Prestige has covered its share of high-society weddings – but an engagement trip? That’s a first. So when Jennifer Huang and her fiancé Douglas Wang invited me to join them while they gallivanted between Milan, Nice, St Tropez, Monaco and London with some close friends from all around Asia, I naturally agreed. The four-day trip took place in August, two months before the wedding date, which is on the second of this month and takes place in Tokyo. The trip was organised by the couple’s closest friends, including Chryseis Tan (daughter of Berjaya Group’s Vincent) and her boyfriend, Naza Group heir Faliq Nasimuddin, and Hong Kong-based pals and socialites Carmen Yim, Elson Luk, Francisco DeLeon, Matteo Chung and Luke Fehon.
First Stop, Milan
August 3, 7pm
After dropping off our luggage at the Mandarin Oriental, Milan, the crew heads off in an Uber to Tartufi & Friends, a restaurant renowned for – what else? – its truffle dishes. “Buonasera!” the waiter greets us, and we feel instantly welcome. Our group of nine is then served the restaurant’s famed truffle-based cuisine, including signature dishes such as beef tartare and sea-bass fillet garnished with either white or black truffles, paired flawlessly with wine.
As for dessert, a chocolate cake decorated with sparkles appears at the end of the meal, as everyone bursts into the “Happy Birthday” song in celebration of Carmen Yim’s big day. “I wish Carmen, my best friend, will find her Mr Right soon!” offers Huang. The party then continues at Ceresio 7, a rooftop bar and restaurant that’s owned by the DSquared2 designers, Dean and Dan Caten, winding down with drinks by one of the venue’s two pools. We have an early start in the morning, so things don’t get too crazy.
Day Two, Milan and Nice
August 4, 8am
The sun is shining as our adventure kicks off in earnest, with an 8am departure from our hotel to Milano Linate Prime, where our private jet awaits. The Dassault Falcon 7X we board is arranged by Hong Kong-based Asian Sky Group, the gang’s preferred charter provider, which offers brokerage and private-aviation consulting services.
Introduced in 2007, this long-range business trijet can cover distances up to 11,020km in a single hop and carry a maximum of 14 passengers, and is the first aircraft of its kind to be equipped with a military-derived digital flight control system. As it can fly as high as 51,000ft – far above adverse weather – it also provides a smoother ride for passengers. With 28 large windows the cabin is bright and airy, and with three distinct sections, seats and divans that can be converted into beds, as well as materials such as soft leathers and burnished woods, it’s an award-winning and restful interior that was conceived by some best designers in the industry.
Not that we have a lot of time to enjoy the flight – the journey is so smooth and speedy that we’ve barely had time to finish our breakfast and cappuccino before we’ve arrived.
August 4, 10am
Fifteen minutes after landing in Nice, our group has already arrived at the pier, ready to board the chartered superyacht named Paraffin. A total of 17 sailors, captain included, are lined up in front of the ship to greet us, after which we’re given a tour of the facilities, which include a gym, Jacuzzi, bar area and watersports equipment such as jet skis and wakeboards. We split up and head to our rooms to freshen up before heading (by car) to Eden-Roc Grill & Lounge Bar at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
August 4, 1pm
Our lunch takes place at one of Nice’s most beautiful landmarks, in a garden setting right by the shore, with views of neighbouring towns such as Cannes. We enjoy some of the Grill’s best dishes, including fresh seafood and risottos, washed down with glasses of wine.
August 4, 4pm
After lunch, the couple leads us back to the yacht, where we set sail for St Tropez. It’s a three-hour journey, but time isn’t wasted – Wang and Chung head for the gym, while some of the others laze around on the top deck, sunbathing. We arrive at 7pm, and since many of the boutiques and attractions close at 8 or 9pm, we make the most of daylight and decide on a group excursion to the seaside town. Small and colourful buildings in yellow and pink dot the small streets, with familiar names on the doors – Bulgari, Dior, Fendi, Hermès and Louis Vuitton are all present.
August 4, 9pm
Dinner is ready on the second floor of our yacht, complete with lavish decorations and beautifully prepared cuisine: from grilled tuna and peri peri chicken to fresh fruit and sweet treats. The extravaganza reaches its climax with a toast from Yim: “Thanks to everyone for coming,” she begins. “I appreciate everyone being here with me on my birthday, and also a big congratulations to the engaged couple, Jennifer and Douglas.” Champagne bottles are popped, and from there . . . well, what happens in St Tropez stays in St Tropez.
Day Three, St Tropez and Monaco
August 5, 8am
Another early start today – but it’s easy when you awaken to a catered breakfast that includes fresh fruit to start, eggs with truffle for the main, and chocolate-covered Belgian waffles for dessert. At 11am, we leave for Monaco – but not before a stopover in the ocean, mid-way to our location. With not a cloud in sight, we decide to take the jet skis out for a spin.
August 5, 3pm
We dock at the city best known for its Grand Prix and princely family: Monaco. Our first stop is the glamorous Hotel de Paris, which is situated in the heart of the city and has been featured in no small number of films, including two James Bond efforts as well as Iron Man 2.
August 5, 7.30pm
Fehon has reserved a table for us at Elsa, the Michelin-starred restaurant at The Monte-Carlo Beach hotel, where we enjoy a simple, discreet dinner before heading back to our yacht to conclude the evening with drinks. “The best part of the entire trip,” says Huang, “is to be able to spend quality time with great friends and my fiancé.”
Day Four, Monaco and London
August 6, 10.30am
Four days, four cities, countless memories. The engagement trip ends as we disembark from Paraffin this morning, waving goodbye to the captain and sailors as we head back to the Dassault Falcon 7X, which takes us back to London. The trip concludes with our landing at London’s TAG Farnborough Airport, where, after a quick group photo, some head back to Asia, while others – like Huang and Wang – head into London to spend a few more days. As we bid each other adieu, Huang reminds us, “It doesn’t matter where you’re going – it’s who you have beside you.”