Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Lifting the lid on luxury lifestyles
A very warm welcome to you as we launch Art of Life, the show and the Web site. Art of Life is about the world of luxury -- the business, the lifestyle, and the appreciation of luxury. We will profile those who create and shape it and those who live it.

I have a confession to make. I never really understood the fascination with sports cars. Sure they can go fast, and sure they look cool but is that it? Well I had an awakening after driving Ferrari's 612 Scaglietti.

With the ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds and a top speed approaching 200 mph the sensation is more like riding a rollercoaster than your average car journey.

David Aspin, an English businessman who lives in Florence, has so far owned 14 Ferraris. He now has a selection of cars that include a Lamborghini, a Porsche, and of course a Ferrari.

He loves the Ferrari so much that he buys a new one every six months (He says it's because he drives them so much that he revs up the mileage pretty quickly. I think he likes the new car smell).

Seriously though, I get it. I see what he loves about the car. At the factory in Maranello, Italy, we saw the attention paid to every detail in every car. And because they only make about 5,000 cars every year there is such pride in what they do.

Driving around Florence, David told me the most important thing when driving the Ferrari is that you shouldn't be intimidated. Easy for him to say. It's a $300,000 car -- how can one NOT be intimidated driving it??

But he was right. And when I drove it, I wanted to push it to its limits. It was very user-friendly and idiot-proof. See, my other confession is I can't drive a manual transmission. That's why the 612 Scaglietti was great to drive. It's clutch-less and it has a paddle-shift on each side of the steering wheel so it's like using your indicator except you're changing gears. Also, should you forget to change gears, it does it for you.

All of which means even a novice like me can drive like Michael Schumacher. While I didn't drive like I was on a Formula 1 circuit, I loved just being in the car. Now the only problem is how to get one... and not to worry, I will be taking manual driving lessons.

For our first show, we also profile luxury hotelier Sir Rocco Forte at his new acquisition in London's posh Mayfair area. Brown's Hotel is steeped in the capital's history and it's close to Sir Rocco's heart. It was also part of his father's company, the Forte Plc, which Sir Rocco ran, but was lost after Forte Plc fell victim to a hostile takeover.

Sir Rocco has Brown's back and it's a proud feather in his luxury hotels cap. Before meeting him, I was told that Sir Rocco can be quite shy. Not so. Sir Rocco ended up spending almost three hours with us despite his people saying his schedule was extremely tight. We spoke about his love of training for triathlons, his family, and of course his business.

He invited us to lunch at the hotel's restaurant where a few of his friends were dining, with all congratulating him on the renovation of Brown's. Even those just stopping in to grab a bite wanted to share their opinions.

Then there was his good friend Lord Charles Spencer Churchill who joined us to tell Sir Rocco his thoughts on the bar (how it was decorated and how the feel could be improved with the addition of a live musician, in particular, a guitarist... specifically, his partner's son), and the food (Lord Charles says it's a vast improvement after his suggestions, particularly the club sandwich). You think rich people are stoic? Hardly!

My producer-extraordinaire Andrea and I believe this will not only be an exciting year but one that will push me to physical limits... all with style of course.

I don't want to give too much away so let's just say that I'll be taking lessons that will make me a better driver, skier, mountain climber -- and anything else to make our adventures that much more interesting.

Needless to say it will be what our boss Jeff calls an "experiential" show. Fasten your seatbelt folks, it's sure to be an eye-popping (yet luxurious) ride!
Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, January 25, 2006
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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