LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
Now accepting reservations for July 1, 2008 arrivals, the new Four Seasons Hotel Firenze will knock your socks off. One of the hottest hotel openings of the year, the 117-room hotel is housed in two historical masterpieces: the Palazzo Della Gherardesca (a 15th century palace) and the Conventino (a former convent dating from the 17th century). It's only fitting to discover the birthplace of early Renaissance art and architecture while staying in this art-filled city sanctuary with abundant original frescoes and sculptured reliefs. Just a stroll away from Michelangelo's David, the Duomo, and the wonders of the Uffizi, the Four Seasons offers an open-air pool, sumptuous spa, and a tranquil private park-- one of the largest private gardens in Florence. Rooms blend Renaissance artistic details with high-tech comfort. For the ultimate in luxury, book the Della Gherardesca Suite (Royal Suite), touted as the "most desired accommodation in the city." Located in the nobles' quarters of the Palazzo, the suite boasts beautiful frescoes, painted vaulted ceilings, and an original Capodimonte Maioliche-style ceramic floor by Ignazio Chiaiese in the gallery. Like the other guest rooms, 21st century amenities are standard: iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs, and spacious bathrooms.
The New York Times has the skinny on the fate of small Alpine ski stations in the face of melting snows brought about by global warming. Recently, Bruno Prior, a British entrepreneur, snatched up the ski resort of Ernen for one Swiss franc. After suffering heavy losses (and no snow), the Ernen ski-lift company was forced to shut down the four ski lifts. In an act of desperation, Ernen decided to give away the lifts to the investor who could best assist the village. With plans to invest as much as $45 million to build new hotels and lifts, Prior saved the small village from an uncertain fate.
January 21, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Listed by National Geographic's Journeys of a Lifetime as one of the "Top 10 Food Pilgrimages," the Hotel Sacher Vienna is home to the world's most famous chocolate cake. Sachertorte-- rich chocolate torte with thin layers of apricot jam, accompanied by lots of whipped cream-- was created by Franz Sacher in 1832. This divine piece of patisserie is as much a part of Vienna as the State Opera, the Lipizzaner Horses, and the Hotel Sacher itself, built by Franz's son in 1876. Enjoy a stay at this legendary hotel, just opposite the Opera, and immerse yourself in the charms of the Hapsburg Monarchy. The tasteful rooms simply ooze luxury, adorned with original oil paintings, precious rugs and silk wall coverings. And get this: the Sachertorte is available for worldwide delivery!
January 18, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Cool shoes, hip hotel. The Camper brand doesn't just mean hipster footwear... There's a luxury boutique hotel situated in Barcelona's vibrant, arty El Raval district, within walking distance to Las Ramblas, and rumor has it that there will be a whole chain of them on the horizon. Housed in a restored historic building, Casa Camper has 25 guest rooms: simple, contemporary, and stylish. Each is painted vivid green or red, while bathrooms are gleaming white. Across the hall, you'll find your own sitting room with a flat-screen TV and hammock strung on the balcony. Perks: Snacks are on the house all day long, service is friendly and personalized, amenities include wifi and pillow menus, and there's a roof terrace with beautiful views over the rooftops.
Talk about "foie gras with a view!" Celebrity chef Alain Ducasse-- renowned for his fine dining restaurants at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Dorchester in London-- recently opened a new restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. After a four-month refurbishment, the Jules Verne restaurant showcases nifty glass windows that allow diners to gape at the view even when it's nighttime and the lights are on in the room. With 16 Michelin stars under his belt (and 20 eateries around the world), Ducasse is the very symbol of haute cuisine. His goal with the new Jules Verne? Create a "shop window for French cuisine." Lunch goes for $108 and dinner costs $223.
This summer, the Czech capital will welcome a stunning new hotel from the Rocco Forte Collection, housed in a complex of five historical buildings including St Thomas's Monastery which dates from the 1400s. Smack dab in the heart of Prague, just a stone's throw from the glorious Prague Castle, the 101-room property will be designed by Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte's sister, who has added impressive design touches to the other Collection hotels. Expect contemporary amenities in a picturesque setting of courtyards and tranquil garden squares. In fact, the practicing Benedictine monks will continue to meditate in certain areas on site! Of course key historic features-- cloistered terraces, beamed ceilings, stone arches, and wine vaults-- will be celebrated in the hotel design. The Augustine's Tower Suites will boast incredible panoramic views across the Prague rooftops.
January 14, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Live the legend at the glamorous Parisian landmark, Hotel Meurice. It's not just the prestigious location on the rue de Rivoli-- facing the Tuileries Gardens-- that makes this the "hotel of kings." Host to royalty and the international jetset, the Hotel Meurice is Paris at its most posh and fashionable. Fashion week is on the horizon, so why not plan a trip to the City of Light to check out all the action and get pampered like a celeb at the fabulous Hotel Meurice? Surrounded by cafes and trendy boutiques in the heart of the chic 1st arrondissement, the Meurice is smack dab in the middle of it all in Paris. Special offer: If you book with Five Star Alliance, you get a free bottle of champagne in-room upon arrival.
Fans of Eos Airlines will be thrilled by this scoop. The luxury airline just announced that it has signed a partnership agreement with US Helicopter to provide helicopter service between Manhattan and JFK International Airport for its London passengers. And get this: the helicopter transfer is free for folks reserving unrestricted tickets aboard Eos. After checking in at the heliports (located downtown at Wall Street and also at East 34th Street), guests go through security screening and check their bags to their final destination, before being whisked away on an eight-minute ride to the awaiting Eos jet at JFK.
Legendary designer Jacques Garcia is at it again. He's designed the swanky new interiors for the newly-remodeled Regent Hotel, set to reclaim its place as the most majestic hotel in Bordeaux after a big restoration. But don't worry, the landmark property has faithfully retained its historic features despite its ultra-luxurious additions. Opposite the Grand Theatre (the Opera of Bordeaux), the hotel is ideally located near the upscale shopping in the Golden Triangle (think Van Cleef & Arpels, Chopard, YSL, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli...) The best part of all is the state-of-the-art spa Les Bains de Lea on the 5th and top floors, that includes a swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, and wellness center (opening later in the year). Also on site: the sophisticated L'Ocean restaurant serving innovative seafood. Slated to open in Spring 2008, the Regent Bordeaux is the best thing to come to the world's wine capital in a long time.
January 9, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It is with great sadness that we learn the news about Maxjet, the all-business class luxury airline connecting London and the East Coast. Maxjet filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2007 and has ceased service. This is especially disappointing for Washingtonians who were spoiled by Maxjet's sensational service-- as Eos Airlines, the main competition in this niche upscale market, only flies to NYC.