It was poet Robert Frost who first alluded to the idea of the road ‘less travelled’, of straying off the beaten track to discover pastures new. It is that bold, adventurous spirit that inspires so many worldly wanderers today, as more people than ever before set out to experience what the world has to offer.
Of course, it’s not always easy to find the hidden gems in a new destination – those authentic, once-in-a-lifetime places and experiences that can’t be found in guidebooks – and even the most seasoned of travellers can struggle to fully immerse themselves in an area’s charms. Such rarefied knowledge has to come from someone familiar with local culture and attractions: a real expert. That’s why the concierges at Raffles Hotels are equipped with a wealth of insider information, able to suggest any number of visits and excursions to surprise and delight their guests.
Here, we round up a selection of top concierge suggestions from three key Raffles Hotels locations; Paris, Seychelles and Singapore.
Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris
Paris is known world-over for its famous attractions, from the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées to the iconic Eiffel Tower – but away from the tried-and-tested tourist traps, there’s another side to the city to discover. Head to the up-and-coming area surrounding Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement, which is fast becoming the stomping ground du jour of the Parisian young and beautiful with a number of new hipster joints. For instance, on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, Chez Jeannette is the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing Campari and soda in a vintage café setting, while Porte 12 is a delightful neo-bistro serving up seasonal haute cuisine and artisanal wine in a former textile and lingerie atelier.
In northern Paris, Pigalle is another area to watch, where creatives mingle with the African community. Temples to craft beer are joining the shady bars, reliving the era when Picasso, Van Gogh and Breton hung out here. Look to South Pigalle especially (aka ‘SoPi’), where the lack of tourist attractions make it a popular spot for Parisians live, work, shop, eat and booze. Sample the delights of the Jewish-inspired menu at Merguez & Pastrami, before enjoying an old-school USA cocktail at Glass bar.
Elsewhere in the city, culture vultures would do well to swing by the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the heart of the forested Bois de Boulogne, which houses a rotating collection of modern and contemporary art within a futuristic glass iceberg building. The recently reopened Musée de l’Homme is also a must, complete with an array of intriguing historical pieces like prehistoric skeletons and anatomical wax models, posing the question of what it is to be human.
With 115 different islands to explore, visitors to the Seychelles are spoiled for choice – but in order to see the full extent of the archipelago’s natural bounty, there’s no better way than on a special guided day trip. Travel in style by hotel speedboat to tiny Curieuse Island, a Marine National Park populated by giant tortoises and rare birds like the Seychelles Black Parrot, before taking a pleasant hike to the historic Doctor’s House where a barbequed lunch will be waiting.
Other natural highs include an excursion deep into the palm forest of the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, where indigenous trees, flowers and plants will be pointed out, along with all manner of tropical wildlife, while diving fans will delight in the crystal waters of the St Pierre islet or Coral Garden. Be sure to make time for a jaunt to La Digue Island, home to stunning beaches Anse Source d’Argent and Anse Severe, as well as working coconut and vanilla plantations.
Raffles Hotel Singapore
As a new generation of chefs transform Singapore’s vibrant restaurant scene, the Raffles concierges highly recommend embarking on a culinary tour of the island state. There is a growing trend of traditional dishes being revisited, updating familiar favourites with a 21st century twist. At Labyrinth, Han Liguang combines Eurasian, Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, such as deep-fried chili crab served with spiced, garlicky ice cream, while at Candlenut, Malcolm Lee revolutionises Peruvian classics – the charcoal-grilled Spanish pork, marinated with sweet dark soy and saw-tooth coriander, is truly delicious. Additionally, KK Chong and Dennis Chong experiment with amalgams of ethnic staples at Creatures, set in an attractive mood-lit shophouse in one of Singapore’s most notorious red-light districts in Little India.