Rolls-Royce unveiled a custom-designed one-off luxury car, called Sweptail, at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on 27 May. The new one-off model is not just another custom-made Rolls-Royce car, Sweptail has seen some exquisite levels of luxury. At $12.8 million, it might also be the world’s most expensive new car ever, according to commentators.

The Sweptail takes inspiration from the Rolls-Royces of the 1920s and 1930s. According to Rolls-Royce, the client of the super expensive Sweptail was a “connoisseur and collector of distinctive, one-off items, including super-yachts and private aircraft”.

The idea was first shared in 2013 and it took almost four years for the automaker to make the car. The client had specifically asked that the Sweptail incorporate features from the coach-built two-seater Rolls-Royces from the 1920s and 1930s that had been reimagined on the one-off car.

The Sweptail also takes inspirations from luxury yachts, including the panoramic roof.

The front remained much like a Rolls and the Sweptail had the Pantheon inspired grille which was milled from solid aluminium, the largest on any era Rolls-Royce and got a hand to a mirror finish. The coupe also gets its unique registration number – 08 – that had been milled from ingots of aluminium and hand polished.

“… the desire was for a coachbuilt two seater coupe featuring a large panoramic glass roof. As a connoisseur of Rolls-Royces, he was inspired by many of his favourite cars from the marque’s golden era of the early 20th Century, as well as many classic and modern yachts,” the carmaker said.

The Sweptail incorporated perhaps the largest ever grille on any modern-era Rolls-Royce.

The two-seater coupe also featured a panoramic glass roof, one of the largest and most complex ever seen on a motor car of any marquee. The roof allowed natural light to flood the cabin and animate a host of beautifully handcrafted materials.

“It is a Rolls-Royce designed and hand-tailored to fit a specific customer,” said Giles Taylor, director of design at Rolls-Royce.

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As the seaplane descends from the clouds high above the sun-dappled cerulean water, I gaze transfixed at the island’s virgin white sand. Dolphins happily race each other as a nearby yacht traverses miles of serene blue ocean. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, no matter how many other stunning beaches you’ve run across barefoot, you’ll never be prepared for the sheer beauty of the Maldives. The first view of the archipelago literally takes your breath away.

A nation made up of 26 atolls—islands with coral reefs encircling a lagoon—spread out over 56,000 square miles in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has seen its fair share of invaders and traders, from the Aryans to the Persians to the Arabs and ending with the Portuguese, Dutch and English. Today, the Maldives is an independent state committed to environmental conservation—President Mohamed Nasheed wants the nation to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2020—and a popular tourist destination, especially for those from colder climes. Americans can fly via Qatar Airways to Doha and take a four-hour flight from there to the Maldives. The flight is smooth and Qatar’s business class is the best in the business.

Although nearly 2,000 islands exist in the country of 400,000 people, most of them are uninhabited and have been that way for centuries. Most Maldivians live on or near the bustling capital, Malé, which, from the air, looks like a cluster of pastel Monopoly houses.

The Maldivian government prohibits most foreign development, so the number of resorts is limited. (The government also strictly controls what non-Maldivians are allowed to bring into the country so leave the bacon and the bible at home). Most resorts are dispersed throughout the Maldives; some are a short boat ride from Malé while others require more extensive travel.

For true seclusion, take a seaplane or Maldivian airlines to one of the outermost atolls. Haa Alifu atoll is the northernmost and the closest to India. Start your visit at Utheemu, the historical island. Visit the palace of national hero Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaan, who, in the 1500s, successfully led a small band of locals against an invading Portuguese garrison. Don’t forget to greet the residents, who are friendly if a bit shy with visitors.

A short boat ride away is Manafaru Island where you will find Beach House Maldives, The Waldorf Astoria Collection. Beach House is a quiet resort, great for couples and families who want a relaxed retreat. Guests have their choice of 83 villas but should opt for beach versions instead of the over-water variety. Villas are neatly positioned on paved pathways amid native foliage. Each is spacious, with wooden rafters, black and white stone floors, local art and teak platform beds covered in striped cotton duvets. A sunken living room could pose a problem for children or the disabled; the steps can become slippery from ocean residue. The living room opens onto a private walkway that leads to your own stretch of pristine beach. A sliding wooden door behind the bed reveals an indoor/outdoor bathroom with a large tub, separate shower and toilet with bidet, and a personal plunge pool with a cabana built for two. A stone pathway leads to an outdoor shower, a treat on a hot day. Although you’re a stone’s throw from your neighbors, you never hear them.

Beach House Maldives

While the Maldives could never accommodate a golf course, golfers will enjoy Beach House’s simulated golf program. Art collectors should visit the hotel’s private gallery showcasing local art. For those wanting even more seclusion, the hotel owns two nearby islands that can be used for private excursions.

If Beach House seems too Robinson Crusoe, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a bit more glamorous. Located in South Ari atoll, at the southernmost section of the country, the Conrad boasts several bars, myriad restaurants and a large water sports area, perfect for more intrepid couples. No wonder Paul McCartney is a fan. Sink your feet in the coral sand, which, much to my amazement, stayed cool, even under the hot glare of the sun. Guests can hire a yacht to take them snorkeling or diving to view elusive whale sharks or dolphins. A number of islands in South Ari are uninhabited. Boats often drop anchor at one of these isles. Don’t be surprised to see naked women sunbathing.

After a day of diving, savor five different wines during a private wine dinner hosted by the sommelier at The Wine Cellar. The black sand wine and cheese room is a welcome retreat on a hot day. Dine at Sunset Bar and Grill and Ithaa. The former is an excellent seafood restaurant that affords guests spectacular island sunsets from private decks. The latter is the world’s only all-glass underwater restaurant. During the day, rays swim overhead as you savor local tuna. At night, the space is illuminated. Guests with very deep pockets can rent out the entire restaurant as sleeping quarters.

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

This is the place to stay in a thatch roofed, over-water villa. Opt for a Spa Water Villa. Decorated in a soothing turquoise and white color palate, the large sleeping quarters have vaulted ceilings, teak floors and oversized windows overlooking the lagoon. Bathrooms have his and her stainless steel sinks, large roman baths and separate spa areas for in-room massages. The private deck leads down into the water. I spied several shy crabs on my walk down as well as the elusive spotted ray.

Although visitors to the Maldives should enjoy their respite from the real world, the real world invariably intrudes. Travelers should be cognizant of the country’s fragile eco system and its uncertain future. Only bring what you will take back with you. Use only natural products while in the Maldives. Don’t throw away that plastic. Be aware that the coral reefs, which protect the Maldives from flooding and erosion, are dying. In 1998, El Nino caused many of the reefs to die of “heat stroke” and a larger human presence is affecting the natural order of things. Maldivian marine biologist Azeez A. Hakeem has said, “by keeping corals alive and restoring coral reefs where they cannot recover naturally, we aim to restore the reef and its fisheries, to keep ecosystems from going extinct from global warming, and to protect the shoreline from vanishing under the waves.” Take a diving expedition to see for yourself. Many islands are sinking and the future of the Maldives, the lowest lying nation in the world, is in peril. One should enjoy it now but help preserve this paradise for generations to come.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Rangali Island
South Ari Atoll
Republic of the Maldives

Beach House Maldives, The Waldorf Astoria Collection
Manafaru Island
Haa Alifu Atoll
Republic of the Maldives

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Diamonds are Now a Car’s Best Friend Thanks to Rolls-Royce

March 8, 2017

It looks like Rolls-Royce took Rihanna’s advice to “shine bright like diamond” literally. The British automakers have now developed a special type of paint that is mixed with over 1,000 crushed diamonds as an exterior finish on a custom Ghost. The Ghost, considered a favorite among luxury car enthusiasts, typically begins at $300,000. Named “Diamond Stardust,” the brand claims that this is the first time the exterior finish has ever been applied to a vehicle, and took over two months to develop into a smooth paint that wouldn’t feel like sandpaper. Not only is this the most expensive […]

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Curious Traveler’s Secrets of Rome

March 8, 2017

Christine van Blokland, the award-winning travel writer, producer & host of Curious Traveler on PBS & Create-TV, shares her Secrets of Rome. Secrets of the Pantheon:  How does the Pantheon stand up?  The Pantheon is an Ancient Roman engineering marvel, and the largest unsupported dome in the world, at 142 feet in diameter. To compare, the US Capitol dome is only 96 feet across.  The Pantheon dome is thought to symbolize the roundness of the Earth, or the dome of heaven. Ancient Romans created their own special blend of super-lightweight concrete, getting lighter towards the top, so […]

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Top real estate sales of 2016: L.A.’s record year included two $100-million sales

February 2, 2017

Storied estates and speculative development in Los Angeles County’s toniest neighborhoods pushed the high-end market to new heights in 2016. Of the dozen single-family home sales of $30 million or more, two changed hands at $100 million — a record-setting mark once thought of as unattainable. Here’s a larger look at the most expensive homes sold this year in Greater L.A. $100 million — Holmby Hills Daren Metropoulos, the son of billionaire investor C. Dean Metropoulos and principal at the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., made real estate history in August with the purchase […]

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Two Gold Infused Rolls-Royce Phantoms Created, The Most Expensive Rolls-Royces Ever Built

February 1, 2017

From mixing pure gold paint to searching swamps for 48,000-year-old wood, the world’s luxury car makers are going to greater and greater lengths to meet their clients’ needs, but they’re doing so in a way that maintains their brand ethos and keeps their cars out of independent tuner and customization garages. Rolls-Royce this month put the final touches to the biggest single bespoke order in its history — 30 unique extended wheelbase Phantoms that will serve as guest shuttles for THE 13, an ultra-exclusive Macau hotel. Each car’s exterior boasts a unique shade of […]

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Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie 2017: most spectacular perpetual calendar watches

February 1, 2017

Inside the 43mm case of the Tourbograph Perpetual ‘Pour le Merite’, one finds the Lange manufacture calibre L133.1. This manual-wound movement, which offers a split-seconds chronograph and tourbillon, also incoporates a perpetual calendar, the first time the latter complication appears on the visionary “Pour le Merite” collection. As with its predecessor, this 1,319-component timepiece features a fusee-and-chain transmission, with the latter comprising 636 components alone. Another new introduction is a black-polished sculpted tourbillon bridge, which perfectly matches the curves of the aperture; the process of polishing required the creation of special tools and intense weeks […]

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Yachts Miami Beach 2017

January 3, 2017

Following an outstanding makeover in 2016, this year’s edition of Yachts Miami Beach will see Collins Avenue once again come alive with superyachts available for sale and charter. Yachts Miami Beach takes place over four days in February, treating discerning guests to a line-up of world-leading motor yachts in an appropriately glamorous environment of Miami . Indeed, the Indian Creek Waterway becomes a jaw-dropping exhibition space with over one million square feet of luxury brands and ambassadors. Introduced in 2016, the Island Gardens Marina on Watson Island will be open for show-goers to inspect […]

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New York City’s Best Christmas 2016 Holiday Windows

November 29, 2016

Year after year, New York City lives up to its holiday tradition of putting up the most stunning and opulent holiday window displays at some of the finest department stores. Christmas spirit sets in as early as mid-November with the unveiling of Christmas window displays along the city’s Fifth Avenue and other Manhattan streets. Window shopping gets a whole new definition as holiday window dressing keeps getting bigger and better every year to woo shoppers and passersby. While those in the city can step out to see the thrilling artistry in person, for those who are far away, we bring […]

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Bentley opens first shopping centre store in London

October 10, 2016

Luxury carmaker Bentley has opened its first store in a shopping centre, at Westfield London. Located in the luxury quarter, The Village, the new store is surrounded by complementary neighbours including Gucci, Prada and Tiffany’s.  The opening is part of a growing trend of car brands opening inside shopping centres with brands such as Tesla, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover and Seat all having recently taken space in UK malls. Rather than a store, this one is called “The Bentley Studio”, offering customers a relaxed yet ultra-modern environment to customise and personalise their car, choosing features such as the […]

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