on them), book individual seats on other users’ charters and connect with members in order to co-charter. The website is a fount of information on operators, seat configurations, tail numbers and other minutiae. As to price, a one-way flexible fare from Gatwick to Mallorca on an Easyjet 156-seat Airbus A319 last week was £164; a seat on a six-seater Learjet 40 XR from Farnborough to Mallorca cost £750.

St Lucia

England cricket captain Andrew Strauss is launching a cricket academy on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. It is an offshoot of the forthcoming Freedom Bay, a “boutique oasis” on Malgretoute Beach, where formerly the only building was a rundown old people’s home. Located just north of the Petit Piton and due to open in late 2012, the development will be designed by Richard Hywel Evans, architect of the superb lido at Porto Montenegro, and operated by Six Senses.


This weekend the once-fabled Phoenicia Hotel celebrates its 50th anniversary, revealing a makeover of its guest rooms, restaurants, swimming pool, spa and nightclub by Martin Hulbert, designer of the Dorchester spa in London and Coworth Park in Berkshire. Lately the Phoenicia may have seemed a poor relation to its rivals, Le Gray and the Four Seasons, but Hulbert’s work should ensure its interiors live up to its architecture – a landmark of 1960s modernism by Edward Durell Stone, whose other projects include Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hulbert is now transforming its sister hotel, the 73-room Vendôme.


Moored on the Thames just downstream from London Bridge, the 45m exploration yacht Big Fish was turning heads in London earlier this month. Currently for sale at €26.5m and, in the meantime, available for charter, she’s an extraordinary vessel. It might seem preposterous to talk about the eco-credentials of a yacht that holds 96,000 litres of diesel in its fuel tank (she can circumnavigate the globe with just one fuel stop), but she is the first superyacht with epoxy-impregnated granite decks. Teak decks on a vessel this size would have required timber from about half a square kilometre of forest. This alternative is lighter, easier to maintain and means even high heels can be worn aboard. She’ll be at the Monaco Yacht Show from September 21 to 24.


Marina Bay Sands, the verging-on-surreal Singapore casino hotel whose three towers are topped by a 100m rooftop pool, has scheduled the opening of its Crystal Pavilions, two glass-and-steel structures on two little islands in the harbour, to coincide with next weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix. One houses the Louis Vuitton Island Maison concept store, the other will contain two nightclubs, Avalon and Pangaea. The hotel has also opened its own ArtScience Museum, where the inaugural show (opening on October 29) marks the forthcoming centenary of the sinking of the Titanic with an exhibition of 275 artefacts from the wreck, along with recreations of the first- and third-class cabins, veranda, staircase, deck and boiler room.

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