Amazing Adventures

Overview

Testing the new BMW 630i Convertible on South Africa's rugged coast. Plus, extreme explorers, 5 ultimate expedition yachts for charter and new retreats in Ireland, Tasmania, Florence, and more. Also, Mercedes' ferociously efficient 2012 CLS63 AMG.

From This Issue

Boating: Taking the Cake

With its launch of Cakewalk last August, Derecktor Shipyards set the record for the largest U.S.-built yacht by volume. At 281 feet, the six-deck motor yacht—which displaces an astonishing 2,998 gross tons of water—is also the longest American-made yacht since J.P. Morgan Jr.’s 343-foot steamer Corsair IV in 1931. The substantial superyacht represents a significant […]

Watches: Vintage Victory

The sudden discovery of an extensive cache of decades-old watch movements reminded horologist Claude Sanz of the painful divide that exists in the minds of watchmakers between the glory days before the advent of quartz movements and the tense decades that followed. “The watchmakers who worked before the quartz crisis in the 1970s really don’t […]

Wardrobe: The Deconstructionist

When Eddia Mirharooni was an architect in his native Iran, he designed an innovative suspended roof that appeared to float above the walls on sheets of glass. That blueprint brought him top honors at a prestigious design competition, along with a position at a Los Angeles architectural firm. Now, more than three decades after Mirharooni […]

Vacation Homes: Grand Slam

While many vacation homes offer golf course views, few look out over the game’s seminal playground: the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. Next summer, however, a handful of individuals will be able to call the world’s oldest and most famous links home when Hamilton Grand—a collection of 26 luxury residences located just paces behind […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Rare Forecast

The ability to predict the weather with godlike accuracy began with a single invention: the barometer. In 1643, a student of Galileo discovered that by measuring air pressure one could forecast sun, rain, wind, or thunderbolts, and barometers soon went from meteorological tools to status symbols of the elite, with ornate wood and gold-leaf barometers […]

Jewelry: Golden Moment

Fashion designers tend to dabble in fine jewelry, creating a few pieces every now and then to underscore a seasonal trend or to add glamour to a runway show. But Ralph Lauren does not dabble in anything: His first fine jewelry collection is a joint venture with Richemont, the Swiss luxury-goods empire that owns Cartier […]

Art: Masterpiece Theatre

When the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair—the leading British show of its kind—abruptly folded in 2009 after 75 years, speculation began almost instantly about what might fill the void. Would one of the competing fairs held in London in June lure its audience, or would something new emerge in its place? To the surprise […]

Sport: Fowl Play

My lesson with Lars Magnusson seems to be paying off. The 36-year-old founder of Wyoming-based driven-shooting outfitter Blixt & Company has just walked me through the weight-forward, upright-stance, gun-to-cheek position that proper clay and wing shooting demands. Now, just 15 minutes later, I shatter the first four black clay disks that come into my range. […]

Clean Living

With my waders pulled up to my armpits I sloshed into Tasmania’s Great Oyster Bay and pushed my way to the shallows where the baby bivalves floated by the thousands. Since my arrival on Australia’s remote island state several days earlier, I had lunched daily on the plump, delectable shellfish, chasing them with gulps of […]

Clean Living: From Cozy to Cutting Edge

Separated from Australia by the 150-mile-wide Bass Strait, Tasmania is a land apart—a place of wild and beautiful landscapes, friendly and gregarious people, a pleasantly temperate climate, wonderful wine and food, and inviting accommodations. The Red Feather Inn (www.redfeatherinn.com.au), in northern Tasmania near the city of Launceston, epitomizes the quaint country hideaway. Amenities include freestanding […]

Soft Spot

South Africa, despite its sociopolitical, racial, criminal, and economic despairs, remains an extraordinary adventure capital. Off the country’s coast, an intrepid traveler can descend into the Indian Ocean in a steel cage and go nose to snout with very large, very hungry great white sharks. The flat top of Table Mountain, rising 3,500 feet above […]

Extreme Explorers

On most megayacht charters, adventure means motoring from one idyllic Caribbean cove to another, or hopping among the Mediterranean’s most glamorous ports of call for cocktail hour. But a new breed of explorer yachts is bringing the same level of comfort and service one might find in Monte Carlo to the extreme ends of the […]

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

More than a dozen years after it debuted, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge remains a lone oasis in the stark and hauntingly beautiful landscape of Namibia’s private 445,000-acre NamibRand Nature Reserve. The remote game lodge, which underwent renovations last year, unveiled in Febru-ary the transformation of its 10 split-level villas into sleek retreats with all-new furnishings […]

Devi Ratn

The Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur, India, is an 18th-century sculpture garden of massive astrological instruments that are as impressive for their architecture as they are for their accuracy. The stone designs served as inspiration for the developers of the Pink City’s newest star: Devi Ratn, a boldly contemporary resort on the outskirts of this […]

Ballyfin Demesne

Ballyfin Demesne, a 600-acre estate 90 minutes by car from Dublin, features a Regency-style main home designed by father-son architects Sir Richard Morrison and William Vitruvius Morrison in the 19th century. Operated for years as a school, the grand manse and its wooded surrounds are now taking reservations. The school announced its intention to close […]

Grand Hotel Villa Cora

In the late 19th century, Baron Oppenheim of Florence regularly hosted princes, pashas, and artists at Villa Cora, the city estate he built for his young wife. The baron—in a fit of jealousy over his wife’s alleged infidelity—once attempted to set the neoclassic structure ablaze, but it survived and eventually became a hotel. Last December, […]

Front-Wheel Forerunner

1930 Cord L-29 Phaeton Sedan The Auburn-Cord-duesenberg triumvirate was Errett Lobban Cord’s ambitious attempt to merge three tiers of luxury automobiles. The venture also afforded him his long-sought opportunity to create an eponymous marque, which fell between the more moderately priced Auburn and the flagship Duesenberg. The model L-29, named for the year of its […]

Spirits: Toscana Twist

Toscana has long been a favorite gathering place for power brokers, epicures, entertainment personalities, and residents of the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. For more than two decades, these loyal patrons have flocked to the contemporary trattoria to enjoy its casual atmosphere and the flavorful output of its wood-burning oven. On busy Saturday evenings, these […]

Travel: Hang Loose

Mornings on Hangzhou’s West Lake begin with a subtle symphony. Docked wooden sampan boats creak and moan, rhythmically bobbing with the lake’s waterline. As a breeze whistles past, dewdrops fall from the tips of willows, echoing through the archways of ancient stone bridges. Cranes and orioles chatter in the distance while soaring over scenic spots […]

Home Electronics: Center of Attention

For music reproduction, few loudspeakers compare with the two-channel Utopia models made by French hi-fi manufacturer Focal-JMlab. However, until recently the company had yet to offer a center-channel unit to complement its current generation of reference-quality Utopias—which range from the nearly 7-foot-tall Grande Utopia to the bookshelf-model Diablo Utopia—in a multichannel home-theater system. Focal began […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

The signature wine of Joseph Drouhin, one of the most distinguished négociants in Burgundy, has a curious name. Clos des Mouches translates as “enclosure of the flies,” a moniker that this premier cru vineyard, located on a hill near Pommard in the Côte de Beaune, has borne since the 16th century. The name assumes a […]

Frontrunners: Time Will Tell

Boutique watchmaker De Bethune recently introduced the De Bethune DB 28 (www.debethune.ch), a watch that mixes the futuristic with the vintage. The $82,500 watch’s dial side displays the brand’s signature shield-shaped movement under blue pomme-style hands that recall Breguet designs from the 18th century. Far more modern is the DB 28’s solid silicon-and-platinum balance disk. […]

FrontRunners: Haute Five

Leviev used more than 100 fancy colored diamonds and hundreds of colorless diamonds and gemstones to create the five pieces in Leviev’s Five-Year Anniversary Collection (www.leviev.com). Each references one of the jeweler’s five international boutiques. The New York bracelet features 119 diamonds, each weighing about one carat, arranged in five intersecting rows; the design represents […]

FrontRunners: Where There’s Smoke

Rec­ognizing how well Cognac pairs with cigars, the makers of the original El Sublimado (www.texascigarbrothers.com) created a process for infusing tobacco leafs with Har­dy Noces d’Or Grande Champagne Cognac. The cigars debuted in 1993, but they vanished from the market when the company that made them dissolved. A few years ago, some 10,000 to 12,000 […]

FrontRunners: Magnum Force

The new Champagne bar at London’s May Fair Hotel does not pour bubbly by the glass, serve fizzy cocktails, or, for that matter, even have a bar. Dubbed 150 at the May Fair (www.themayfairhotel.co.uk/150), the intimate sunken lounge within the hotel’s May Fair Bar offers vintage Champagne by the magnum (as well as magnums of […]

FrontRunners: Prime Time

Online meat purveyor 35° (www.35degreessteaks.com) grants serious beef lovers access to the same succulent steaks that are served by Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, and Lawry’s The Prime Rib. The website is run by Rick Nicholas and his son, Adam. The elder Nicholas is the founder of Newport Meat Co. in Irvine, Calif., which […]

FrontRunners: Sea Fairer

Rigid inflatable boats are known best for their utility in rescue or military missions. But for years Oak­land, Calif.–based Protec­tor has been offering comfortable models for recreational boaters. Its latest, the Protector Tauranga 38 (www.protectorboats.com), is its most inviting. Built in New Zea­land by Rayglass Boats, the 38 features twin cabin sleeping bunks, a stand-up […]

FrontRunners: Making a Splash

An appearance by the “Bathing Suit Bike” will be among the highlights of the third-annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering (www.quaillodge.com) May 14 at the Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel, Calif. The Vincent Black Lightning prototype gained fame in 1948 when it set a motorcycle speed record of more than 150 mph on the Bonneville Salt […]

FrontRunners: Upper Class

The Devialet D-Premier (www.devialet.com), a 1.25-inch-thick, 240-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier made in France, remains as cool as it looks. Audiophile amps are ranked by design type, with Class A models positioned at the top, although they consume obscene amounts of electricity and cast off enough heat to warm a living room. Highly efficient Class D amps […]

FrontRunners: Pagani Huayra

Pagani, the Modena, italy, maker of supercars in league with high-profile exotics from Bugatti, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, has finally gained access to America. The U.S.-street-legal, $1.5 million Pagani Huayra (www.pagani.com) is the follow-up to the Zonda, which set Nürburgring circuit records and established Pagani’s reputation for stellar performance, technical virtuosity, and meticulous fit and finish, […]

Collectibles: Well Suited

As combat garb, suits of armor have been obsolete for centuries. But its sculptural qualities can render a suit timeless as a decoration for the home, whether the armor is an antique replica or an exceedingly rare and valuable original. “Antique armor does fit well alongside contemporary and modern art,” says Thomas Del Mar, a […]

Wheels: Efficiency Gains

Our introduction to the new Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG took place this winter in the mountains of Southern California, where broad interstates leaving San Diego become two-lane byways. We dawdled past avocado farms, blasted along straight and empty roads between small towns, and challenged the brakes and suspension by taking 25 mph corners at twice that […]

Leisure: Cellars’ Markets

The mill-shaped sign hanging out front of the shop and the massive scales inside are holdovers from Berry Bros. & Rudd’s early days, when, at the close of the 17th century, the Widow Bourne opened the Coffee Mill on St. James’s Street. Her grandsons, William Pickering Jr. and John Pickering, eventually inherited the store, located […]

The Robb Reader: Ann Ziff

When the Metropolitan Opera was in dire need of funding last year, arts patron Ann Ziff came to the rescue with a $30 million donation—the largest single gift the New York institution has ever received from an individual. Ziff, 64, has quietly supported several such organizations over the years, not only with donations but also […]