February 25, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This summer, think Sardinia. The second largest island in the Mediterranean boasts beautiful, unspoiled coastlines and some of the best scenery in all of Italy. The new L'Ea Bianca resort, meaning literally "white water," sprawls over a gentle hillside overlooking the turquoise and emerald sea. Opposite the islands of the La Maddalena archipelago, the resort is framed by a lovely beach and groves of green juniper trees. There are only 31 bedrooms at the resort, meaning the ultimate privacy for guests. Each offers a spacious balcony, elegant furnishings, and bathrooms with both showers and whirlpool tubs. Lounge on the beach, where attendants will provide sun umbrellas and sun beds, or by the lovely pool. Not far from the Porto Cervo harbor (which houses some of the Med's most elegant yachts), L'Ea Bianca is located on one of the most prestigious areas of Sardinia's Emerald coast. Note: The spa will open this year, an excellent addition to the health and beauty center.
Plan a getaway to Europe this spring and enjoy authentic and enriching experiences with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. We've gushed before about the "In the Know" concierge program-- destination videos and local tips galore-- and the "Insider Experience" program takes this attentive service to another level. InterContinental has designed special packages for its guests to experience what is truly special about a city or region-- local food and wine, art and music, sightseeing, local markets-- and discover the nuanced secrets of each destination.
Case in point: "Insider Experiences" at Ceylan InterContinental Istanbul (pictured), where you can "Conquer the Grand Bazaar" with a personal guide at your side to lead you through the maze of shops in the world's oldest and largest covered shopping area, or discover the "Sights of Istanbul" with a personalized tour and private driver. At Amsterdam's InterContinental Amstel, you can enjoy "Canals and Canapés," a two-hour tour of Amsterdam's historic canals aboard a private salon boat for two. As you watch the city drift by, indulge in champagne and canapés followed by a six-course dinner with wine at La Rive. The "Amsterdam Amour" experience includes private limousine service, glasses of champagne and chocolate Traditionamstel Pure in-room, and a pair of choice seats at a classical concert.
Fly to Athens and discover marvelous "Insider Experiences" at the Athenaeum InterContinental, including "City Shopper," where a personal guide will escort you in a private car to Athens' jewelry stores, designer showrooms and shops where artisans create sandals and other handmade items, and "Cultural Treasure Hunt," a private guided tour that includes a visit to a Greek artist's studio, a stop in the Central Market of Athens to sample taverna food and an introduction to ancient and contemporary architecture, composers and literature.
What could be more fun than a magical weekend exploring London? '41', the elegant five-star hotel located near Buckingham Palace, is offering a special weekend package your whole family will enjoy. Celebrated for its high service levels and stunning décor, '41' is not far from Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and a special treat for the kids – the Changing of the Guard. The two-night package includes family accommodation (king size bed and pull-out sofa bed), tour of the hotel (including the kitchen, so the kids can help prepare lunch for Mum and Dad), a special children's menu, your very own bathrobes and slippers, welcome pack with games, kiddies' packed lunch every day, English breakfast daily, and a special turndown treat each evening. Priced from GBP 495 per room, per night based on two adults and two children sharing a Hospitality Suite. Two-night minimum stay required. Available March 21-23, 2008.
February 20, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now's your chance to extend your stay at this glamorous palace hotel perched on the cliffs of Madeira overlooking Funchal Bay. After a multi-million dollar renovation in 2006, the legendary Reid's Palace has re-emerged as the finest luxury hotel on this Portuguese Atlantic outpost, a paradise of lovely pools and stunning views. Managed by Orient-Express Hotels, Reid's Palace also boasts a lovely spa. Take advantage of the "One Complimentary Night Offer" and get a free seventh night from March 18- April 19, 2008. Starting at $4,112 (double occupancy) for the full week stay, including daily breakfast and roundtrip airport transfers. Celebrated for its wine-making tradition, the beautiful island of Madeira has a temperate, therapeutic climate, just right for a springtime visit.
Since the legendary designer reinvented Paris's sumptuous palace hotel, diners have been flocking in droves to Le Dali for the new culinary concept. Starck injected his signature style into the restaurant's redesign. Dine on Yannick Alléno's* signature creations beneath a fabulous 1,500-square-foot painting, a giant canvas with gold and ochre hues painted by Ara Starck. And get this: her monumental project was actually picked anonymously by her father, the celebrity designer, for the restaurant's ceiling! Here, the spirit of Dali reigns supreme. You'll find a Daliesque seat with feet in the form of ladies shoes, a lamp with drawers, and a lobster on a telephone.
*Highly acclaimed by food writers worldwide, the Head Chef at Meurice has been awarded a third Michelin star. Chef Yannick Alléno creates menus with the best of Parisian products, coming from French terroirs (though he's passionate about exotic products as well).
Plan a winter escape to the gorgeous Irish countryside and get pampered at the luxurious Heritage Golf & Spa Resort located in the picturesque village of Killenard, just an hour from Dublin. Experience the renowned 72-par Championship golf course and lavish accommodations for just EUR 190 per person (sharing) with the Winter Golfing Break. Available until April 30, 2008, this special includes one night bed & breakfast in a Deluxe guest room, a round of golf, and one evening meal in Greens or So Oriens Restaurant. Set in the beautiful rolling countryside of Co. Laois with the Slieve Bloom Mountains as a backdrop, the golf course was designed by Seve Ballesteros and Jeff Howes with five lakes and a stream meandering through the greens. Don't miss the luxury spa at The Heritage, featuring 20 treatment rooms and a selection of over 70 spa treatments with the Pevonia botanical skincare line.
February 14, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Bed down in five-star luxury at the most sought-after lodgings in the Alps. The exclusive ski resort of Courchevel caters to a glamorous crowd of international jet-setters who flock here for the snow and hopping après-ski scene. Escape to the recently-renovated Hotel de Charme Les Airelles, the hotel of choice for the International Olympic Committee during the 1992 Winter Games. The fabulous spa, touted as a "winter wonderland" with waterfalls, soundproof shower booths, and a unique snow cave, is out of this world. Cozy, elegant and charming, Les Airelles resembles the grand ski chalets of another era. And the setting is just as stunning, with ski runs right out the door. The Ski Valet is there to help with your equipment and boots and give you the best tips about the "3 Vallées", arguably the greatest ski area in the world. The new restaurant, "Pierre Gagnaire pour Les Airelles"-- serving cuisine from the superstar chef-- already has quite the following.
Destination: St. Pete's, the Venice of the North, Russia's cultural capital, where internationally-praised opera, ballet and concert performances delight visitors, and the Hermitage Museum dazzles with its art collection. After decades of oblivion, the holy day of Easter has been revived in St. Petersburg with church services and processions, colorful Easter eggs, and art festivals. Perfectly located near St. Isaacs Cathedral in the heart of the city (just a block from the Hermitage), Rocco Forte's Hotel Astoria is one of the most sought-after hotels in St. Pete's. Scrupulously designed to reflect the noble history of the city, the Hotel Astoria has a spa, 24-hour gym, and Davidov restaurant serving authentic Russian cuisine. (Be sure to request a room with views over St. Isaac's Square.) Book the "Easter Dreams for Art Lovers" package to experience the festive atmosphere of Russian Easter and the city's abundant cultural treasures. Priced from RUB 64 050 (approx. EUR 1,830), the package includes three nights accommodation, buffet breakfast, champagne, fruit and flowers in-room, private tour of the Hermitage, private tour of the Imperial Palaces, Russian Table buffet at Davidov restaurant, Russian classical massage at the Spa (30 minutes), and airport transfers. Valid from March 20- 25, 2008.
In London, luxury hotels abound. The Draycott, occupying three red-brick Edwardian homes just round the corner from Sloane Square, stands out for its pedigree and personality. A stay here is like traveling back in time to when Number 22-26 Cadogan Gardens was a private home. Every detail combines to convince guests that they are at home, invited to enjoy the finest standards of hospitality in a grand yet friendly setting. Steeped in Edwardian splendor with high ceilings and real working fireplaces, the 35 suites are theatrically themed and adorned with Victorian antiques. Each room contains something of its theatrical namesake- be it Sheridan, Coward, Grenfell or Ashcroft.
Here's what to expect:
*24-hour concierge service to arrange your chauffeur transfers to the airport, the perfect choices for restaurants and entertainment, a tour of historic Chelsea, etc.
*Complimentary afternoon tea and biscuits served at 4 p.m. in the drawing room, followed by champagne at 6 p.m. and hot chocolate before bed.
*Complimentary wireless Internet in all areas of the hotel
*The finest Sea Island cotton sheets in a luxuriously large bed, especially made to Draycott Hotel's own specification and designed for perfect rest.
Choose The Draycott's Theatre Galore package and you'll enjoy a bottle of champagne in-room, a pair of tickets to the show of your choice each day, and a full English breakfast. Priced at just GBP 425 per person for the two-night package.
February 12, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Just an hour from Prague, a 17th century chateau-turned-luxury-retreat could possibly be one of the most exclusive venues in Central Europe. The Chateau Mcely's been turning heads since its opening in May 2006 after a major renconstruction. The setting is simply magical: a lush parkland surrounded by the Czech Republic's beautiful St. George Forest. The manor is touted as the first five-star "green" and eco-chic hotel in the Czech Republic. Over the weekend of February 29- March 2, 2008, Chateau Mcely welcomes guests for its Chocolate Degustation, where generous tastings are accompanied by cooking demonstrations and stories. Learn how to prepare some of the tempting and unusual chocolates-- filled with pink peppercorns, curry, pistachio, and other unusual ingredients-- from the Chateau's own domestic recipes. (Note: The chocolate tasting is included in the price of accommodation.)
P.S. For a delightful take on why to visit Prague in the off-season, check out this NYT piece.