May 11, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Housed in the regal Hotel Grand, Cafe Roux is one of Amsterdam's trendy hotspots. The setting is exquisite; bordered by two canals, the historic hotel has been at the center of city life for over six centuries. (In the 15th century, it was a convent and more recently it served as Amsterdam's Town Hall and the wedding spot for Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands.) One of Amsterdam's finest brasserie style restaurants, Cafe Roux has won multiple awards, including Wine Spectator's Restaurant Award for four consecutive years. Overlooking a picturesque canal, the restaurant is designed with oak floors and art deco details. The menu changes weekly, taking its inspiration from a specific culinary region of France. It's also possible to dine al fresco in the charming courtyard garden. Afternoon tea is a real treat. Served daily at 3 p.m., priced at EUR 22,50 per person, the tea features warm scones and clotted cream, assorted pastries, and dainty finger sandwiches.
Explore the very best of New South Wales with a fabulous seven-night package put together by Sydney's fashionable Observatory Hotel. From Sydney's cosmopolitan charms, to the majestic Blue Mountains and beautiful Hunter Valley region, the package tour includes a personal guide who will highlight unparalleled vistas, secret, remote locations, and animals in their natural habitat-- all from the comfort of a luxury four-wheel drive vehicle. The "Best of New South Wales" package begins with three nights accommodation at The Observatory, the Sydney hot spot managed by the renowned Orient-Express Hotel group, perfectly located in the heart of the Rocks district.
The package also includes two nights accommodations at Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, one night at Tower Lodge in Hunter Valley, daily full breakfast for two, private tours and transfer service between hotels, a complimentary Tower Estate winery experience (private tasting and guided tour with one of the cellar door team), and one complimentary night at either The Observatory Hotel or Lilianfels. Starting from AUD $5,700 in the low season.
It's easy to become seduced by Barcelona. Sunning on the urban beaches of the Catalan coastline, checking out Picasso's weird sketches at the Picasso Museum, bar-hopping along Las Ramblas, discovering the magical whimsy of Gaudi's architectural gems like the Sagrada Familia. Your ideal base in this dynamic city is the Hotel Claris, a luxury boutique hotel opened in the former Palacio Vedruna (note: the beautiful facade is still intact). Perks include an awesome terrace overlooking Barcelona and rooftop swimming pool and solarium with incredible vistas. The hotel itself is like a museum, an art-lover's paradise filled with original Egyptian, Roman and Hindu art, including engravings commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, mosaics and Roman sculptures from the 2nd century. Located on Paseo de Gracia in the middle of all the action, Hotel Claris offers 124 guestrooms, beautifully decorated and outfitted with all the latest technology.
Note: Small Luxury Hotels of the World recently commended Hotel Claris for the exceptional levels of personal service provided at the Club Level. Examples of guest-pampering are numerous: helicopter flights over the mountains, the use of a car to explore the city's historical sights, complimentary access to museums.
Enjoy laid-back, barefoot elegance on the beach in the off-season and score some serious savings at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the resort offers guests seven miles of powder-white sandy beach right just steps from the front door. A summer stay at the only all-suite beachfront hotel in Naples will set you back just $169 per night. Take a dip in the stunning outdoor pools, or sip a cocktail at the poolside bar. Hit the gym or play a round of golf at Naples renowned courses. Check out the lively night spots and upscale shopping in Old Naples (just minutes away). Relax on your own private balcony, indulge in an in-room massage or spa service. The Edgewater Beach Hotel may be relaxed and lighthearted, but it definitely doesn't skimp on the luxury.
Escape to Italy this summer and discover a hidden gem of a country estate-turned-luxury hotel just outside Florence. Villa Olmi Resort is the best of the old world and new; it combines the artistic splendor of the Renaissance with the luxurious amenities and technology of contemporary Italy. Set amidst the greenery of a centuries old park, Villa Olmi is all about the good life: excellent gourmet restaurant (and wine cellar), plush furnishings, impeccable service, and majestic surroundings. Take advantage of the Romantic Italian Experience, available until August 31, 2007, and really wow your loved one. The two-night package includes accommodations in a Junior Suite of the Villa or Fattoria, welcome drink with sparkling wine and snacks, a candle-light dinner for two at Il Cavaliere restaurant (beverages not included), one city tour in horse-carriage, and complimentary buffet breakfast. Starting from EUR 1200 per room for the two-night stay.
The Alvear's chic French restaurant, La Bourgogne, may be the city's best (the only Relais Gourmands establishment in Argentina), but the Lobby Bar is where it's at. Located in the Recoleta neighborhood, the most refined quarter in the city, the Alvear Palace Hotel stands as an elegant icon in Buenos Aires. Slink into the Lobby Bar and mingle with well-heeled Argentines, international jetsetters, and visiting royalty. The bar offers a fine selection of cognacs and single malt whiskies, and creative cocktails abound. Try The Alvear, a sultry mix of gin, pineapple pulp, Benedictine, lemon juice and champagne, served in a Martini glass and topped with a cherry.
May 9, 2007
By: Courtney W. May
I recently spent a long weekend in New York City and had the pleasure of staying at the Loews Regency Hotel on the Upper East Side (61st and Park Avenue to be specific) in their Sutton Suite - suite number 2126. My pictures didn't come out nearly as nicely as their promotional photo (see right), but I can attest to the fact that the photo is an accurate representation of the Master Bedroom.
The Sutton Suite is a two-bedroom suite located on the 21st/Penthouse floor of the hotel. Both bedrooms provide King size beds - one bedroom with a view West towards Central Park, and the other with a terrace and views of Park Avenue. A total of 2.5 baths, full sauna, kitchenette, 2 terraces, dining area, and separate den round out the Sutton Suite. The feel is much more of a private apartment then a hotel room, but with all of the amazing amenities of the concierge and in-room services.
What is even more amazing about the two-bedroom suites at the Regency are the costs. A standard Superior King room at the Loews Regency is $489 per night with 225 square feet and a courtyard view. The lowest standard rate for a two-bedroom suite is $1129 and provides 1300 square feet. That's a little more then twice the cost for more then 5 times the space - plus views of Park Avenue and kitchenettes, dens, additional beds and bath ... It's amazing how much more you get for not much more price. And trust me, the additional amenities, space, views, and more are really worth the extra cost.
So if you are going to the Regency and plan on booking two rooms, it makes much more sense to book the two-bedroom suite then to request 2 connecting rooms.
The weekend was rainy, and the pictures didn't turn out nearly as well as they could have to do the room justice, but you can see copies of the photos I took on Flickr and in The Informed Traveler photo group.
By: Courtney W. May
Spa-lovers rejoice. The Peninsula Chicago recently debuted the brand new Spa by ESPA. Ranked the number one Urban Hotel Spa by Conde Nast Traveler (April 2006), the 14,000 square foot Peninsula Spa just got even better. Sprawling over the top two floors of the hotel, encased in floor-to-ceiling windows, the newly renovated spa offers unparalleled views of the city. The Peninsula Spa by ESPA is the first of its kind in Chicago, the third spa worldwide created in partnership between Peninsula and internationally renowned spa consultancy ESPA. (The other locations are Hong Kong and Bangkok.) ESPA has developed a unique spa program which includes exclusive treatments and high-quality products, spa-design services, management, recruitment, and intensive training. (ESPA therapists must undergo a rigorous eight week training course.) Try a unique treatment like the ESPA Body Envelopment with algae, marine mud, or oshadi clay, Face and Back Facial, or the holistic hand and feet experience, then head to the pool and sundeck to lounge over the "Magnificent Mile."
The trend for cutting-edge boutique hotels is catching on in major metropolises across Asia. As recently featured by Newsweek International, these cool hotels are "popping up in Asia's more cosmopolitan cities faster than construction cranes." In recent years Hong Kong and Singapore have paved the way with a slew of intimate design hotels, but now Shanghai is also getting its share of hip boutiques. Opening within months of each other, these new luxury hotels include the 30-room Mansion Hotel, a renovated French villa-style manor which "evokes the swinging Shanghai of the 1920s", and M Suites, which has a "sleeker, more contemporary feel." But perhaps the most exciting news of all: the sexy, Philippe Starck-designed Jia Hotel in Hong Kong is branching out to two new locations: Krabi, Thailand and Shanghai.
Imagine: your own luxury villa with all the amenities of a world-class resort. One of the most exclusive refuges in Belize, Azul Resort is a tranquil paradise of only two villas. Situated on 400 feet of private beach lapped by turquoise water, the pair of 3,000 square-foot, two-level structures are outfitted with rooftop hot tubs, custom kitchens with Viking appliances, Apple computers, 50-inch plasma flat-screen TVs, and Bose home theater systems. There's an infinity pool, the hip Rojo Lounge next door, and private chef service. The price tag? Starting from $1,875 per night (summer and fall rates).