New Guinea is aflutter with birds of paradise, while the Galapagos swarm with flocks of blue-footed boobies. So what about those other rare birds — of the jet-set variety? There’s the Blue-Blooded Booby — equally evolved to thrive in exotic niche environments — and the flamboyant Greenback Warbler, with its piercing cry of “ca-ash, ca-ash, ca-ash”?
This time of the year, they’re on the wing, too, firing up the private jets for an annual migration to distant island sanctuaries unspoiled by invasive pest species from Germany and America.
A few of these fine feathered friends have found a new roost on Lopud, a little speck of an island in the Adriatic Sea, along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. It’s an hour
Francesca von Habsburg, who gets credit for discovering the island, is restoring the ruined Franciscan monastery at one end of the beach. As anyone who knows “Chessy” can attest, gregarious isn’t a long enough word to describe her social endurance, and she’s been inviting friends to Croatia. (Until work on the monastery is complete, Habsburg entertains in a 17th-century house in the city of Dubrovnik, decorated in a nutty Austin Powers-goes-Communist style, mixing plastic Seventies furniture salvaged from a local hotel with Internet purchases.) Her numerous guests have included everyone from HRH Prince Heinrich of Denmark and I.K. Sharma (the owner of the superluxury Amman Resorts, who picked out a crumbling Gothic villa on Lopud) to Venetian art restorer Toto Bergamo Rossi, who is also scouting on Lopud, albeit for something simpler.
But the real turning point for the island’s social life happened about six weeks ago, when octogenarian couture junkie Dodie Rosekrans — even her traveling clothes are designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior — swept in and essentially set up a rival court down the beach. It was while dining with a group of friends at a restored monastery outside Toledo, Spain, that Rosekrans got wind of Lopud.
“You know, I realized what I want in life,” she said, turning to Rossi, who was also at the dinner. “I want a monastery.”
Rossi replied: “I think I know of one for you.”
A week later, the two of them were on Lopud, picking their way through the overgrown ruins of the island’s Dominican Monastery, a few hundred yards down the beach from Francesca’s Franciscan monastery. Rosekrans made an offer on the spot. (Friends now jokingly call her Mother Superior and suggest that Galliano make her a couture habit for the housewarming party.)
Since then, Rosekrans has twice rented a jet to go back to scout other properties. Her idea is to preserve the island, so to speak, lest land get bought by interlopers with less taste — although presumably that wouldn’t include the Countess of Cawdor, a friend of hers who now wants to scout properties on the island, as well.
On Rosekrans’ most recent trip there, one of her traveling companions, a cheeky Parisian antiquaire with a shop on the Quai Voltaire, suggested that the best conservation program for the island would be for Rosekrans to buy the Lafodia Hotel — the only real hotel, a Communist era concrete blight — and dynamite it to smithereens.
He was just making a joke, but, in fact, it’s not a bad way to protect the rare birds of Lopud — just look at Patmos. That wild Greek island, where Prince Michael and Princess Marina of Greece and other notables summer, has to this day maintained an air of simple and calm. That’s because the dearth of hotels means you have to own or rent a house to visit. Capri, with its thousands of rooms for rent, paints the other extreme and proves that hotels, like rats, are damaging to the island’s ecosystem.
But for now, anyway, Lopud looks more like the new Patmos.
Java is the new Bali.
Rotterdam is the new Bilbao. Punta del Este is the new Ibiza.
Jose Ignacio is the new Punta del Este.
Jaipur is the new Marrakech.
Invernesshire is the new Cornwall.
Mexico is the new New Mexico.
St. Petersburg is the new Reykjavik.
Portugal is the new Turkey.
Berlin is the new London.
Budapest is the new Vienna.
Manhattan is the new Hamptons.””