If you're in Moscow, travel by the underground. It's not too complicated, and it's worth getting lost just to see as many of the stations as possible. Stalin built them to show how fortunate his subjects were to exist in a Soviet state, and they're beautiful. They have intricate mosaics, enormous chandeliers, towering ceilings, elaborate steel-work, and tunnelled walkways that would not be out of place in a palace – which was the idea. One mosaic in Stalin's image was not, alas for him, so fortunate once he was posthumously declared a dictator – it was chipped out tile by tile and replaced with Lenin's. Even the subways that snake under Moscow are political, but this is fitting for a city with so much history at every turn.
Nowhere is the power of history – the romanticised view of it, at least – more keenly felt than in the Café Puskin, a short walk from Red Square. Over three floors of a 19th-century mansion, lavishly decorated in early 20th-century style, it feels like a restaurant plucked straight from a Tolstoy novel. The second floor, where we ate, has lines of books, huge old globes, antique telescopes and a vast clock collection. We were invited by an imposing waiter to admire the clocks and could not refuse. After a suitable amount of admiration, I turned to the rest of the room – a haze of twinkling lights and candles casting shadows on samovars, as waiters swooped around tables with aplomb ... I thought it was the time for a photo opportunity. No sooner had the flash captured a company of strangers than another imposing waiter, face chiselled into a strange expression of polite regard and extreme foreboding, tells me it's not, in fact, the time for a photo opportunity. "Photos just at the table of your friends," he intones. I find out later that there may be some people in the room who just don't want to have their picture taken, and – really – who I probably don't want to photograph.
I also don't want to be in possession of a picture of Lenin. I find this out in the queue to see him and there's something about waiting in a long line with a soldier at every turn that makes one feel disinclined to argue. There is a very heavy feeling in this place. It is not the time to whisper "he hasn't changed a bit" or any other amusing quips you might think have comic timing. As you descend into the darkness of this mausoleum, there is still a sense of the grip of power history holds – despite the designer shops just off the magnificent Red Square that Lenin would never have countenanced. If he could turn in his grave, he would.
In this way, new Russia and old Russia seem to coexist. Old Communists march around Red Square, a stone's throw from the glitzy new retail outfits. The children of monied parents, educated in the best universities in the US, walk round with bodyguards in the shadow of Stalinist architecture, with Moscow as their playground. We visited the Red October chocolate factory, which was used for state chocolate production after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Like a real life Willie Wonka's factory, it sits on the Moscow River, across from the Kremlin, with long steel floors and ventilation pipes that used to stream the smell of chocolate to the neighbourhood. The chocolate making ceased at the end of 2007: soon it will be converted into luxury apartments. When we visited last December, Maria Baibakova, a 23-year-old heiress and art historian, was in the process of curating an exhibition there. The cost simply to heat this third floor of the building would be prohibitive for most, never mind the cost of the exhibition. Yet in the floors beneath there are, still, old Soviet staff rooms – rows of steel lockers and, eerily, piped broadcasts echoing from an old-style speaker shaped like a megaphone. The music sounds trapped in a loop as all round is dismantled and changed. A rather fitting analogy for modern-day Russia – it doesn't take much to scrape beneath the surface to find that it will take more than glitz and luxury to wipe away the foundations of this fascinating city.
Money no object
* Eden Rock, St Barts' most star-studded hotel, now has several private villas including the six-star Villa Rock Star. Set on a pink sand beach this four-bedroom palace comes with a gym, infinity pool and fully-equipped recording studio edenrockhotel.com. Prices start at £92,000 per week.
* The UXUA Casa Hotel, created around a fishing village outside Bahia in Brazil doesn't officially open until March but has already welcomed U2 band members and diamond moguls from Bulgari. Not surprising as it's the work of Wilbert Das, creative director of Diesel fashion; uxuacasahotel.com
* The Casa Dell'Arte is further proof that Bodrum has become something of a glam playground. This ritzy hotel-cum-gallery is stuffed with modern art, collected by the artist-owners, plus a private screening room, a spa and jetty for your yacht. Doubles from £350, casadellartebodrum.com
* Why slum it at Earl's Court when you can go to Cannes to discover the latest hot spots in the luxury travel world? Taking place, where else, in Cannes, The International Luxury Travel Market (iltm.net) represents everything from private jet companies to luxury ski lodges. Go on, treat yourself.Reuse content