At cazenove+loyd we have been organising the ultimate holidays for 20 years. What we do is all about getting the most out of a destination. And as every trip is designed from scratch, it is about understanding each client and marrying them to the experience that is right for them.
That’s why we specialise in Africa-and-the-Indian Ocean, Central and South America and South-and-South East Asia. They’re three regions where we can add value by getting the most out of every day.
But what if it’s a very big day? For many people, a holiday in a special destination, as a couple or a family, is celebration enough for a 50th birthday. But some want a full-blown party when they get there. And some have a budget that allows us to call upon our myriad contacts to create a fantasy by night and day.
In these cases, the secret is to let the destination and people help drive the experience. The beauty will be in the authenticity of the location, and the culture that can be embraced.
Palaces, polo and a camel caravan
A few years ago, a client asked us to organise a 50th birthday celebration in Rajasthan for 90-plus friends and family, spread over a week. We didn’t just draw on our expertise in planning great places to stay (each with exotic venues to meet as a group for dinners and evening entertainment). We also went about designing individual holidays within the group dynamic, so that different guests could get the most out of each day in India.
A week is a long time to be with anyone, however close. Guests want to be recognised as individuals as well. And we were able to deliver.
Quite apart from the three historic palaces that we chose for the party’s accommodation on different nights – and the involvement of their owners to add to the intimacy – each day was meticulously planned. Guides, excursions and lunch spots were carefully selected, be they for a couple, a small group of friends, or a family with children.
We knew the pleasures of a 70-year-old culture vulture would differ from those of a younger couple or two parents with teenage girls. We also knew the key to the week was to treat each person as a person by day, but bring them back together for a dinner or party every evening.
With the backdrop of Rajasthan – plus our contacts on the ground – we knew every evening could be spectacular and memorable.
My favourite began at a palace about an hour outside Jaipur, with elephant polo and drinks in the garden. A camel caravan across the Thar Desert followed, with dinner, fortune tellers, musicians and fire jugglers on the sand dunes. Once there, we revealed a surprise tented camp set up below… and all this under a full moon.
Believe me, in a place like Rajasthan, every evening can be magnificent and different. The next night was a formal dinner in the palace’s Durbar Hall, with local folk musicians and dancers, followed by fireworks on the terrace. That was equally memorable.
The final night, in Jodhpur, culminated in a procession of musicians, then dinner atop the battlements of the 15th-century Meherangarh Fort, with the blue city spread out below.
Birthdays a speciality
Since then, we have made birthday parties one of our specialities. We recently organised one in Morocco for 70 guests over four days. A hotel with lots of space and a large swimming pool was selected in the Palmeraie as a base, so that everyone could be together or apart as suited them each day. For consecutive evenings in the Medina, a historic riad and stylish restaurant were chosen.
The riad had musicians and belly dancers, acrobats and whirling dervishes, and the restaurant offered a more conservative experience, and was followed by a visit to a private room in our favourite nightclub.
During the day, some guests could shop with a personal shopper, or relax in the spa or by the pool, while others could go trekking in the Atlas Mountains.
As with Rajasthan, Morocco has a stunning backdrop of buildings and scenery and such a rich culture. The skill is to bring together the people who can deliver an experience that is at the same time authentic yet spectacular, real but seamless.
Thus, after three nights in Marrakech, we spent the fourth in a private tented camp in the desert. It was specially set up for the party, complete with beds, cushions and matching silk wall hangings, and featured a bar, dancefloor and chill-out zone.
Now we are planning something similar for a 50th birthday in Morocco – but entirely based in the Atlas Mountains, rather than in and around Marrakech.
Flying down to Rio
But whether that will top the celebration we did in Rio, we shall see. In my experience, this has been the ultimate party destination for a 50th birthday celebration.
Talk about special. Imagine this: 30 friends meet around the rooftop pool of the Fasano hotel to surprise their friend on the night of his birthday; they spend the following day sightseeing, surfing, hang-gliding or mountain-biking in and around the city; that evening they meet again, celebrate more, and dance in costume in the Rio Carnival Winners Parade.
On another night, they meet for dinner at a fashionable restaurant in Santa Teresa and are then whisked off to the hottest live music venues in Leblon. And after three nights of partying in Rio, they are whisked by helicopter along the Emerald Coast to a private island beach retreat in the Bay of Angra Dos Reis. Here they can unwind with a schooner or ski boat to hand, hold beach barbecues and picnics – and continue the party after sundown.
At casenove+loyd, that’s a job well done.
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell is a director and owner of cazenove+loyd
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