It doesn't get much better than the stunning Amalfi Coast. Dotted with pictureseque hill towns and sun-kissed vineyards and olive groves, the cliffs soar above the azure waters of the Mediterranean. In this spectacular landscape, the Hotel Caruso commands the ultimate location, situated 350 meters above the sea, hugging the cliffside. The entrance is magical: wind your way between tiny alleys lined with white stucco houses. The hotel's 50 rooms are individually decorated with 18th century antiques, and have terraces and sea views, while some boast a private garden. Each spacious room is equipped with satellite TV, DVD (movies are available at reception), private bar, separate bath and shower in the bathrooms, deluxe amenities from Bulgari, and Play Station available upon request. The infinity pool is among the most beautiful in the world, sitting high atop the cliff overlooking the sea. A variety of massage and spa services are available in-room, including traditional massage, Shiatsu, Senritsu: Firming and Toning Body Treatment, and Sensai Beauty: Premier Facial Treatment. The town of Ravello is a delight to discover, though the hotel also provides a complimentary shuttle service to the neighboring towns of Amalfi and Positano.
In early July, The Stein Group announced that the 19th century palatial hotel, located between Nice and Monaco on its own four acre peninsula overlooking the Med, has joined its gorgeous collection of luxury hotels. Located in Eze-Bord-de-Mer, Cap Estel is surrounded by lush gardens draped with bougainvillea and wisteria, the deep blue of the Mediterranean, and the pink facades of villas in the French Riviera's charming villages. As one of the area's most renowned boutique hotels, with only eight rooms and 12 suites, Cap Estel has hosted royalty, politicians, and celebrities from all over the world. Guests are delighted by the personalized service and excellent facilities: private beach, indoor heated pool, outdoor salt water infinity pool perched over the Mediterranean, state-of-the-art gym, and extensive gardens. All rooms have a balcony or terrace with sea view, and are equipped with cutting edge technology: LCD or plasma screen TVs, DVD/CD player, individually controlled A/C and heating units, and internet connections. The property has just emerged from a meticulous, three-year restoration. The Stein Group now boasts 17 prestigious hotels in its portfolio, many of which dot the Mediterranean.
July 13, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
from Rob Wilder, Food & Wine Editor and Member of the Five Star Alliance Editorial Advisory Board In the US, great views usually are accompanied by mediocre food. Fortunately in Athens a different rule applies. Three of the better restaurants in town treat you to spectacular views. The menu at Pil Pil is only marginally Greek, but the location reminds you why you came to Athens. The dramatically lit Acropolis literally soars above this romantic patio, atop a small townhouse by the ancient agora. It is an "only in the movies" kind of setting! While somewhat pricey, Pil Pil delivers with fine Greco-Mediterranean dishes and excellent service. For an equally dramatic but very different panorama, ride the funicular to the top of Mount Lycavetus to Orizondes, a highly respected modern Greek restaurant perched atop this 1,000 foot cliff. With the chaotic jumble of Athens way below you, Orizondes produces wonderful food and service. Both restaurants have good selections of high quality Greek wines... look for any by Gerovasiliou or Kyr-Yianni. Finally, for a Michelin one-star experience with an almost equal view, head to the rooftop at Varoulko. Creative interpretations of every kind of Greek seafood are excellent. Perhaps the best overall dining experience in Athens? During our meal a summer lightning storm crashed around us, and our Greek friends coolly told us not to worry, the storm would miss us. Even when a few drops started falling, not a single diner budged from their open air seats- too enthralled with their dinners. The storm miraculously passed us by - Another magical evening in Athens! On the hotel front, we have had two good experiences at the St. George Lycabetus, perched on a hill over the upscale shopping area of Kolonaki. Fine rooms, great views (and rooftop pool), and an excellent location. Friends have also loved the Grand Bretagne, but it is both more expensive and in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Syntagma Square. The shops and restaurants of Kolonaki are big draw - our favorite is Papadakis, a youthful and modern take on the Greek Taverna with wonderful food and service. 9 Luxury Hotels in Athens from Five Star Alliance
July 13, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In October, the prestigious Rocco Forte Hotels—considered Europe's leading luxury hotel brand—will open a new five-star hotel in the heart of Berlin. Located in Bebelplatz, in the Mitte area of Berlin close to the Brandenburg Gate, the Hotel de Rome will be housed in a historic building originally constructed in 1889. Formerly a large and distinguished bank building, the new Hotel de Rome will retain much of the architectural substance of the building. Indeed, the hotel will showcase these historic touches: the rooms leading to the banqueting hall are the former cashier's rooms of the bank; the ancient bank vault has been converted into a 15-meter swimming pool, and the grand offices of the former board members of Dresdner Bank have been transformed into suites.
The hotel will have 146 large bedrooms including 103 classic rooms, 32 junior suites, 10 one-bedroom suites and a presidential suite, measuring 120 square meters and boasting a full-length terrace overlooking Bebelplatz. The rooms will be a combination of classical design and contemporary "Berlin style" glass and steel, with all the latest cutting-edge technology, including Broadband Internet and interactive flat-screen television. Bathrooms feature mosaic marble detailing above double-ended baths, and separate walk-in showers. Other facilities include six conference rooms and banquet hall, restaurant, bar, health and fitness center with swimming pool, and Spa with five treatment rooms, steam, sauna, and plunge pool.
July 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This is English country living at its finest. Set in the quaint village of Evershot in the heart of the Dorset Downs, Summer Lodge is a luxurious English Country House retreat. Named by Harpers and Queen as one of the Best 100 Places in the World, Summer Lodge arranges for its guests a host of country pursuits—horseback riding, fishing, golfing, shooting—though many of the distinguished clientele prefer simply to enjoy the relaxation and serenity of the hotel's exquisite grounds. Relax in the Spa or by the beautiful swimming pool (housed in a glass conservatory), play croquet on the lawn or a game of tennis, work-out at the gym with your own personal trainer, take traditional tea in the afternoon, and sample the gastronomic delights at the award-winning restaurant. Accommodations are exceptional; the 20 guestrooms and four suites are individually decorated and equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including large plasma screen TV and DVD, satellite TV and Internet access. Choose the master bedroom for a truly unforgettable stay. Room One was originally designed for famed writer Thomas Hardy and boasts a magnificent open fireplace and four poster bed overlooking the beautifully manicured English country gardens. Though you can't go wrong with the Ivy Cottage and its private hot tub in the courtyard garden.
With some superb packages now on offer at the Summer Lodge, why wait to reserve a well-deserved vacation? 3 nights for the price of 2 is available until December 31, 2006, and includes full English breakfast, morning newspaper, evening turndown, complimentary use of the Health Club, and 20 percent off treatments in the Spa. The Pampering Package is available until December 31, 2006, and includes: two nights accommodations (Superior Room), full English breakfast daily, Matis Total Youth Facial, Back, Neck and Shoulder massage.
July 11, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Hotel Negresco is a legend, its pink dome a symbol of the French Riviera, its name evoking the essence of "art de vivre." For over a century, the national historic monument has dominated the Promenade des Anglais, overlooking the Bay of Angels and the scenic Mediterranean. Situated on the seafront promenade on the beach, the hotel is like a living museum, filled with antiques, oil paintings, and contemporary art. Each of the 121 guestrooms and 24 suites are individually decorated in styles spanning the historic spectrum from Louis XIII to Art Deco. The Michelin award-winning restaurant The Chantecler is celebrated as one of the best in Nice. From now until September 20, 2006, take advantage of the Prestige Package which includes daily breakfast, a welcome gift upon arrival, and complimentary access to the property's secluded private beach, "Le Neptune." From $445.
July 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Utell has just announced a fantastic promotion, with rates up to 50 percent off the normal rack rates at many of their luxury hotels worldwide. Participating hotels include the Hotel Majestic Barcelona, the elegant neoclassical landmark on Paseo de Gracia in the heart of the city, Le Soleil Hotel and Suites, the award-winning boutique gem in Vancouver, the Inn at Lost Creek, Telluride's romantic and charming inn named one of the best hotels in the world by leading travel magazines, and Grand Hotel Villa San Mauro, with panoramic views overlooking Caltagirone, Sicily. When making a booking, choose "Great Rate" or "Utell Luxury Hotel Promotion."
Jean Paul Gaultier had the right idea. He camped out in the Victor Hugo Suite at Le Pavillon de la Reine for a year when his house was renovated. Indeed, you couldn't ask for a better residence in the City of Light. The historic boutique hotel is brimming with 17th century details: elegant tapestries, beautiful antiques, and enormous wood beams grace the ceilings of the guest rooms.
In a city steeped in history, the Marais district stands out for its fashionable pre-Revolution townhouses, tiny alleys lined with exquisite boutiques and restaurants, and lively nightlife. And within this marvelous neighborhood, the Pavillon de la Reine has the remarkable location directly on the Place des Vosges, the oldest public square of its kind in Paris. Inaugurated as place Royale in 1612, Henry IV built the square to celebrate the wedding between his son, Louis XIII, and Ann of Austria. The area was thus transformed into the most fashionable and luxurious area of Paris. The Place des Vosges is comprised of 36 symmetrical houses with pink brick and slate roofs, surrounding a large and charming square.
The Pavillon de la Reine is an oasis within this bustling activity-- tucked away in a flowering courtyard, just minutes from the Bastille Opera House and the Picasso Museum. Each of the 56 rooms and suites-- from the modern duplex suite to the historical deluxe rooms-- is uniquely decorated and full of character. Historical details are balanced by a full array of modern amenities (like flat screen TVs), thus creating a unique fusion of modern and ancient styles. The hotel is privately owned by a French family, and the ambience takes on the feel of an intimate, private residence: pour yourself a drink at the honesty bar, eat breakfast in the atmospheric vaulted cellar, and enjoy a wood fire burning in the large fireplace in the winter. Of course this pied-a-terre offers all the comforts of a grand hotel, complimented by thoughtful, discreet service. And the hotel's guests gush their praises: La Pavillon de la Reine was awarded the 2005 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice award, a real testament to the quality and sophistication of the hotel.
After an impressive six-year renovation, and a $36 million investment, the Musee de l'Orangerie has reopened at long last. Monet's series of waterlilies are perhaps the most monumental work of his lifetime: the artist spent 30 years captivated by the light on the waterlily pond at his home in Giverny, and managed to capture this mysterious light, and the changing seasons, in his large Abstract canvases that wrap around the walls of the museum. These eight paintings are enormous: over six feet high and one is over 50 feet long. The artist donated them to France, and they were hung at l'Orangerie in 1927, a year after his death. In the 1960's, the government attempted a renovation of the museum that holds the paintings, which failed miserably, and so for years, the nymphéas (as they are called) sat forgotten and neglected.
No longer. The museum re-opened in mid-May, and presents the paintings as Monet initially intended them to be viewed. Natural light floods through the ceiling; the white walls curve and bend to accommodate the canvases. The architecture is as stunning as the paintings. The water lilies are housed on the ground floor, while the downstairs showcases the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works, including a corridor of Renoir, Matisse, Derain, and Modigliani.
Tickets are EUR 6.50, and individuals are only allowed in the museum from 12:30-7 pm, as groups tour the museum in the mornings. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. A warning: the lines assembled outside can snake around the building. Reserve your tickets ahead, and you'll skip the wait entirely. Though there are worse things than standing in the sunshine in the Jardin des Tuileries.
Now is the time to go to Paris. The French team has made it to the finals of the World Cup (Allez Les Bleus!), the Tour de France has commenced, and Les Soldes--the annual summertime sales-- mean incredible bargains at the world's most beautiful boutiques (often over 50 percent off). After a few days in the City of Light-- wandering the alleys in the Marais, checking out the newest museums, soaking up the sun outside the Louvre and Notre Dame, shopping the Soldes-- I've picked up a few tips which I want to share with our readers on The Informed Traveler. Today is devoted to Paris.