Playing armchair traveler in the time of corona

Around the world without leaving your armchair – and learning at the same time.

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” observes Trinculo the jester in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” To which I would add, not entirely consequentially, that COVID-19 has made armchair travelers of us all.

But if we cannot go to the mountain, we must bring the mountain to us and modern technology, of course, allows us to do this, at least to some degree. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali, but to be honest with you, I never got the gig and the bank manager never thought it was a terribly good idea. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, I have finally been able to go virtually, obviously. Although closed to actual guests, the intriguingly-named Desa Potato Head in Bali — a hotel so right-on and environmentally-friendly that even the complimentary bedside slippers are biodegradable — has launched a #goodtimesathome program, accessible via Facebook or Instagram, with cultural expeditions, immersive reads and music playlists to download. A documentary about Brian Eno from 1973 and a fascinating video about turning plastic bags into speakers, were just two of the offerings I enjoyed. 

Just launching down Mexico way, the HiltonLosCabosAtHome series, which you can find at @hiltonloscabos on Instagram, will give you a taste of this newly renovated beach resort, while you continue to shelter in place. You will also be able to take Spanish lessons and plan a fun Mexican dinner at home, after joining the resort’s executive chef for a cooking session. And arts and crafts projects from the resort’s kids’ club should keep them busy with any luck, while you kick back and enjoy a restorative Mezcal cocktail. Mmm, tastes good.

For a quick Caribbean fix, Le Barthélmy Hotel & Spa in St. Barts has made a recording of waves lapping its waterfront. Best listened to through to earphones, I made a flying visit down to the Caribbean the other afternoon and I was not disappointed.  No astronomical airfare to pay either and home in time for dinner — a win-win situation.

Out west, in Montana. The Resort at Paws Up is often credited as the world’s first glamping (luxury, glamorous camping) resort. It counts Leonardo DiCaprio and Gwyneth Paltrow among its legions of celebrity fans and has recently introduced a “Live from Big Sky Country” series. The programs offer a wide range of digital experiences, including visiting the resort’s resident baby horses, learning how to forage with the chef and making body scrubs, as taught by the resort’s spa and wellness director. The sessions are streamed on the @theresortatpawsup Instagram page and are also saved as Instagram Highlights.

It was only a question of time before lockdown karaoke became a thing. On Monday nights, the adults only Hotel Gaythering, in South Beach, Miami, offers karaoke with a twist, presided over by regular drag queen host, Karla Croqueta.  The Gaythering’s popular trivia nights (Wednesday) and bingo (Thursday) have also gone virtual. (@KarlaCroqueta is quite the party animal. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.)

Closer to home, at the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mount Tremper in the Catskills, kids can take part in an online trivia quiz of their own, which between you and me is a bit of a breeze since all the answers to the questions are included on the Emerson website. Correct answers win a special Emerson Resort kaleidoscope, mailed out to your brainy little one. Also, in a clever twist on the usual online offerings during closure, the Emerson Resort gift shop is open to dispense Cabin Fever science and solar system kits to keep kids amused — delivered direct to your door.

Still with the kids, an even more cerebral pursuit is being offered by Gurney’s Resorts in Montauk, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island. Focused on sustainability and education, #GoneHomeWithGurneys features everything from weekly digital lessons for kids to wellness tips, meditations and recipes. All programming will be streamed on the @gurneyresorts social channel, via Instagram Stories.

If lockdown is making you anxious and travel restrictions are clipping your wanderers’ wings, Aman Resorts, those purveyors of luxury travel experiences, may have a solution. Inspired by nature, its skincare products use organic ingredients, many of which have been harvested in Aman destinations. The newly launched Ultimate Bath Set (with bath salts, body mist, serum and smoked body butter,) aims to dispel tension and promotes a deep sense of emotional and physical well-being. Along with a host of other, rather delicious Aman products, the bath set can be bought online at

Of course, the boredom and frustrations of lockdown are undoubtedly relieved by online shopping, and not just for groceries or bare necessities. It’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good, and many online stores have reported near Black Friday sales volumes over recent weeks. But how do we justify shopping for luxury goods online during a pandemic, considering the risk we pose to manufacturers, packers, shippers and delivery people? The obvious answer is that by doing so we are helping shore up small pockets of the economy. And we can expiate any lingering guilt by giving our business to online shops, like the newly-launched Château Marmont boutique, where all profits are being distributed among hotel employees affected by the current crisis. The boutique’s night-blooming flowers scented candles make a wonderful gift, and the same goes for the château—branded cashmere sweaters, produced in collaboration with scenester London artist, Bella Freud. ( Slightly edgy and undeniably soft.

Spoiled by swanky hotels over the years, but spending so much time at home right now, I realize how much my own house needs a makeover. And where better to turn to for inspiration than to Viceroy Hotels & Resorts? I love these hotels, from the understated but highly sophisticated L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills, to the laidback luxury of the villas at Viceroy Riviera Maya, in Mexico.

Now, Kelly Wearstler, who designs for Viceroy, has released a 17-part video guide to the fundamentals of interior design, available through online education platform MasterClass (which makes a subscription charge,) I’m enjoying learning about color, light and the best use of space, as well as what to do with old furniture.

Still, what with the morning workouts, culture-filled afternoons and nightly cocktail sessions, I’ve a feeling that by the end of lockdown, my house will look pretty much as it does now, only a little dustier. The less you have to do, the busier life gets, as many genuinely busy people have shrewdly observed.

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