Madonna’s new album, "Hard Candy", is jam-packed with references to being miles apart, saving the world and embracing other cultures. It’s fitting, considering the Material Girl is constantly on the move. Whether she’s taking a Kabbalah course, adopting a baby or simply removing her clan from the public eye, the international pop-star is regularly spotted in far-flung spots. If you aspire to jet-set like Madonna, you’ll need a significant chunk of cash—or at the very least, a willing benefactor.
Even 15 years ago, during her "Immaculate" days, Madge knew the beauty of a quality luxury hotel. While visiting Brazil for a concert in 1993, the singer laid her pretty platinum head to rest at Rio de Janeiro’s grandest lodging option, the Caesar Park. But her swank digs didn’t stop her from donning her sporty duds and kicking it Brazil-style once she took to the stage.
“Madonna did her best impression of the ‘Girl from Ipanema,’ performing this song and her own hits for 120,000 people at Maracana Stadium, “ says Joao Rodriguez, account manager for Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau. “She showed her true colors by wearing the jersey of most cariocas' favorite team: Flamengo.”
When Madonna wed British film director Guy Ritchie many years later in 2000, the celebration was no bijou affair. The duo chartered jets to fly their guests that included Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting and Stella McCartney into Inverness Airport before heading to Dornoch, Scotland. The wedding took place at the 19th century Skibo Castle in the rugged Highlands. Once again, keeping with local “fashion,” Madonna arrived in the country bedecked in a tartan overcoat and checked trousers.
Just as she’s grown as an artist, Madonna’s travel style has evolved as well. While she may hit up mainstream locales like Italy and Spain while on tour—posh stops have included Rome’s Hotel de Russie and Madrid’s Hotel Ritz—when she travels as a “real” person, the pop goddess prefers off-the-beaten-path destinations.
The adoption of her son David took Madge back and forth to Malawi. For some observers, her trips were more or less responsible for giving media attention to the relatively unknown nation. Since she began her visits to the southern African nation a couple years back, Madonna has become an integral part in Raising Malawi, an organization that funds orphanages, crisis nurseries and schools. Some even go as far as to give her credit for promoting awareness of the unexposed country on a global scale.
“Overall, it’s been helpful as yet another way of getting this small but beautiful country known,” says John Douglas, director of Malawi Tourism Marketing. “A New York newspaper that had a travel writer's story about a trip to Malawi laying for months on a shelf quickly pulled it down and printed it using Madonna's name in the headline, although it had nothing to do with Madonna as such. This was when the news of Madonna's first visit became known.”
During her visits to Malawi, she’s known to occupy a room at the rustic, family-owned Kumbali Country Lodge in the capital of Lilongwe. Her sense of curiosity has taken her to other remote corners of the globe, as well, such as the desert state of Rajahstan, India, earlier this year, where she and her family sampled a smattering of the country’s different flavors. After arriving in Jodhpur from the Maldives, Madonna’s crew headed to a heritage hotel in Dechu village and later on to Jaisalmer and Udaipur, before visiting the impoverished areas of Mumbai. After her passion for India was sparked, it has been rumored that the next addition to her family may be an adopted Indian tot, as the Malawi red tape in adopting a second child has proven too difficult for the singer to overcome.
But have fame and fortune really changed the way Madonna looks at the world?
“I think Madonna is just as adventurous now as she was at 19,” says Mary Cross, author of "Madonna: A Biography," who describes Madge as “fearless.” And yet, “she had to talk Guy into going to India last year… He did not want to go, but he eventually gave in.”
If you happen to be vacationing in the vicinity as the Ciccone-Ritchie posse, don’t expect camera time with the diva. Madonna has been known to stick close to her children and hubby. According to Cross, she choses not to “indulge her fans that much with autographs and photos these days.”
Which makes sense. International stars must take measures to protect themselves—and their loved ones. Madonna is therefore likely to be found at the highly reputable hotels that cater to high-profile clients.
“Security probably has a lot to do with it,” says Cross. “She had a stalker in 1996 who was just let out of prison and now that she has children, I think she's hyper-aware of security. This had something to do with her moving to another country, too. I think she definitely wants her privacy, so even though she loves luxury and might pick a well-known hotel, she keeps a low profile and insists on hotel confidentiality.”
Additionally, the hotel must agree to honor her requests—whether it’s a certain kind of accommodation she insists upon or a type of mineral water she prefers to fill the shelves of her mini-bar, like at the David InterContinental in Tel Aviv. Several sources reveal that Madonna, at times, can be a little high-maintenance.
“When she is on tour,” says Cross, “she is completely demanding.” For example, the Material Girl demands new toilet seats. Would you expect anything less from the Queen of Pop?