May 21, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The dream of connecting the two continents-- only nine miles a part at the narrowest point of the Straight of Gibraltar-- may at last become a reality. After years of terrain tests, engineers have come up with a blueprint plan for a high-speed rail tunnel connecting Europe and Africa. As reported by the Associated Press:
This tube for passengers, cars and freight would bore deep under the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow waterway where the Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean, and run from Tangier, Morocco, to the Spanish town of Tarifa at Europe's southernmost tip, possibly extending further both ways in the future. Big-name European engineering consultants brought in a few months ago are to complete a feasibility study this year.
This would be a true engineering marvel, the deepest underwater tunnel anywhere. There are plenty of challenges. At the proposed project site, the water is about 1,000 feet deep, six times deeper than the depth of the English Channel where the Eurostar tunnel is located. In addition, there are geologic complications, as the terrain is muddy and unstable with pockets of debris from tectonic slides. If the Straight of Gibraltar Project gets the green light in 2008, the cost would be over $13 billion and take about 20 years to construct.
May 18, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Just in time for the 2008 White Nights Festival, Starwood has announced the opening of a new W hotel in the Russian city on the Neva built by Peter the Great. Throughout the month of June, the sun never sets and St. Petersburg celebrates in style with music, festivals, and ballet performances at the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theater. Indulge in some caviar and ice-cold vodka and take in the city sites: the Hermitage (which rivals the Louvre), the Russian Museum, and the imperial estate of Peterhof. Scheduled to open in mid 2008, the new W hotel will be the first W in Eastern Europe. The hotel will showcase historic architecture complemented by exciting contemporary interiors (and plenty of signature W design elements, like the W Living Room). Located on Voznesensky Prospect, the hotel will feature spectacular views of the gold-domed St. Isaac's Cathedral from the guest rooms. The best part of all? A rooftop bar overlooking the historic city’s sparkling lights.
Talk about a room with a view. Vienna's Do & Co offers a heavenly hotel experience in the very center of the action off the pedestrian-only Stephansplatz. From your floor-to-ceiling windows, gaze out at the 12th-century St. Stephen's Cathedral. Owned by Istanbul-born entrepreneur Attila Dogudan, the hotel is a magnificent contemporary structure of glass and steel. The 43 guest rooms are extravagant, with dark teak wood details and heavenly bathrooms (two-square-meter showers, with flat screen TVs). Conveniently located in the middle of it all in the imperial city, Do & Co also offers an excellent restaurant and Vienna hot spot, the Onyx Bar.
Dads will love the oenology package designed by the Relais and Chateaux hotel collection for true connoisseurs. Why not treat Dad to a trip to the Villa Florentine in Lyon, France where he can indulge in the region's celebrated cuisine and fine wines? (The Oenology Package includes a candle-lit dinner and entrance tickets to the Beaujolais museum in Romanèche-Thorins.) Or send Dad to discover the Chablis Vineyards with a swanky chef's dinner at La Côte Saint Jacques. The Menu Gourmand is positively decadent: four courses, cheeses, and dessert accompanied by the greatest Chablis wines from the Domaine LarOche. The guided tour presents vineyards that are a millennium old. Here on our side of the pond, Dad'll love the Indulge: Virginia Wine Package at the beautiful Clifton Inn located outside Charlottesville, surrounded by small, local vineyards. For the adventure of a lifetime, treat Dad to a splurge in South Africa with the First Wines and First Whales package at the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town. The first red wines from the Constantia Wine Route are released just as the first migratory whales are spotted from land at Hermanus. Wow.
May 15, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Heli-Shopping, Mayback tours and sleigh rides in the Alps highlight the five-figure honeymoon package at the Kristiania Lech in Austria. The ultimate, over-the-top 7-night package is priced at 17,115 Euros for the honeymooning couple and includes the following amazing amenities: Traveling by helicopter to St. Moritz; DaimlerChrysler Maybach car tour including spa adventure; sleigh rides; private ski guides; Dom Perignon 1998 champagne with Austrian crystal flutes engraved with the guest names and wedding date; personal chef dinner; a bath butler and a professional photographer to shoot a honeymoon photo album. The new couple will spend their nights in the Alpine Suite, an opulent suite with a working fireplace and as the name implies a stylish terrace with magnificent views of the high peaks surrounding the valley. The Kristiania Lech, a Small Luxury Hotel member, is open December through April each year and is surrounded by 29 towering peaks in the quaint resort town of Lech, which has (so far) produced four Olympic ski champions.
All eyes are on Cannes, the mythical jewel of the French Riviera, for the annual film festival (May 16-27, 2007) where the film stars strut their stuff on the red carpet and one lucky film will nab the prestigious Palme d'Or. The hotels may be booked solid during the film festival, but there is never a bad time to visit the Cote d'Azur, beloved by the Impressionist painters for its mild climate and glorious light. The beautiful Mediterranean coastline is a favorite for sun-seeking sybarites who indulge in exquisite cuisine and nightlife.
The place to stay is the Majestic Barrière, located on the Avenue La Croisette overlooking the sea. (80 percent of the rooms have views of the Med.) This legendary palace is one of the most distinguished addressed on the French Riviera, adored by celebrities for its high level of personalized service. The hotel features the Michelin two-star restaurant, La Villa des Lys, a flower-filled garden, a beautiful heated outdoor pool with solarium, private sandy beach with water sports facilities, and a health and beauty center. This summer, take advantage of the Barriere Preferred Package at the Majestic Barrière and enjoy rates from just EUR 259 per night including breakfast and free access to the beach with airbed, parasol, and beach towels included. If you stay four consecutive nights, the fifth night is free! Available until June 30, 2007.
Spring is in the air. Celebrate the season at Frankfurt's Villa Kennedy with the Spring Feeling Package. Get ready to indulge your senses with a VIP Spring Treatment in your room on arrival day, and "Inspirazione" menu for two at the Villa Spa, including a Surrender Massage. Rates from EUR 560 per night (Classic King double), includes delicious buffet breakfast, available until June 1, 2007. Centrally located on the southside of the River Main, the Villa Kennedy is a luxurious retreat in the heart of downtown with tranquil gardens and a beautiful central courtyard. The hotel's three newly constructed buildings are centered around the traditional 1904 Villa Speyer; a sense of historic tradition is complemented by contemporary innovation. The comfortable guest rooms are deigned in a minimalist style, with state-of-the-art technology and spa-like bathrooms with mosaic tiles. The three-level spa features an indoor pool, gym, sauna, steam bath, and eight treatment rooms.
May 11, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Housed in the regal Hotel Grand, Cafe Roux is one of Amsterdam's trendy hotspots. The setting is exquisite; bordered by two canals, the historic hotel has been at the center of city life for over six centuries. (In the 15th century, it was a convent and more recently it served as Amsterdam's Town Hall and the wedding spot for Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands.) One of Amsterdam's finest brasserie style restaurants, Cafe Roux has won multiple awards, including Wine Spectator's Restaurant Award for four consecutive years. Overlooking a picturesque canal, the restaurant is designed with oak floors and art deco details. The menu changes weekly, taking its inspiration from a specific culinary region of France. It's also possible to dine al fresco in the charming courtyard garden. Afternoon tea is a real treat. Served daily at 3 p.m., priced at EUR 22,50 per person, the tea features warm scones and clotted cream, assorted pastries, and dainty finger sandwiches.
May 10, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's easy to become seduced by Barcelona. Sunning on the urban beaches of the Catalan coastline, checking out Picasso's weird sketches at the Picasso Museum, bar-hopping along Las Ramblas, discovering the magical whimsy of Gaudi's architectural gems like the Sagrada Familia. Your ideal base in this dynamic city is the Hotel Claris, a luxury boutique hotel opened in the former Palacio Vedruna (note: the beautiful facade is still intact). Perks include an awesome terrace overlooking Barcelona and rooftop swimming pool and solarium with incredible vistas. The hotel itself is like a museum, an art-lover's paradise filled with original Egyptian, Roman and Hindu art, including engravings commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, mosaics and Roman sculptures from the 2nd century. Located on Paseo de Gracia in the middle of all the action, Hotel Claris offers 124 guestrooms, beautifully decorated and outfitted with all the latest technology.
Note: Small Luxury Hotels of the World recently commended Hotel Claris for the exceptional levels of personal service provided at the Club Level. Examples of guest-pampering are numerous: helicopter flights over the mountains, the use of a car to explore the city's historical sights, complimentary access to museums.
May 9, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Escape to Italy this summer and discover a hidden gem of a country estate-turned-luxury hotel just outside Florence. Villa Olmi Resort is the best of the old world and new; it combines the artistic splendor of the Renaissance with the luxurious amenities and technology of contemporary Italy. Set amidst the greenery of a centuries old park, Villa Olmi is all about the good life: excellent gourmet restaurant (and wine cellar), plush furnishings, impeccable service, and majestic surroundings. Take advantage of the Romantic Italian Experience, available until August 31, 2007, and really wow your loved one. The two-night package includes accommodations in a Junior Suite of the Villa or Fattoria, welcome drink with sparkling wine and snacks, a candle-light dinner for two at Il Cavaliere restaurant (beverages not included), one city tour in horse-carriage, and complimentary buffet breakfast. Starting from EUR 1200 per room for the two-night stay.