June 21, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now you can stay next door to Vladimir Putin's summer house on the Russian Riviera. When he's not hazing the new French president, Vlad hangs out here in Sochi, the historic seaside resort on the Black Sea. Stein Hotels opened Grand Hotel and Spa Rodina in May 2006 and the media's been abuzz ever since. Set within 15 hectares of gardens that lead down to a private beach club, the hotel has dramatic views of the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains, sandy beaches of the Black Sea, and Putin's official summer residence. Joseph Stalin originally created the resort in the 1950s as a retreat for the party elite. For over two centuries, the country's rich and powerful flocked to these shores, now also known for its annual film festival held in June. The subtropical climate-- the most northernmost like it in the world-- means lush terrain and lots of leafy palms. (You can swim from April through October, and hit the ski slopes from October into May.) Discover the magnificent botanical gardens, the only tea plantations in Russia, and the magnificent canyons and waterfalls of the nearby Caucasus mountains.
Grand Hotel Rodina is an exclusive property of only 42 rooms and suites, some with private terrace Jacuzzis. Soak in the oversized swimming pools (the best in the area), catch a flick at the private cinema, dine al fresco on the rooftop terrace, stake your claim to a piece of paradise at the exclusive Beach Club. The facilities are truly presidential, with tennis and basketball courts, a helicopter pad, boathouse, billiard room, and fully-equipped gym and spa. The best part of all? The cigar room located in the 50 year old bomb shelter.
You can't beat this London location. Overlooking Hyde Park, within easy reach of Knightsbridge's famous stores, The Berkeley is mere moments from London's acclaimed museums and landmarks. For over a century, the storied hotel has retained its elegance, charm, and popularity with its distinguished clientele. The Blue Bar, the hotel's drinking spot, has made a name for itself in dozens of glossies around the globe. The rooftop pool is one of only two in London; it has a retracting roof and beautiful views over Hyde Park. Marcus Wareing's Michelin-starred Pétrus restaurant has secured The Berkeley as one of the world's leading gastronomic hotels. Stay Friday, Saturday or Sunday night between now and December 31, 2007 and enjoy a welcome bottle of chilled champagne, full English breakfast and late check-out at 4 p.m. the following day. Prices for Weekend Chic start from GBP 259 per night in a Superior King-bedded room.
PS. Don't miss the fashionista's favorite afternoon tea at The Berkeley, Prêt-à-Portea.
The legendary QE2, launched by Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1967, has been sold to Dubai's Istithmar company for a mere $100 million. The longest serving vessel in Cunard's history, the ocean liner crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and carried more than 2.5 million passengers. Now the ship will become a must-see tourist attraction in Dubai (where else?)-- where it will be converted into a luxurious floating hotel at the Palm Jumeirah. After an extensive refurbishment program to recreate all the original interior décor, the QE2 will reopen in 2009 in its new permanent home: a pier at the Palm Jumeirah, the world's largest man-made island.
June 15, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Beneath the shadow of mythical Mount Athos in northern Greece, next to the deep blue sea, Eagles Palace commands a premier seaside position near the ancient town of Ouranpolis. Set in lush gardens, the five-star hotel offers luxurious rooms, suites, or self-contained bungalows with private pools. Terraces look out over the secluded private beach of golden sand and the clear water of the Sigiticos Gulf. Facilities include the indulgent spa, three dining options, swimming pools, tennis court, water sports and the diving center. The hotel has distinguished itself with its outstanding projects for sustainable development and responsible tourism and was awarded the 2007 Caring Award from Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Well-integrated into the local community, the hotel has sponsored myriad projects: guests can dine in local homes, fishing trips are organized with the region's fisherman, beach clean-up days and environmental projects inform both guests and the local community about important issues.
Situated in Italy's South Tyrol region, wedged between the Alps and the Dolomites just 30 miles from the Austrain border, Vigilius Mountain Resort is a contemporary design hotel only accessible by cable car. At 1,500 meters above everyday life, Vigilius is an exciting and exclusive haven. Constructed with local materials of larch wood, glass, and a grass roof, the design is minimalist and modern, but blends harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. It was named to Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List in 2004, but this "luxury playground for adults" still gets lots of buzz. There's a screening room, two excellent restaurants, cutting-edge spa, and swimming pool with stunning panoramic views. Not to mention the wealth of activities right out your back door-- from hiking, skiing, and paragliding to wine-tasting and village-hopping.
What could be better than sampling London's finest plates outside in Regent's Park? The annual Taste of London festival, now in its fourth year, entices serious foodies to flock to the gourmet extravaganza. Where else can you sample Le Gavroche, Fifteen, Nahm, Pied à Terre and Angela Hartnett at The Connaught all at the same time? From June 21-24, 2007, head to the best table in town at the capital's most prestigious food and drink festival. Gastrofeatures include F Word Live (where Gordon Ramsay and the F Word team whip up some fabulous dishes), the Times Chefs' Theater, Specialty Beer Master Class, and the Producer's Market with delectable local produce.
Where to stay? Book a room at The Halkin, whose famed Thai restaurant, Nahm, is showcasing its exceptional cuisine at the Taste of London. (How's this for bragging rights: Nahm secured the world's first Michelin star for Thai cooking.) Located in the heart of Belgravia, just steps from Knightsbridge and Hyde Park, the 41-room Halkin is all about understated glamour. The white-marble lobby is polished, its adjacent bar intimate and chic. At this ultimate insider's address, guests are treated to attentive, but discreet, personal service.
PS. The Halkin's got some of the best suites in town
June 11, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
When the Royal reopened in 2003, the legendary five-star hotel was reborn in the heart of Budapest. Since its dazzling renovation, the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal has won a slew of awards, including TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice Awards for the Best Luxury Hotel-World. Step into the lobby, outfitted in Italian marble, and marvel at the hotel's aesthetic grandeur. The Royal Spa is likewise opulent, first opened in 1886 and painstakingly restored before its reopening in July 2006. Take the waters in the original pool-- the spa's centerpiece. Lined with mosaic tiles, the pool features a painted glass ceiling, wrought-iron balcony, and walls decorated with Zsolnay ceramic. The splendid spa offers state-of-the-art facilities including saunas, steam room, jacuzzis, massage and treatment rooms, fitness facility, Niagara bath tubs, tropical showers, mud baths, and seaweed baths. Available exclusively for adults over 16 years of age. Younger guests are welcome to use the spa facilities at the hotel's sister property, the Corinthia Aquincum Hotel.
June 8, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's never a bad time to visit the French capital, but summertime brings a host of music concerts, the Paris Cinéma festival (showcasing a diversity of films in cinemas around the city from July 3-14), and the famous Paris Plages-- when urbanites flock to the sand along the Seine for serious sun-worshipping, replete with deckchairs, loungers, and umbrellas (July 19-August 20). Beach volleyball games take place on the sand court in front of the Hôtel de Ville.
Stop by the George Pompidou Centre, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with cutting-edge exhibitions. Stroll down Champs-Élysées and indulge in an ice cream break at the new international showcase for Häagen-Dazs. The three floor-establishment features a chic 200 seat terrace (the largest on this storied avenue), special tastings, cooking classes with the chefs, and the Ice Bäar on the top floor, where you can delight in ice-cream-based cocktails and take in panoramic views while listening to the DJ's sounds. Forget the Metro, the city now boasts a self-service bicycle lending program called Vélib', so you can navigate your way through Paris's magical streets, taking in the architecture and diverse districts-- all for free!
Let's not forget Les Soldes, when even the most bashful of Parisians hit the streets in a frenzied shopping spree. In July, the summer sales dazzle bargain hunters and fashionistas who can score impressive discounts of up to 70 percent off in the city's luxurious establishments. Treat yourself to a new chic French wardrobe (totally guilt-free!)
Make like Carrie Bradshaw and book a room at Hotel Plaza Athénée, the elegant landmark hotel which has become synonymous with Parisian style. Splurge on a meal at the hotel's award-winning restaurant, overseen by world-renowned Chef Alain Ducasse.
PS. Giorgio Armani's new luxury boutique-- a minimalist space with onyx walls, black Plexiglass ceiling, and grey silk wall murals-- is located right across the street on the avenue Montaigne.
Taking a cue from Fodor's Hot List, we're focusing our gaze across the pond at the London Langham Hotel's glamorous new bar, Artesian. Designed by David Collins Studio, this chic new hot spot is decked out in embossed leather seats, a lilac marble bar, timber chandeliers, and ornate, mirrored wall paneling. The cocktail menu is simply luxurious, with lots of delicious drinks specializing in rum. (Try the Hot Buttered Rum, a relaxing, buttery drink served with Myer's rum, clove-infused apricot brandy, hot water, cloves, and a spoonful of homemade cream.) Here, the creative mixologists craft timeless classics and Artesian signature cocktails, like the Good Night Chihuahua, a twist in the seminal Tommy's Margarita recipe, using Sotol Reposado, homemade chamomile syrup and fresh lime juice, served on the rocks. But as Fodor's points out, "if tongues are wagging over Artesian, it's not because of the décor or the celebrity guests, it's because of the "energized" ice cubes: they're denser and colder than most, so cocktails stay potent longer." Talk about indulgence.
Believe the hype. Travel sybarites go gaga over this cool designer hotel, located in the seaside port of Rimini in Italy's Emilia-Romagna coast (birthplace of Fellini, the film director). Internationally renowned designer Ron Arad, known for his metal furniture and for the cool design of the 6th floor of Madrid's Hotel Puerta America, went all out with his flashy, futuristic vision for the duoMo hotel. Unconventional to say the least. Walk past doors designed like pinball-machine flippers into the lobby, where the enormous front desk (pictured) looms like a stainless steel spaceship. As quoted in Travel and Leisure, Arad has said of his hotel: "I do not want to make people feel at home, because they’re not at home." The 43 guest rooms feature the latest in technology and design. Pod-shaped bathrooms have glass walls, custom-made designer toiletries, and LCD screens. A young, hip clientele flock to the lobby bar, NoMi, to taste tapas-style small plates and groove to cool tunes spun by live DJs from Miami, Ibiza, and NY.