The American Tournament Designed with Tennis Fans in Mind

Indian Wells Tennis Tournament

The American Tournament Designed with Tennis Fans in Mind

December 10, 2019

The racket rips across the top of the tennis ball like a cracking whip, sending it rocketing, brutally fast and spinning ferociously, toward the net. Standing 10 feet from the edge of the court, I swear I can hear it whizzing through the air. As it clears the net—by many feet—the player who hit it, intense and powerful, finishes his swing. Most players finish forehands across their chest. This one, his palm nearly underneath the racket handle, has an above-the-head follow-through, like he’s a rodeo cowboy twirling a lasso. Before his shot drops, quickly, heavily and almost at the feet of the opposing player, he’s back to ready position, knees bent, stance wide and looking like he ate a heaping bowl of Eye of the Tiger for breakfast.

I’m confused. This player, with bulging biceps—at least by tennis player standards—and beads of sweat escaping a headband knotted at the back of his unruly hair, is a dead ringer for Rafael Nadal, the Spaniard who was the youngest player in history to win a career Grand Slam (he did it by age 24), the winner of 14 Grand Slam titles (including nine French Opens) and, since 2005, ranked as one of the top five players in the world. Spectators could never get so close to Rafa, though, could they?

“As we’ve grown, one of the things we’ve tried to do with all of our facilities is to get people as close to the courts and action as possible,” says Steve Simon, the chief operating officer and tournament director for Indian Wells’ BNP Paribas Open, the annual two-week tournament widely considered the front-runner for the colloquial title of the Fifth Slam. The smallest court at the U.S. Open seats 2,500. At the BNP Paribas Open’s Stadium 9 there’s seating for 1,250. The crinkling of a wrapper in the back row can disrupt play. The 20 practice courts are even more intimate. “You can be as close as you’d be sitting across a desk from someone as you can be watching [Roger] Federer practice hitting balls,” Simon says. I guess it is Rafa I’m watching on one of Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s practice courts.

Indian Wells Fans Tennis

Last year, when my boyfriend suggested a march trip to California’s Coachella Valley to watch the BNP Paribas Open, I had no idea what I was getting into, other than the valley’s spectacular late-winter weather—seemingly always 80 degrees and sunny. A newish tennis player preferring to play rather than spectate, I had previously seen parts of the four Majors: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open. But always on television. And always only parts. I’d get so inspired, I’d text a friend and we’d head for the courts ourselves before the match I had been watching ended.

“Watching in person is different,” explained my boyfriend, a lifelong tennis player who records matches on television and watches in person as often as possible. He said that when he’d been at the BNP Paribas Open before, he’d often be on the grounds for upwards of 12 hours. A day. For several days in a row. Researching all of the things to do in and around the valley—Palm Springs’ great mid-century modern design stores and home tours, fabulous hiking, a scenic tram, spas, Joshua Tree National Park is nearby—I doubted I’d watch 12 hours of tennis one day, much less multiple days.

We were in the valley for four days and I never made it further from Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which was purpose-built in 2000 to host the tournament, than where we stayed. When you’ve got the freedom to wander around 20 practice courts and in and out of nine stadiums and to rest in between matches on soft, well-manicured lawns, watching the world’s best tennis players in person is graciously all-consuming.

The BNP Paribas Open (most people call it Indian Wells after the town it is held in) draws most of the talent pool—there’s a 96-player singles draw for both men and women—that shows up at the U.S. Open or Wimbledon later in the year. It doesn’t have Grand Slam crowds, though. Look past the stadiums and it does have snaggletoothed peaks—some snow-capped—rising 10,000 feet into a Georgia O’Keeffe desert sky. It also has an army of over 1,200 volunteers whose primary goal is to make the tournament the best possible experience for both players and spectators. Stadium 2, added last year, doesn’t seem to have a bad seat in the house and does have an outpost of Nobu.

Of course, Nobu overlooks the court; it’s also a great place to spot players. “The players love to eat at Nobu,” says Kris Gerring, the volunteer manager of the players’ lounge since 2000. “They go there all the time.” And all of this is in a laid-back, resort destination. Golf at one of the valley’s 120+ courses or hike on San Jacinto Peak in the morning and watch tennis all afternoon and evening. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015, there’s no other tennis tournament like it in the world. That was the idea from the beginning

“When it was first developed, it was an extremely quaint event located in a beautiful resort,” Simon says. “The uniqueness of it at the time was that you could enjoy a world-class tournament in an idyllic setting and never have to get in the car.” That was in the early and mid-80s, when 30,000 people annually came to watch pros play at the La Quinta Hotel & Racquet Club. Even in 1987, when the tournament moved to the 350-room, 10-acre Grand Champions Resort Hotel, where there were 12 courts, including a 10,000- seat stadium, it felt wonderfully small. “We could have stayed at the Grand Champions and kept on as this quaint, intimate event,” Simon says. “But we wanted to pursue growth opportunities and had confidence we could do that while maintaining the sense of intimacy that makes us special.”

Indian Wells Tennis Tournament

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden was completed in 2000 and, at 54 acres, has the same footprint as the U.S. Open site, the National Tennis Center. On March 8 of last year, when the BNP Paribas Open set its new single-day attendance record, 31,764, the only line I had to wait in was three minutes, for a frozen lemonade. From no more than 20 feet away, I was able to watch Rafa, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dmitrov hitting on the practice courts. Checking out the latter, a towering Bulgarian whose one-handed backhand, among other parts of his game, is almost a mirror of Federer’s, I think we had the bleachers all to ourselves. With a general admission ticket, you could wander in and out of all nine stadiums, watching Kei Nishikori, Flavia Pennetta (who went on to win the women’s title) and Tommy Robredo. In the smaller stadiums with no assigned seating, you could often score the seats of your choice—I liked front-row baseline center, especially during Aussie Sam Stosur’s match. Television does not do justice to her kick serve, heavy forehand or muscled shoulders.

After its move to the tennis garden, groups in the Middle East and Asia offered to buy the tournament for enormous amounts of money, but the owners, determined to keep the event in the Coachella Valley, resisted. The tournament needed investment, but partners held out for someone who would carry on their legacy of continuous improvement here. In 2009, they sold to Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and an adrenaline and tennis junkie worth upwards of $50 billion. Under Ellison’s ownership, the tournament became the only one in the world to provide Hawk-Eye technology, used by players to challenge calls, on every match court and for every match played. “We’ve always said here that if you’re doing the same thing you did last year, you’re going backwards,” Simon says. “We don’t want to do that to fans or players.”

Explore Colorado’s Rare Beauty with This Epic Cycle Race

Explore Colorado's Rare Beauty with This Epic Cycle Race

Colorado's Epic Cycle Race

August 2, 2019

Characterized by high elevations and relentless climbs, the weeklong USA Pro Challenge is too epic for any one city: Ten communities play host to the race’s seven stages, which link Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail with larger hubs such as Colorado Springs and Denver. All test a champion’s mettle. “It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” says pro rider Tanner Putt of the Bissell Development Cycling team. But legions of fans motivate racers to conquer the challenges.

Over the course of the week, 1 million spectators turn out to watch and cheer. “Riders race here and feel like rock stars,” says Shawn Hunter, the race’s co-chairman and CEO. “The only other race in the world that has this level of excitement and energy is the Tour de France.” 

Aspen  

Leave 12,095-foot Independence Pass to the racers. Mere mortals content themselves with the route to the iconic Maroon Bells, which serves up the state’s most celebrated mountain panorama yet demands a relatively modest effort (1,600 vertical feet over 10 miles). As an added bonus, the road is closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 20-mile out-and-back ride begins at the roundabout 1 mile west of downtown Aspen. Take the Maroon Creek Road “exit” and pedal uphill past Aspen High School. Rest assured, the hills become gentler as you pass Aspen Highlands ski area. The road climbs gradually, hugging the banks of Maroon Creek as mansions give way to the White River National Forest, where aspen fringed meadows afford glimpses of majestic, 14,026-foot Pyramid Peak. At the road’s end, dismount and walk some 200 yards along the paved path to viewpoints showcasing the Bells’ stunning symmetry mirrored in the blue waters of Maroon Lake. 

Wheel Deals: Ute City Cycles rents drool-worthy Orbea and Felt bikes for 100/day, or get a pro tune for your own ride from the repair crew. Refuel: Peach’s Corner Café tops off your fuel tank with the likes of kale salad or a chicken and avocado panini, served on the outdoor patio. Recover Check into Remède Spa (in the St. Regis) for a stint in its steam caves, stone-lined pools stirred by cascading water and treatment rooms offering wraps, facials and massages featuring local skincare products.

Vail

Like all routes out of the Vail Valley, the 12-mile Daybreak Ridge loop includes a stout climb (1,800 vertical feet) that humbled cyclists in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. But from the circuit’s high point you overlook the soaring peaks of the Gore Range. And because the upper section of the ride takes place within gated neighborhoods, traffic is scarce. “You’re more likely to spot deer and bear than cars,” says local Brett Donelson. Start in Avon, 11 miles west of Vail, and crank up Village Road, passing through the gated entrance to Beaver Creek Resort. At 1 mile, turn right onto South Holden Road, left onto Borders Road and left again onto Strawberry Park Road. Ogle the luxury residences lining the road, pass beneath the Elkhorn ski lift and pick up Daybreak Ridge Road to top out at a high point affording those well-earned views down into Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch.

Follow Daybreak Ridge Road as it serpentines down through Bachelor Gulch. Stop to refill a water bottle at the RitzCarlton and then cruise down into Avon via Bachelor Gulch Trail. Venture Sports in Avon rents bikes, organizes group rides and employs the valley’s best bike technicians. Vail Valley riders have long embraced Yellowbelly in West Vail for its all-natural chicken and veggie-laden side dishes Recover.  Spa Anjali (at Avon’s Westin Riverfront) draws from healing traditions in the Alps, Himalayas and Rocky Mountains to create three unique “journeys” that go way beyond a standard massage. 

Colorado Springs

Pikes Peak isn’t the Springs’ only scenic landmark— although cyclists do get to admire this 14,114-foot-high summit from portions of the 18-mile Garden of the Gods loop. It gains 1,200 feet of elevation and visits the city’s other “rock star”: The Garden of the Gods, a pocket of blazing red-rock spires and cliffs tucked among the foothills west of downtown. To taste this eye-candy, get an early-morning start (to avoid crowds and traffic heading into the famed Garden) and head northwest out of downtown via W. Bijou to N. Walnut to Mesa Road. Continue north past Garden of the Gods Country Club and then bike south on the bike path, which parallels N. 30th Street and offers motivating panoramas of Pikes Peak and the Kissing Camels rock, which looks exported from Utah’s Arches National Park. Enter the Garden of the Gods to pedal the one-way loop among its sculpted rock pinnacles, separated from the traffic by a wide bike lane.

Exit via a plunge down Ridge Road, then left on W. Pikes Peak Ave., and right on 21st St. to connect to the Midland Trail. This former rail line slopes downhill as it heads back to Colorado Springs. Wheel Deals Criterium Bicycles maintains a big fleet of low-mileage road bikes for riders of every shape and stripe. Refuel The Irish fare at McCabe’s Tavern rewards hard effort with homemade shepherd’s pie, pretzel bread and smoked salmon served on a shady outdoor patio. Recover A Colorado icon, The Broadmoor pampers athletes with therapeutic massage and facials performed in treatment spaces fitted with chandeliers and fireplaces. 

Experience the Magic of Tuscany in These Restored Historic Villas

Experience the Magic of Tuscany in These Restored Historic Villas

August 1, 2019

Nestled in the most traditional of landscapes—the pastoral central Italian region of Tuscany—sit two reconstructed villas that embody a luxurious modern style all their own. Meticulously rebuilt and impeccably curated, La Galleria and Monticelli are part of a collection that will eventually include another nearby villa, San Bartolomeo. “Our vision is that of a new way of living the timeless beauty of Tuscany,” says Massimo Lauro, owner and designer of the villas, along with his wife of 35 years, Angela. “The striking contemporary art, iconic design and the latest technology lead to a different style of understated elegance that blends with local culture and lifestyle and fulfills the fantasy of la dolce vita.” 

Restoring the historic properties according to a comfortable, contemporary aesthetic is a shared passion for the couple. A scion of a prominent family of former ship owners in Naples, Lauro grew up in a home filled with works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and other pop art masters, which his parents collected during the 1960s. Along with his wife, Lauro began collecting art in earnest during the 90s. “Massimo has a very good eye,” she says. “He can spot a great artist years before he becomes famous.”  

In 2009, the Lauro family began spending less time in Naples and more at a family property in the ancient comune of Città della Pieve, near Perugia, the capital of Umbria, which is known as “the green heart of Italy.” Nearby, they renovated a winery formerly run by Lauro’s father into an art space called Il Giardino dei Lauri to house their sizable collection, which includes significant works such as New York-based artist Banks Violet’s Untitled (Horse), a galloping white horse projected onto a wall of vapor. 

Inspired by the beauty of the area, especially nearby Val d’Orcia, a scenic valley and UNESCO World Heritage site that is “one of the few wild and unspoiled areas of Italy,” Lauro says, the couple bought two old country homes and began a new shared passion: restoring historic residences. “In the 18th century, the properties hosted both stables and farmers’ homes,” says Lauro. “The homes were not habitable, so we started off by tearing them down. As we rebuilt both houses, we ensured that they would fit beautifully into the gorgeous, untouched landscape.” Following strict local historic preservation rules, La Galleria was reconstructed in the traditional stone-and-mortar style with red-tiled roofs. Because environmental concerns were a priority, the home, as well as Monticelli, boast energy efficiencies that earned both an AAA energy rating. 

The interiors, however, are another story. In contrast to the local tradition of using antique furnishings, the villas’ interior spaces are bright, open and filled with a mix of contemporary art, furniture and the latest modern amenities. “I want the houses to be as comfortable as possible,” says Angela Lauro. “I think about what I would want to find in a house. One must feel at home inside.” Working with local artisans and craftsmen, Lauro designed the windows, doors, beds, tables, white-upholstered couches and armchairs, kitchen cabinets, stone sinks and even the fireplaces. “The process was long and difficult because we wanted everything to be custom made,” he says. Interspersed with the contemporary furnishings, such as Philippe Starck bathtubs, are Biedermeier pieces from the mid-1800s. 

Completed in 2009, the 6,400-square-foot La Galleria can comfortably host 12 guests with six bedrooms and 6.5 baths. The 1,700-acre estate features a private infinity-edge pool, bocce ball court, rare rose gardens, a vegetable garden and a magnifi cent 400-year-old oak tree that “fascinated me from the start,” says Lauro. The expansive patio and lawns offer a majestic view of Val d’Orcia— green rolling hills, bright red poppy fields and the old volcano lava dome of Monte Amiata—stretching all the way to the ancient towers and cathedrals of Pienza, another World Heritage site that is considered the ideal representation of a Renaissance-era town. Located nearby on the same estate, the recently completed 6,450-square-foot, 6-bedroom Monticelli offers similarly delightful touches, including a color therapy shower in the bedroom beside the infinity pool. Lit by lamps, the rain-effect shower water changes colors (yellow, green, blue and red). Angela Lauro created two distinctive rose gardens at the house. “Everyone here has wild herb gardens with rosemary and lavender,” she says. “I thought, ‘what’s the most different thing I can do?’” Roses were the answer. The smaller walled garden features languid shades of red and pink. In the west-facing terrace garden, pink, orange and yellow blooms reflect “the same fantastic sunsets you find in Renaissance paintings, with very wild, bright colors,” she says. 

Guests at La Galleria and Monticelli enjoy a unique opportunity to live with museum-worthy contemporary art curated from the Lauro’s private collection. For instance, over Monticelli’s fireplace hangs Massimo’s favorite painting, Young Lonely Palm, done by his close friend, American artist Aaron Young. Nearby hang two works by another American painter, Richard Aldrich. Rashid Johnson’s Run Jesse Run, the title’s words spray-painted white on a large mirror, animates La Galleria’s dining room. Other artists represented include Brendan Fowler, Piero Golia, Matthew Chambers, Nicola Pecoraro and Sam Falls. Massimo inherited his passion for art from his parents, who discovered contemporary art and began collecting it during travels abroad. “I learned to love beauty in general and to search for the very best—that one can afford,” he says. He still keeps updated on emerging young artists, “which is not that easy living in Italy,” he says. “But I manage.” 

After completing the third residence later this year, the Lauros’ twin passions of art and architecture will turn to an even more ambitious project. Close to home in Città della Pieve and Il Giardino dei Lauri, they have purchased a parcel of land where Perugino painted his famous fresco, Il Battesimo di Cristo. There, they plan to build Art Borgo. “A borgo is a group of houses around a church or council, but in this case, it’s a museum,” says Lauro. Internationally known architect Piero Sartogo, who designed the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C., is currently working on a very contemporary plan. “It’s something not seen here,” Angela says. 

Experience the Magic of Tuscany in These Restored Historic Villas Monticelli

When asked why they go through the expense and time to carry out their ambitious projects, Massimo and Angela respond with the passion for which Italians are famous. “I try to offer as much as I can. I want our guests to have a special experience in my house,” says Angela. “The houses aren’t built to be rented; we create them as if they were our own home,” Massimo adds. “Many of our guests say the house is even better than the photos. We try to take you to a more passionate place and every small detail contributes.” 

Make Yourself at Home

Tuscany The Lauros’ homes in Val D’Orcia are just two of the more than 12 Signature Residences available in the general area of Tuscany that also includes Chianti and Siena. Members can choose from the sprawling 12,700-square-foot Il Campanile villa in Siena with its nine bedrooms to host a family reunion or the more intimate Cottage Chianti and its two bedrooms and 2,370 square feet of charm. Between the two, members can pick from villas with three, four, six, eight and nine guest rooms.

Top Picks from a Vacation Advisor

Where to Eat: A former 16th-century convent, Relais Santa Chiara in Sarteano serves local classics in its elegant courtyard. In the ancient walled village of Monticchiello, seek out the trattoria, La Porta. The restaurant inside the castle La Locanda del Castello is famous for its white truffle dishes, the best in Montalcino. 

Day Trip: The road to a wine tasting at Montalcino winds through the vineyards that produce one of Italy’s most exquisite wines, Brunello di Montalcinao.

Sarah McLachlan on Songwriting, Family and Travel

Sarah McLachlan on Songwriting, Family and Travel

Sarah McLachlan on Songwriting, Family and Travel

August 1, 2019

Playing Live has the intimacy of gentle sex,” says singer and songwriter Sarah McLachlan. “You’re emotionally wide open up there on stage, and when it’s good—when the audience is giving back—you feel part of something much bigger.” Speaking from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, McLachlan chuckles with mild embarrassment at her admission, but it explains her sense of excitement heading into her tour of Shine On, her first album in four years. 

For fans of the singer, the album and the tour can’t come soon enough. For McLachlan, though, the timing is perfect. “I started writing songs for this album three years ago,” she says. “But I had some big distractions: revamping and running an after school music program at an inner-city school in Vancouver; being a parent to two kids. By the time I got back to those songs, I realized I was a different person.”

My father had passed away as well, and I recognized that life was so much bigger than what those songs were about.” McLachlan started fresh, fueled partly by the loss of her father, partly by the changing perspectives that come from being a parent to her daughters, now 12- and 7-years-old (Of parenthood, she says, “It’s a terrifying and joyously beautiful responsibility”). Many of the songs on the new album are about mourning a loss, but she explains that because of her children, she found herself dwelling less on the past and more on moving forward in a meaningful way. Finding solace through her music, McLachlan uses the songwriting process to work through her own demons and issues. “It’s very therapeutic,” she says. “If I’m feeling wound up and frustrated, I’ll go settle down at the piano and noodle around. If I like something, I’ll record it on my iPhone and keep going.” 

Eventually those therapy sessions turn into melodies that become songs. “There’s nothing sharp about the process,” she says. “It happens when it happens.” Her lyrics come after the melody, and she’s learned in her 25 years as a professional to jot down those snippets immediately or lose them forever. In the studio, the melody and lyrics come together to form a song that she’ll perform for the rest of her life. With more than an estimated 40 million records sold in her career and Grammy awards for songs on her 1997 album Surfacing, McLachlan brings her emotionally powerful voice to cities across North America this summer.  

When asked how she knows whether a song will work live or not, she replies, “If a song works while singing solo and playing a single instrument, then you know it’s strong.” Exhibit A: “Angel,” her smash-hit song from Surfacing that features McLachlan, her piano and nothing else. She enjoys summer tours for the chance to play outside.  

The first half of the show is under the fading light of day, when she feels surrounded by the audience and embraces the casual atmosphere. Then for the second half, darkness sets in and the dramatic stage lighting takes over. For this tour, she gave herself plenty of time to line up venues she loves that allow her to do just this: Red Rocks in Denver, the Santa Barbara Bowl and Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, among them. But beyond the venues, a summer tour schedule means that her children can come with her on their summer break from school. 

“It’s a big camping trip and road trip for them, and it’s wonderful to show them new places and new cities,” she says. “I’ve been to many children’s museums and science and natural history museums. It’s all about exploration with the kids. Everything looks new again through their eyes,” she says. “If we have time, I do like to seek out nature. I get a truer sense of place from the landscape—the trees, mountains or the ocean—than I do from the downtown streets where our hotels are usually located.”  

family-vacation

Two weeks after she finished recording Shine On, and mere days after returning from a well-deserved Hawaiian vacation, McLachlan sounds ready to open herself to an audience on a nightly basis, revisiting heartache and triumph through songs old and new, and recharged by the presence of her children and fans, many who’ve already snapped up the tour’s VIP tickets months ahead of her opening night. “It’s comforting to know that those people are there, and they care about what I do.” 

The Best Place to Play Polo in the Caribbean​

The Best Place to Play Polo in the Caribbean

July 31, 2019

Thundering hooves, the whack of mallet on ball and a tropical breeze from the Caribbean Sea—welcome to polo as it’s played in the Dominican Republic, home to an active polo scene for more than 70 years. At local polo clubs today, visitors can take polo lessons, watch professional matches and even join a match or two, given sufficient horsemanship skills and experience. 

For equestrians of all sorts, and for anyone who appreciates an adrenaline-fueled display of athleticism and horsemanship, there’s nothing that compares, at least according to Jabar Singh Jr., whose father helped develop the Dominican Republic’s polo community in the 1950s. “It’s true that polo is the `sport of kings and king of sports’.”

World Class Heritage 

The British ruling classes helped popularize polo worldwide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, after officers stationed in India took up the sport, which has its origins as a cavalry training game in ancient Persia. Since then, polo has remained a favorite gentleman’s sport in posh enclaves and clubs in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, as well as South America (especially Argentina), Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Pakistan, India and the Caribbean (Dominican Republic and Jamaica). During the 1940s, in the midst of President Rafael Trujillo’s 30-year reign in the Dominican Republic, the island’s privileged class, including Trujillo’s son Ramfis and internationally renowned playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, began playing polo on the fields adjacent to Hotel El Embajador in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

In 1954, Rubirosa, who was linked romantically to actresses Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe and married to heiresses Doris Duke and then Barbara Hutton, invited polo’s then superstar Maharaja Jabar Singh to an international tournament in the Dominican Republic that featured some of the best players of the era. Born in Jodhpur during the “golden age” of India’s autonomous princely states, Jabar Singh was raised dividing his time between hunting and polo. A highly rated player, he traveled the world winning international tournaments. Impressed by Singh’s skills, Ramfis Trujillo invited him to stay on the island and help organize the sport. Singh stayed for six years, meeting the woman who would become his wife, Mireya, and having two sons, Jabar Jr. and Bijai. He would’ve stayed longer, but while playing at a tournament in Paris in 1961, Trujillo, Singh’s benefactor, was assassinated. For the next decade, Singh lived in Spain, competing successfully throughout Europe. In 1971, he returned to the Dominican Republic at the invitation of the conglomerate Gulf + Western, to help develop a polo club at the corporation’s new resort, Casa de Campo.

Island Polo 

Located on the island’s southeast coast in the city of La Romana, one hour’s drive west along the new highway from Punta Cana, Casa de Campo comprises 7,000 verdant acres bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Chavon River. Year-round, the resort and its nearby sister club, El Pitirri, host friendly practice matches and smaller weekend tournaments. Casa de Campo has become the heart of Caribbean polo, though, with its three tournament fields, practice field, an outdoor arena and string of more than 100 polo ponies bred and trained at the resort’s Rancho Higueral. The result is the premier polo destination in the Caribbean according to the resort’s polo director, Calixto “Cali” Garcia-Velez. Garcia-Velez learned to play and ride correctly from Jabar Singh himself, alongside his longtime friend Jabar Singh Jr., chairman and CEO of The Cliffs Ocean Resort in Santo Domingo. 

At the island’s other currently active club, Sierra Prieta Polo Club in Santo Domingo, “the players are locals and play friendly games of a lower level,” explains Singh Jr. “Casa de Campo sees a combination of local and international players and tournaments are at a medium level.” Those international tournaments are the most competitive in the region with local players hoping to make an impression and move up to the highest level of the sport. According to Singh Jr., locals Denis Santana and Carlos Cortez are among the best the island has ever produced. 

The formal tournament season runs from January through April, peaking with the Semana Santa Polo Tournament held over Easter week. According to Garcia-Velez, the final weekend of matches attract a cosmopolitan crowd of a couple thousand spectators who come to watch the competition and then attend the luxurious parties that extend into the late hours, night after night. During halftimes, the global mix of European, American and Dominican spectators gather on the field to mingle, stretch their legs and divot stomp— the traditional job of spectators to toe back into place clumps of grass that have been dislodged by the ponies’ fast and furious maneuvers. 

But it’s the players who probably enjoy the week most. With its unique combination of adrenaline and intense athletic challenge, polo is addictive according to Singh Jr. “Imagine hitting with accuracy a bouncing synthetic ball the size of a baseball from on top of a horse galloping at full speed with a flexible 52-inch rattan stick, while seven other players are running after you.” “Believe me, it is not easy,” he says. “[But] polo is like a drug, once it gets into your system it is very difficult to stop. I have played many other sports, and I can assure you there is no better feeling than playing polo.”

To-Do’s from a Vacation Advisor

Eat: For seafood and Thai-inspired cuisine, go to Acqua Mare, in the Cap Cana marina. The glass floor over the sea at Punta Cana Resort’s La Yola is as amazing as its Mediterranean cuisine. Passion by Martin Berasetegui puts a Caribbean spin on Spanish and Basque flavors. 
Day Trip: Travel to the snorkeling paradise of Isla Catalina. Whale Watching Witness the humpback whale migration.

Make Yourself at Home in Punta Cana

The polo fields at Casa de Campo are within an hour’s drive from Inspirato’s Signature Residences in Punta Cana and Cap Cana, highlighted by the 16,000-square-foot Villa Palmyra with 6 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms and a dedicated chef, housekeeper and butler. Intimate parties will enjoy Villa Tortuga’s with its 4 bedrooms and 4,150 square feet of living space and a private pool. Those desiring a beachfront and a private pool can opt for the beautiful 6-bedroom, 9,800-square-foot Casa Caribe.

Whale Tales from Punta de Mita​

Whale Tales from Punta de Mita

July 31, 2019

To celebrate my 44th birthday last February, my wife and four of our friends booked a last-minute Inspirato Jaunt™ vacation to Punta de Mita on the Pacific side of Mexico, 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. We enjoy vacations near water, and I’ve gotten into sport fishing the past few years, so it seemed like a perfect fit for our first Inspirato trip. 

We arrived at our five-bedroom Vista Bahia residence at Los Veneros Resort Residences and Beach Club to fresh margaritas, martinis, beers and meat prepped for grilling. There were floor-to-ceiling accordion doors leading outside, and the whole front of the residence opened up to a patio and a private pool overlooking the ocean. There seemed to be an endless supply of chips and salsa available at all times.

Each morning we awoke to the smell of breakfast being prepared by our personal chef who started our day with delicious pancakes, waffles, quiche and huevos rancheros. During the day we enjoyed couples’ massages and specialty cocktails while looking out over the Playa de Estiladeras. The nights that we weren’t grilling and relaxing by the pool, we went out for lobster dinners along Puerto Vallarta’s famed malecón, or boardwalk, a short drive away.

They took care of everything—I was never left wondering what would happen next. We even had a rental car delivered to us with such detailed instructions on where to go and how to get there that we had no problem navigating our way around the scenic peninsula. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking trying to navigate in another country, but everything went incredibly smooth during our five-day stay.

The highlight of our visit was day three, when we took an all-day fishing charter out of the marina at Punta de Mita on a 35-foot-vessel. There were huge swells out on the open ocean, but our captain did a phenomenal job of maneuvering us through the chop. I can’t say enough about how fantastic the captain and crew of the Banderas in Paradise (BIP) charter were that day. I’ve been on fishing boats where no one really talks and there’s no effort to connect with you. This team was super supportive and made an effort to get to know us. They seemed to be having just as much fun as we were out there on the ocean. 

When I started reeling in a fish, the crew ran around the boat making sure there were no obstructions. I welcomed their assistance since I lost a marlin after 30 minutes of serious effort during a previous fishing charter because I gave the line too much slack. I didn’t want that to happen again. I was lucky enough to snag the largest of the four fish caught that day: a rooster fish that was about 4 feet long. My adrenaline was pumping. It was quite a birthday catch. On the water later that day, we also spotted two large humpback whales and a baby whale a mere 20 yards from the boat. 

Our boat looked small compared to this trio of giants. They swam right by us and would breach, splash, drop and shake their tails. It was very like something out of a National Geographic documentary, one mashed up with a SeaWorld show. At one point the whales glided through the water side-by-side, jumping and weaving back-and-forth between one another and truly showcasing their playful side. It was as if they knew that we were there to watch them and decided to put on a show for us.

Back at our residence, we sat out on the balcony and spotted a few more whales and dolphins popping up out of the water. We were thoroughly impressed. While talking with locals about our great sightings, we learned that we witnessed the tail end of the annual whale migration. The height of migration is a few weeks earlier and most whales have moved on by late-February.

If we’d come just a little bit earlier, we might have seen ten times the number of whales. Whenever Kim and I get together with the other couples from the trip, we always talk about our day out on the boat and our desire to head back to Punta de Mita to see the whales again. In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll have probably already returned. 

Sailing Through the British Virgin Islands​

Sailing Through the British Virgin Islands

July 30, 2019

On the morning of Friday, April 4, the waters of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which runs through the heart of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), will be teaming with cruiser-racer and bareboat sailboats, all waiting for the blast of an air horn and wave of a flag that signals the start of the 43rd Annual BVI Spring Regatta. The captains aboard the boats will have their sails set and bows pointed to cross the starting line and gracefully carve through the Caribbean’s stunning cobalt waters. Several races will stretch over the next three days, but for many, the fun starts five days earlier at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola when the annual Sailing Festival begins and the party scene kicks into gear, fueled by a generous helping of painkillers, the signature rum-based drink of the BVI. 

As sailing events go, the regatta and festival may just be the most democratic and accessible in the world. It has something for everyone from America’s Cup and Olympic sailors to neophytes who want to give competitive sailing a try and even for people just looking to enjoy those painkillers and hitch a ride on a boat. The attraction: The BVI’s geography makes it a veritable theme park for the sailing set.

Warm Water, Hot Sailing 

The British Virgin Islands’ archipelago consists of 60-odd islands nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, about 70 miles east of Puerto Rico. Christopher Columbus came across this collection of long-dormant volcano remnants in 1493. Notorious pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Blackbeard and Black Sam Bellamy, credited with capturing 53 ships in his day, all sought refuge in the numerous coves and anchorages hidden throughout the BVI during their careers.  Fast forward to 1972 when members of the BVI Hotel and Tourist Association decided to put on a regatta to bolster the growing recreational sailing community.

One of them, Peter Haycraft, served as the regatta’s chairman for 25 years and has the distinction of sailing in every race to date. It started off small, consisting of roughly 20 boats; mostly tiny one- or two-person boats such as Squibs and Sunfish racing between islands over the course of a weekend. This year more than 3,000 people will flock to the Sir Francis Drake Channel for the Regatta and Sailing Festival, with 125 boats expected to participate. What draws them? Phenomenal sailing in an incomparable setting.

“We’re very fortunate to have constant trade winds and fair seas,” says Judy Petz, director of the BVI Spring Regatta. In late March and early April, when it’s still frigid in much of the northern hemisphere, the BVI enjoys days with temperatures in the 80s (F), but the sea breeze keeps it comfortable. That same breeze blows steady through the islands, which form a protective circle around the waters between St. John to the west, Tortola to the north, Virgin Gorda to the east, and a string of close-together islands to the south. The Drake Channel, a deepwater straight that’s roughly nine miles long and four miles wide, runs between Tortola and the southern chain and bisects the territory. In all, the BVI offers nearly 60 square miles of nautical paradise.

For the week of March 31 through April 6, the spiritual home of island sailing sets up on the docks of Nanny Cay Marina, just west of Tortola’s main city, Road Town. By 6 p.m. on that Monday, the docks will be shaking from the good vibrations of a reggae backbeat, as the first Mount Gay Welcome Party kick-starts the week’s festivities.   On Tuesday morning you can participate in the Round Tortola Race, which doesn’t earn points in the regatta but is a cherished part of the weeklong festival. Boats that enter are trying to win the Nanny Cay Challenge for the fastest sailing time around the island. (The current record is 3 hours, 29 minutes, 41 seconds.) There’s another “pre-race” race for fun on Wednesday that ends in a beach barbecue. On Friday, with the start of that first official regatta race, it’s game on.

Sailing’s Caribben Open 

Fortunately, you don’t even have to know your spinnaker from your jib to take part in the BVI Spring Regatta. “There are all kinds of people involved, from Olympic and America’s Cup competitors to people who have never been on a boat before,” Petz says, going on to point out that the event has drawn competitors from as many as 17 different countries including the U.S., Canada, Italy, China and Croatia.

In all, there are 16 classes of boats that race in three different areas throughout the islands. Because the water is so protected—and land is almost always on the horizon—sailors rarely find themselves in adverse situations.  Experienced sailors without their own vessel typically charter a race ready bareboat, which is the equivalent of renting a car from the airport: You pick it up, sail off and return it when you’re done. It’s a family sailboat, with no crew or captain provided, and no spinnakers (the big billowy sails that are used to sail downwind). Most charters start on Tortola, the most populous island and the home of the international airport. 

“The BVI is a great place to try your first regatta,” Petz says. “It’s very relaxed and many of the boats are a lot smaller, maybe 40–50 feet.” With an experienced captain, it’s a safer endeavor, and you can bring along some of your own crew and participate as much as you want, from learning how to work the sails and man the tiller to simply moving from one side of the boat to the other to maintain the proper keel angle (the way the boat leans as it glides through the water).  

Depending on the boat’s size, a crew consists of anywhere from two to 22 people. If you don’t want to charter an entire boat, there are ways to sign up to be a part of someone else’s crew, with spots available for any skill level from novice to expert. After the last race on Sunday, everyone makes their way over to Regatta Village on the beach at Nanny Cay for the awards ceremony where the winners pick up their trophies and relive their experiences, while the revelers try to remember theirs.

 With first, second and third place prizes given out for all 16 classes, there’s plenty of love to go around, starting with the winners who pick up bottles of champagne or top-shelf rum and quickly disseminate it to their crews. It may be the only time all week where a captain’s shout, “Bottom’s up!” is met with a cheer instead of fear.

Sailor’s Paradise 

The same characteristics that make the BVI ideal for a regatta make it easy for newbies to give cruising a try. For one, it’s hard to get lost. “It’s mostly line of sight sailing,” says Bob Friel, the former editor in chief of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine about the friendly confines of the Drake Passage. “It works for sailors of any experience level.” “Every day you’ve got a pretty straight forward plan,” Friel says. “You wake up in a gorgeous anchorage with a beach bar and sail to another gorgeous anchorage with a beach bar.” Many charter companies such as Palm Yacht Charters offer three-day sailboat charters that give you a taste of the island cruising life. Or opt for a day-cruise outing that involves snorkeling, island hopping and a stop at a popular restaurant or beach bar.

The bars of the BVI are stuff of legend, starting with the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke. Set back from the white sand beach in a canopy of palm trees, the Soggy Dollar earned its name from patrons paying for their drinks with wet money from swimming in or falling off their dinghies—there’s no dock so you have to anchor off the beach. The Soggy Dollar lays claim as the home of the original painkiller. Just around the corner in Great Harbour, there’s Foxy’s Bar. The key is to go in the daytime and hope the legendary proprietor, Foxy Callwood, is performing. Callwood has called himself the laziest man on earth, but his bar and musical performances have attained cult status. “He’s the most famous raconteur in the BVI and will make up a song about you and your crew on the spot,” Friel says. Those lucky enough to earn an original composition leave with some of the same sailing street cred attained from a weathered Mount Gay hat. 

If bar-hopping BVI style isn’t your style, book one of the best dives in the entire Caribbean, the wreck of the Rhone, a British mail ship that sunk during a hurricane in 1867. Pirate enthusiasts and literary types can investigate Norman Island, the place that reputedly inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island. Or cruise over to the natural wonder of The Baths on Virgin Gorda, where giant boulders along the beach trap secluded pools of water. And there’s the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, perhaps the most well known sailing destination in the  BVI with its sheltered North Sound, an ideal playground for small boats.

A Personal Vacation Advisor’s Must-Do List

Beach: The best is going to be the sugar-white sand and aqua-blue waters of Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. 
Eat:  You can’t beat the local flavors of the Banana Keet Café located in the hills above Cane Garden Bay  
Spa: At Serenity Spa inside Sopers Hole Marina, they’ll pamper you with everthing from massages and facials to yoga and acupuncture. 
Day Trip: Hop over to Virgin Gorda and explore The Baths, a collection of giant boulders along the beach. It’s the BVI’s signature natural wonder and photo op.

How Opera Singer and Travel Lover Andrea Bocelli Defied the Odds​

How Opera Singer and Travel Lover Andrea Bocelli Defied the Odds​

July 30, 2019

Andrea Bocelli has never been one to balk at a good challenge. Blind since age 12 due to congenital glaucoma worsened by a soccer mishap, the internationally beloved Italian tenor says, “I was a restless kid. I had grown a taste for challenges, with a tendency to do all that I was forbidden or suggested not to do—and, if possible, to do it better than the others, even with enormous sacrifices.” Indeed, before he became a father, Bocelli, now 55, says, “I did not miss out on the excitement of water-skiing and paragliding as well as the thrill of speed.” Add to the list snow skiing, riding horses and bicycles—even skydiving and driving a car—and you’ll begin to grasp the confident tenacity that enthralls millions of fans worldwide.

What’s not challenging for Bocelli these days is selling out massive venues as well as albums, more than 80 million of them, making him the best-selling classical solo artist ever and one of the best-selling artists in music history. Perhaps the one bastion that may never fall to the richly emotional charms of his fluid, versatile voice is the conservative opera-world establishment. “Andrea Bocelli is one of those crossover artists who infuriate the opera purists, but is loved by many for his musical gifts,” says Michael Sinclair, editor of The Opera Critic. “I don’t consider him an opera singer in the true sense of the word.” In this way, Bocelli’s career shares parallels with The Three Tenors phenomenon, when Luciano Pavarotti, Plàcido Domingo, and José Carreras brought opera and classical music to huge stadium audiences, an anathema to opera traditionalists.

Given that opera is Bocelli’s first love, enflamed when his nanny Oriana gave him a record of the late Franco Corelli, the famous Italian tenor who would later become his teacher, disdain from some critics must sting a bit—but only enough to reaffirm his disciplined dedication to improving his bel canto every day and with each performance. Earlier this year, Bocelli released Passione, a collection of Mediterranean love songs. Essentially a sequel to his highly popular Amore, a 2006 collaboration with Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster, the well-reviewed album features classics like “Garota De Ipanema” (Girl from Ipanema), “Love Me Tender,” and “Sará Settembre” (better known to English-speaking audiences as Neil Diamond’s “September Morn”).

On the album, Bocelli sings in six languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Neapolitan), is accompanied by Latin rhythms and a 63-piece orchestra recorded in London, and performs duets with pop stars Jennifer Lopez (“Quizás Quizás Quizás”), Nelly Furtado (“Corcovado”), and even the late French chanteuse Edith Piaf, whose vocal for “La Vie En Rose” Foster extracted from a 1940s-era master recording.  

Many of the songs on Passione were among those often requested when Bocelli sang and played piano six nights a week in bars throughout Tuscany in the mid-1970s, to help pay for voice lessons with Corelli. During this time, he also studied law at the University of Pisa, near the family farm in Lajatico, where he and his younger brother, Alberto, grew up. Bocelli remembers these youthful days fondly: “It often happened that a beautiful girl who could sing in tune would come up and ask to sing something with me.” “I have always been singing, since I was a boy,” Bocelli says. “I used to compete, in the living room of my home, with the voices of my heroes whose interpretations came through the record player.” At age 6, he began studying classical piano, later learning to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, guitar, drums, and more.

“Up to age 18, I had quite a radical attitude toward pop, excluding a priori all that was not classical or opera,” he says. But when he began playing “light music” in piano bars, he says, “an entirely new world opened up to me; I realized pop has its masterpieces.” For Bocelli, it’s easy to identify beauty in a piece of music, whatever the genre. “The fundamental difference is in the consequences it generates; it slowly gets inside you and helps you to grow, developing your spirituality.”

For a year, Bocelli worked as a stateappointed attorney. But his heart was in music. His big break came in 1992, when Italian rock star Zucchero called for tenors to make demo tapes of his song “Miserere,” hoping to convince Luciano Pavarotti to record a duet with him. Legend has it that Pavarotti refused to believe Bocelli’s tape was made by an unknown piano player, then told Zucchero to use him instead, famously saying, “There is no finer voice.” Pavarotti did, however, record the duet, but it was Bocelli who performed in his place on Zucchero’s European tour, quickly gaining a name for himself. Around this time, Caterina Caselli signed Bocelli to her Sugar record label. Three things drew her to the tenor she says: a “deeply marvelous” voice, with “low frequencies that creep into our emotional fields and conquer our hearts”; beauty (“He looked like the young and absolutely heart-throbbing Omar Sharif ”); and charisma that “enables him to relate to people from all walks of life.” In 1996, Bocelli recorded “Time to Say Goodbye,” a duet with English soprano Sarah Brightman that quickly shot to the top of the charts in Europe. In 1999, he began a grueling world tour, which included his first performances in the U.S. His opening performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. won several standing ovations. This marked the beginning of a special relationship with America and with New York City in particular, where then-mayor Rudy Guiliani granted him the Crystal Apple in 1999. In 2011, Bocelli gave a Central Park concert broadcast on PBS and attended by 60,000, singing with Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, and many others.

At every break in the tour schedule, Bocelli traveled home to his expansive villa, a former hotel on the northern Italian coast near Pisa, to spend time with his two growing sons, Matteo and Amos. At a party in 2002, he met the younger woman who would become his fiancé and manager, Veronica Berti. “A few minutes after we met, he dedicated to me the romanza ‘Occhi di Fata’ [or Fairy Eyes],” she recalls. “That evening was enough for us both to decide to choose to spend our lives together.” Their light-filled home includes a large collection of musical instruments, ready for spontaneous harmonizing. Collaborator David Foster describes a typical scene: “We have so much fun when we’re working together. Andrea has an incredible sense of humor and his musical tastes are unbelievably varied. On any given night, while on a break, you could find us in the living room: me on piano; Pierpaolo, the sound engineer, on bass; Andrea’s sons on percussion; and Andrea himself on drums, playing and singing a Beatles song.”

Foster says the first time he heard Bocelli sing was a rare “aha” moment: “I was completely blown away by this powerful yet gentle voice singing in a style that I had never heard before. He is the only person I know who walks perfectly in both the pop world and the classical world. His pop voice is effortless and his knowledge of classical is vast. He prefers one over the other but he’s so clever that you will never figure out what his favorite is.” Those closest to Bocelli are clearly inspired by his will and passion for life, but are quick to add that these are balanced with a gentle humility, integrity and loyalty to his family, friends, and homeland. Together with his brother, Alberto, he owns a winery, “an adventure designed to honor and pass on the great love of our father, Sandro,” Alberto explains. “In the eighteenth century, the Bocelli family worked as sharecroppers on a property of the Corsini princes. The passion for our land has remained in our chromosomes.” Producing quality traditional Tuscan wines is a point of pride: “If we can recoup the expenses we are already happy.” In his hometown of Lajatico, Bocelli also helped sponsor construction of an open-air amphitheater, where he hosts a packed concert with special guests every July. Aptly named the Teatro del Silenzio, the venue goes dark the rest of the year. Growing up, Alberto watched his brother transform what could have been a limitation into opportunity for growth. “I think he grew his strong will in the difficult apprenticeship  of childhood, when he used to do half the things because he liked them, and the other half to demonstrate how silly others’ prejudices were.”

His old friend Adriano Fiaschi says that during their endless youthful discussions of dreams, love, and life, he came to appreciate Bocelli’s unique perspective on the dichotomy between being and appearing. “Since he was a boy, Andrea has pursued ‘to be,’ not ‘to look’,” he says. “Those who do not have any sight problems may be misled by the superficiality of the appearance, while Andrea is prone to see the essence of things; he knows how to capture what matters. Sight implies practical advantages, no doubt, but in this sense, also some disadvantages.”

To select the songs for Passione, Foster spent two 14-day stretches at Bocelli’s villa, coming up with a list of 80 candidates. Asked what makes a great love song, Bocelli told Foster, “When I sing a song, I must first fall in love with it and feel it in my heart. It must arouse emotions and enter the fibers of those who are listening to it. It must become the voice of many in the world, so that they can mirror in it their most genuine feelings.” In the midst of his Passione tour this summer, Bocelli reflected on his ambivalence about touring. “Mine is a wandering life. The rhythms it requires still cost me physical and psychological strain today, as 20 years ago. I spend most part of the year abroad, and every time I have to leave the peace and the happiness of my house and most of all, my loved ones. At the same time, I am perfectly aware of how wonderful my work is, and I certainly do not complain.” His preparation for a tour is always the same, he says. But with rising fame and growing public expectations, he says, “I cannot afford leaving anything to chance. The set list is quite meticulously prepared and reasoned. 

The performance of the pieces, especially the opera ones needs constant study.” Thankfully, tour logistics are handled by his staff, ‘an enlarged family.’ And after a decade of exhausting airport waits and delays, he now travels by private plane, a luxury which affords him “the perception of a family ambiance even when I am among clouds, traveling from one continent to the other,” he says. While on tour, Bocelli maintains a strict regimen. “Between concerts, I try to spend my time in isolation. I avoid drinking wine, coffee, and other pleasant things. I follow the diet of an athlete and take with me a gym ball, a simple tool to keep in shape. I try to speak as little as possible and to maintain the maximum concentration. Therefore, there’s usually no shop- ping, no trips. In fact, I can say I have traveled the world wide and far, but most of the time, I just know the airport, my hotel room and the dressing room of the theater. Before concerts, I study, read, or write myself (poems and aphorisms) in order not to give in to laziness and to keep my brain fit.”

Caselli vouches for his disciplined work ethic. “Andrea always aims for the sky and gives his very best, even when he is not in tiptop shape,” she says. “I recall seeing him perform live on Good Morning America at 7 a.m. without a speck of hesitation, after waking up jet-lagged at 5 a.m. And this, let me say, is a rather unlikely practice among performing artists, who normally refuse to sing anything sooner than the early afternoon.” The day before any live performance, she says, he has a strict rule of almost religious silence: no interviews, no phone calls for the sake of his voice.

Shows share with all Bocelli’s live performances a special quality—an alchemy born of the magical effect his voice seems to have on his dedicated fans. His former piano teacher and collaborator for 20 years, Carlo Bernini, describes the effect, especially common in large concerts in the United States and South America. “[His] singing interacts at a deep level with the listener,” he says. “I see many couples arrive and absentmindedly occupy their places. Gradually, as the concert proceeds, people have a happier disposition and end up hugging or holding hands, or one is weeping and the other one is encircling his or her head. At the end of the concert, the public comes out visibly regenerated, pacified, and full of new energy.” Part of the magic is that his audience senses that Bocelli himself quite naturally embodies passion and romance.

 “I’m still very much in love with life. Love, the engine of the world, and even romance are essential ingredients of a whole existence, regardless of the passing of time. I think it is a priceless privilege for man to have the possibility to interpret, poetically, their own adventure on Earth,” he says. “What is often too large to be contained in the rational mechanisms of our minds, we can perhaps, if not really achieve, at least perceive through a poem, or perhaps a musical phrase.” With his fairy tale life and overwhelmingly positive outlook, Bocelli has little patience for labels like crossover artist or for petty critiques from opera-world purists. At the June opening of the opera season in Verona, he reportedly remarked with characteristic pragmatism to a journalist’s question about the attendance crisis in opera [houses] today, “We should invite young people to the theaters, to rehearsals. We have to spread it just as we do with sport. In a word, opera needs to be supported by an adequate marketing operation. For the rest, opera is more than alive and enjoys good health.”

When he looks ahead, Bocelli sees plenty of music projects— and a desire to give back something of what life has given him. He recently founded the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, which works to help people around the world who are in need due to illness, disability, poverty, and social exclusion. “I created a foundation to put all our strengths together, to make sure that my actions are not ‘a drop in the sea’ but united with all other drops—as Mother Teresa teaches us—to become an ocean,” he wrote in a letter on the nonprofit’s website. Appropriately, one of the first grants went to the MIT Fifth Sense Project, where researchers are working to develop a technology that can help blind people to perform the activities of daily life more independently and efficiently. Another, named Project Virginia, supports high-risk pregnancy care at a hospital in Haiti. After this tour wraps at the end of the year, Bocelli says he’s dreaming of just one thing. “At the top of my desires, there is always the peace and the quietness of my home in Tuscany, together with my children and the people I love,” he says. “That is my favorite holiday, the main goal in my wish list.”

Concierge Simona Bresciani’s List for Tuscany

Spa: Relax at Espa, a modern wellness center tucked into Castello del Nero, a 12th-century palace located among the rolling hills of western Chianti. After a massage and skin treatment, take in the view of vineyards and olive groves from its heated pool. 

Meal: Steps away from the duomo (cathedral) in Siena sits Antica Osteria Da Divo, which serves classic Tuscan fare in ancient Etruscan underground rooms carved out of the region’s soft volcanic rock.  Wine: Combine two Italian classics into one with a guided road trip in tiny 1960s’ vintage Fiat 500 cars that ends at a 15th-century villa and vineyard. Harvest grapes, stomp them into juice, and learn the Italian way to producing wine.

Discover One Of The Biggest Fishing Tournaments In The World

Discover One of the Biggest Fishing Tournaments in the World

July 26, 2019

A blue marlin roaming the Pacific Ocean can attain a body weight measuring over a half-ton. That girth is packed into a sleek, hydrodynamic body that can reach lengths of 16 feet. When swimming after prey, it can accelerate to nearly 70 mph. A black marlin, of similar proportion, can reach speeds close to 80 mph. When all that momentum zeroes in on a baited lure trolled behind a boat, the result could equate to the catch of a lifetime. And if you happen to hook into a black or blue off Los Cabos, Mexico, during the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament, that fish could be worth millions of dollars.

Bisbee’s Black & Blue, which this year runs October 22-26, is advertised as the richest sportfishing tournament in the world. Anglers from all 50 states as well as up to 18 other countries come to Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of Baja California to try for the seven-figure jackpot. In 2006, the prize money totaled $4,165,960, the largest payout in fishing tournament history. Last year, the top boat hauled in nearly $2.4 million—all for catching a single fish—which is why for many tournament anglers, Bisbee’s is the ultimate competition.

“The major appeal of the Bisbee’s Black & Blue is that it is the worldwide, main event of marlin fishing,” says Colin Sarfeh of Pelagic Gear, which sponsored last year’s winning team. “Location, consistent fishing results, and an event that seems to grow larger by the year make Bisbee’s the place to be in October. And don’t forget the money. It’s no coincidence that Sports Illustrated hailed this tournament as ‘The Super Bowl of Fishing’.” The Bisbee family still runs the Black & Blue, which started back in 1981 thanks to Bob Bisbee, now 80 and the family patriarch. He owned a fuel dock and tackle store in Newport Beach, California, and originally set up the tournament to promote his business to the West Coast fishing circuit; many boats from the Newport area and the California coast made their way south to Cabo in the wintertime. But that’s not the whole story.

“In all honesty it was beer muscles flexing at the local bar,” says Wayne Bisbee, Bob’s son who now serves as the event’s director. “They were sitting LOS CABOS around saying, ‘I can fish better than you,’ and the next thing you know there’s serious money involved.” The first tournament consisted of six boats fishing for a total of $10,000 in prize money. Over the years the purse has added a few more zeroes to the bottom line and the number of fishing teams has swelled considerably. Last year, 106 boats with 740 anglers showed up in up in Cabo to hook a winner.

Historically, the Black & Blue was once known as more of a party tournament than a serious fishing event thanks to the density of bars and nightclubs just off the marina in downtown Cabo San Lucas. “Teams used to stumble out of the bars and untie their boat just in time for the shotgun start,” says Bisbee. But as the tournament evolved into a big-money venture with the potential for million-dollar payouts, most of the fishing teams today focus on the actual fishing. “In the last eight to 10 years the prize money has gotten so insane that they take it more seriously,” he says. Then he adds with a grin, “On tournament days at least.”

Cabo San Lucas sits at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, a long sliver of land separated from the mainland by the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The Gulf is home to one of the richest marine ecosystems in the entire world, harboring humpback, killer, and gray whales, as well as giant whale sharks, manta rays, and many species of sea turtles.

At the tip of the Baja Peninsula, water from the Gulf mixes with the Pacific Ocean, creating an abundant convergence of marine life. Strong Pacific currents swirl around the tip of the peninsula, trapping large concentrations of nutrients and baitfish in one giant eddy composed of several large reefs as well as underwater canyons and mountains. All of these things combine to create the perfect feeding grounds for large pelagic predators such as blue, black, and striped marlin. The once sleepy commercial fishing town of Cabo was “discovered” as a sport-fishing destination in the 1950s, and the big-game fishing for billfish became so legendary that the area earned the nickname “Marlin Alley.” The largest blue marlin ever caught at the tournament weighed 993 pounds; the largest black marlin weighed 645 pounds.

For years, the only practical way to get down to Cabo was by boat, giving the prospect of fishing there had an air of affluence since you had to have a vessel that could handle big seas on the multi-day trip south (see “Power Players,” page 47). You still do, if you plan on bringing your own boat, but Cabo has a thriving charter fleet that takes advantage of this amazing fishery. And during the Black & Blue, a good crew is what you need for a shot at the prize money.

On tournament days, more than 100 boats mill about offshore, just outside of the harbor. The crews go over last-minute bait and equipment checks and make sure everything is secure. The captain scans his electronic charts and GPS with a plan in place to sprint to where he thinks his team will have the best chance to hook a marlin. The anglers, the ones responsible for handling the rods and fighting the fish, stand on deck with butterflies in their stomachs and a nervous edge akin to a football player before a championship game. The lure of a big payday draws some of the best fishing crews from all over the world. (As one participant joked, “Just try getting a fishing charter in Kona [Hawaii] during the Black & Blue. They’re all in Baja.”) Some teams show up weeks before to do some pre-tournament scouting, and they all put down hefty entry fees for the chance at the big reward.

The Black & Blue runs over three days and differs from many billfish tournaments because the competition is comprised of a series of daily jackpots. There are six jackpot divisions, ranging from $500 to $10,000. A team fishing a jackpot must pay for that level over all three days. For example, entering the $500 daily jackpot costs a boat $1,500; the $1,000 jackpot requires $3,000 and so on. There are also top tournament prizes, as well as a separate jackpot division for other gamefish such as dorado and tuna. A boat can enter one or all of the daily jackpots—the bill for entering the whole enchilada runs $71,500. The team that weighs in the heaviest fish each day wins whichever jackpot it entered. If no one catches a qualifying fish—a marlin must weigh at least 300 pounds to count—the jackpot money rolls over to the next day. When this happens, the pots for a single fish can soar.

This is what happened last year when one team on the boat Frantic Pace caught a 465-pound blue marlin on the second day of the tournament. That fish turned out to be the only marlin landed during the entire three days of fishing. Since Frantic Pace had entered into all of the daily jackpot levels, they swept the entire prize board, winning a grand total of $2,396,800. A huge number, yes, but well short of the record payout of $3,902,998 won by a boat named Bad Company in 2006.

At 8 a.m. on October 23 all that prize money will be on the line, as the Black & Blue officially begins with a shotgun start—all boats have to remain behind an invisible starting line in the harbor and open their throttles as soon as the official start is broadcast over the radio. From there the captains point the bows of their boats to famous fishing areas like Iman Bank or Gorda Bank, or their own secretly scouted spots, in hopes of landing a worthy fish.

By 5 p.m., all the boats without a catch will be feverishly trolling for a bite and hoping they have time to race back to the harbor by 9 p.m. where they weigh their fish at the Island Global Yachting Marina, the nerve center for the entire event. As many as 5,000 people will show up to watch the weigh-ins, adding to the tourney’s arena-sized atmosphere. This year, Wayne Bisbee estimates that the Black & Blue could have 130 boats and more than $3 million in total prize money, an enticing lure to hundreds of anglers, all hoping to land a marlin big enough to take it all.