According to GaultMillau— the influential French guide to restaurants, hotels and wine-- that honor goes to the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, named "Hotel of the Year" for 2006. The iconic landmark has wowed its high-profile clientele with impeccable service since 1861. And Forbes.com recently rated the hotel's new Cinq Mondes Spa "one of the most luxurious spas in the world."
But according to Andrew Harper's Hideaway report, the best international resort for 2006 is the Four Seasons Punta Mita, the Mexican paradise getaway just 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta (gorgeous oceanfront rooms, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, heavenly spa, and all that jazz.)
What's your vote?
Nestled in the gentle sloping foothills of the Pyrenees, the elegant city of Pau is excellently situated for jaunts into the mountains, by foot or on skis. Along the grand blvd des Pyrenees, the rugged mountain peaks emerge majestically through mist and cloud. Indeed the palm-lined promenade, packed with cafes and trendy bars, seems more reminiscent of Nice than the quiet neighboring villages of France's Southwest. This vibrant university town, long favored by travelers and wintering Brits for its mild climate and sweeping vistas, has transformed into a modern and stylish urban center. The nearby Jurancon vineyards lure oenophiles, and Pau natives point out the convenience of the Atlantic coast, just an hour away. Where to stay? On the edge of the Parc Beaumont, the famous public garden in the heart of Pau, the new Parc Beaumont Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel with elegant interior design. Excellent amenities include heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath in the spa, and exquisite gastronomic restaurant, Jeu de Paume. From the terrace in your suite, enjoy lovely views of the Pyrenees.
The Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, standing high on a hill above the River Aude overlooking the Minervois vineyards in Southwest France, appears to be out of a fairytale. Europe's largest fortified citadel is a amalgam of ramparts layered in history, beginning with the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, and added to by the Moors, Franks, and Cathars. La Cite is breathtaking, the dramatic witches' hat turrets and ramparts illuminated dramatically by night. The crowds in the summer can be overwhelming; over two million tourists flock to see Carcassonne's fortified walls every year. Thus the Fall is the perfect time to visit this enchanting historic city.
Hotel de la Cite, the luxurious hideaway from Orient-Express Hotels, has designed a special Autumn Leaves fall promotion that is too good to pass up. Standing between two historic landmarks, the Roman Chateau Comtal and the Gothic Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, in the heart of the old city, Hotel de la Cite is an exquisite structure of stone walls, wood paneling and stained glass windows set amidst gardens and terraces. Each of its 40 guestrooms and 21 Suites is individually furnished, with several boasting balconies and terraces with spectacular views of the medieval ramparts, the Castle, and the narrow cobble-stoned streets of the Citadel. In addition, the hotel's La Barbacane Restaurant offers a heavenly gastronomic experience in a fantastic setting with fireplaces, high ceilings and cathedral chairs. With the Autumn Leaves package, book three nights and get the fourth for free! Available from September 1 to October 31, 2006, the package also includes complimentary daily buffet breakfast at Brasserie Chez Saskia, and one special package dinner for two - The Chef's Choice - at La Barbacane Restaurant (excluding beverages). Savings of up to 40 percent off.
Overlooking the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, 41 is an exclusive boutique hotel celebrated for its attentive service, traditional comforts, and abundant luxury. Fashionable Sloane Street and Knightsbridge are just steps away, along with some of London's greatest attractions. This five-star haven, beloved by the most discriminating travelers, offers 20 deluxe rooms and 4 split-level suites hidden away in the wood and glass-lined corridors of the intimate building. Rooms are graced with traditional mahogany furniture, the finest mattresses, warm feather duvets, opulent marble bathrooms, and state-of-the-art interactive TV/IT technology. Guests enjoy all-new complimentary high speed wireless internet access throughout the hotel. The split-level suites are truly sumptuous; the Master Suite features a glass ceiling, with retractable blackout blinds, where you can view the stars from right in the heart of London.
Available from November 24, 2006 to January 7, 2007, the Hotel 41 is offering a fantastic Christmas celebration with the "It's A Wonderful Life" package. Starting at $1,256 for a two-night stay, the package includes welcome gift plus a DVD of the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life," full English breakfast each day, tea for two with Christmas cake on one day, a complimentary bottle of red and bottle of white wine, lunch or dinner for two on one day, including mince pies, and for those guests who stay at the hotel on Christmas Eve, a stocking filled with seasonal goodies on your doorknob overnight. If you stay in one of the suites, you will also enjoy a decorated Christmas tree in the lounge area. Minimum two-night stay required.
August 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Plaza Athenee's dazzling Eiffel Suite could be the best in Paris, with a 180 degree panorama of the city's skyline. Located on the 8th floor of the hotel, facing Avenue Montaigne, the suite boasts incredible views of Paris' most beloved landmark. The suite's 1,410 square feet are composed of a large bedroom, living room including enormous corner sofa, a bar and sitting room-- graced by two separate entrances. All rooms feature large picture windows with views of the Eiffel Tower—even the bathroom has a wall of glass to allow the magnificent view (though it can become opaque if desired, for complete privacy). By far the best part of the suite is the 301 square foot terrace, situated on the roof of the hotel just above the suite's living room. From here, lucky guests enjoy unsurpassed 360 degree views of the City of Light.
The beautiful Basque city of San Sebastien—situated on two sweeping beaches bathed by Atlantic surf—is a glorious combination of natural landscapes and urban treasures. Green mountaintops (one crowned by an enormous statue of Jesus, reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro) look down upon an awesome crescent of boat-dotted harbors and grand boulevards with tall art nouveau architecture. The Parte Vieja, its narrow alleys lined by packed tapas bars and beautiful boutiques – promises the liveliest and most entertaining nightlife in Basque Country (and possibly, in all of Spain.) Where to stay? The Hotel Maria Cristina—part of Westin's Luxury Collection—is a five star masterpiece overlooking the Urma River just minutes from the beach. Guest rooms boast ocean views from balconies, fine furnishings, marble, and all the modern amenities you'd expect in a world-class luxury hotel. After all, the Maria Cristina is a prominent fixture on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List and Reader's Choice Awards. The spa is superb.
The Bilbao Guggenheim is nothing short of magnificent. Frank Gehry's incredible construction-- composed of glass walls, limestone, and titanium-- glimmers like a giant fish in the sunlight next to the Nervion river. Since it's opening in 1997, the former industrial city of Bilbao has become a showcase of art and culture. The Guggenheim is the most dynamic kind of architectural setting to contemplate and appreciate modern art. Current exhibitions include Russia!—the most comprehensive and significant collection of Russian art sent abroad since the end of the Cold War. From the 13th century religious icon painting to the present. Until September 3. Also on view: Max Beckmann, The Watercolors and Pastels, the first exhibition of its kind (a few watercolors have been displayed in surveys of his work, but never together.) Until September 17. Don't miss the permanent collection, including Richard Serra's groundbreaking The Matter of Time. Museum hours: Tuesday- Sunday, 10 am- 8 pm. EUR 12.50, adults.
During the summer months, the Atlantic coastal resort town becomes a mecca for the fashionable, who flock to the casinos and trendy bars, and surfers, who catch awesome waves ranked as Europe's best surfing spot. In the mid 19th century, Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie frequently vacationed in Biarritz, and the high-roller vacationers soon followed suit. Near the border of Spain in the heart of Basque Country, Biarritz is not far from the quaint riverside town of Bayonne, known for its chocolate, ham, and fascinating Basque culture and customs. Hang with the surfers on the beach, enjoy a coffee on the seaside promenade, and come dusk, hit the happening bars along the Rue du Vieux Port. Standing proud above la grande plage, the stately Hotel du Palais is the place to stay in Biarritz. Built in 1854 for Empress Eugenie, the luxury hotel delights guests with its unsurpassed elegance and tradition ofart de vivre. The gorgeous outdoor pool overlooks the sea and the hotel's many comfortable beach cabanas.
August 29, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Rocco Forte's icon of Swiss hospitality is located in the heart of Geneva, facing the famous Brunswick Gardens and overlooking the Alps, Lake Geneva, and the Old Town Cathedral. Spring 2007 will celebrate the reopening of the prestigious hotel, which will start taking bookings in November 2006. Just minutes from the business and shopping districts of Geneva, Le Richemond will blend stylish contemporary design with traditional elegance in its 109 rooms and suites. In addition to its superb restaurants and meeting facilities, the hotel is planning the largest suite in Geneva, situated on the seventh floor and featuring three bedrooms, dining room, living room, and two sunny terraces. Le Richemond will also offer a new fitness center, spa treatments, sauna, plunge pool, and business center. With the impeccable service which is a trademark of Rocco Forte hotels, the newly renovated Le Richemond promises to be an exclusive and luxurious respite from the bustling city.
August 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better spot in Barcelona. Situated high on Mount Tibidabo, 25 minutes from the city center, the Gran Hotel La Florida features spectacular views overlooking Barcelona and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. The resort's 74 rooms include eight designer suites with jacuzzis, gardens, and large terraces, designed by world-renowned decorators and architects. The Sky Terrace Suite, for example, sits on the hotel's top floor, with an enormous 80 sq meter terrace with unsurpassed views of Barcelona and the Pyrenees. Designed by Rebecca Horn, the spacious suite consists of a large bedroom and living area, with dining table, sun beds, and awesome bathroom with Philippe Starck bathtub perfectly situated to contemplate the sweeping city views. Other hotel perks: it's decked out with an exquisite art collection; the outdoor scene at Miramar Bar, complete with swimming pool and summertime DJ; and the ZenZone Spa, with Hammam, sauna, caldarium, and fitness center. The Spa's infinity pool is extraordinary, seeming to flow from the side of the mountain down into the city beneath. The Gran Hotel La Florida is the best kind of urban oasis.