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Argentina & Chile: Awasi Lodges

Matias de Cristobal is the Director General of Awasi.  He’s also a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of Relais & Chateaux, and a Board Member of the W Hotel in Santiago, Chile.

In a relatively short time, Awasi has developed a reputation for operating some of the finest lodges in South America.

  • Awasi Atacama — a boutique hotel in the heart of San Pedro de Atacama. Private vehicles and one guide per guest room. Canyons, volcanoes, salt flats, lagoons, hot springs, and pre-Columbian sites. This is one of our favorite destinations for multi-generational families.
  • Awasi Patagonia — set on a private reserve looking out on the Torres del Paine. After a full-day of privately guided hiking, riding, biking, or puma tracking, it’s hard to beat a soak in your private wood-fired hot tub overlooking the Paine Massif.
  • Awasi Iguazu — located on the Argentine side of the falls, this lodge has changed the way visitors experience Iguazu. It’s no longer just a day trip or an overnight stay; now guests have a rationale for 3 and 4-night stays, visiting private reserves, hidden waterfalls, and Guarani villages.

Much of  Awasi’s success—the brand’s vision, personality, and strategy—can be credited to Matias. He’s a keen student of design, customer service, and philosophy.

He’s helped broaden the vision of what travel can mean—how the people we encounter, and the experiences we share, can shape our lives.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How he developed his outlook on meaningful life experiences;
  • His definition of what a true luxury is; and
  • Define what he calls “the Awasi spirit”.

Matias is a true friend, a mentor, and an innovator. Most of our conversations take place in noisy restaurants in Buenos Aires, so we recorded this interview by Skype.  One day soon I hope we’ll be recording a follow up from the Grand Canyon.

Show Notes

Matias is a logophile, and in well read on philosophy, history, business strategy, and religion. He’s always ready to recommend a book.  One of the classics he’s recommended to me is The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. One I’ve shared with him is The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.

Coppola Hideaways in Belize & Guatemala

Francis Ford Coppola is widely regarded as one of the best directors in the history of cinema; a 2002 Sight & Sound readers’ poll put him at #4, and the critic’s poll listed him at #10.

His films have earned more than 20 Oscars and 17 Golden Globes. His body of work includes such classics as the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, The Cotton Club, Patton, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got MarriedThe Black Stallion, The Rainmaker, Tetro, and Don Juan de Marco.

You probably know all that. You might also know of his wine making and magazine publishing. What you might not understand from the legends and documentaries is that “Mr. Francis” is a world-class husband, father, and grandfather. Really?

Certainly. He sincerely regards family as the ultimate source of wealth. He’s been married to Miss Ellie since 1963. He composes songs and stories for his children and grandchildren.

Out of a desire for more family connection, he acquired Blancaneaux Lodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge of Belize in the early 1980s.  It was a family retreat until 1993, when it opened as a 20-room riverside resort.

Turtle Inn, located on Belize’s central coast, was the next addition, followed by La Lancha on Lake Peten Itza near Tikal, Guatemala.  These retreats (along with two others in Bernalda, Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina) are known collectively as The Family Coppola Hideaways.

This podcast was recorded at Jardin Escondido, Mr. Coppola’s lovely boutique hotel in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

This is one of our favorite places to stay in BA; it feels like staying in the home of a gracious friend.  True enough, I was staying as the guest of Christine Gaudenzi (Director of Sales and Marketing for The Family Coppola Hideaways) and Martin Kredit (Manager of Turtle Inn).

When I checked in, I was surprised to find Mr. Coppola sitting in the back garden, pecking away at his laptop while wearing saffron silk pajamas and Gucci loafers.

With Christine and Martin, we stayed up late into the night listening to “Mr. Francis” spin tales of his college years and family life.  He’s a thoughtful and generous conversationalist; he listens to opinions, considers alternative viewpoints, and encourages discussion.

At breakfast the next morning, he followed up with deeper questions and additional insights.

Martin and Christine are some of the kindest and most thoughtful people in travel. Since this episode was recorded, we’ve seen each other again in Morocco, explored cayes and reefs in Belize, and planned an upcoming trip to the western islands of the Galapagos.

These are the kind of friends you know you’ll have for life.

The theme of family runs through each of the  Coppola Hideaways. Bernie Matute, who manages Blancaneaux, has worked on property for more than 20 years; he started out as a porter.

Dozens of the Coppola staff have worked for the company for more than 10 years. It’s a pleasure working with these properties; when we send our clients, we know they’ll be cared for with genuine kindness and sincere hospitality.

Show Notes

Not sure why I was in the mood to latinize Christine’s name and pronounce Martin’s surname like a goof; it was probably the Diet Coke.

Uxua Casa & Hotel Trancoso, Brazil

Bob Shevlin is a true character.

In person, he’s the definition of cool: “cool doesn’t say much, but it knows what to say.” He’s a creative genius, but he’s humble and a little camera shy.

That’s why I’m posting a photo of his bull terrier, Zero. Happily, Bob was willing open up and offer he backstory to his unforgettable hotel in Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil.

We met Bob in 2015 at a conference in Switzerland, a few years after our first visit to Uxua. Seeing him for the first time, from across a hotel dining room, I remember thinking, “That guy knows more about fashion than all ever know.

Either that, or he’s um pouco louco.” (He also looks like he can benchpress multiples of his bodyweight.) By the time that conference ended, Bob had become one of our favorite people in the hotel biz.

Bob and his business partner, Wilbert Das, are known worldwide for their sense of style and artistry. They also deserve much of the credit for preserving the essence of Trancoso, helping locals understand how special their community is, while earning fair value for their increasingly rare craftsmanship and skill.

If you’ve never been to Trancoso, put it on your list near the top. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, stay at Uxua.

Back to Zero for a minute. This gentle bully is a local legend. We borrowed him during our 2018 invasion of Casa Anderson. He made my kids’ day. Sure, he bit my arm and I had to drag him down the beach, but he also helped us feel right at home.

Trancoso, we miss you.

Show Notes

If you’d like to learn more about Uxua’s local artisans, check out Uxua Casa. Sure, a that custom chair might take a year to make, but it will be worth the wait.

Antarctica: An Explorer’s View

Sunniva, or Sunny, is a polar explorer, fundraiser, motivational speaker, and friend. Although she’s disarmingly friendly and self-effacing, Sunny has jaw-dropping resilience and strength.

In 1993, as part of a historic four-woman expedition, she skied 67 days across Antarctica, covering more than 700 miles in -60 degree weather.

Headwinds topped 50 miles per hour.  Each woman pulled 200-pound sled.  They were the first women’s team to reach the South Pole without the aid of sled dogs or motorized vehicles.

Since then, she’s returned to the Antarctic dozens of times, and how services as Director of Sales for Polar Latitudes, a leader in polar expedition cruising.

She’s also completed expeditions on Kilimanjaro and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Now, she’s preparing to overwinter in Svalbard in a hut, in a regional inhabited by polar bears.

Show Notes

If you’d like to contribute to Sunniva’s overwintering project, the website is Hearts in the Ice.

Sacred Valley, Peru

Marie Helene (know as “Petit”) Miribel and her husband Franz Schilter are the creators of Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel located in the town of Urubamba, Peru. Petit was born in France.

She studied economics, and then came to Peru for her work in the mining industry. There she met Franz, and began exploring the Andes.

The Sacred Valley, between Cusco and Machu Picchu, seemed like the ideal spot for a hotel; the region was close to two major tourism centers, rich in natural beauty, and surrounded by active adventure opportunities.

In the early 2000’s Sol y Luna began operating as a cluster of cottages surrounded by gardens.  In 2002, they added stables and a ranch.

The following year they completed 14 new casitas.  The spa opened in 2007, Wayra Ranch was completed in 2009, and the Deluxe and Premium casitas were added in 2010. Additional improvements (such as the heated outdoor pool) were completed in 2016.

Early on, they identified the need for quality primary education for the community’s children. The hotel became a means of supporting a school, which opened in 2010.

Today, Sol y Luna Intercultural School educates more than 200 children through a scholarship system.  The school also provides housing, emotional support, meals, transportation, and special education.

Show Notes

Sol y Luna has a special place in our hearts.  LANDED sponsors two children at the school, and our own children spent a summer enrolled as students.

If  you’d like to make a donation or learn more about sponsorships, please visit the sponsorship page or contact LANDED for additional details.