Belgian born architect Jean-Michel Gathy may not be a household name, but if you’re a lover of luxury hotels, the chance are you’ve come across his work somewhere in the world. From the glamorous hammock-style nets over the water at the One & Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives and the luxury tented accommodation at Amanwana in Indonesia, to the iconic infinity swimming pool located on the roof top of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, his incredible work is stamped across the globe and he opened no less than nine hotels in 2013 (an unprecedented feat in the hotel industry). The coming few years promise some incredible openings that will further showcase the talent of this self-confessed “spoilt child” of the hotel industry, including the Raffles, Bukit Pendawa, Bali, Chamela Bay, Mexico and the new Jumeirah Resort in Bali, all scheduled to open in October 2016. He takes some time out of his unimaginably busy schedule to chat with kodomo.com about traveling with children.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
With my parents when I was 4 years old on the west coast of Belgium, where I stayed in a home in the dunes and where my parents allowed us to sleep in the aviary for one night. Of course there were no birds anymore, but there was an old aviary in the garden. We loved that, even if we were taken back to our normal sleeping place come midnight!
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
About twelve years ago I holidayed in Canada with my wife. We went dog sledging for a few days, with Marmot dogs, and it was a truly extraordinary experience.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
I went to Zermatt on a skiing holiday with my son when he was just nine months old. I skied with him on my back and he was laughing all the way down the slopes; I could hear him giggling in my ear. He loved it, and so did I. We weren’t going too fast, of course!
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally?
It’s a wonderful, bonding experience. It imposes on us certain restrictions, but that’s what it is to be a parent. If you agreed to become a parent, you have to agree that there are certain responsibilities that come with that.
Q. Do you ever travel with your children for work?
No, not normally. I have on a few occasions taken my eldest child to meetings and site visits with me, but he is now 23 years old.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your children?
Probably New Zealand, two years ago. We went to Queenstown and visited all of the south island. We did all sorts of activities; we went out on boats and bicycle riding, played frisbee and golfed. We visited the glaciers, and went by boat across lakes. It was a two week trip and it was fantastic. Another favourite holiday of mine was to Kenya. I went there on safari with my twins; this was a surprise 18th birthday present from me to them. We spent two weeks in Kenya, first visiting Malindi on the coast and then we headed inland and enjoyed the most wonderful safari at the Masaii Mara National Park. My kids loved it, and so did I.
Q: And your worst?
This is a tough one, although it would have to be when I went to the Maldives five years ago and it rained for two weeks in a row. We were at a very luxurious resort and it rained for two weeks; it was windy and stormy. What did I do? Well, I spent a lot of time reading, playing chess, monopoly, going to the gym, and playing Ping-Pong.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
Ensure that they sleep enough; make sure they get as much sleep as you can. Make sure that you time the food intelligently, both before and after the flight. Kids must be rested before they go on the plane, and they must have eaten or be ready to eat. And then we, as parents, must remain very, very patient. I have also always taken books for the kids and card games, and the Nintendo DS for my son.
Also, keep an eye on them. I was once on a flight back from Europe with my twins. It was a long haul flight and we were all trying to sleep. They were moving around their seats, crawling around on the floor. Whilst down there they decided to mix the other passengers’ shoes up. I was in trouble when we landed as no one could find their shoes!