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Sunday 12 November 2023 – Monocle Minute

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Open road

It started yesterday. It came out of the blue and a little earlier than usual. It always comes in November but it’s normally around the time of US Thanksgiving. It hits like a wave. I was having a coffee early in the day with one of the Swiss media owners who has his HQ down the street from Monocle in Zürich. We were chatting about business, the state of the world and the mechanics of a deal that he had recently completed. Then, the conversation paused and took a hard left. “Oh, quickly,” he said. “I just remembered the Christmas holidays. Any thoughts on where I should go? I’m thinking of heading somewhere on 26 December for a week or so. Anything come to mind?” I did a lightning-fast calculation but, before I could give my answer, he was already on his lounger in the Gulf (Persian, not Mexico) and was rattling off some hotels that he had in mind in the UAE, with a side order of Oman. As I left his building and walked back toward my office, I made a little mental note: the ‘Where should I go for the holidays: Monocle concierge service’ had its official start.

While we continue to offer our usual in-person services (Fiona in our Tokyo bureau hears the ding of the front-desk bell more than any other Monocle staffer), I thought that I would offer up a few ideas in case you’re thinking about where you might want to escape solo, bring the family or have a romantic couple of days for two.

If you live in a sleepy village, a dull city or simply want a jolt of inspiration and excitement, then go for Bangkok. The city has bounced back better than any other Asian capital and it’s on fire. Reserve a few hours for a long, Saturday lunch at Café Craft by Chanintr, followed by a bit of shopping on the floors above, and top up your wardrobe at JBB* and The Decorum. In the evening, book a table at Charmgang in Chinatown for a stand-out dinner. As for hotels, there’s no shortage of choice and a whole host of openings on the horizon. If you hurry, you can catch the not-to-be-missed Wonderfruit festival, an easy hop from the city.

In need of instant Christmas immersion through a combination of Scottish scenery and Nordic design? My colleague, Ariel, recently returned from Lundies House in the Scottish Highlands and continues to rave about the experience: the furnishings, food, staff and setting. You’ll be able to catch more of Lundies House in the forthcoming issue of Konfekt and also in the pages of The Escapist, Monocle’s travel-themed companion, which makes its return just in time for the new year.

Up for a little shopping weekend? Maybe during the Monocle Weihnachtsmarkt that’s taking place in Zürich from 2 to 3 December? If you want to stock up on gifts at En Soie, dine on schnitzel at Kindli and have Sunday drinks along the Limmat river, then The Storchen hotel combines a perfect location and solid Swiss inn-keeping with no need to ever jump in a car – unless you want to dine at its sister restaurant, Buech, by Lake Zürich in Herrliberg.

Want a combo of mountains and fine wine but in an urban setting? Maybe some fascist-era architecture to boot? I suggest staying at the Parkhotel Mondschein in Bolzano for a few cosy nights (it will have an on-site Christmas market this season) and shopping at Moessmer for woolly, alpine classics, as well as Victorienne for some of the best womenswear in the Alps.

Tokyo is still the best city for a long weekend to put you in the proper mood for Christmas, complete with an evening at a favourite karaoke joint, belting out Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve”. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is closing for renovations in spring 2024, so catch it in its original state while you can. You just might see me there.

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