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Interview with Baroness Monica von Neumann

April 22, 2010 - By Christine Gray

Luxury Travel Magazine interviews Baroness Monica von Neumann, the businesswoman, tastemaker and former Dior and Yves St. Laurent model who is known within the most elite circles of society as an authority on everything "luxury" from dining to decorating, travel to hosting, jewels to sports cars. One part Martha Stewart and another part Wendy Williams, this aristocrat-turned-lifestyle expert doles out advice with the utmost elegance and just a touch of Detroit soul.

You recently traveled to Africa. Please tell us about that trip.

My trip to Africa was a humanitarian mission, not a luxury trip. I spent time in Meru, Amboseli and Nairobi. The trip was amazing and life changing but not a vacation getaway. My only luxury item on the trip was one glass of champagne while looking at Mount Kilimanjaro at sunset--that was priceless. The sky in Kenya is something I have never seen. The people are warm and kind. Although I wasn't there for pleasure, I found the dichotomy between the poverty and the beauty of the land to be profound. Kenya has such rich land, beautiful skies, exotic animals and unique sounds, I couldn't believe it was the same country that was also home to countless HIV positive children, hungry citizens and homeless with no shelter. I was in permanent awe.

How often are you able to travel for pleasure and who comes with you?

I typically try to travel 6 times a year. My best friend usually comes with, and sometimes daughter Dorian.

We heard that you like to always take a little bit of home with you wherever you go. What would that be?

Sometimes I take a throw, family photo, incense or run to the nearest gift shop for scented candles. I always order fresh flowers for the room, and it makes me feel at home.

How do you choose a hotel when you travel and what services do you consider essential?

Having travelled all over the world for many years (and I won't say for how many years), I go according to recommendations and research. If I am going to an island then I choose based on how far the beach is to my front door. In any hotel, privacy is key. A good concierge and immaculate housekeeping are essential. If it's a hotel that you frequent it's always nice if the hotel keeps a list of your favorites.

Do you use a travel agent? Do you use any travel websites?

I do use travel websites for customer reviews and rankings of hotels. Testimonials really help in the decision making process.

Do you have a favorite hotel?

Definitely the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy. The service is amazing, food is incredible and the location is perfect. They are mind readers – they will remember your name and exactly what you love each time you visit. There is a total sense of privacy there that will allow you to escape and truly enjoy your stay.

What activities do you enjoy on holiday?

Being an experienced traveler, in addition to the requisite swimming, shopping and dining, I enjoy going off the path. I love to find small restaurants with just a few tables, tasting wines from different regions and a savoring a decadent gelato at a café.

What are your luxury requirements when you travel on business?

Flowers and candles for my room, a comfortable seat on plane, and as few connecting flights as possible. Non-stop travel is a luxury!

What has been your favorite destination(s) to date and where haven't you been that is at the top of your "must see" list?

My favorite destination so far has been Thailand. The Maldives is at the top of my list of places to go.

What current project(s) are you working on?

I'm currently busy preparing to launch my own candle line "Baroness von Neumann" - these scents are developed strictly from my travels around the world with inspiration drawn mainly from my trips to Europe and Africa. The following are descriptions of each scent:

SAVON: Sparkly floral Aldehydic with notes of Jasmin, Jonquil, Rose and Lily of the Valley with a woody, musky, ambery background.

ATLAS: A scintillating display of spicy Ceylon Cinnamon and Zanzibar Cove layered over smoky peat, Sandalwood, Orange Flowers, Rosewood and red amber.

FETE: Tangy Navel Orange, hot spicy Seychelles Cinnamon, Zanzibar Clove and cool Norwegian Pine are juxtaposed with inimitable Indonesian Patchouli and exotic Amberwood.

MODENA: Stylish men's scent with crispy citrus top over a spicy middle and an herbal, highlighted by Neroli Bigarade and Italian Lemon.

I am also currently working with two amazing non-profit organizations that help HIV stricken children in Kenya--Aina and March to the Top. I am part of a team organizing fundraisers to assist these organizations in changing the lives of many children.


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