March 17, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The beautiful and scenic California coastline near San Luis Obispo is also Cali's fastest-growing wine region. But the cat's not yet out of the bag-- the rolling hills and undulating countryside are still peacefully quiet. No Napa traffic jams here. To explore these tranquil environs-- just about halfway between Lalaland and San Fran-- take a room at the charming Villa Toscana, a luxe bed and breakfast that boasts just eight romantic suites. Overlooking the vineyards, the rooms are opulently decorated, each named for one of the estate's award-winning wines. To really do it right, reserve the private winemaker's residence: a two-bedroom, 2.5 bath suite, with a detached two car garage, private courtyard, patio, and Jacuzzi.
It's hot. It's hip. Welcome to the new Strand Ocean Drive Hotel, a chic and stylish boutique hotel on Miami's South Beach. The unique hotel is comprised of four different historical structures (and one new building) with each suite featuring a unique design theme so—and get this!— you can change the style and ambience each time you visit the hotel. Whatever your whim. Thus, at 1024 Ocean Drive, you can savor the Retro style of the 1960s. Next door at 1036 Ocean Drive, you can join the martini-set in the classic Art Deco style of the 1930s. At 1052 Ocean Drive, get a taste of the contemporary, with the hip new five story structure. And at 1060 Ocean Drive, you can soak up the Mediterranean Tropical style of Miami. Now through April 7, 2006, the hotel is offering a cool giveaway. If you sign up for The Strand Ocean Drive mailing list, you are entered to win an iPod shuffle. They're giving one away each week for a month. Hop to it!
On its sun-soaked perch overlooking Miami, Coral Gables-- aka City Beautiful as it was dubbed when it was founded in 1925-- is a lot more than its 6.5 million square feet of office space, high-end boutiques and University of Miami campus. This is also the Latin American business headquarters of oodles of multinational companies (try 175 of them). It's a lush and beautiful spot, with a Mediterranean style aura. Starwood just announced plans to convert the 157-room Colonnade Hotel-- long known as the scene for important social and business events-- into a new Westin. What can guests expect at the new Colonnade, slated to open in late 2006? Why-- Westin's signature Heavenly Bed, of course, along with luxurious services, products and amenities that are all in line with Westin's new brand message of "renewal." Hence, the high thread-count sheets, down duvet and down pillows, plush bathrobes, and the newest Heavenly Bath: "a custom-designed dual showerhead that offers a choice of spray options from light mist to massaging needles." But smokers, beware. As of February 2006, Westin's paved the way for smoke-free hotels across North America.
Will the Dubai building boom go bust? As hyped in the press, W Hotels has recently announced its plans to bring its signature, stylish brand to the Middle East. W will open its 350-room luxury hotel in 2008 as part of the Festival City Project: a massive "City within a City" with "Riviera-style scenery and lush green landscapes… and iconic towers and luxury hotels." And it's touted as "the Middle East's largest, privately funded mixed-use real estate development." The W seems its centerpiece, to be designed by a renowned architect and packed full of the W brand signatures like loft suites, open "Living Room," and Bliss spa. Can the booming hotel and resort landscape of Dubai become as packed as the Vegas Strip? Related Articles: The Lobby, "W Comes to Dubai" Luxist, "W Hotels Heads to Dubai" CNN Money, "W Hotels Arrives on Shores of Dubai, the Global Brand's First Location in the Middle East" TravelPost Insider, "W Hotels Plan 2008 Dubai Opening"
Disney descended on Hong Kong last September, and-- in the ultimate symbol of China's newly (and increasingly) ravenous consumer hunger-- is now planning a park on the Chinese mainland as well. Indeed, Hong Kong Disneyland was so mobbed during the Lunar New Year that hordes were denied entrance to the park. As quoted by CNN:
"China has a very large population. We now have 1.3 billion people. The market is very large. As far as I know, Hong Kong Disneyland is now very crowded," said Shao Qiwei, director of China's State Administration of Tourism, whose comments were broadcast on Hong Kong's Cable TV.
The first new hotel to open in Monaco in 75 years, the $260 million Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel has reinvented Monte Carlo, bringing back the chic and legendary glamour of the Roaring Twenties on the Riviera. Set on the edge of the sea, with sweeping azure views, the hotel is elegantly situated within four hectares of Mediterranean gardens and lagoons. Just minutes from Nice. Lounge by the glass-domed indoor swimming pool, or relax in the adjoining spa, a contemporary and luxurious paradise complete with 12 treatment rooms, fitness center and Turkish baths. In the evening, watch the sunset from the sea-view bar, and then indulge in the gastronomic pleasures of four stellar restaurants, including one directed by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. And the nightlife—as expected—is exceptional.
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Official Site
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Five Star Alliance
South Florida's national historical landmark is renowned for its luxurious, Old-World European accommodations, and impressive resort amenities. Located in Coral Gables, the destination hotel features the 18-hole, Donald Ross-designed championship golf course, 10-lighted tennis courts, fitness center, fine restaurants and bars, private wine cellar club, and an enormous pool (the largest in the continental US!) with private cabanas. Reasons to go now? Besides the new and deliciously-luxurious Biltmore Spa--12,000 sq. ft. with spectacular views, wet rooms with hydrotherapy tubs and Vichy showers, connecting specialty suites for couples, exceptional men's and women's locker facilities with steam and sauna rooms, a signature line of Solarte of Provence amenities, and state-of-the-art treatments -- The Biltmore is currently offering a promotion for a free night! Make a booking for four nights, and pay for only three.
The Biltmore, Official Site
The Biltmore, Five Star Alliance
March 14, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Say hello to the brand spanking new Raffles Beijing Hotel. The decadent 171-room hotel makes its debut on May 28, and Raffles is celebrating big time. A little background: the hotel is not a new glass skyscraper or contemporary architectural icon. This building was constructed in the 1900s, and is cloaked in history. This is an illustrious Beijing address, located just a few minutes from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Inside, the guest rooms are beautifully decorated, a fusion of Asian and French elegance. There is fine dining aplenty, and a gorgeous fitness center (squash or indoor tennis, anyone?) with its own indoor swimming pool. And the Raffles Beijing Hotel is celebrating its opening with a fantastic introductory offer. Two nights luxurious accommodation includes the following amenities: complimentary breakfast for two, arrival car transfer from the airport, complimentary wireless internet, and personal on-call valet services. Starting at CNY 2,180 per night for a Landmark Room, and CNY 2,680 for an Executive Room. Available May 28-August 31, 2006. Did I mention that the first 1,000 guests receive a special free commemorative gift?!
March 14, 2006
By: Guest Writer
By Courtney W. May Last week in the Informed Traveler Newsletter we had an article which highlighted three suites in New York City, including the Taipan Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, the Royal Suite at the Carlyle and the Park Avenue Suite at The Regency. We asked our readers to send us their favorite suites in NYC and the highlight was the 'Triplex Penthouse Suite' at The Time located at 224 West 49th Street in the heart of the West Side. On level one of the three you have the main living area with a huge L-shaped terrace, full sized marble bath, and dining area. On the second level you have the master bedroom with King size platform bed, computer workstation, the master bath (featuring jacuzzi tub, sauna, towel warmer and dual vanities), and a printer/fax/copier. Level three is the 'entertainment' level with oversized terrace, exercise bike, and 60" projection screen tv. As our reader put it: "it's pretty 'Suite'!".
By: Guest Writer