The hotelier and founder of Island Records picks his six favourite places and a work of art…
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December 2012
With a Jewish-Jamaican mother and Irish father, Chris Blackwell was probably destined to be a wandering spirit. Born in London, bred in Jamaica, he set up Island Records at the age of 21. His signings included Bob Marley, Grace Jones and U2. He has lived in New York, London, Paris and the Bahamas, and has been a film producer and a hotelier.
I like to walk in cities and Paris is the best city in the world to walk in. It's a lot to do with angles: you can be going along a straight road and suddenly you come to an étoile, which gives you many more possibilities than a crossroads. I lived in Saint Germain for a time in the 1980s, and loved the scale of life. There were no big supermarkets, but instead specialist stores selling unique products: bakeries, fromageries, poissonneries and little boutiques.
JOURNEY Through the Sahara
We started and ended in Agadez, in northern Niger, which I guess is the desert equivalent of a Pacific Ocean port, an ancient trading centre. Our guide was a Tuareg chief and most of the time we were in Range Rovers, but in certain parts where the cars couldn't go, we went on camels. For about three to four hours each day, it was torture: there were no roads and the tracks were rocky as hell. But it was amazing too, just desert as far as we could see. And silence: no breeze, no birds, no insects, absolutely nothing. We slept in sleeping bags, and if there had been a breeze in the night, we would wake in the morning to find the dunes had moved, changing the landscape.
HOTEL Amandari, Ubud, Bali (above)
This has been a real inspiration to me. I went there the week it opened, in 1989, and I'd never seen anywhere so perfect. It was everything: the aesthetic, how it belonged to the setting, the attention to detail in the little cottages. Just the serenity of it is really moving. As a hotelier, once you've experienced something that great, it makes you try to do it better yourself; it gives you a bar, something to aim for.
VIEW Lake Powell, Utah
I'm tempted to choose the view from Firefly, the house Noel Coward built on a piece of land once used as a lookout by Captain Morgan, back in the days of pirates: I can spend days there, lost in dreams. But that might be too much Jamaica, so it's going to be Lake Powell in Utah, which is similar to Monument Valley, but flooded. It's like being in a view. You can be floating on water hundreds of feet deep, and go right up next to those monoliths. It's extraordinary, very otherworldly and magical.
BEACH Laughing Waters, Jamaica
I used to spend time on this beach when I was a boy. It was private until the 1960s, owned by relatives of mine. Then Ian Fleming recommended me for the job of location scout on "Dr No", the first Bond film. I showed them Laughing Waters and they used it for the scene where Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in that bikini. It was sensational and really kicked off that first film, and the franchise. There used to be many more tall coconut palm trees back then, but Jamaica lost 80% to lethal yellowing disease in the 1970s, a tremendous shame.
WORK OF ART Citizen Kane
I'm more of a fan of movies than traditional arts—particularly older movies. "Citizen Kane" is unbelievable, especially considering how little technology there was then. I find most big films these days to be more of a theme park ride than a movie, full of easy thrills, like fast food. But old films were character-driven and stylish. You can learn a lot about life from them. "Citizen Kane" is the story of a man with tremendous power and an insatiable lust for more. His fate was a lesson for us all.
BUILDING Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Frank Gehry's design is so beautiful, it makes you want to touch it. I've only been there once, but it drew me to it. The outside is dramatic, like silver waves. Inside, the acoustics are brilliant, functional to the highest degree, but not at the expense of how wonderful it looks. To me, it resembles a beautiful animal.
Chris Blackwell was talking to Samantha Weinberg