July 27, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Mosaic floors, hand-carved moldings, glorious antique furnishings, sumptuous French fabrics, and of course the Art Nouveau glass roof atop the Winter Garden... In a breath: Parisian opulence incarnate. Hotel Meurice, the legendary Palace hotel adored by visiting royalty, has long stood as a proud Parisian landmark facing the Tuileries Gardens. How could one possibly improve upon perfection? Hotel Meurice has gone hip with a massive renovation, and is now better than ever. Most rooms have wonderful views of the Louvre and Tuileries, or the brilliant white Sacré-Coeur, floating above the city. Each of the seven floors has a distinct style, with 121 rooms decorated in a style reminiscent of Louis XVI. All the rooms are soundproofed and have air conditioning, high-speed Internet access, multiple telephone lines, a direct line, fax machines upon request and cable television. The Spa Caudalíe, opened in 2001, features the rejuvenating and purifying effects of Caudalíe treatments (like the Crushed Cabernet scrub) as well as a separate state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meals at Le Meurice are as close to perfect as it gets; Yannick Alléno garnered his third Michelin star this year and the critics can't stop raving about the exquisite dining experience-- smart service, stunning surroundings, and elegant French fare at its finest. And of course kids are spoiled rotten at Hotel Meurice: sweets and in-room Kids Kit awaiting upon arrival, a treasure hunt winding through the hotel...
July 26, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's official. Five Star Alliance, the leading online travel agency for luxury hotels, has released the annual "World's Best Luxury Hotels" lists. Our crew of somewhat obsessive luxury hotel fans gives recs so often, we decided it's important to share that info with the world. Along with the company's expertise, the criteria used to select the World's Best Luxury Hotels includes honest feedback from Five Star Alliance clients and the popularity of hotels. Since Five Star Alliance only focuses only luxury hotels, these picks are truly la crème de la crème.
The world's most luxurious hotels are selected for eight categories, including Luxury Beach Resorts, Business Hotels, Luxury Honeymoon Resorts, Luxury Golf Resorts, Luxury Spa Resorts, Luxury Ski Resorts, Luxury Resorts for Families, and Romantic Resorts.
Do you have a favorite that didn't make our lists? After checking them out, come back and discuss your favorites with us! (You'll find a link for comments at the bottom of each list.)
Imagine: splurging on $500 worth of meals at the fabulous Relais Gourmands restaurants, which together garnered over 300 Michelin stars in 2006. (The Inn at Little Washington-- pictured at right-- is a member, described by Zagat as "the gastronomic equivalent of sex.") The line-up of celebrity chefs at Relais and Chateaux is nothing short of staggering: Daniel Boulud, Heston Blumenthal, Hélène Darroze, Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Charlie Trotter and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Celebrate l'art de vivre and enter the draw for the $500 gift certificate. Register by phone before September 10, 2007 by calling 877-334-6464.
Just a hop from the Spanish Steps in the middle of Rome, the terraced gardens of Hotel de Russie provide a tranquil refuge amidst the bustle of the Eternal City. Dine al fresco or stroll through the Butterfly Oasis, created in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund. (The graceful insects are an extremely rare sight in inner city gardens.) Rocco Forte's five-star luxury hotel is also known for its health club and spa, one of Rome's best with hydropool, Jacuzzi, Turkish steam bath, and gym. Hotel de Russie is within easy walking distance of the best this ancient city has to offer. With the "Art of Shopping" package, guests can enjoy the heady pleasure of discovering Rome's fashion houses while being pampered at Hotel de Russie. Package includes two nights accommodation, daily buffet breakfast, welcome gift in-room by a renowned designer, a post-shopping aperitif at the fashionable Stravinskii Bar, and an unforgettable foot massage at the famous de Russie Wellness Zone. Priced from EUR 663 until August 31, 2007, and EUR 841 from September 1- October 31, 2007.
July 24, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's a reason this tiny gem has racked up so many accolades and is noted on "It Lists" the world over. The latest from the Hospes Group, Spain's hippest hotelier which also runs the chic Hotel Lancaster in Paris, Hospes Palacio del Bailío is a 16th century palace turned design hotel. Surrounded by the architectural marvels of the city of Córdoba, the eighth century seat of the Moorish caliphate, the hotel itself is a stylish mix of contemporary luxury and fine historical details, like vaulted ceilings, beautiful frescoes, and 15th century doors. Indeed, in the atrium, a glass floor reveals a Roman villa that was unearthed beneath the building's foundations. There are 53 rooms and suites with sleek bathrooms, a courtyard swimming pool, Roman baths and signature Bodyna spa, and tapas bar and gourmet restaurant. Step outside and discover the riches of Córdoba, a UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient crossroads where narrow cobblestone streets wind past whitewashed walls and Moorish monuments.
We thought the Eiffel Suite was luxe. The Hotel Plaza Athénée is also home to the lavish Royal Suite, 4840 square feet of serious opulence. The four-bedroom suite is situated on the 5th floor, overlooking the Avenue Montaigne and the courtyard. Furnished with splendid antiques, drapes embroidered with three different gold threads, and the finest silks and fabrics, the Royal Suite is like an elegant Parisian home-- a truly exceptional one at that. Bathrooms are decked out in Italian marble, with steam showers and Jacuzzis. To be expected, the suite offers the utmost in state-of-the-art technology: plasma TV screen in each room, glass video projecting screen in the master bedroom, WiFi Internet access, telephone with eight lines, fax, music library with 5,000 titles, and incredible security (digital finger print entry on each door of the Suite, four electronic safes...)
Of course you don't have to be a member of the royal family to stay at the legendary Plaza Athénée. Make like Carrie Bradshaw and book a room at the most famous hotel in the City of Light (with our without the "lovah" in tow). Recently renovated and scented with a unique amber fragrance, the hotel's spacious guest rooms showcase French style at its best.
With the dollar at an all-time miserable low, travelers to Europe experience serious sticker shock when checking out of their hotels. But with the guaranteed £ for $ rate at the renowned Athenaeum Hotel, visitors to London can enjoy luxurious accommodations and all the best the city has to offer-- and breathe easy. Your three-night stay will be priced at $310 per night with the Summer in the City promotion; hotel rates won't go soaring through the roof with fluctuations on the currency markets. The package includes priority check-in, free Internet access, and a ten percent discount on food and beverages at the hotel. Located on London's Piccadilly overlooking Green Park, the family-owned Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments is surrounded by all the excitement of Central London. Added bonus: the hotel has recently completed a sumptuous renovation of the ground floor, with tempting dining and drinks available 'til late.
July 16, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Enjoy summer in the city from just GBP 185! For one of the London's finest hotels, this rate is a steal. There's the happening Lobby bar, a fabulous swimming pool with underwater music, two excellent restaurants, luxurious rooms and truly professional service. And perhaps most importantly, you can't beat this London location. One Aldwych is bang in the middle of one of the world's most exciting cities, ideally suited for exploring the capital in the summer months. Stroll along the Thames and see the most famous sites, view the skyline from the London Eye, shop 'til you drop at every leading department store, hit a massive selection of galleries, exhibitions, theaters, and attractions just minutes away from the hotel. Whatever your plans, make sure you take one of One Aldwych's picnic baskets, packed with a delicious meal from the British coastline, fields, and farms. The perfect accompaniment to an outdoor concert or excursion to a park, the picnic hamper includes a selection of breads, olive oil and balsamic mixed for dipping, crudités, cheese straws, asparagus with hollandaise to dip, Quail scotch eggs with caper mayonnaise, quiche, along with a choice of rabbit or chicken and ham pie, salads, pots (like shrimp or Mackerel pâté), and desserts (think Gooseberry fool or Summer pudding with clotted cream.) Weekend rates start from GBP 185 per night in an Aldwych room, while midweek rates start from GBP 225. Available until September 9, 2007.
July 12, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Dine on the banks of the celebrated Vltava River in one of the hottest spots in Prague. From the outdoor terrace at Allegro in the Four Seasons, soak in the views of the Prague Castle. Named the best restaurant in the Czech Republic for 2005 and 2006 by Zagat Europe, Allegro serves refined Italian cuisine with flair. Executive Chef Vito Mollica and his seven-member team create traditional dishes with a cutting-edge twist. Humble food items are mixed with premium products (think tripe and black truffle; poached eggs and white truffles). The unusual combinations are thrilling. An added plus: the restaurant buys local, from the excellent small producers in Bohemia, rather than relying on imports.
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.
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