May 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The recently renovated Gran Melia Fenix offers distinguished rooms and service to the most discerning of visitors to Spain's buzzing capital. The 215 guest rooms are exquisitely decorated in 19th century style, and equipped with cutting-edge technology: domestic control systems, Bang and Olufsen TVs, three phones and internet access, CD player, and electronic mini-bars. All complimented by highly-personalized service and excellent fine dining. Book a suite and enjoy the outdoor jacuzzi with awesome views of the city. But the best part of all is the exclusive Royal Service Floor, where guests are spoiled with the private reception area, butler service, pillow menu, private buffet and permanent bar.
Forget the big group tours at the Louvre, or commercial two- and three-country package tours sprouting up to appease eager fans of Dan Brown's best-selling novel. Dukes Hotel in London does it right, with a "Dukes Does Da Vinci" package with a private guide and driver tracking the scenes and clues from the book. And with the movie set to hit the big screen in a matter of days, and the best London season fast approaching, what a better time to cross the big pond and crack the code. Dukes is an award-winning, privately-owned hotel set within a quiet courtyard between Mayfair and Green Park, with a prime location near the city's finest restaurants, theaters and museums. Their Da Vinci Code tour is a three-hour adventure, offered in the morning or afternoon, with private car and guide who encourages guests to track the book's clues, stopping to visit each relevant, noteworthy site. The three-day package includes: accommodation in a Classic room, double occupancy, full English breakfast for two daily, private three-hour "Da Vinci Code Tour" with car and driver, picnic lunch in St. James's Park before or after the tour, foot massage for two (20 minutes each), two martinis in Dukes Bar, dinner at Dukes Restaurant for two (excluding beverages). Offered for Friday night arrivals now through July 24, or any day from July 24-September 10. GBP 1050, inclusive of VAT.
Courtesy of Forbes.com. Vanity Fair's Oscar Party? Been there, done that. But what about Le Bal Des Debutantes, at the smashing Hotel de Crillon in Paris? Or the Monte Carlo Red Cross gala? Or Playboy's Midsummer Night's Dream Party? (The full list of high-rollers hang-outs is here.) Hurry up and score an invite! You're so there.
May 9, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The folks at Daily Candy have scouted the world for their favorite summer festivals, and we can't help but heartily agree with their picks. Especially with the Scottish vote. The Fringe Festival is an outrageously fun and quirky event, full of alternative whimsy and improv energy, billed as "the biggest arts festival in the world." (Last year they hosted a whopping 1,800 shows in 250 venues.) The 60th annual festival, running from August 6-28, promises to be equally as exciting, with theather and comedy shows galore. Where to stay? Do it right and score a room at Rocco Forte's Balmoral, of course. A perfect location, serious Scottish charm, Michelin star rated restaurant, swanky spa, CNT Gold List awarded rooms, and spectacular views of the Edinburgh Castle… what more could you ask for?
Rocco Forte Balmoral Hotel, Five Star Alliance
May 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Who knew that Brussels could be a couture-minded mecca for trendy fashionistas? Apparently 2006 has been dubbed The Year of Fashion and Design in Brussels, and the city's buzzing with exhibitions and fashion shows, including a mobile extravaganza where models tour the city in a tram, with each tram stop serving as a catwalk for a different show. The city is a self-professed "favorite haunt of original and talented designers, who, by being based there, not only enjoy the recognition of their peers, but also find in this exuberant and surrealist capital a fantastic environment in which to live and to experiment." Brussels views itself as "setting the pace in terms of fashion and design." Rock on.
Starting on May 17, the luxurious Conrad Brussels is offering a "Mode Design" package for visitors to discover the history and meaning of design in Brussels. The elegant hotel is easily one of the city's finest, with an excellent health club, fine dining, and the largest and most sophisticated bedrooms in the city. The package is available until December 31, 2006, and includes: accommodations in a Classic room, breakfast daily, and an exclusive free gift for fashion lovers. Starting at EUR 235 per room per night. What a steal.
Conrad Brussels, Five Star Alliance
May 3, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Northwest of Bordeaux, bordered by the Atlantic and the Gironde Estuary, lies the world-renowned Medoc region, celebrated for producing the world's most prestigious red wines. Meaning the "middle territory," the Medoc is situated on the 45th parallel, benefiting from an ideal temperate climate and a unique gravelly terroir. These beautiful vineyards produce high-quality grapes of many varieties: Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Situated in the midst of these splendid vineyards on a 135-acre property, the Relais De Margaux is an elegant hotel, graced with the traditions of a rich past but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Originally the chateau of one of the premier wine-producing families of France, Relais de Margaux has been transformed into a comfortable, contemporary resort destination. From your room, enjoy spectacular views of the new 18-hole golf course situated between the Estuary and the vineyards. (The course opened in 2005 with driving range and putting green.)
Rooms are the essence of comfort-- furnished in a traditional French style, and with all the modern amenities of a world-class hotel: flat screen TVs, spacious bathrooms with heated towel racks, large French windows, luxurious linens. Relax in your room or immerse yourself in luxury at the new Spa Harmonia with a treatment a la carte, or full day cares package, to enjoy the Jacuzzi, hammam, sauna, swimming pool, and fitness room.
After a day spent tasting the divine wines of the nearby Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and Chateau Margaux-- all renowned for their premier grand cru classe-- indulge in gastronomic cuisine that will likewise knock your socks off. At both the gourmet restaurant (Ile Vincent is situated in one of the ancient wine cellars) or the Brasserie du Lac, Chef Laurent Costes creates exceptional dishes to match the region's exceptional wines. For dessert, you must order the chocolate pizza: rich melted chocolate over a thick, round crust of brioche. And breakfast is a sheer delight: bountiful baskets of piping hot crossaints, meats, thick yogurt, fruit, and rich coffee.
May 1, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
How's this for a perfect day. A leisurely lunch savored in the sunshine gazing up at the immense ruins of a 9th century church carved from sheer limestone walls. A stroll through winding cobble-stoned streets with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards. A tour through a local wine-grower's chateau, its wine cave built deep into the hill's rock cliffs. A late afternoon glass of pink sparkling wine, accompanied with almond flavored macaroons, in the ruins of an ancient monastery. As the afternoon light fades orange against the city's ramparts and Roman stone archways, you can't help but think… This is the life.
Welcome to Saint-Emilion, 30 minutes from Bordeaux in the midst of the world's most famous wine-growing region. The town is steeped in history-- its name derived from the Benedictine monk hermit who resided in a cave here between 750 and 767-- and the luxurious traditions of art de vivre. The vineyards and township of St. Emilion are UNESCO-heritage protected sites because they've endured-- virtually untouched-- since the Roman poets extolled the virtues of the rich wines.
In such an extraordinary setting, the Grand Barrail Chateau Resort and Spa is the gem to choose for its unrivaled accommodations. Just outside the township of Saint-Emilion, the castle's towers and turrets emerge in splendor from the rolling hills of meticulously planted vines. Even the basic accommodations (Superior) are comfortable, spacious, and tastefully appointed. But the suites are extraordinary, with lavish bathrooms, light-filled rooms, and sweeping views over the lawn and countryside; one even boasts an enormous stone balcony and terrace that comprises most of the castle's second floor.
The new full-service Spa features hammam, Scottish bath, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, and a tantalizing menu of treatments with Ligne St Barth cosmetics. For example: the St. Barth Softness is a nourishing body peeling massage with coconut oil, fresh papaya and an extra-fine sea sand polish complex. (The sand is imported from the Caribbean island, and the Ligne St Barth cosmetics are enhanced with additional fresh fruit.)
Dining is a gastronomic experience, with plates as beautifully presented as the cuisine is rich and delicious. The chef's got quite a few awards under his belt. Compared to your nightly feast, breakfast isn't half bad. It's served in an elegant breakfast room filled with light through stained glass windows; dainty crossaints are served hot from the oven, accompanied with fine fruit jams and other delights from a generous buffet display.
Here in Saint-Emilion at the Grand Barrail Chateau, it's easy to see how the French have mastered the joie de vivre.
April 26, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
The Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments, London
In case you needed more reasons to visit the Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments in London other then the special £ for $ rate and guaranteed room upgrades we posted about last week, guests visiting this summer will be among the first to discover the Athenaeum's totally new look. The entire ground floor of the Athenaeum will be brilliantly transformed by Martin Hulbert, mastermind behind The Grove’s (the Athenaeum sister-property in Hertfordshire) award-winning "groovy grand" look. Other upgrades include:
- New Lobby, Reception, Bar, Restaurant and Lounge Interiors as of May 2006
- Digital television and entertainment systems by Bang & Olufsen in all guest-rooms
- Refurbished Classic British Collection apartments to include more sofa beds and plasma televisions as well as new soft furnishings.
- Three apartments within the Modern British Collection redesigned in a contemporary style - a family-style apartment, a traditional luxurious apartment and a modern high-tech apartment.
Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments, Five Star Alliance
The world-renowned architect's new landmark is stunning. Following in the footsteps of his extraordinary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the new hotel incorporates the same materials in its exquisite design, comprised of layered ribbons of colored titanium. As described by the Guggenheim Organization, "his ebullient structure is a response to the unbroken landscape of lush vineyards surrounding the building, while the hues of the colored metal are inspired by the rich tones of the sky and vineyard." The hotel is located in the heart of the Rioja wine region in Basque country, and will debut on July 1. Each of the 43 suites are uniquely designed by the architect, and equipped with luxurious amenities and the latest in technology. Other features to anticipate: the Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa (featuring "wine therapy"), rooftop bar and lounge with open fireplace, wine bar, swimming pool, and a large banquet hall converted from an ancient cellar. Starwood's Luxury Collection-- in joint management of the place with the leading wine company Vinos de los Herederos del Marques de Riscal-- touts its signature restaurant as "set to become one of Spain's leading centers for fine gastronomy, combining traditional Rioja cuisine with modern influences by the well-known Echaurren Restaurant (1 Michelin star)." Bring it on.
Imagine experiencing stunning landscapes and unspoiled villages on a deluxe bike trip catered to your every whim and desire. After sun-filled days of discovery, devour gourmet cuisine and the world's best wines at the charming inns and chateaux that serve as your luxurious accommodations. For ten years, DuVine Adventures has led the pack in offering specialized luxury bike trips in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland. The leading tour operator provides the "insider" perspective to regions such as Tuscany, Burgundy, Provence, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland. Guests stay in distinctive and unique hotels, ranging from stately 18th century chateaux to intimate country inns-- all equipped with the most luxurious of amenities for some rest and pampering after a day on the road discovering the countryside. Dinners are as pleasurable as the surrounding scenery, often at top-notch Michelin-starred restaurants and chic, but comfortable, bistros. What a way to see Europe.