Once owned by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, this spectacular villa was transformed from an agricultural estate into an exquisite country inn and restaurant by legendary celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. Set within olive groves and vineyards, L'Andana Hotel is situated on a 500-hectare estate where gourmet olive oil and divine wine are produced for expectant foodies. The 33 guestrooms are beautifully appointed with views over the surrounding Tuscan countryside, and the suites boast fireplaces. The restaurant, as expected of Alain Ducasse, is excellent. There are recreational activities aplenty: cooking courses, horseback riding, tennis, heated swimming pool, guided tours, mountain biking, and (coming soon) golf. And the newly opened spa is a food-inspired dream, featuring ingredients from the kitchen garden such as olives, lavender, grapes, sunflowers and herbs. Enjoy relaxing treatments overlooking the vineyards and outdoor marble pool.
In the energetic arts capital of Ireland, The g is the height of hip. Let's start with the reception area. Black glass walls frame a tank of seahorses. Philip Treacy-designed concierge wall is covered in white Venetian plaster to look like a seashell. Next stop: the lounges on the ground floor, connected by the signature red carpeted corridor. Golden doorways mark the entrances to the Pink Salon, Grand Salon, and Blue Lounge. Over-the-top or fashionably contemporary? The hotel likens it to "walking through a glamorous dolls house." Moving on to the guestrooms. Extremely original and stylish, the decorative details (wallpaper, lighting, art, and flooring) were inspired by the landscapes of the countryside surrounding Galway. Of course in these sensual spaces, the technology and amenities are cutting edge and sophisticated. The restaurant (serving Italian cuisine) and cocktail bar are likewise decadent and glamorous. But amongst all this theater, the ESpa is certainly the hotel's highlight. Located in the top two floors of the hotel, the spa features four beauty suites, rock sauna, steam room, relaxation room with Japanese garden, and an ice fountain. The architectural design is stunning, with stone, wood, linen and glass blended in luxurious harmony. Extensive treatment list available.
When in Venice, do like the locals (or visiting celebs) and head to the outdoor terrace at the 18th century Bauer Il Palazzo hotel. It's extraordinary. The cleverly named Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) is a rooftop lounge on the 7th floor, with spectacular panoramic views over the city and lagoon. Here, breakfast is served exclusively for lucky guests, and the entire terrace and rooftop jacuzzi are available to rent for private functions. The hotel has the best spot in the floating city after all, in St. Mark's Basin, with its own private dock on the Grand Canal. In the heart of Venice, the Bauer Il Palazzo is an intimate boutique hotel with a stunning Gothic facade and opulent Venetian aura. The guestrooms likewise boast impressive views of the best of Venice. Many of the 44 luxurious rooms and 38 suites--lavishly appointed with fine furniture, fabrics, and Murano glass chandeliers-- offer balconies and terraces overlooking the beautiful city of canals. (Never mind that it's sinking.)
That's right. The opulent Parisian hotel has a new Culinary and Lifestyle Academy for folks to learn (and hopefully master) the art of French savoir-vivre. The landmark Hotel Meurice has always been ranked one of the most elegant hotels in the world, so we can trust that this fashionable new school will provide the best kind of expertise in subjects such as flower-arranging, wine-tasting, and pastry-making. Saturday classes include morning and afternoon sessions, with 12 students max. a class. Starting at EUR 105 per person.
On exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Degas to Picasso: Modern Masters. This survey of European art from 1900 to 1960 is ambitious and fascinating, showcasing 280 paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors, prints, and photographs. From the late works of Degas, Gauguin, Munch and Rodin through Giacometti and Picasso, this exhibition explores the major masters in 20th century Europe on an individual artistic basis, while also highlighting the rise of new artistic movements, from late impressionism and symbolism to mid-century modernism. Don't miss this one. Through July 23.
From the city of over-the-top, comes super-plush, themed suites with a serious wow-factor. The Palms resort recently opened an entire floor of individually themed party suites. Who needs typical Vegas glamour (fresh flowers and champagne, 3,000 thread count sheets, Jacuzzi tubs, *yawn*) when you could stay in the Kingpin Suite, which offers full-sized bowling lanes and oodles of plasma TVs along the walls of the 1,370 sq meter space? K-Fed and his posse will no doubt fantasize about the Crib Suite, with its DJ booth, pool table and video gaming lounge (the sleekest hip-hop bachelor pad you'll ever see). The Erotic Suite boasts a rotating bed and mirrored ceiling, and the fur-trimmed Hot Pink Suite is perfect for a girls get-together for pampering and nights out on the town. Viva Las Vegas.
(Of course extravagance like this comes with a price tag. Expect to shell out thousands per night.)
The majestic mountains of British Columbia offer more than superlative skiing; North America's renowned ski destination is just as enticing in the summertime, with fabulous hiking, gorgeous swimming pools, and world-class golf. The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, the luxury boutique hotel located superbly at the bottom of the gondolas, has put together an excellent family vacation package for some thrilling adventures this summer. The Summer Family Adventure Package (created for a group of two adults and two kids) consists of five nights in a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and two bathrooms. The package also includes a five-hour boat trip on Lillooet Lake; a two-and-a-half hour ZipTrek Canopy Tour through the forest treetops; a dog sled tour (without the snow, but thrilling nonetheless); passes to go up Whistler Mountain Peak; and a disposable camera. Starting at $1,739, for family of four. Via Travel and Leisure Hot Deals
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago debuted the Teen Concierge program last year in an effort to cater to older children and teens who have different expectations for a fun vacation. Cynthia Waldmeir, the Teen Concierge, knows Chitown inside and out: the coolest boutiques in Lincoln Park and the trendiest restaurants in the city. Equipped with iPod fix-it kits, lip balm, and popular DVDs, Cynthia's got her list ready for the Top Picks for visiting teens and tweens:
Where to eat:
1. Best Place to Enjoy Sushi: Kamehachi, 240 East Ontario Street
Cynthia says: "They have a really cool underground atmosphere. It's like you are going into this cave where you sit down to enjoy delicious sushi rolls."
2. Best Sweets in City: Sweet Mandy B's, 1208 West Webster Avenue
Cynthia says: "The vintage cafe is so cute and their cupcakes and sweets are to die for."
3. Best Place for Something Different: L'Appetito, 875 North Michigan Avenue.
Cynthia says: "They have great panini-- but leave room for the gelato, an Italian favorite."
4. Best Place for a Chicago hot dog: Downtown Dogs, 804 North Rush Street
Cynthia says: "A trip to Chicago is not complete without a Chicago hot dog. Downtown Dogs has a great menu and is within walking distance for our guests."
5. Best Place for Chicago-style Pizza: Giordano's, 730 North Rush Street
Cynthia says: "At Giordano's you can place your order while you wait for a table-- which is important for young eaters who are low on patience."
Where to Shop:
1. Best Place for Jeans: The Denim Lounge, 940 N. Rush Street
Cynthia says: "They carry all the popular brands as well as fun T-shirts."
2. Best Place for Sunglasses: Active Endeavors, 935 West Armitage Avenue
Cynthia says: "They have a great selection and carry a lot of trendy, hard-to-find styles."
3. Best Place for CD's and DVD's: Virgin Megastore, 540 North Michigan Avenue
Cynthia says: "They have their own deejay and listening stations-- not to mention three floors of the hottest music, latest movies and even those rare titles you can never find."
4. Best Place for Jewelry and Handbags: Francesca's Collections, 2012 North Halsted Street and 1154 Lill Studio, 904 W. Armitage Avenue
Cynthia says: "Francesca's has a wall-to-wall jewelry collection of fun and sophisticated styles. If you can't find it there, it's not going to happen. At 1154 Lill Studio, you can design your own handbag which is something different and a fun activity for teens and their moms."
5. Best Place for Cosmetics: Sephora, Water Tower Place/Shops at Northbridge
Cynthia says: "They have free samples of just about everything so that you and your girlfriends can give one another makeovers."
Where to Play:
1. Best Scenic Beach Spot: Oak Street Beach
Cynthia says: "Right behind you is Chicago's awesome skyline."
2. Best Recreational Beach Spot: North Avenue Beach
Cynthia says: "Here you can join in a volleyball game or rent a bike for a scenic lakefront tour."
3. Best Cultural Spot: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue
Cynthia says: "It may not sound like kid-pleaser, but the guys love the Arms and Armor collection and the girls love The Thorne Miniature Rooms. Plus the gift shop has posters of their popular art. Teens will also enjoy the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum and the U-505 Submarine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry."
4. Best City Park: Millennium Park, 222 North Columbus Drive
Cynthia says: "Where else can you get soaked by interactive fountains of faces that spew water?"
5. Best Snapshot Spot: Outside the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lakeshore Drive
Cynthia says: "It's a picture-perfect spot with a spectacular view of Chicago's skyline and Lake Michigan."
In June, Bermuda is the place to be. For over 100 years, the legendary Newport Bermuda race has culminated in celebratory frolicking (and rum-guzzling aplenty) at the race's finish. The 635-nautical-mile race is a challenging course raced by sailboats of all sizes, and this year's Centennial has attracted a record number of fleet entrants. This is high season in Bermuda-- by far the best and most fun time to visit the island of pink sand beaches and renowned golf courses. Where to stay? Cambridge Beaches, of course! The romantic hideaway boasts exemplary service and world-class facilities: indoor and outdoor pools, three tennis courts, five private beaches, the world-acclaimed European wellness centre, extensive marine rentals and watersports, putting green, croquet and internationally recognized gourmet cuisine. The resort's cottages (94 guest rooms and suites) are surrounded by blue sea, fine gardens, and long stretches of sandy beaches.
What an excuse to get your fix of the best Southern hospitality and charm. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff--South Carolina's picturesque resort and spa-- embodies all the grace and romance of the South. Exquisite accommodations, delightful cuisine, world-class golf, luxurious spa, and impeccable service… The Inn at Palmetto Bluff has it all. Situated amidst flowering gardens along the May River in the Lowcountry, the resort offers an enchanting setting for your next retreat. Enjoy a relaxing summer holiday at one of the finest of the world-renowned Auberge Resorts, and experience fantastic savings. From June 1-August 30, guests who book a two-night stay receive a third night for free, a savings of over $450.