LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
July 12, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Dine on the banks of the celebrated Vltava River in one of the hottest spots in Prague. From the outdoor terrace at Allegro in the Four Seasons, soak in the views of the Prague Castle. Named the best restaurant in the Czech Republic for 2005 and 2006 by Zagat Europe, Allegro serves refined Italian cuisine with flair. Executive Chef Vito Mollica and his seven-member team create traditional dishes with a cutting-edge twist. Humble food items are mixed with premium products (think tripe and black truffle; poached eggs and white truffles). The unusual combinations are thrilling. An added plus: the restaurant buys local, from the excellent small producers in Bohemia, rather than relying on imports.
July 12, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Laurence Bloch is the Director of Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and holds a master's degree in Hotel Management from the Parisian Hotel College Maxims, as well as a solid hotel management background. Her previous hotel experiences include the Mas d'Artigny on the French Riviera, Prince de Galles in Paris, Park Avenue Hotel, Hotel du Parc and others.
In her previous position as Rooms Division Manager at Plaza Athenee, she actively participated in the relaunch of the five star property and helped to undertake the redecoration of the hotels' bedrooms and major investment projects.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Laurence Bloch: Via quite a classic route; 20 years of varied experience in the business after Hotel School, I became Rooms Division Manager at the Plaza Athenee and was then promoted to Deputy General Manager.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Laurence Bloch: I would choose the top floor of the building, the 8th floor, for its Art Deco style and its natural light and its airy atmosphere. You are woken by birds singing on the top floor which is quite a unique experience in a city centre hotel!
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Laurence Bloch: Filming of the final episodes of the epic American TV series "Sex and the City" was quite an excitement for everyone, guests and staff included!
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Laurence Bloch: We are lucky to have a very equal nationality market mix: 1/3 Americas, 1/3 europe, 1/3 Asia and Middle east.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Laurence Bloch: I feel that the Plaza Athenee is quite simply the most Parisian of the city's 5 star luxury hotels. As a Parisian myself, I have always believed that the Plaza Athenee has been emblematic of a chic Parisian way of life. The hotel’s distinctive and unique location on the very fashionable avenue Montaigne has definitely added to the essence of this Parisian atmosphere. Privileged with a separate street entrance to the hotel’s Brasserie, the Relais Plaza has been witness to celebrity visits from all ranks of the fashion, cinema and political world. The famous English Bar that existed on the lower ground floor since the opening of the hotel, was always a popular meeting place both for hotel guests and Parisians alike. This tradition continues with our innovative Le Bar which mixes a traditional and modern decor. This is the main ingredient of the Plaza Athenee's personality today: the ability to combine and respect tradition with innovation. For example, the symbolic red geraniums of our façade are now offered as spring gifts as mini plants or as jams or candies. Another very important and distinctive exclusive feature of the Plaza Athenee today is the excellency of our cuisine with the privileged, Michelin star partnership with Alain Ducasse.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Laurence Bloch: As previously mentioned the greatest attribute to the hotel’s location is the local luxury shopping on offer; on the avenue alone there are 50 haute couture and fashion houses. Added to this wealth of choice are fabulous restaurants and bars in neighboring streets. The area is duly known as the "Golden Triangle" for a reason!
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Laurence Bloch: Sorry, this information is confidential!
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Laurence Bloch: I'd definitely want to know what the hotel had to offer in terms of F&B, in a gastronomic city such as Paris, why go further a-field, when the hotel has 5 different outlets under 1 roof. Also I would want to know which specialties were on offer; for example our Pastry Chef won the title of World Champion Pastry Chef, again it would be a huge shame to have missed sampling his fare.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Laurence Bloch: The risks involved are one of the hardest things of being the major decision taker; being an innovative leader in one's field of expertise, can be a lonely road.
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
Laurence Bloch: The Beverly Hills Hotel is one of the greatest hotels in the world, it is truly the champion for first class service and attention to detail; when once I left a book open at the page I was reading, a thoughtful book marker was placed inside inscribed with "to save your page..." The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi is another unique property. The essence of comfort and history is omnipresent but yet astonishing touches of modernism bring you back to reality, combined with perfect discreet service.
Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property?
Laurence Bloch: I feel it important that readers should know how important our staff are. To be a true 5 star Luxury “Palace” hotel the personal touch is essential and this is achieved thanks to our 550 dedicated staff members for 188 rooms. We are proud of their loyalty and experience, often a lifetime’s dedication - 49 years in the case of our Head Concierge. Also, it is important that our guests are aware that we take seriously the privileged, exclusive title of being a Luxury “Palace” hotel which bears the responsibility of regular financial investments, an engagement we proudly maintain. Finally, I believe it important to underline to our guests and readers that we are where we are today thanks to the Plaza Athenee's rich and glorious past, based on much experience and effort, a total team effort.
Learn more about the Hotel Plaza Athenee >>>"/>
July 11, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
A regular size TV will no longer cut it. The digital revolution during the age of TiVo means business travelers are used to home entertainment systems far superior than the technology found on the road. But now the tide has turned. Luxury hotels are upgrading rooms with high definition TVs, iPod docking stations and a wide selection of programming, personal entertainment systems with movies, music, and games, and more. As reported by the International Herald Tribune, in the hotel industry, the technology race is on. There's been a "paradigm shift more toward the lifestyle traveler." The good news for this new breed of road warriors: with on-demand programming, you'll never miss another episode of Entourage again.
July 10, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Any day now, Paris will welcome its latest luxury boutique: Hotel Lumen. Behind a Haussmanian façade (like Hotel Fouquet's Barrière), the hotel will combine contemporary and baroque styles. Created by architect Alain Daronian and designer Claudio Colucci, the hotel's central design concept is the importance of light (from which it derives its name). What could be more appropriate in the City of Light! Situated smack dab in the center of Paris, the Hotel Lumen will be a stone's throw from the Louvre, the Place Vendôme, and all the mythological treasures of the 1st arrondissement. Of the 33 guest rooms, choose from the St. Roch single rooms (with views of the stained glass windows of the beautiful St. Roch church), the Pyramides double or twin rooms, the Lumen rooms (with lots of light), and the beautiful, luminous suites on the 5th and 6th floors. The on-site Parisian brasserie will serve delightful neo-classical cuisine inspired by Frédérick Grasser-Hermé, the acclaimed cookbook writer.
Joining the likes of Waldorf-Astoria, Bulgari, and Crillon Hotels, Baccarat Hotels and Resorts is the latest luxury hotel brand on the block. Starwood recently announced its latest venture into the foray of five-star hotels, inspired by Baccarat's iconic status with its fine, hand-crafted luxury goods (as the "provider of crystal to kings"). The first for the brand will be the Baccarat Wailea in Hawaii, scheduled to open in 2010 with 193 condominium homes furnished by Baccarat, the ultimate luxury living experience. Of course lobbies will be adorned with those signature Baccarat chandeliers. Other locations will follow in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Far East.
After a massive two year renovation by interior designer Jacques Garcia, La Réserve has emerged as one of Geneva's hottest hedonistic haunts. Utterly decadent, this contemporary five star hotel is located on the shores of Lake Geneva in a beautifully landscaped park of 10 acres. The Garcia touch is evident in the animal print carpets, outrageously gaudy colors, plastic resin chandeliers... (you get the idea). Most of the spacious 102 rooms and suites have a terrace with views over the gardens and the lake. High tech amenities include high speed Internet, flat screen TVs with CD and DVD players, Satellite TV, and international dial with personalized voicemail. The Spa, four hectares of sheer bliss, was also redesigned by Jacques Garcia with magnificent pools, hammam, sun beds, treatment rooms, and gym. This spectacular space also houses an organic restaurant, decked out in white leather. After a stay at La Réserve, you may wish to take home with you the sinfully delicious cuisine. With the in-flight catering service, you can enjoy classic dishes from the hotel's restaurants-- a whole menu of your choice-- during your flights from Geneva.
Set within 1,500 acres of lush gardens and woodlands in picturesque Kilkenny county, Mount Juliet Conrad is easily the finest sporting estate around. Just an hour from Dublin, the award-winning hotel epitomizes the gracious living of the countryside. Spend a weekend at this country house hotel and sample a slew of activities and sports in a spectacular natural setting: horseback riding, clay shooting, fishing, archery, tennis, and golf on the challenging links. (Mount Juliet Conrad played host to the 2002 and 2004 WGC-American Express Championship.) The Stay and Play package starts from EUR 250 per night and includes overnight accommodation in the Hunters Yard, breakfast and dinner at Kendals (excluding beverages) and your choice of one of the featured activities per adult, per day.
Enjoy a culinary getaway in the heart of Europe's largest medieval walled city, the magical fairytale destination of Carcassonne. Perched on a hill above the River Aude in Southwest France, Carcassonne attracts millions of visitors every year to explore the wonders which make it an UNESCO World Heritage site. Hôtel de la Cité, managed by Orient-Express hotels, is the city's most luxurious hotel and the only one to be found within the actual medieval citadel. Enjoy a three-night stay and relish some serious fine dining at La Barbacane restaurant, a private cooking lesson with dinner, and a half-day wine-tasting tour. Available until October 31, 2007, the Food & Wine Culinary Escape also includes daily buffet breakfast and an in-room amenity of sparkling wine, flowers, and petit fours.
June 27, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Be among the first to experience the brand new Ritz-Carlton Moscow, a distinguished address overlooking historic Red Square, destined to become one of the city's finest hotels. Opening on July 1, 2007, Ritz-Carlton Moscow is offering a Summer Special through the month of August, with room rates starting from $385 (plus VAT). This is a fantastic deal, as normal rack rates will begin at $1,000 a night. The $350 million hotel, the first for Ritz-Carlton in Russia, features an imperial Russian façade and chic interior with contemporary amenities. The address itself, Tverskaya 3, has a long history as a hospitality hot spot; it was once a popular gathering spot for Russian writers and poets. The hotel will feature a lavish spa by ESPA, heated indoor swimming pool, and complete fitness area. The rooftop O2 Lounge, with its dramatic glass dome, will offer sushi creations from celebrity chef Seiji Kusano. (There's even a nightlife butler to help guests score access to the city's best nightlife spots, and a vodka sommelier at the Lobby Lounge.) But the hotel's main attraction is Jeroboam restaurant, touted as the city's most talked-about addition:
When the power elite of Russia are not meeting at The Kremlin, chances are they may soon be found "power dining" around the corner from Red Square at Jeroboam, the restaurant of three star Michelin chef Heinz Winkler.
And with the Tsar's Breakfast costing a royal $700 per person, looks like the new, over-the-top Ritz-Carlton Moscow will lure all of Russia's oligarchs.
June 26, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After a staggering renovation project, a three-year makeover, the Hall of Mirrors at the Château de Versailles has reopened and is ready to dazzle the château's three million annual visitors. As described by the New York Times:
This week, after a $16 million makeover, the full spectacle finally resumed, with the hall looking, as closely as possible, the way it first appeared to Louis XIV in 1684. With its 357 mirrors, 17 glass doors, marble walls, chandeliers and ceiling paintings, it remains-- as was the Sun King's intent-- a sight breathtaking in its majesty.
Restoration of the palace will continue until 2020. This $455 million project-- the "biggest renovation since the king moved out in 1789"-- is a daunting undertaking, considering the sheer size and scale of this impressive château: 700 rooms, 2,153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof.