Inside the Head of Richard Leibman

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009

PaperCity Magazine, May, 2008

He’s pulled strings to arrange a private luncheon on Chateau D’Yquem in Bordeaux for one client and had the caves of Altamira in Spain, which normally have a two-year waitlist, opened to another. For those that globe-trot in pampered style, Richard Leibman is your go-to guy.

This dapper South African has every well-connected travel professional logged into his Blackberry; after all, he’s owned Frosch International Travel for 31 years. We journeyed vicariously with this intrepid explorer and, for a day, checked into his head as contemplated what to pack and where to go next prompting you, perhaps, to do the very same.

Q: How often do you hit the road?
A: It varies. One day we might be sailing aboard a new Silversea cruise ship, another day I could be site-inspecting a new hotel. I just returned from Mexico where I attended the advisory-board meeting for Rosewood Hotels in Mayakoba and the preferred partner meeting for Four Seasons in Punta Mita, and site-inspected the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Riviera Maya. Next, my wife, Henia, and I are headed to Israel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and en route will stop to check out some new restaurants such as Adour, the new Alain Ducasse restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel.

Q: Is your life as glamorous as it seems?
A: Actually, yes

Q: What do you pack in your Longchamp carry-on?
A: Roasted, unsalted almonds; dried mangos and figs; small Scharffen Berger chocolate bars; an extra pair of my Morgenthal Frederics glasses; an iPod (along with Bose earphones); two pairs of socks and underwear; a Loro Piana cashmere sweater; and my meds.

Q: And do you check your bags?
A: If I’m staying longer than overnight, I do. Due to the new airline regulations, I check bags at all times and hope they arrive.

Q: Tips on packing efficiently, yet stylishly:
A: Pack two basic colors, such as black and gray, a Giorgio Armani cashmere blazer (fall/winter) or a light wool jacket (spring/summer), Brioni jeans, a light sweater, Mephisto walking shoes, Gravati dress shoes from Bergdorf Goodman, and don’t forget your exercise clothes and New Balance sneakers.

Q: The best meals you’ve ever had:
A: Pierre Gagnaire (French), Paris. Amaya (Indian), London. San Lorenzo (Italian), London. Le Beaulieu (French) at the Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi.

Q: Four numbers you must keep in your travel diary:
A: Frosch Travels’ 24/7 after-hours number, your driver, contact numbers for all hotels/drivers on trip, and your personal physician.

Q: What’s new and hot: Leibman’s top ten new hotels and resorts:
1. Mandarin Oriental, Riviera Maya
2. Casa de Sierra Nevada, San Miguel de Allende
3. The Nam Hai Resort, Hoi An, Vietnam
4. Ritz-Carlton, Moscow
5. Four Seasons, Istanbul; new Bosphorus property
6. Four Seasons, Florence
7. Amankora Paro, Bhutan
8. Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong, recently reopened
9. The Atlantis, Dubai
10. Ritz Carlton-Beijing

Q: Old-world hotels you can’t get enough of:
1. The Dorchester, London
2. Le Bristol, Paris
3. Villa d’Este, Lake Como
4. The Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi
5. The Carlyle, New York
6. The Peninsula, Hong Kong
7. Reid’s Palace, Madeira
8. Dolder Grand, Zurich
9. Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro
10. The Mount Nelson, Cape Town

Q: Your sure-fire recipe for avoiding jet-lag:
A: Ambien, lots of water, no alcohol, and a good deep-tissue massage upon arrival.

Q: Treasures you couldn’t leave behind:
A: A life-sized horse head made of jade, bought in an antique shop in Hong Kong. It took three men to carry it into our home. And a 400-year-old Chinese wooden statue of an advisor to the emperor unearthed on an architectural dig there.

Q: Most indulgent spa experience:
A: The Four Seasons spa in Langkawi, Malaysia.

Q: Save the frustration: Seven simple things one must do when traveling:
1. Reconfirm flights when leaving.
2. Print boarding passes from home.
3. Have a driver drop you off and pick you up at the airport.
4. Keep all IDs and docs close at hand.
5. Take all meds with you.
6. Make sure your cell-phone service is available overseas.
7. Make sure your passport is valid at least six months after your travel
ends to avoid problems. (Frosch has a passport-renewal service that can
process in a short time.)

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