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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Annals of Luxury: What Size
Home Will US$1 Million Buy?

A report in Britain’s Financial Times reveals how much space a measly million gets you in major cities around the globe. The answer: Not a lot.

Remember the days when US$1 million was real money?

It will still buy you a three-bedroom house or better-than-average flat in a prime part of Atlanta, Edinburgh, or even along the Riviera in Nice. But if you want to live in a desirable neighborhood in one of the world’s financial or cultural centers, you’re out of luck.

Hong Kong, New York, and London are second, third, and fourth on the list of most expensive residential real estate markets.

In practical terms, that means you’ll get only about 215 sq. ft. of living space in Hong Kong, 280 sq. ft. in New York, or 322 sq. ft. in London. That’s a tiny studio apartment, no matter how you cut it.

You can have either a king-size bed or a couch, but maybe not both – unless you don’t mind walking on the furniture to get to bathroom. Once there, don’t expect to be able to turn around with ease.

You could do somewhat better if you don’t insist on living on the Upper East Side or Belgravia.

Monaco is home to the costliest real estate on the planet. If you could find a US$1 million flat (you can’t!) you’d have to call a 12 ft. x 15 ft. room in a less than prime building home.

Monte Carlo: World's most expensive home prices
Monte Carlo: World's most expensive residential real estate

You’ll get a bigger bang for your buck if you’re willing to live in a good section of Paris, which isn’t what anyone would call a hardship, is it? That US$1 million might get you only a small one-bedroom apartment, but, hey, you’re in Paris!

The FT report, based on a study by the global real estate giant Knight Frank, notes that the Brexit vote is starting to send high-earning Parisians living in London back to the French capital. Sales are up there, if not prices.

Values are to be had for those who are flexible about where they reside. Home prices in Dubai and Sao Paulo are reasonable by comparison. It’s possible to snag a large two- or three-bedroom flat in either city for about US$1 million.

Of course, no matter where you prefer to live, you still must have at least US$1 million at your disposal. Not many do.

Only about 13 million of the globe’s 7.4 billion inhabitants have even a net worth of US$1 million. And that doesn’t mean all of them can afford to spend seven figures on housing.

If you can, consider yourself lucky.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Things Not Available in the U.S.: BMW Luxe,
Powerful, Exclusive M6 Celebration Edition

BMW's new, souped-up M6 Celebration Edition produces a 600 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, taking it from 0 to 62 mph in a blazing 3.9 seconds.

BMW's M6 Celebration Edition

The car's 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 will reach a top speed of 189 mph.

This rare bird – just 13 examples are being made – comes with model-specific 20-inch black lightweight alloy wheels, extra carbon-fiber exterior trim, and a BMW twin kidney grille in a special black chrome finish.

On the inside, the car sports Merino Black leather upholstery with yellow contrast stitching to match the exterior (more on this in a moment) plus carbon-fiber trim on the dashboard, steering wheel, and shifter. All that plus a 16-speaker, 1,200-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.

What are the reasons not to rush down to your local showroom, checkbook in hand? 

The edition comes only in one color, something BMW calls "Austin Yellow." That may or may not be a deal breaker, even if you can afford the hefty $211,000 price tag.

And did we mention that the car is available exclusively in Japan, though, curiously, BMW is making only a left hand drive version.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Enlightened Traveler: This Nifty Ice Cream
Paradise Happens To Be In London

The Luxurist likes many things: good whiskey, stimulating conversation, toasty cashmere socks, to name three.

(It goes without saying that the lovely Luxurista, also ranks high atop his list of favorites. But I digress.)

You can't get this at your corner Dairy Queen

And that brings us to London's Fortnum & Mason swanky department store. To call it a mere store would be imprecise. It does indeed stock a first-class selection of goods.

It also serves as a welcomed island of calm amid the unrelenting insanity of Piccadilly Circus.

The emporium principally is a posh paradise for food lovers. It offers all manner of deluxe edibles from every part of the globe. What don't they have?

(The Luxurist once found taco shells there for a homesick American friend living in the dreary  north of England. But, again, I digress.)
Fortnum's salted caramel chocolate cake

Fortunam's has a swell cafe on the ground floor where you can relax with afternoon tea or a cocktail, take a light meal that is quite reasonably priced, or – and this is the main attraction as far as The Luxurist is concerned – go to town on some truly fabulous ice cream sundaes.

You will find that Fortnum's creations are a few grades above your average soda fountain.

The Original Dusty Road sundae, for example, comes with coffee and chocolate ice cream, butterscotch sauce, whipped cream, chocolate flakes, and a coffee macaroon. How does that sound to you?

The Chocolossus sundae consists of banana and chocolossus ice cream, walnut sauce, whipped cream, banana crisps, and coffee beans.

London's historic Fortnum & Mason has been around since 1707

Maybe you just want a scoop of ice cream in a cone, which the English call a cornet. How cute!

You can choose from about a dozen flavors, such as honeycomb, salted caramel, blackcurrant ripple, rose & violet, pistachio or amaretti.

Or you might want to sample one of their lighter sorbets, such as lemon, mango, passion fruit or gin & tonic. (Yes, you read that last correctly.)

It used to be quite difficult to find premium ice cream in London. While that has changed, Fortnum & Mason has not. It's still a wonderful spot to unwind after a hard day in the city or before heading off to a nearby play or concert.

And did we tell you about the ice cream?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Make It a Double: What to Do With Leftover Champagne

If you opened a couple of bottles of nice champagne for New Year's eve or another special occasion and didn't get around to finishing it all, The Luxurist wants to make sure that you don't let it go to waste.

Drinking bubbly straight up is a fine way to ring in the New Year. But, there's no need to be conventional on other days.

In fact, champagne can be used in a wide range of mixed drinks, from the classic Champagne Cocktail (bitters, brandy, sugar, champagne) to a more complicated concoction called a Sudden Headache (mango, tequila, triple sec, lime juice, sugar, champagne).

The French 75 (gin, sugar, lemon, champagne) is another standby. Variations call for replacing the gin with Jameson Irish Whisky or cognac.

Use your imagination and make up your own recipe, or look here for other refreshing ideas from Food & Wine magazine.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yes, You Can Dine at a Michelin-Starred Restaurant for $10

Michelin has awarded one star to a modest noodle joint in Tokyo, the first time ever for a restaurant that serves mainly soup and rice bowls.

Tsuta is a nine-seat neighborhood ramen shop that was cited for its flavorful broths, such as porcini mushroom and rosemary pork.

Ramen at Tsuta (Photo by Guilhem Vellut via flickr)

The spot is also known for its house-made soba noodles and for the soy ramen, "a clear soup made of kelp, pike fish, and clam stock added to a chicken base and naturally brewed soy sauce." Its pork over rice is another signature dish.

While there are 217 Michelin-starred eateries in Tokyo, none is as affordable as Tsuta. Steaming bowls of ramen can be had for under $10.

Low prices do not buy convenience. Expect long lines. The place was extremely popular even before being anointed by Michelin. (Bloggers report that lines move rather quickly, however.)

Why the fuss over an unassuming little cafe? The blog Japan Real Time explains: "While ramen can be a cheap and simple meal, few dishes are taken more seriously in Japan where eateries continue to introduce different styles of soup, noodles and ingredients."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Annals of Luxury: The Big Money
Never Sleeps in Las Vegas

The race to develop show stopping hotels in Las Vegas is about to shift into high gear yet again – to what result no one knows.

The Wall St. Journal reports that investor Carl Icahn has put his under-construction $3 billion Fontainbleau Hotel up for sale. In 2010 the tycoon purchased it out of bankruptcy for a mere $150 million. Doubtless he believes he can make a profit of at least several times that, as he passes the build-out and launch obligations to others with more willingness to gamble.

The dreams of low-rollers and billionaire developers converge in Las Vegas

It is worth noting that Icahn realized a gain of about $1 billion in 2007 when he sold his interest in the Stratosphere Hotel and related properties at the top of the market. With the announced sale of the Fontainbleau complex, does the billionaire know something that we don't?

Vegas tourism is not dying on the vine, but some hotel operators are. The transformation of the old Sahara Hotel and Casino into the SLS Las Vegas is a case in point. The 1620-room complex has performed poorly since opening last year. It hopes to revive its fortunes by converting one of its three towers in a W Hotel in partnership with Starwood.

Odds getting longer for SLS Hotel Las Vegas

Neither a foundering SLS nor Icahn's exit from the Fountaibleau are putting a stop to the hopes that other investors hold for striking it rich in Sin City. Nor will they be deterred by a lengthy history of announced hotels that never opened,  a number of which actually broke ground and then halted construction in midstream.

A Malaysian group started work this year on a $4 billion Chinese-themed resort. Another group is planning a new hotel on the site once occupied by the now demolished New Frontier.

Visitors descend on Las Vegas with the aim of winning big. Well-heeled investors and developers are no different. It's the stakes that are higher for those willing to make billion-dollar bets.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Enlightened Traveler: Beware of Changes to Your Airline's Frequent Flier Program

Hate the way airlines treat you? Here's another complaint to add to the list: recent and forthcoming changes to frequent flyer programs will make it even harder to earn and collect awards tickets.

Hoping to upgrade to this? Dream on!

Jet Blue and Virgin America are now basing the amount of points you can earn not on miles flown but on the amount of money you spend on a ticket. Delta and United have announced that they will do the same starting next year.

With the U.S. Airways management team firmly in charge, there is little doubt that the lone holdout, American Airlines, eventually will adopt similar regressive reforms.

Also read: Some Tourists Avoiding Manhattan in Favor of Brooklyn

The reason for all of this is simple. Airlines want to retain the loyalty of their most lucrative customers, the ones who buy full-fare business and first class tickets with regularity. Consider yourself lucky if you are in this group.

The rest of us should prepare for further indignities from the airlines. Consider using your miles sooner rather than later. Their value likely will only decrease in future years.

Look here for more on this subject.