Holiday getaways can't get more perfect than the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport. Its restaurant, at the top of all the "Best Of" lists (AAA Five Diamond, Fine Dining Hall of Fame, Conde Nast Traveler's Best of the Best.) Built in two restored barns dating from the 1860's, with rustic decor and an awesome 7,000 bottle wine cellar, the restaurant serves the finest New England cuisine. The adjoining Inn, ranked among the top 25 small hotels in North America, has 25 rooms with fireplace (how atmospheric can you get!), flat-screen TVs with DVD, and all that jazz. Plus, the inn's got a heated swimming pool, so even if a blizzard is a-raging, you can enjoy poolside massage therapy and spa treatments. Spend your holidays at the White Barn Inn, with the following special packages. The Christmas Retreat includes: two nights luxurious stay, Christmas Eve reception, turn down treat on arrival (and present in room), full Christmas breakfast, Christmas lunch in White Barn restaurant, and traditional afternoon tea. From $409 per person. The New Years Eve Gala Celebration includes two nights stay, special tea on arrival, wine in room, Gala dinner dance with four-course meal and champagne, full continental breakfast. From $677 per person.
The White Barn Inn, Official Site
The White Barn Inn, Five Star Alliance
Lonely Planet Global Travel Director Don George and travel writer Rolf Potts talk travel today on NPR's Talk of the Nation. Lots of stories from LP's humor anthology By the Seat of My Pants will have you cracking up. Via Vagablogging
This Christmas, stroll through the winter wonderland of Versailles, without the maddening crowds. From December 17-December 29, enjoy unbelievable specials at the Trianon Palace and Spa, as the rates drop to a very festive EUR 99 a night. Or bring the whole family with the Christmas Family Package—which includes accommodations in a Deluxe Palace room, complimentary room and free breakfast for the kiddies, and Westin Kid's Bag upon check-in, for only EUR 295 a night. Just nine miles from downtown Paris, the Trianon is a luxurious palace set on eight gorgeous acres bordering Louis XIV's Royal Domain. The historical hotel has hosted the world's political and business leaders since 1910. Recently-renovated rooms feature stately decor (as you would expect) and views of the gardens. The 2,800 sq m Spa isn't too shabby either.
Trianon Palace and Spa, Official Site
Trianon Palace and Spa, Five Star Alliance
Long renowned as a little bit of Provence in California's wine country, this Napa establishment recently unveiled a spectacular renovation. Interiors enhanced by custom designed furniture with a historical basis (like oversized ottomans), richly colored bedcovers, and limestone countertops. And of course myriad high-tech touches: plasma TVs in both bedroom and sitting room, DVD, wireless internet, and flat screen TV in the bathrooms above the large soaking tubs. Situated on a sun-kissed 33 acre olive grove, the accommodations (whether private rooms, suites or private cottages) are terraced into the hillside, with sweeping views of the Napa Valley. From the acclaimed restaurant to the magnificent spa (boasting fountains, private gardens and outdoor soaking pools), what's not to love?
L'Auberge Du Soleil, Official Site
L'Auberge Du Soleil, Five Star Alliance
Attempting the impossible task of booking a luxury hotel in the Caribbean for the holidays? Most luxury hotels have been booked solid for months. But don't be discouraged in your quest for a well-deserved (albeit last-minute) Caribbean respite! I've found a few delightful gems that still have availability:
Casa Colonial in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: Long stretches of white sand beaches. Elegantly furnished all-suites hotel. World-class spa. Conde Nast Traveler's 2005 Hot List. Impeccable service. Enough said.
Casa Colonial, Official Site
Casa Colonial, Five Star Alliance
Anse Chastanet Resort, in the lush mountain paradise of St. Lucia. With 600 acres of tropical foliage, the soaring peaks of Petit Pitons, and extraordinary beaches, this is paradise on earth. Romantic and secluded. Scuba, spa, waters sports and mountain biking.
Anse Chastanet, Official Site
Anse Chastanet, Five Star Alliance
Petit St. Vincent Resort is available for the Christmas week, though not the post-Christmas week. Individual cottages set on a 113 acre privately-owned island of exquisite white sand beaches.
Petit St. Vincent, Official Site
Petit St. Vincent, Five Star Alliance
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Official Site
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Five Star Alliance
After all, the guy turns 400 next year. And the country is going nuts in celebration. Rembrandt 400 is a yearlong party for the artist's 400th birthday. Unique exhibitions and events are scheduled, and travel agents are jumping on the bandwagon with special packages galore. The first of the spectacular exhibitions-- Rembrandt's Mother, Myth and Reality-- opens on December 16 in the Municipal Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden (the artist’s birthplace). In Amsterdam, The Masterpieces opens on January 2, exhibiting 400 exceptional paintings. Why not stake out a room at The Dylan Amsterdam, situated in a 17th century landmark on one of the city's most famous canals? Smack in the city center, but the essence of tranquil.
The Dylan Amsterdam, Official Site
The Dylan Amsterdam, Five Star Alliance
Starwood just announced that it acquired the Le Meridien brand of 130 hotels and resorts for $225 million. For the 24 million Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) customers, this means more choice in markets like Paris, Nice, Dubai and London. Additionally, Starwood will gain properties where it doesn't have them currently, in spots like Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Budapest, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
For something a little bit different in the City of Light… The Saint James Paris is the only chateau-hotel in the city, complete with its own expansive, private garden. A stay here feels like you're a guest in a French family’s residence. Indeed, each room is decorated by the owner, with handpicked Parisian boutique furniture. Formerly an exclusive school, before becoming a gentlemen's club, the chateau retains personality from its previous life: a library-bar lined with thousands of bound books, leather armchairs and dark wood paneled walls. 48 rooms and suites are spacious, quiet and full of light, with views overlooking the fountain or the garden. Each has its own style: whether modern, minimalist suites full of contemporary art, or Superior rooms marked by ancient wood doors and marvelous antiques. Of course all rooms boast the best modern technology, additionally.
Saint James Paris, Official Site
Saint James Paris, Five Star Alliance
Hahaha, get this. The International Herald Tribune reports that Norwegian Aviation authorities have issued warnings that "Santa Claus flights could cause delays for Norwegian airline passengers" during December. Huh? Apparently so many tourists flock to visit "Santa's village" on the Arctic Circle in Finland-- that Norwegian airspace gets clogged.
Starting next year, art and sculpture from one of the world's finest collections will be on view at Atlanta's High Museum. This seems truly unprecedented: that Paris' cultural gem has agreed to share part of its collection with another museum for an extended period. The "Louvre in Atlanta Project" is to be launched in January, with an exchange of French and American high school students, followed by the appearance of Louvre exhibits at Atlanta's High Museum in the fall. So much for botched Franco-American relations!