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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival

December 7, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Paso Robles wine

Perfectly located halfway between LA and San Fran, the Paso Robles region is known for its zesty Zinfandel. The wine's celebratory gala is hugely popular, now running for 14 straight years. More than 80 wineries host the three-day festival, packed with events including winemakers dinners, special tastings, food pairings, seminars and live and silent auctions. When? March 17, 18, and 19 of next year, but tix just went on sale, in time for the holidays.


Small Hotels in London: 41

December 7, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

41 Hotel Exterior Enter through the residents-only entrance to discover London's exclusive, intimate retreat. From the marble and wood-paneled lobby on the 5th floor, there are 16 deluxe rooms and 4 split-level suites—including the Conservatory suite with its glass ceiling. All are elegantly decorated with mahogany furniture, black leather details, marble bathrooms, and equipped with the latest technology. A few rooms also offer views overlooking The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, where the horses are exercised daily. Awarded the Silver award for "Best Small Hotel in London" by VisitLondon, 41 prides itself on truly five star service. The hotel's best feature? The Lounge, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or martini by the fire.


Christmas on the Cape at the Chatham Bars Inn

December 6, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Christmas Lobby

Space available at the inn for Christmas?! Could it be? Indeed, New England's premier oceanfront resort and historic landmark is all spruced up for the holidays, with a few rooms available for a last-minute getaway. In addition to the 205 luxurious guestrooms, there are 34 Cape-style cottages situated around the 25-acres of gardens. Heated pool, full-service spa, heaps of children's activities: this is the perfect spot for a family retreat. The halls are decked, and full of good cheer; enjoy afternoon tea, holiday music, and lots of hot chocolate and cookies by a cozy fire. Christmas day itself is marked by a stunning feast, ice carvings, wine tastings and culinary demonstrations, and pastries from an award-winning French chef.

Chatham Bars Inn, Official Site

Chatham Bars Inn, Five Star Alliance


Upscale Shopping in Bangkok: H1

December 6, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Shangri La Bangkok

A single street in Bangkok-- previously a non-descript alley off Sukhumvit Road-- is now the capital of chic. At the heart of Thonglor's scene (and its style revolution) is H1, a Modernist glass mini-mall, designed by architect Duangrit Bunnag. Easily accessible by the newly expanded underground system, the H1 complex is home to stylish, locally-owned boutiques and one of Bangkok's hottest tables: To Die For. Owned by designer Bhanu Inkawat, the restaurant has a contemporary menu that includes items like vodka and caviar pasta (a little odd, but the trendy crowd raves....) Another draw is the eclectic lifestyle store Geo, stashed with everything from gardening tools to handmade picture frames. The best time to shop is after sunset, when H1 is illuminated with lots of lights.

Related Reading:

"Great Neighborhoods/Asia," Travel and Leisure November issue

Bangkok's Chic Street, Time Asia

Bangkok's Revolution in Creativity, International Herald Tribune


Benjamin Franklin’s Tercentenary

December 6, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ben Franklin

2006 marks another big birthday; this time on our side of the big pond. January 17, 2006 is the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin—the first founding father to reach this milestone. In honor of this extraordinary man (what career and hobby didn't he pursue?), Philadelphia is hosting year-long celebrations. The most noteworthy is the major international traveling exhibition: Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which opens in Philly on December 15, and then travels around to four other museums nationwide, before its final showing in Paris in 2008.


Say Hello to the New Hotel Place d’Armes in Montreal

December 6, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Place d'Armes

Hotel Place d'Armes has recently added 39 new rooms and 48 suites, as well as a chic spa with four treatment rooms. Housed in an historic building, the boutique hotel sits in the heart of Old Montreal. The 83 rooms and 42 suites are the essence of elegance, some with jetted baths, fireplaces, home theater systems, original brick walls and city views. The new full-service Rain Spa—with private atrium and Vichy shower room—boasts Montreal's first hammam. Additionally, the hotel just opened the bar Suite 701, the newest destination for the city's trendsetters.

Hotel Place d'Armes, Official Site

Hotel Place d'Armes, Five Star Alliance


Feast at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco

December 5, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Indulge in another hedonistic eating spree at San Francisco's world-renowned farmer's market. Forget the fruit-shopping, this is a tourist attraction in its own right. Sitting at the foot of Market Street, the views of the downtown cityscape and surrounding Bay are stupendous. Make the rounds sampling succulent fruits with exotic names: pluots, persimmons, pomelos, and also the more traditional strawberries, peaches, and apples. Extraordinary artisans have also set up shop here: Cowgirl Creamery presents delicious aged cheese, like Mt Tam and Red Hawk; Blue Bottle Coffee Co. specializes in organically-grown beans that they roast themselves in six-pound batches; Primavera offers piping hot gourmet Mexican platters. Inside the Ferry Building, more artisans are housed with permanent retail spaces. Thick Greek yogurt, specialty breads, fancy cupcakes; this is heaven on earth.


San Francisco Eats: The Ultimate Walking Tour

December 5, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

San Francisco GG Bridge

The best way to see the city's unique and colorful hoods? Why, eat your way around town! Close to the country's most prized and productive farm land, the organic-minded San Francisco is brimming with tasty delights. A mecca for restaurateurs who know their quality cuisine, the city is jam-packed with gems in every distinctive neighborhood.

Rise and shine, with a California sky that blue, it's impossible to sleep the day away.

For the perfect morning coffee, head to Noe Valley's Martha and Bros., a local Latina-owned cooperative that boasts daily delicious roasts. With its boutiques and neighborhood charm, Noe Valley is picture-perfect-cute. Stroll past Noe's colorful Victorians (and charge up the city’s famous inclines) for the next stop in the Mission. Got to feed that growling stomach! Not far from the sloping green of Dolores Park, with the famous mission glowing white in the California sun, Tartine beckons with its exquisite crossaints (oozing chocolate) and beautiful pastries. The line curling out the door and around the block advertise that this is absolutely the best bakery in the city. While in line-- as the aroma of hot bread wafts out of the kitchen-- try not to eat your arm off waiting for the shortbread, bread pudding or Mexican wedding cookies.

Stuffed with bread, head out the door to enjoy a Mission morning. Walk by walls covered in brilliant murals, or artistic graffiti, storefronts plastered with political profanity. And there's people-watching aplenty: from hipsters, to funkified artists, to dog-walkers, to Mexican futbolistas, and beautiful couples from the vibrant gay community of the neighboring Castro. Tired already? Nothing like a quick pick-me-up in the Lower Haight to lure you on. rnm is a paradox of sorts: outrageously hip, yet mellow and laid-back, like its Lower Haight environs. Like most major metropolises, San Francisco succumbed to the "little plates" invasion a few years ago, and rnm has perfected the trend, with plates-to-share like truffle oil pizza. Just to die for. They're not open this early? Knock, knock. I bet you can get take-out. Beg, plead. These guys are cool—after all, this is the Lower Haight. If you can't score some wanna-be tapas, head to Thep Phenom, the best Thai restaurant in town, just two blocks away, for a small bowl of pad thai.

Continue your hike to Hayes Valley, the recently revamped stretch of blocks that all the mags are talking about these days. The tiny little neighborhood somehow emblematic of a "San Francisco renaissance." As if San Fran has ever been uncool? Though right now, Hayes is the height of hip. Boutiques are full of fashion: from shoes to vintage French posters. Your lunch destination? Absinthe, of course, on the corner of Hayes and Gough. In addition to gourmet burgers with Niman Ranch ground beef, gorgonzola, sauteed mushrooms and onions, the weekend brunch is one of the best in the city. Another option is the glass-walled lunch-destination of Zuni Cafe, for its famous raw bar. Enjoy the signature roast chicken for two (spilling delicious stuffing) and buzzing atmosphere, at this prime spot overlooking Market Street.

Full? Too bad. There's too much good stuff in this town! Afternoon delights await! Continue your walking tour to the top of Fillmore and Broadway in Pacific Heights, for a breathtaking view of the bay, golden gate, and small white-houses of the Marina. The land and seascape are almost Mediterranean. Get your caffeine fix at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and then stroll through one of the city's finest shopping streets.

Continue down the hill to Union Street, for more great shopping amongst the yuppies of Cow Hollow. A fabulous walk commences at Fillmore, continues on Union Street over Russian Hill, then down into the land of Italian bistros and cozy cafes in North Beach. Gawk at another vista point, atop Telegraph Hill with the flock of wild parrots which has made the Coit Tower environs its home. Another afternoon coffee break awaits at the famous Caffe Trieste, where the Beat Generation used to wax poetical. Rest your weary feet and daydream about your dinner options: the exquisite Gary Danko, or long-time city favorite, Boulevard, located on the waterfront in the historic Audiffred Building. Ahhhh, San Francisco treats.


Vancouver’s Best Business Meetings at the Pan Pacific

December 5, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Pan Pacific Vancouver exterior

The Pan Pacific Vancouver recently opened a new Galley Level, part of an $8 million expansion that increased the hotel's event space to 42,000 square feet and 20 rooms. With a harborfront location that can't be beat, the Pan Pacific sits atop the Canada Place Complex, home of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Center. From Oceanview Suites with dramatic views, to the luxurious space of the Crystal Pavilion (capacity of 700), the Pan Pacific's got you covered. For post-meeting decompression, the AAA Five Diamond hotel boasts a heated outdoor pool with Jacuzzi and sun deck, 100 feet above the harbor, along with the brand new Fitness Club.

Pan Pacific Vancouver, Official Site

Pan Pacific Vancouver, Five Star Alliance


Auberge Does It Again, With Southern Charm

December 5, 2005
By: Guest Writer

Inn at Palmetto Bluff

Text and photo by Alex Rose

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is Auberge's newest addition to their family of luxury resorts. It fits in quite nicely with the Southern charm and hospitality of the people and the region. It's located on 20,000 acres of Carolina Lowcountry in Bluffton, South Carolina. The residence cottages come with a beautiful view of the May River and its dolphins. There's a wide variety of activities including an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and the Spa, known for its Relaxing Bath and the Pumpkin Peach Body Peel packages.

The tradition of Auberge cuisine excellence continues with the River House Restaurant; the stand-out menu includes She-Crab Bisque, the Butter Poached Lobster, and the Crème Brulee Trinity (with chocolate-Grand Marnier) for dessert. Be sure to get a golf cart and take in the resort's marsh and wetland area, which includes alligators and abundant wildlife.

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Official Site

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Five Star Alliance