A Guide to the Good Life: Part 1


Juliana Ramirez, wife of $22.5-million-a- year Red Sox outfielder Manny, says that despite what people may expect, her idea of luxury is simple.

>> “Luxury to me is being able to take care of myself and my family.    

>> My favorite part of the day is the morning. Manny and I get up and go to the gym, where we work out together. I'm the one who helps him work out. It's funny. Then we go home, we talk, we have breakfast. We have a little table by the window with a beautiful view of Boston, and that's our special moment.    

>> Manny and I both come from simple, loving, caring families. We go out, we invite the family over to barbecue on the weekends, we tell jokes. Our lives are not about the things we have.    

>> I have to take care of myself! I get a manicure and pedicure every week. I have a chef who comes in to make breakfast and dinner so when Manny comes home I can spend time with him instead of making dinner.    

>> What means the most to us is doing something from the heart. It's not about giving expensive gifts. When you have them, you take them for granted.    

>> Manny has this thing for cars. He loves to refurbish them. He just bought an old 1967 Cadillac that he's fixing up for his dad.    

>> I love taking Manny Jr. to the Boston Children's Museum. At home, we play on the floor. He's a really happy boy.    

>> All the money you have is worth nothing if you don't have somebody special who loves you.”

What is Luxury?

Luxury can be a dirty sock if dressed up in the right way, says fashion designer Zac Posen. Well, he's at least half right: Dirty socks notwithstanding, luxury is an entirely relative thing. It is, at the end of the day, what is rare and special to each of us. That could be an afternoon free of your cell phone just as easily as it could be a crocodile Birkin bag. We let a handful of prominent Bostonians define luxury as they see it.

In the wintertime, I skate — usually at about 2 a.m. I always take a cigar, Cognac, and chocolate with me and, after skating a little while, sit on the ice watching the moon and the stars in the sky. It is a magical moment.    

>> Artist Kaji Aso

Luxury in my life would be to have a private plane at my disposal, complete with my own pilot. Los Angeles for the weekend? Manhattan for dinner? That's living!  

>> Liz Bates, co-owner of Montage

I'm a spa junkie. For me, the setting can be more luxurious than the actual treatment. When I walk in, it's the aroma and the sense of peacefulness. It's almost like you've melted. You don't have a care in the world — you feel cleansed, like all the bad things have gone away.    

>> Beth Dickerson, owner, Dickerson Real Estate

My idea of luxury is not to worry at all about time. I'm very happy with my job (after all, I regularly fight hard to keep it), but it has one downside: I have more things to do than time in which to do them. So a day when I can go to the gym without worrying about how long it takes and look forward to an unhurried dinner with no speeches either to make or to hear — that's my greatest luxury.

>> Congressman Barney Frank

Luxury for me means being in Aspen and waking up to eight inches of fluffy powder and a crystal-clear sky. All phones, fax lines, and e-mail connections are down, and I'm in the first bucket on the gondola.  

>> Charles Hotel owner Dick Friedman

My greatest luxury would be 10 extra hours in a week. I'd cook dinner for friends — roasted chicken with root vegetables. And afterward I'd do the dishes. That's how I unwind. I'm obviously Type A. A new pair of black lace-up shoes from Via Spiga would be nice, too.

>> Charles Heightchew, manager of costumes and wardrobe, Boston Ballet

Luxury is kickin' back with friends, snacking on fresh popcorn, and watching great films, like Some Like It Hot, Shane, or Once Upon a Time in America. Heck, it feels pretty good just thinking about it now.    

>> Seth Justman, songwriter, keyboardist, and producer of the J. Geils Band

For me, it's being in a place where I can just be anonymous. When I envision that luxurious day, it's not being by myself or having a facial or a massage. It's riding bikes with my husband and kids to Gull Pond in Wellfleet. We have a picnic basket packed with grapes, a fresh baguette, cheese, and a bottle of wine. Oh, and of course, sippy cups of milk for the kids. My husband and my kids are in the water, and I'm reading InStyle and listening to Antonio Carlos Jobim on my headset.

>> Smaiyra Million, general manager, the Sports Club/LA

I love it when fall starts rolling in and I know it's time to break out my cash mere blanket. It's huge, it's beautiful, truly luxurious. Ten-by-ten feet, bordered in chocolate suede — it couldn't be any better. One of my dearest friends had it made for me, and it's the greatest gift ever. It will never get old, never fall out of style, never fail to make whatever I read under it a little better, or whatever I'm dreaming a little dreamier.  

>> Christopher Myers, co-owner of Radius, Great Bay, and Via Matta

My ultimate luxury item is a Bottega Veneta chartreuse ostrich hobo-bag with sterling silver detail. The color is so striking that it works as a neutral, the hobo-bag style complements any outfit from jeans to an evening dress, and the sterling silver accents are as beautiful as any piece of fine jewelry.

>> Leslee Shupe, owner of Serenella

A certain meal in the small town of Narbonne in southern France comes to mind when I think of luxury. A posting on a church bulletin board directed us to a restaurant in an 11th-century underground cave. The chef kept sending out course after course. Each was incredible. The meal lasted four hours, with eight courses followed by a selection of 14 after-dinner liqueurs. I don't think we knew how much it was going to cost beforehand, but it didn't break the bank. Luxury doesn't have to be expensive. I think of it in terms of pleasurable experiences, whether it be great food or wine or a massage.    

>> David White, concierge, Four Seasons Hotel Boston

Childhood Fantasy

1. Green iPod Mini, $249. Apple Store.   Cue up the latest tunes minus the clunky Discman. 2. Sony PlayStation, $149.99. Circuit City. Games galore. Need we say more? 3. Sony 21″ LCD HDTV monitor, $1,499.99. Circuit City. High-definition is a high priority when watching those “educational” programs. 4. Air Jordan XIX SE sneakers, $99.99. Finish Line. By far the best dunks on the court. 5. Assorted tees and zip sweatshirts, $14-$65. Urban Outfitters. Fashionable fits for both ends of the design spectrum. 6. Jeans, $189.70. Diesel. Send your offspring to school knowing that they inherited the cool jeans. 7. Personal collections — Adam Vinatieri autographed football, various autographed baseballs, Cooperstown official baseball bat, priceless. The true sign of a fan and the truly well-connected. 8. Horse, $430. Hermès. Almost as pricey as the real thing, but at least you don't have to pony up stable fees. 9. Panerai desk clock, $1,050. Alpha Omega. Childhood is fleeting. Keep track of the precious minutes with a stylish tick-tocker. 10. Bose Series II 3âˆ'2âˆ'1 Home Theater System, $999.99. Best Buy. Because parents need a sound reason to yell at the top of their lungs, “Turn down that music!” 11. Manny replica jersey, $99.99. City Sports. Show them how to route for the home team in appropriate fashion. 12. Orange mohair blanket, $1,050. Hermès. For times when you just want to blanket Junior in piles of cashmere. 13. Fender guitar, $400. Guitar Stop. Ladies and gentlemen, the School of Rock is now in session. 14. Private school soccer uniform, $20,000 (for tuition). Learning how to be a team player is a smart strategy. 15. Nike soccer shoes, $54.99. City Sports. Scores a goal, on the foot and the field, every time. 16. Humvee remote control car, $79. KB Toys. The wheels of choice for tykes without keys or drivers' licenses. Yet.

Cents and Sensibility

How to live like you're rich, even if you're not.

The good things in life don't always have zillion-dollar price tags. These frugal finds let you live large — for less. By Hillary Kerr

The Luxury: Crème de La Mer is possibly the most coveted skin-care product in the world, touted by starlets and skincare professionals alike. Cost: $1,200 for 16.5 ounces.

The Luxury for Less: Dermatologist to the stars Dr. Dennis Gross has his own surface-improving line, M.D. SkinCare, the bane of Botox docs everywhere. Cost: $32 for the popular Firming Eye Gel with Vitamin C.

The Luxury: For those who prefer to fly private, but haven't reached Gulfstream G550 status: The Marquis Jet Card lets you rent a plane by the hour. Cost: $109,900
for 25 hours, plus fees and taxes.

The Luxury for Less: You'll be saying, “JetWho?” after snagging a ride on Delta's less costly, but just as cushy (think free DVDs) offshoot Song. Cost: About $215 roundtrip to West Palm Beach.

The Luxury: Custom blend a fragrance to match your personality in Sarah Horowitz-Thran's perfume studio, the House of Creative Scentu-alization. Cost: About $500.

The Luxury for Less: Also created by Horowitz-Thran, Urban Decay's new Perfume Oils line consists of three scents, so you can mix and match to fit your fragrance feeling du jour. Cost: $29.50 per scent.

The Luxury: The 2005 Arnage RL is the jewel in the Bentley crown. Customize your ride with back-seat bars, makeup cases, and exterior colors to match your nail polish. Cost: $250,985 plus customizing.

The Luxury for Less: The Bentley Continental GT isn't cheap, but its monstrous twin-turbo engine devours the road like Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi at a hot-dog-eating contest. Cost: $155,990.

The Luxury: Created in the '80s for British actress Jane Birkin, the Hermès Birkin is one bag to take to the vault (or, in the case of Martha Stewart, to court). Cost: From $6,000 to $80,000.

The Luxury for Less: For a downtown take on uptown style, try Kooba's Shelby bag, which is fashioned in a similar shape to that of the Birkin. Far from a knock-off, these bags pack their own style. Cos t : $4 65 .

The Luxury: Only those invited to own a Centurion American Express card (like Jessica Simpson) can flash this plastic — which has an unlimited credit limit. Cost: $2,500 per year.

The Luxury for Less: The budget-chic GapCard offers rewards galore, so shoppers can stock up on the store's stretch blazers without stretching their wallets too far. Cos t: Free.

The Importance of Being Importance

Crossing the velvet rope. We're not on the list. We don't high-five the owner. We don't know the password. Basically, we've got nothing. But that didn't stop us from checking out the city's most exclusive VIP spots. Here's what you can get, if you actually are somebody in this town.

The Owner's Table

Where: Excelsior. Enter through Boylston Street, take the glass elevator to the dining room, and you'll find this table strategically placed in a corner, off to the side. The appeal: This exclusive power table seats between five and eight and is framed by windows overlooking the Public Garden. Although you can't make a reservation, requests are honored and, in this case, the larger the party — and the higher the celebrity status — the better. Who gets in: Christina Aguilera, Manny Ramirez, and Billy Crystal all have dined at the table. The cost: Not including wine — and bottles run as high as $1,850 — a dinner can hover around the $70-per-person mark, but being able to schmooze clients and impress your friends is, well, priceless.

Executive members' locker room

Where: The Sports Club/LA. The appeal: The plush rooms are outfitted with personal lockers for storing those Lacoste duds, omnipresent snacks (tea, coffee, fruit), and white cotton robes. Extras such as free laundry and a three-hour parking pass per visit for the garage are also included. Who gets in: The club offers 582 men's and 342 women's spots in each exclusive locker room. A handful of these are still up for grabs. The cost: Once you front the $1,900 initiation fee, you still get smacked with a $260 monthly charge. Tack on a personal trainer, and you're pumping out at least $63 more per session.

The Phillips House private medical suites

Where: Massachusetts General Hospital. The appeal: The ultimate in patient care — hotel-quality service (including specially prepared meals, elegant lounges, international phone lines, and satellite television service) combined with exceptional medical treatment. The suites occupy the hospital's top three floors. And, yes, every room has a spectacular view. Who gets in: They're not saying, but it may be a giveaway that some of the newspapers delivered daily are international editions. The cost: $2,163 per day.

The Fifth Avenue Club

Where: Saks Fifth Avenue, Prudential Center. The appeal: This exclusive shopping service pairs you with a fashion consultant who will handpick, primp, and prepare your wardrobe for you — no schlepping bags or hangers or fighting for the last size 6. The personalized shoppers will also gladly fetch you lunch from local restaurants, arrange for fittings in your home or office, and send monthly hosiery and cosmetic replenishments, not to mention schedule in-store appointments before or after normal business hours. Who gets in: Membership is free, though that perfectly assembled Dolce & Gabbana outfit and the latest Jimmy Choos can certainly stretch the wallet, very, very far. The cost: Free.

The Presidential Suites

Where: Four Seasons Hotel Boston. The appeal: Designed to be an extension of the guest's home, this 1,600-square-foot suite comes equipped with four plasma televisions (including one above the sunken tub in the master bathroom), a baby-grand piano, custom-crafted furniture by posh design firm Babey Moulton, and a canopied king-sized bed. Located on the sixth floor, overlooking the Public Garden, this suite is the only one in the hotel to have its own balcony so you can literally lord your wealth above everybody else. Who gets in: “Only the most affluent clientele,” the hotel says. But really, your guess is as good as ours. They're not joking when it comes to keeping guests' names confidential. The cost: One night's stay rings up at $6,000, which could also buy you a season ticket in a Red Sox field box. Choices, choices.

Flights of Fancy

Need an escape from reality? Try this lavish and ultra-extravagant weekend retreat. By Erin Byers

No one said being glamorous was easy. Jet setters tour uncharted waters, eat the equivalent of their body weight in gourmet food, and climb into limousines, all in the name of living well. It's exhausting, really. What makes us such experts? We walked (okay, flew) a few hundred miles in their Pradas. Here's what it's like to hobnob for 48 hours on the “Ultimate Mansions of New England” tour.

Organized by Tourjeté, a company that caters to the well-moneyed and the well-traveled with trips to fancy destinations up and down the East Coast, our weekend getaway hit high speed (literally) the moment we took off in our Bombardier Learjet. Our first stop: Wheatleigh, the exclusive Italianate villa in Lenox. Then it was on to tour Edith Wharton's private estate, followed by a hot-air balloon ride over the Berkshires and a hands-on cooking class with Wheatleigh's executive chef. That was followed by a seven-course feast of duck, Dungeness-crab salad, and frogs' legs with foie gras — punctuated by a sweet strawberry-and-Meyer-lemon
parfait — then a midnight piano serenade.

Eight blissful hours of sleep later, we boarded the jet for Newport, where we dined on chilled crab claws and mini-Kobe beef hamburgers at the Terrazza restaurant at the Chanler. Later, we toured Doris Duke's estate, took a sunset sail on a 68-foot yacht, and endured (sigh) another epic meal, this time at the Chanler's Spiced Pear. At day's end we returned to a butler-drawn bath sprinkled with rose petals, then drifted off to sleep.

The tally for this two-day getaway ($40,000) covers you and five friends. In addition to your Gold Card, don't forget to pack a camera: You'll want proof of what hard work it is to live this well. (Tourjeté, 914-466-5812, www.tourjete.com .)

Rags to Riches

How to look like a million bucks.

Money can buy many things. Style is not necessarily one of them. Fortunately, personal riches can buy you access to valuable style secrets. Here, John Stefanelli of Alan Bilzerian gives us top-shelf picks for   style at all costs. All clothing from Alan Bilzerian, 34 Newbury St., Boston, 617-536-1001.

The personal shopper:

John Stefanelli , our trusty style guide, has an eye for fashion that is not easily matched. Which is why we approached him for the purposes of this rags-to-riches mission. The setup: We gave Stefanelli a blank check (hypothetically speaking) and he gave us a closetful of clothing options for how and what to wear when money is really no object. The result: As witnessed on these pages, luxe syle deftly mixes together the unexpected with bold colors and fine details. The final look, therefore,
is carried off in   anything but routine fashion.

For women:

Chaya Vance earrings, $1,200. Handcrafted, 18-karat-gold earrings with citrine stones.
Lanvin astrakan coat, $21,000. Weightless skin in a coat is the ultimate luxury. Plus, the color complements any skin tone.
Share Spirit dress, $3,995. Handmade with handcut velvet. The leather and alligator trim makes this very elegant fabric feel a little more funky, more bohemian.
Onbeline python sandal, $555. Crafted in burgundy python for a retro-'40s look.

For men:

Fred Bear hat, $180. Water resistant? You bet — it's made from oilcloth.
Lainey Keough hoodie, $2,400. Entirely handloomed, made from cashmere. Super soft and thick.
Gloves by Alan Bilzerian,   $795. Handpainted fingerless gloves, perfect for when you want a little rock-and-roll edge.
Yohji Yamamoto coat, $1,995. Exquisite tailoring lends shape to this season's all-important tweed.
If Six Was Nine jeans, $650. Hand-dyed with rings and grommets. How's that for cool?
Y-3 leather shoe, $340. Updated coaching shoe with leopard-leather detail by the almighty designer Yohji.