Once in a while, it’s nice to escape the world of luxury furniture and the hurly burly of the big city. Don’t get me wrong – I love luxury furniture but sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Hence, it was with great anticipation that I set off for Blenheim Palace and the first day of this year’s Salon Privé event – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Accompanied by my oldest son and one of my closest friends, we set off early to make the most of every minute of this most enjoyable of days. Although Salon Privé is heralded as a high class automotive exhibition, over its 13-year history it has become one of the season’s most eagerly-awaited luxury lifestyle events – a must in anyone’s social calendar, up there with the likes of The Boodles Tennis and Ascot.
As is the norm, the first day of Salon Privé saw the Concours d’Elégance, a spectacular parade of some of the world’s finest and most historically significant classic cars and motorbikes. This year, it even included the 1962 Triumph TR6R motorcycle ridden by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Our favourite vehicle was a beautiful old Bugatti (I think it was a 1920 Type 13 Brescia but don’t quote me on that). It was certainly one of the earliest Bugattis produced. We were told that this grand old master sold last year for €16.5m, even though it needs a good push to get it started! This didn’t stop it taking part in the 100 mile Classic Concours Tour the day before. Starting at the celebrated Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, these iconic classic cars meandered through the Cotswold countryside, finishing at Blenheim Palace in the evening, ready for their next three days in the spotlight.
Highlight of the Social Calendar
Introduced by His Grace, The 12th Duke of Marlborough (a self-confessed petrol head), he explained that Salon Privé has now become the highlight of the Palace’s social calendar as well as his own. Visitors come from far and wide not just to enjoy the fabulous cars but to be part of the whole experience. The dress code is smart, stylish and elegant. Everyone makes an effort to dress up – men just as much as women. We were surrounded by gorgeous designer outfits, some very striking men’s blazers and, of course, a host of hats. Fiona and I were in timeless and co-ordinating navy (not intentionally, but great minds think alike). My splendid DKNY hat was chosen by my personal stylist, the lovely Atosa Anzalchi. I loved the combination of classic design with a fun and quirky woven trim, giving me a fabulously floppy full brim without shading my face completely. Thanks, Atosa.
Lobster, Pimms, Pommery and Shopping
As usual, the food and drinks were exquisite, with free-flowing Pommery champagne throughout the day and more Pimms than you could possibly drink in one day. Lunch meant lobster in abundance, followed later in the day by a delicious cream tea with scones, delightful mini cakes, macarons and more champagne. But Salon Privé is not just cars and fine dining. We made sure we still had plenty of time to explore all the luxury brands on offer in the retail village, starting with a gentle massage and restorative hand treatment courtesy of Gatineau and their sublime beauty products. After all the bustle of the morning, everyone seemed to have the same idea. The Gatineau stand was incredibly busy but it was worth the wait just to relax and be pampered. Of course, we couldn’t resist the Boodles tent so, while my son went off to lust after classic cars and Steve McQueen’s motorbike, Fiona and I spent a very happy half hour looking at and trying on beautiful jewellery, including a fabulous ring with a price tag of £350,000. Unfortunately, that one didn’t make it into my dainty Boodles bag. Maybe next year.
Footwear for the Modern Gentleman
Next, we discovered Percy Stride, handmade footwear for the modern gentleman. These men’s shoes were to die for. Every pair is unique, memorable and hand-crafted in Britain, giving customers the opportunity to be as subtle or flamboyant as they want to be. They tell me that their shoes are designed to be supremely comfortable as well as being lovely to look at and hard-wearing. They encourage repair and re-building rather than replacement and they expect every pair of shoes to enjoy a long and active life. Obviously, I didn’t try any on but I shall be in touch with them soon to talk about Christmas presents for at least one of my sons. I might wait until the younger feet have finished growing as these shoes are too special to be thrown into the back of the wardrobe once they are outgrown.
As you would expect, all the major automotive brands were well and truly on display. You couldn’t move without rubbing shoulders with an Aston Martin, a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce. However, my favourite find of the day was a concept car, about to go into production here in the UK. The Dendrobium D-1 is a stunning, super-powerful, all-electric hypercar capable of 0-60 in 2.4 seconds, 1400 bhp, and a top speed in excess of 200 mph. I love electric cars, as you know, and would love to see one of these in my garage. Better still, I’d love to be driving it out on the open road. Unlikely as only a very limited number will be produced, each with a correspondingly exclusive price tag. Well, we can all dream.
Back to Luxury Furniture
Our day at Salon Privé absolutely flew by and we have no idea where the 8 hours went. We were wined, dined and thoroughly entertained, even though we didn’t manage to see everything. I can honestly say that all three of us loved every minute of it and can’t wait for next year. We’ll see you there. In the meantime, it’s back to the showroom and all that luxury, designer furniture and autumn’s newest arrivals. Maybe it’s not such a hard life after all.