leisure 02.5.14

Out of Town: Animals

The house seems to have been designed for a Merchant and Ivory film. You'll probably be surprised when you don't see Helena Bonham Carter roaming the grounds of this country manor, built in 1932 for a Scottish toffee heir, just outside of Nairobi.

You'll like your room. You'll appreciate the staff. You'll be delighted with the views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. But you will never forget the gorgeous, gentle creatures who roam freely here in this giraffic park.

In the 1970s, the estate's new owners, Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, learned that the remaining Rothschild giraffes were facing extinction, and they brought a baby girl giraffe they named Daisy onto the estate to join three wild bull giraffes already there. They also founded the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and created a Giraffe Center on the property. Since then, many new giraffes have been born and become an indelible part of the landscape—and the experience.

Even if you're the leave-me-alone-at-breakfast type, how can you resist the long neck and gentle eyes of a giraffe peering in through the window of the breakfast room? You are welcome to feed them when they pay a visit there or to the second-floor bedroom window. It's so crazily enchanting that for a moment you think all hotels should have giraffes.

Those in the Karen Blixen room (her Out of Africa farm was nearby) will be surrounded by some of Blixen's furniture. Nice touch, but remember, views of Kilimanjaro are playing second fiddle here, too.

Giraffe Manor isn't cheap: figure north of $525 a night per person, which includes all meals and alcohol. But the fact that rooms are hard to come by, many booked by repeat guests, is a testament to the delight brought by its sweet, lanky residents.

Qiviut, a much-loved Scrabble word, is musk ox wool, also much-loved since it's warmer than sheep's wool and softer than cashmere.

The musk ox is an incredible animal, having been stomping around since the Ice Age, but now allowing itself to be domesticated for qiviut production. Head north from Anchorage about 45 miles and you'll come to the non-profit Musk Ox Farm in Palmer where they're helping reintroduce the musk ox into the area (it had been extinct in this part of the world).

You can visit the the sixty Oomingmaks (bearded ones) at their lovely home in the Matanuska Valley, learn about the sustainable agricultural practices used there, buy a great wool hat, and most of all, spend some time in the company of these extraordinary creatures.

Butterflies of every stripe and swirl. Insects that specialize in camouflage. Periwinkle, Scotch Bonnet and Lightning Whelk seashells. Stuffed lions and zebras.

This could only be Deyrolle in Paris, which, since 1831, has specialized in the wonders of the natural world. No matter how often you visit, there are new drawers to open, new discoveries to make.

Louis Albert de Broglie, from an old and distinguished French family, did a major career switcheroo—from banking to gardening—earning the nickname from friends of Le Prince Jardinier. He bought Deyrolle in 2001, giving new life to the fading landmark, and installed Le Prince Jardinier line of gardening tools and accessories (now expanded to include things like candles and perfumes) into the shop.

In 2008, a serious fire nearly destroyed Deyrolle. It's no exaggeration to say that M. de Broglie rallied France to help save the beloved curiosity shop. Companies like Hermès pitched in, as did dozens of artists who contributed artworks that were auctioned by Christies to help rebuild Deyrolle.

Today Deyrolle is back to its old self. That means new generations of kids, along with their equally wide-eyed parents, will continue to be amazed by—and respectful of—what can be found in every corner of the world.

Everyone says the same thing: You'll hear them before you see them.

They're talking about the 1500 or so Black Howler Monkeys that live in an 18-acre sanctuary twenty miles from Belize City. For over 20 years, the local community of eight villages has banded together to protect these 'baboons,' as they're called in the area.

The howlers make an indelible sound—sort of a raspy roar—but, not to worry, they're strict vegetarians, foraging among the leaves and fruit of the rainforest.

When you visit, you'll get Belizean hospitality (you can camp at the Sanctuary center or stay in one of the nearby bed and breakfasts), the unforgettable Howlers, not to mention over 200 bird species, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, foxes, jaguars, and countless other animals and varieties of plant life.

What everyone doesn't tell you about those howls: you'll hear them long after you see them, too.

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