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Who Needs A Hotel When You Can Retreat To A Multimillion-Dollar Estate Instead?
Texas Lawyer, April 1999

The view from the 32nd floor of the Wells Fargo Tower in Houston might be a remarkable one, but exotic it isn’t. It pales in comparison to the panorama that Mike Rogers, an associate with Gardere, Wynne, Sewell & Riggs, saw while vacationing at a house in Bali, Indonesia last June.

The Villa Putih is situated on five lush acres overlooking the cool blue ocean. Surrounded by tall trees and tropical foliage, the structure stands as a treatment to traditional Balinese architecture.

Inside the spacious lower-level, marble lays wall to wall in the open pattern of customary Indonesian floor plans. Rooms flow into one another with few wall partitions. Tropical hardwood covers the bedroom floors and accentuates the Chinese and Mediterranean antiques that blend well with the Balinese rattan.

The house is listed as one of the 50 most beautiful homes in the world by Architectural Digest and is among the many locations offered as retreats by a Houston travel-consulting firm, Tour of Enchantment. The company, owned and operated by Gregory Lee Patrick, provides multimillion-dollar private residences as part of its all-inclusive tour packages.

Many celebrity homes are also available as vacation getaways, among them the luxurious homes of Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret on Mustique Island, Francis Ford Coppola’s house in Belize, and Randy Travis’ Hawaiian homes and Jane Seymore’s   castle in England. Patrick is perhaps most proud of a vacation he arranged for several high-ranking government and military officials to stay at Princess Diana’s family home, Althorp Castle, 10 days before her fatal car accident.

While few lawyers have time to vacation, for those that can afford it- packages begin at $3,000 per week and can go as high as a quarter of a million dollars for two weeks ­ these tours are worth the money.

Howard Nations, a Houston solo practitioner, traveled with his family to Jamaica in 1997. They spent just over a week at a 10-room villa there.

“There were so many rooms, we didn’t use them all,” he says.

The house, Villa Mahogany, is situated on an acre and a half of tropical gardens, overlooking the private Half Moon Bay. The furnishings and Persian rugs add to the elegance of the dark mahogany floors and architecture of the interior, designed so the heavy shutters open, allowing the breeze to sweep through the house and out over the veranda.

The villa lies in an area rich in luxury. Nations says he jogged through an opulent neighborhood lined with mansions every morning. You might say he has a penchant for mansions- he recently purchased the historic Sterling Mansion in downtown Houston. Vinson & Elkins partner Joe Allen also traveled to Jamaica a few years ago. Although the company operates several homes there, he also stayed at the Villa Mahogany. The house, he recalls, sat atop a hill overlooking the bay, a golf course and the ocean.

The yard was beautiful, lush and tropical, with flowers and shrubs, Allen says. Nations also praises the landscaping of the villa, recalling the mornings he spent eating fresh fruit on the covered veranda.

At the other end of the world, the company operates castles throughout Europe. Humewood Castle in Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains is among the most enchanting 18th century homes the company offers. A gothic-revival structure, the façade is draped in pure granite and is set, in some places, with original stained-glass windows. Flanked by two lakes, the estate stands before green hills indicative of the country.

The 60,000 square foot interior reveals arched ceilings, dark wood moldings and furnishings in deep, rich hues of yellow and red. The castellated home evokes notions of chivalry and nobility, and is equipped with a staff to infuse the feel of royalty.

To the architectural havens, Tours of Enchantment supplements a full staff to pamper clients. Among others the company provides a chef, bartender, maid and masseuse.

Allen says the home in which he vacationed was staffed with an entourage of people. “There were 24 servants there waiting on us hand and foot,” says Rodgers “We even had a ballboy when we played tennis,” he says.

Patrick provides butlers at the agency that staffs Buckingham Palace and the Savoy. And clients have a driver at their disposal for the duration of the stay, a helpful extra added by the tour, according to Rogers and Nations.

The chefs and kitchen staff are hired out of Europe. “They have no budget….and get to create their own menus,” says Patrick. “They get to be true artists,” he adds.

Two Italian-trained chefs prepared meals for Roger and his guests in Bali. He says “they cooked the most wonderful meals.”

“It felt like having your own five-star hotel,” he adds.

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