November 8, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Both The Washington Post and The Independent UK have recently reported the impossible: the development of a five star, $85 million hotel in the heart of Baghdad. The 23-storey “opulent palace complex”—as described by the Independent—will be the first private investment in Iraq since the U.S.-led war. Not to mention: the tallest building in the capital. (Hmmm, could the target be made any more obvious?) The land is being donated by the Iraqi government, but the (foolish) private financing is being undertaken by an Iraqi businessman. The hotel will be located in the middle of the Green Zone (built to withstand mortar and rocket attack), and will take two years to build. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the project, because most citizens cannot enter the Green Zone, and the hotel would thus be serving only the foreign population. (The plush suites, business centers, conference rooms and golf range accessible to a select few foreigners.) This has got to be a joke. Would you book a room here? PS. Apparently, there’s another plan brewing- to turn Saddam Hussein's former Tikrit palaces into a themed tourist destination. Don't know about you, but I've always fantasized about vacationing at the former-residence of a war criminal...
Fodor’s Editors recently released their Winter 2006 picks for hotels, restaurants and unforgettable experiences. And they’ve got great taste! (Both Esperanza in Cabo and Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires made the cut.) The Fodor’s List includes Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco Lodge in Nicaragua, which is beautiful and all, but beware of creepy-crawlies and things that go bump in the night. Big spiders reported. (For those even just a teensy bit squeamish of jungle bugs, steer clear.)
Well, I suppose now isn’t the best time to pack your bags for Paris. But I can’t help but wax poetic about one of my favorite hotels in the world, the grandest of the Parisian Palace Hotels: The Crillon. Its location on the world-famous Place de la Concorde can’t be beat. This is the center of the City of Light, man! The hotel is mere steps away from the swanky boutiques of the Faubourg St.-Honoré. Strap on those walking shoes and just a short marche away are the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Champs Elysées, and many more of the city’s most famous attractions. The 103 rooms, 39 suites, and 5 luxury apartments are sumptuous and magnificent, without sacrificing the intimate atmosphere of a private residence. (This is the only Palace Hotel that has retained private-ownership by a French family—the makers of fine bubbly, the Taittingers.) The Leonard Bernstein Suite, named for the great conductor and composer who used to camp out here, is exceptional. Three bedrooms, two living rooms, a sauna, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath and all the modern technology. Its large terrace overlooks the most majestic view of Paris: from the Eiffel Tower to the Musee D’Orsay across the Place de la Concorde. With fully personalized service, hotel guests feel like the royalty who are frequent guests here.
Hotel de Crillon, Official Site
Hotel de Crillon, Five Star Alliance
The most outstanding new city hotel across all of Asia? The award goes to the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong-- bestowed at the 16th Annual Travel Awards 2005, presented by TTG Asia. The hotel is a business traveler’s dream. With Omnipresent WIFI, IP Telephony and 42 inch Plasma TVs, the hotel is the most technologically advanced in Asia. The hotel’s Chuan Spa—perched on the top three floors of the hotel—is arguably the best in Hong Kong. And with a location directly above the MTR subway station, the hotel provides easy access to all of Hong Kong. (And let’s not forget the 600,000 square feet of shopping at Langham Place Mall, connected to the hotel by walkbridge.)
Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Official Site
Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Five Star Alliance
November 6, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
No offense to my kiwi friends. But there’s got to be a good reason to fly halfway around the world to some isolated islands in the colder, less redeeming part of the Pacific. (This is, after all, the jumping-off point for all those crazy scientists doing work in Antarctica). The landscape? Snow-capped mountains, sheep-dotted valleys, blue lagoons, and rivers frothing with white water. Hmmmm, sounds a lot like someplace I know in this hemisphere. The cultural history? Again, sadly similar to the United States (outcast Brits, no longer welcome in England, settling a new land and doing their damnest to marginalize the native peoples. Though the Maoris are thankfully outspoken about the history of repression and have flamboyantly preserved their cultural traditions.) Does this explain why travelers to New Zealand are compelled to do crazy, dare-devil, adrenaline-pumping activities when they get to Queenstown? Like bungee jumping, sky-diving, or jetboating? If they didn’t challenge themselves, they’d be bored to tears. To top it all off-- the icing on the cake confirming my opinions—is a recent article condemning NZ’s luxury lodges. So, dear reader, I challenge you: What are your reasons for heading to the land of the Hobbits?
November 5, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
HotelChatter is hilarious. (A guaranteed crack-up if you check this out.) Their latest critique of Zagat’s 2006 Hotel Guide (as also reported by Gadling) is genuinely side-splittingly entertaining. The Zagat lingo sure can grate. And HotelChatter sure gets it right in “Zagat’s 2006 Hotel Guide Gets It Wrong.”
Ahhhhh, the Halekulani Hotel. How best to describe one of the world’s best and most luxurious hotels? (I mean, these digs are truly fit for a king!) For almost 100 years, the Halekulani has proudly sustained its global reputation for gracious hospitality, flawless service, and extraordinary cuisine. The pool alone is a landmark. (Not just for the views overlooking the famous Waikiki Beach. The orchid mosaic on the bottom is made up of 1.2 million pieces of glass tile imported from South Africa. By God—it’s a work of art!) SpaHalekulani has got its own exclusive line of bath and body products, and La Mer restaurant—with its French cuisine created with fresh island ingredients-- is Hawaii’s only Five Diamond restaurant. But the best part of the Halekulani is the Vera Wang suite: arguably the most romantic on earth, and created by none other than the designer herself. Exclusive, stylish, and sophisticated, the 2,135 sq. ft suite is decorated with rare furnishings from Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia. Each adornment—from the fine-china in the formal dining room to the fragrances and body lotions—were hand-selected by Vera Wang. The expansive deck (642 sq. ft.) overlooks the sea, sand and volcanic landscape of Hawaii. Other details include: private butler service, TOTO deep-soaking tub, master control system (room temperature, lighting, butler and in-room dining), welcome amenity of French champagne and amuses bouche.
Halekulani Hotel, Official Site
Halekulani Hotel, Five Star Alliance
This week’s International Herald Tribune applauded the new restaurant revolution in New Delhi. In a city where the restaurants traditionally failed to do justice to the national cuisine, restaurant culture has been revived. Say hello to Veda, the uber-glamorous nouvelle cuisine curry house, where the sophisticated Indian food is only matched by the fashionable ambience. (After all, the place was created by one of India’s top designers—Rohit Bal.)
When the flights to St. Barts are overcrowded (and overpriced) during the winter holidays, the whole of Manhattan seemingly transferred to the waiting lounge, we’ll all wish we heeded this helpful advice from the sages over at Frommer’s.
Project CityCenter is the super-creative name for the latest Las Vegas development: a humongous entertainment venue planned by MGM Mirage. Located in the heart of the Strip, Project CityCenter consists of 18 million square feet (a whopping 66! acres) of space for a casino, shops, dining and luxury condos. The multi-billion dollar project is slated to open in phases starting in 2009. Mandarin Oriental just announced plans for its 400-room luxury hotel at the entrance of Project C.C. The 37-storey Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas will feature a Sky Lobby located on the 10th floor, where guests will be greeted with a wall of windows revealing a dramatic panorama of the Las Vegas cityscape. Plans include three Presidential suites of over 3,500 square feet each, seven dining and cocktail venues, 32,000 square foot spa, and 40,000 square feet of meeting and function space. Myriad glass-enclosed sky bridges will connect the hotel with the rest of Project CityCenter.