I’m in the Maldives, pedalling along a sandy pathway on a white bicycle, the startling blue hues of the Indian Ocean shimmering through the palms – but instead of piña coladas and sunsets, I’ve got New York on my mind. In particular, the glamorous Gilded Age and the Astor family, the so-called “landlords of New York”. It’s been more than a century since John Jacob Astor IV opened The St. Regis New York, and how times have changed. Back then, the preferred summertime escape for the city’s elite was the glamorous Newport on Rhode Island, where the Astors, the Carnegies, the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers et al would hobnob at posh Gatsby-style parties while staying in their marble-clad “cottages”. It seems wildly improbable to imagine the Gilded Age set, in all their feathered finery, jetting off to holiday in barefoot in the Maldives, but at the newest St. Regis incarnation, they would certainly have discovered the same level of luxury and attentive service they’d grown accustomed to in New York.
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