hip hotel


Mine, Mine, Mine.

Villa de L'O, Essaouira, Morocco, December 2014.

Essaouira is the last stop of a glorious vacation - we had a good thing and I’m sad it’s ending. I’m also miffed that on the drive over, I didn’t get a single glimpse of the much-talked-about argan-tree-climbing-goats. 

Villa de L’O is located just inside the medina walls, in a narrow, atmospheric street. The lobby is dark and too formal for a riad of 12 rooms - but the guest rooms are lovely, decorated in colonial expedition style, with brass, leather, mahogany and eccentricity. 

My room L’Opium has a great view of the beach, quirky objects, a color palette of red and black, and an e-n-o-r-mous bathtub. One level up is the roof terrace with spectacular views and breakfast/cocktail bar. The winds are so strong, it’s a wonder this town has any roof decks, but the intrepid residents seem to make it work. The medina is delightfully walkable; for great food and drinks, go to Chez Sam, Elizir or Taros.

Every sunrise and sunset, goaded, no doubt, by the moods of orange and pink and waves crashing against the dramatic coast, the seagulls behave like cranky sentinels watching over their land (or fish, more accurately). “Mine”, I tell them, pointing to my breakfast.

Photo and text by VJ Singh / far-and-back.tumblr.com, December 2013. All rights reserved.


Happily Marooned.

At El Nido Lagen Island Resort, Northern Palawan, Philippines. Sandwiched between a lush forest and a calm lagoon is not a bad place to be. Especially after an hour-long ride on a tiny plane. Just as I think we are about to land, the plane swoops down and flies back into the air. “Too many carabaos on the runway”, complains the pilot.  I catch a glimpse of a harassed farmer shooing the water-buffaloes away. This is the Pilipinas. An idyllic country I called home for 6 years. An archipelago of 7,107 islands at low tide. At high tide, who knows? All that matters is that the sea surrounding the islands is a bright turquoise. 

Of Palawan’s stunning El Nido resorts, we pick Lagen for its closeness to the massive limestone cliffs rising out of the sea. The rooms are on stilts in water. We spend our days kayaking around the islands, deep-sea fishing and mindless-gazing at the resident school of clown fish in the marina.

Most memorable experience? Getting “marooned” on an uninhabited island, Robinson Crusoe-style.  The staff drop us off with kayaks and snorkels and disappear, returning only to deliver meals by motor-boat. Imagine “owning” one of the 7,107 islands for a whole day!

@ VJ Singh | Far/Back | 2004


The Qvest Hotel, Cologne : THE HIDEAWAY

Called das Versteck, or hideaway, by people who visit often, The Qvest is a real quite place in a neighborhood full of cool restaurants, shops and hip hubs. Owned by Michael Kaune, publisher and creative director of Qvest Magazine, as well as an art and design collector, the hotel was designed by architect Rolf Kursawe, who combined Neo-Gothic architecture of the late 19th century building with a stunning collection of midcentury and modern furniture, photography and art: a remarkable balance between past and present, history and contemporary.

The Qvest: a cool and quite cityscape with no television, just books, vinyl records and hundred of vintage and new design pieces. Also for sale.

Why women of 40 and 50 are the new 'ageless generation'

Lean, lithe, beautiful and effortlessly cool, Polly Kemp teaches yoga at the hip hotel and members’ club Babington House in Somerset. She’s addicted to Instagram and loves fashion and travelling.

But no, she’s not the woman on the left – that’s her 19-year-old daughter Iggy, a model who lives in London. Polly (right) is a mother of three (she also has sons Gabriel, 22 and Finlay, 17, with her photographer husband Iain) and is 51.

‘Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion that I am 19 or look 19; I’m very comfortable in my own skin – lines, grey hair and all,’ she says.

‘But I know I live very differently from how my mother and grandmother did at my age. Iggy and I often borrow each other’s clothes, although we might not wear them in the same way. And we both love vintage clothes, so we often trawl charity shops together. We enjoy the same TV series on Netflix, such as Schitt’s Creek, Girlboss and Grace and Frankie; and we’re following the same online daily yoga challenge on YouTube.

‘When I hear the term “middle-aged”, I have to stop and think, “Is this meant to be me?” I don’t polish silver or plan menus, and I’m not interested in housework. I am also spontaneous and I don’t think that’s a quality traditionally associated with middle age.’

Polly’s age-defying attitude is something I can relate to. Growing up, if I’d pictured myself aged 53, my hair would be a little less long and blonde and a great deal more grey than it actually is – and I’d be wearing frocks and face powder, not jeans and CC cream.

Nicole Kidman is one of the many visible 40-plus women experiencing a career high Credit: Getty

And now a new survey exclusive to the Telegraph has found that, like Polly and me, 96 per cent of 40-plus women don’t feel middle-aged at all.

The study of more than 500 women by marketing agency SuperHuman found that 80 per cent felt society’s assumptions about middle-aged women do not represent how they live their lives.

More than two thirds considered themselves in their prime of life; 59 per cent felt as vibrant and young as they ever have – partly due to a focus on health and fitness – and 84 per cent said they don’t define themselves by age.

SuperHuman was founded by Rebecca Rhodes, 44, and Sandra Peat, 42, who feel brands are failing to realise just how midlife women have changed.

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Armed with negative stereotypes about older women, companies still focus on millennials despite the greater financial firepower of 40-plussers. Says Rebecca, ‘By 2020 it is estimated that up to a third of the UK workforce will be 50-plus and they will control 80 per cent of the wealth. We know that 85 per cent of purchasing decisions are made by women and yet 91 per cent of women don’t believe advertisers understand them. This isn’t good enough.’

As a result, she adds, ‘Eighty-four per cent of the women we surveyed used products and services they felt were aimed at younger women.’ But the generation gap is closing. ‘Forty-plus women today look, feel and live differently than the generation before them – 90 per cent consider themselves to have a much younger attitude than their own mother’s generation at the same age,’ she adds.

In short, women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond no longer associate themselves with a life of lawnmowers and Rotary Clubs, cheese and wine parties, elastic waists, river cruises and walking tours of Madeira. Even the term ‘middle aged’ is fast becoming obsolete.

Lynne with fellow Asos fan, daughter Georgie

People magazine recently named Julia Roberts, 49, as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman 2017, 26 years after she first made the list. And France’s youthful new president Emmanuel Macron, 39, has been pictured passionately kissing his glamorous blonde wife Brigitte, who just happens to be 64.

Everywhere we look, highly visible older women are rewriting all the rules. From JK Rowling to Nicole Kidman; Michelle Obama to Anna Wintour, they are at the peak of their power and creativity.

They are engaged, influential and often increasingly political.

There’s even a new term to describe people with this no-age mindset: ‘perennials’. It was coined by US internet entrepreneur Gina Pell, 49, who explains, ‘Perennials are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, and are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded risk takers.’

This attitude can be helped by the way we look. And if that sounds trivial, it’s not, according to Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University. Her researchers have found that people who feel old compared to others tend to age faster, and a major factor in this is the way they dress. Those in the study who wore uniforms, and so dressed the same as younger colleagues, suffered fewer age-related illnesses.

The good news is that we don’t need a white coat to gain the same health benefits; nor do we need to dress ‘young’. ‘Since the 1990s, society has become increasingly informal and fashion has become more generic,’ says Rebecca.

‘In today’s Converse-and-jeans uniform, worn by everyone from 10 to 70, you often can’t tell how old a woman is from behind.’ Indeed, a glance at shots of classic perennials Julianne Moore, 56, and Emma Watson, 27, reveals that despite their three-decade age gap, they favour an identikit look of striped tees, oversized coats, leather jackets, jeans and trainers.

JK Rowling is a member of the ‘ageless generation’ Credit: Getty

Assessing her own fashion evolution, Polly says, ‘I thought that by this age I’d want to look “smart”. Instead I like to look cool and sexy, and I live in trainers to the extent that I wonder why I even have my other shoes. Like Iggy, I’m in jeans all the time, though I might pair mine with a silk blouse and a jacket.’

Happily, SuperHuman’s survey found that 67 per cent of women over 40 felt more confident than they did a decade ago, and just as many were more ambitious too. ‘Doing things that challenge me’ was important to 60 per cent of women in the survey; personal fulfilment was a priority for 61 per cent, while 63 per cent described themselves as ‘very optimistic’ about the future. Almost 80 per cent said they had a strong appetite to explore and experience new things with or without their kids.

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‘The idea of retiring at 50 and having an empty nest is totally out of date for most people,’ says Richard Cope, a consumer trends analyst at Mintel. ‘Economic pressures and increasing pension ages mean women are working longer and thus spending time with younger colleagues. At the same time, due to property and rental costs, more adult children are living at home, and their attitudes are influencing their parents, causing what’s known as generational blurring.’

When her 17-year-old daughter became vegan a year ago, author Fiona Gibson, 52, ended up dramatically changing her own diet. ‘Erin opened my eyes to the ethical issues and health downsides of my more meat-heavy diet. I probably eat vegan four days out of seven now.’

Lynne Barratt-Lee, 58, also a novelist, says she’s picked up her 24-year-old daughter Georgie’s online shopping habits. ‘We get confused over who’s put what in the Asos basket,’ she says.

People magazine recently named Julia Roberts, 49, as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman 2017, 26 years after she first made the list Credit: Getty

But there’s one black cloud in this sunny picture. While 40-plus women feel very confident in their abilities and opinions, 48 per cent of those surveyed said they felt less confident about their appearance than they had a decade ago, citing pressure to stay looking young – and 83 per cent felt this affected their self-image. Rebecca calls this the ‘confidence paradox’, and adds that while older celebrities and models are more visible than ever before in adverts and on screen, women in their 40s and 50s still feel ignored.

Entrepreneur Grace Fodor agrees. Two years ago, she founded cosmetics brand Studio 10, aimed at women in midlife. ‘Currently, older women are part of the zeitgeist,’ says Fodor, 50, citing Michelle Obama and Jenna Lyons as examples. ‘But remember: we’re for life, not just this season’s marketing strategy.’

The future, says Gina Pell, lies with forward-thinking companies such as Netflix and Amazon who profile customers by their tastes, not by their age. ‘Defining people by their birth year is so antiquated,’ she concludes.  

The Backwards Name

Drink your name
every night,
your hips on the hotel bed,
sticking in my throat,
the memory throbs,
all our secret places
tumble out
between the sleeps.

Looking back is
dirty business,
kneeling, praying,
rabbit famine
keeping you full
while you starve.

Drink your name
every day,
the sun setting
behind your bare back
at the side of the road
I see that the canyon
slips away
into nothing,
and it took you too
one day.

Looking down is
the essence of falling.
You go face first
and the sand like a shroud
surges up
to tuck you in.


The Top Weekend Breaks in Dubai

For a little staycation in the GCC, look no further than a weekend break in Dubai. The emirate hosts the world’s best hotel brands, with an option to suit every budget. In fact, holidaying in Dubai has become so popular that the emirate is set to become home to 100,000 rooms by the end of May 2016. Even if you’re already a resident; nothing beats a quick getaway at a relaxing resort with family or friends.

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