July 12, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Laurence Bloch is the Director of Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and holds a master's degree in Hotel Management from the Parisian Hotel College Maxims, as well as a solid hotel management background. Her previous hotel experiences include the Mas d'Artigny on the French Riviera, Prince de Galles in Paris, Park Avenue Hotel, Hotel du Parc and others.
In her previous position as Rooms Division Manager at Plaza Athenee, she actively participated in the relaunch of the five star property and helped to undertake the redecoration of the hotels' bedrooms and major investment projects.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Laurence Bloch: Via quite a classic route; 20 years of varied experience in the business after Hotel School, I became Rooms Division Manager at the Plaza Athenee and was then promoted to Deputy General Manager.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Laurence Bloch: I would choose the top floor of the building, the 8th floor, for its Art Deco style and its natural light and its airy atmosphere. You are woken by birds singing on the top floor which is quite a unique experience in a city centre hotel!
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Laurence Bloch: Filming of the final episodes of the epic American TV series "Sex and the City" was quite an excitement for everyone, guests and staff included!
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Laurence Bloch: We are lucky to have a very equal nationality market mix: 1/3 Americas, 1/3 europe, 1/3 Asia and Middle east.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Laurence Bloch: I feel that the Plaza Athenee is quite simply the most Parisian of the city's 5 star luxury hotels. As a Parisian myself, I have always believed that the Plaza Athenee has been emblematic of a chic Parisian way of life. The hotel’s distinctive and unique location on the very fashionable avenue Montaigne has definitely added to the essence of this Parisian atmosphere. Privileged with a separate street entrance to the hotel’s Brasserie, the Relais Plaza has been witness to celebrity visits from all ranks of the fashion, cinema and political world. The famous English Bar that existed on the lower ground floor since the opening of the hotel, was always a popular meeting place both for hotel guests and Parisians alike. This tradition continues with our innovative Le Bar which mixes a traditional and modern decor. This is the main ingredient of the Plaza Athenee's personality today: the ability to combine and respect tradition with innovation. For example, the symbolic red geraniums of our façade are now offered as spring gifts as mini plants or as jams or candies. Another very important and distinctive exclusive feature of the Plaza Athenee today is the excellency of our cuisine with the privileged, Michelin star partnership with Alain Ducasse.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Laurence Bloch: As previously mentioned the greatest attribute to the hotel’s location is the local luxury shopping on offer; on the avenue alone there are 50 haute couture and fashion houses. Added to this wealth of choice are fabulous restaurants and bars in neighboring streets. The area is duly known as the "Golden Triangle" for a reason!
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Laurence Bloch: Sorry, this information is confidential!
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Laurence Bloch: I'd definitely want to know what the hotel had to offer in terms of F&B, in a gastronomic city such as Paris, why go further a-field, when the hotel has 5 different outlets under 1 roof. Also I would want to know which specialties were on offer; for example our Pastry Chef won the title of World Champion Pastry Chef, again it would be a huge shame to have missed sampling his fare.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Laurence Bloch: The risks involved are one of the hardest things of being the major decision taker; being an innovative leader in one's field of expertise, can be a lonely road.
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
Laurence Bloch: The Beverly Hills Hotel is one of the greatest hotels in the world, it is truly the champion for first class service and attention to detail; when once I left a book open at the page I was reading, a thoughtful book marker was placed inside inscribed with "to save your page..." The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi is another unique property. The essence of comfort and history is omnipresent but yet astonishing touches of modernism bring you back to reality, combined with perfect discreet service.
Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property?
Laurence Bloch: I feel it important that readers should know how important our staff are. To be a true 5 star Luxury “Palace” hotel the personal touch is essential and this is achieved thanks to our 550 dedicated staff members for 188 rooms. We are proud of their loyalty and experience, often a lifetime’s dedication - 49 years in the case of our Head Concierge. Also, it is important that our guests are aware that we take seriously the privileged, exclusive title of being a Luxury “Palace” hotel which bears the responsibility of regular financial investments, an engagement we proudly maintain. Finally, I believe it important to underline to our guests and readers that we are where we are today thanks to the Plaza Athenee's rich and glorious past, based on much experience and effort, a total team effort.
Learn more about the Hotel Plaza Athenee >>>"/>
A regular size TV will no longer cut it. The digital revolution during the age of TiVo means business travelers are used to home entertainment systems far superior than the technology found on the road. But now the tide has turned. Luxury hotels are upgrading rooms with high definition TVs, iPod docking stations and a wide selection of programming, personal entertainment systems with movies, music, and games, and more. As reported by the International Herald Tribune, in the hotel industry, the technology race is on. There's been a "paradigm shift more toward the lifestyle traveler." The good news for this new breed of road warriors: with on-demand programming, you'll never miss another episode of Entourage again.
It's been named one of the top 11 luxurious places to lose weight. Spa Finder, Travel and Leisure, and Conde Nast Traveler agree that it's one of the top spas in the world. Green Valley Spa and Resort offers pure, unadulterated luxury in the midst of rugged red rock country. Adventure abounds (mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing), while stress-melting spa treatments promise to restore the body and mind after a long, fun-filled day. This summer, indulge in some girlfriend therapy and spoil yourself with a getaway at Green Valley. The Luxury Adventure Package is a three night/four day stay with three delicious spa cuisine meals per day, decadent spa treatments daily, and sumptuous four-diamond accommodations. Enjoy guided hikes, fitness classes and lectures, and Green Valley's full signature skin care set. The girlfriend package also includes robe, slippers, spa outfit, and flowers, fruit, and bottled water in-room. Book during July or August and get a $300 discount. Rates start at $2,700, double occupancy.
Any day now, Paris will welcome its latest luxury boutique: Hotel Lumen. Behind a Haussmanian façade (like Hotel Fouquet's Barrière), the hotel will combine contemporary and baroque styles. Created by architect Alain Daronian and designer Claudio Colucci, the hotel's central design concept is the importance of light (from which it derives its name). What could be more appropriate in the City of Light! Situated smack dab in the center of Paris, the Hotel Lumen will be a stone's throw from the Louvre, the Place Vendôme, and all the mythological treasures of the 1st arrondissement. Of the 33 guest rooms, choose from the St. Roch single rooms (with views of the stained glass windows of the beautiful St. Roch church), the Pyramides double or twin rooms, the Lumen rooms (with lots of light), and the beautiful, luminous suites on the 5th and 6th floors. The on-site Parisian brasserie will serve delightful neo-classical cuisine inspired by Frédérick Grasser-Hermé, the acclaimed cookbook writer.
San Francisco's been abuzz with the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, and other North American cities have followed suit. Montreal's grandest and most gracious hotel, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, reached international fame when John Lennon and Yoko staged their Bed-In during May 1969 and composed the song "Give Peace a Chance" in Suite 1742. The commemorate the anniversary, the award-winning hotel is offering the "Give Peace a Chance" package, so lucky guests can stay in the legendary suite and bring a piece of history home with them. Enjoy one night's accommodation, souvenir Bed-In pajamas similar to John and Yoko's, a bouquet of White Flowers and souvenir white flower petals, a signature tea box with English jam, personalized souvenir menus, full breakfast and dinner as ordered by John and Yoko, a bottle of wine, calligraphied keepsake lyrics to ''Give Peace A Chance'', two souvenir CDs of the Bed-In, framed souvenir picture of the Bed-In, and a limousine transfer from the airport. Available until December 31, 2007. Rates start from CAD 1,969 (how clever).
At long last, Boeing introduced its newest commercial jetliner on July 8 (fittingly, that's 7/8/07) before a packed house of 15,000 folks at the assembly factory in Everett, Washington. The first test flight won't take place until late August or September, but that doesn't mean the orders have stopped streaming in. Boeing's counted orders from 47 customers for a whopping 677 of the aircraft. Built from composite materials, the planes will be a lot lighter and thus use 20 percent less fuel per passenger than similarly sized aircraft. It also means quieter takeoffs and landings.
Now is the time to visit the magical kingdom of Bhutan. For centuries closed to outsiders, the country has slowly opened its doors to visitors in recent years. Nestled in the heart of the magnificent Himalaya, Bhutan is a wonderland of pristine landscapes, colorful architecture, and beautiful, enduring cultural traditions. A year of celebration is coming up for Bhutan: the new King will be crowned in Spring 2008 and the coronation of the fifth Dragon King promises to be a grand, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Join in the revelry while staying at Uma Paro, the 29-room five-star boutique opened by COMO Hotels and Resorts in fall 2004. Surrounded by a wild and dramatic topography-- terraced hills, towering, snow-capped peaks, orchard-lined rivers-- Uma Paro is a retreat rich in luxurious comforts, where guests find themselves inspired by the cultural riches of Bhutan.
Opulent, splendid, jam-packed with luxurious amenities, of course. This is Vegas we're talking about. But Caesars Palace has something else to add to its impressive list of world-class facilities: a Tea Sommelier. That's right. As guests unwind at the incredible, new Qua Baths and Spa and enjoy specialty treatments found nowhere else in the world (bath liqueur, Roman Rituals, anyone?), the Tea Sommelier will serve delightful teas from an inspired menu in the Tea Lounge. Teas are created specifically for each gender, so men can sample the Gunpowder, a wok-fired Chinese green tea rolled into tablets resembling gunpowder, while the ladies sip Summer Rain, a cantaloupe and lychee flavored white tea.
P.S. For the royal treatment, try a cup of Silver Needle, a white tea so delicate it was once handpicked by virgins in white gloves and served only to Emperors.
Like its sister hotel in Riyadh, the new Rosewood Corniche hotel will provide unrivaled luxury in Saudi Arabia. The third Rosewood property in the Kingdom, the Corniche is located in the heart of this bustling urban center by the Red Sea. (The city is the second largest in Saudi Arabia, a major business capital, and a principle gateway to Mecca.) But Jeddah is also touted as Saudi Arabia's own St. Tropez, a resort town for sun-seekers. In the middle of all the action, the new luxury hotel will attract both business and leisure travelers. Business women will appreciate the dedicated Ladies' Floor, created exclusively for female travelers, a "first" in the Kingdom. Here, female butlers will unpack luggage, provide travel information, and assist with special requests 24 hours a day. In fact, all guests enjoy the benefits of 24-hour butler service, along with the latest in technology in their luxurious guest rooms. Doting hotel staff will be decked out in uniforms designed by international fashion icon, Yahya Al Bishri, whose couture collection has been worn by Saudi Royals and the Prince of Wales. For a truly regal experience, book the Royal Suite located on the top two floors of the hotel, complete with private cinema, magnificent bathrooms overlooking the sea, two personal butlers, and opulent master bedroom and relaxation lounges.
July 6, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Discover what Thomas Jefferson called Utopia, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Just minutes from Jefferson's historic Monticello in the heart of Virginia hunt country, Keswick Hall is an intimate luxury hotel that recreates the grace and style of the Old World. Overlooking the Arnold Palmer designed golf course, rolling green hills of the Piedmont, and the spectacular mountain ridges in the distance, Keswick Hall's 48 guest rooms are the pinnacle of comfort and luxury, designed with overstuffed ottomans, antique club chairs, beautiful armoires, and beds piled high with comforters and feather pillows. Unwind by the horizon infinity pool and enjoy decadent poolside service. Improve your game on the resort's clay and hard tennis courts, or with private and group instruction. Play a round on the world-class golf course, its lush grounds dotted with beautiful old growth trees. And of course the delights of Charlottesville-- vineyards, elegant antique stores, Jefferson's University of Virginia, and Monticello itself-- abound. Dine at Fossett's Restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling windows showcase a magnificent panorama, and sample the sumptuous afternoon tea in the Villa Crawford. (In the evenings, relax with a single malt scotch and a fine cigar in this after-dinner gathering place.) With the Summer Escape package, enjoy a welcoming seasonal beverage and cookies upon arrival at Keswick Hall, delight in an award-winning three-course dinner for two, and then wake up with a continental breakfast. Rates start at $415 per night in a Signature Room.