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.
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.
Originally built in 1402, Stapleford Park was recently renovated into a luxurious boutique hotel. Situated in 500 acres of woods, pastures, and beautiful gardens, and with a heritage stretching back to the 15th century, the setting is magical. A brand new member of Small Luxury Hotels, Stapleford Park is steeped in history and surrounded by the picturesque English countryside. This is a place where the hospitality and elegance of a bygone era come alive, and country pursuits—like clay pigeon shooting, fishing, archery, tennis, golf, and falconry—are enjoyed at leisure. The hotel features 55 uniquely designed guest rooms, styled and named after their creators (Crabtree and Evelyn, Mulberry, Savoir Beds…) Modern comforts abound, from the Clarins Spa to the state-of-the-art Technogym. The welcoming, attentive staff attends to every detail to ensure a comfortable and relaxing stay. It's easy to see why Andrew Harper lists the hotel in his Hideaway Report as "One of the Best Country House Hotels in the World."
At the Raffles Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten—conveniently located on the western side of the Inner Alster Lake shore, in the heart of the city's retail and commercial district—visitors find peerless service, a distinguished and elegant ambience, and some of the best restaurants in Hamburg. In addition to the Jahreszeiten Grill, Doc Cheng's, and the Michelin-star awarded Haerlin Restaurant, the hotel recently opened an al fresco cafe on the Binnenalster. The charming Jahreszeiten Terrace was created on the new pier, which had been constructed for passengers to embark and disembark directly in front of the hotel. While dining outside in the sunshine, guests enjoy gastronomic highlights from the patisserie, Jahreszeiten Grill, Doc Cheng's and Cafe Condi. The terrace offers seating for 80 guests and operates daily from 10 am to 10 pm.
August 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Located in the heart of the eternal city, between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, the stunning Hotel de Russie is unique among luxury hotels in Rome because of its extensive, terraced gardens which provide a peaceful refuge in the center of the bustling city. The Hotel de Russie has recently opened a Butterfly Oasis, created in collaboration with WWF International, in the hotel's ancient Secret Garden, where visitors can observe rare butterflies while strolling or dining alfresco. The hotel also has one of Rome's best health clubs and spa with a hydropool, jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish steam bath, beauty treatments and gym. In mid September, the Hotel de Russie will inaugurate the new Vaclav Nijinsky Suite, named after the great Russian ballet dancer. The ultra-spacious suite will feature a 250 sq meter terrace, two bedrooms, dining room, living room with a piano and a 50-inch flat-screen TV, a bar, walk-in wardrobe and a large bathroom with separate shower, steam bath and television. In addition, in September and October 2006, The Stravinskij Bar invites resident and non-resident guests to experience a special "aperitivo" moment. Offer consists of half-bottle of Krug and tapas for two at EUR 90.
August 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Located in the city center of Prague, within walking distance of the city's historical tourist attractions, the Hotel Palace Praha has been a distinguished center of social and cultural life since 1909. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the luxurious hotel blends traditional style and modern comfort in its 124 beautifully furnished rooms and suites. Guests enjoy the state-of-the-art technology and an exquisite dining experience at the Gourmet Club Restaurant, one of the top restaurants in Prague's city center. For a limited time, take advantage of the 3 for 2 package: a luxurious three-night stay for the price of two! Includes buffet breakfast, free sauna and business center access, and welcome amenity in-room upon arrival. Starting from EUR 242. Valid until October 31, 2006.
August 17, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Brought to you by Breakaway Adventures, a South Carolina-based tour company specializing in walking and cycling tours in Europe. Discover the delights of the French countryside along the same route as the Tour de France race participants, but at a much more human pace. (Try 86 miles over the course of a nine-day cycling holiday, instead of 115 miles a day.) Enjoy vineyards, cherry orchards, Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance squares, and charming villages. Cycle through country lanes, stop for wine-tasting every day, dine at Michelin-recognized restaurants, and stay in exceptional accommodations. The trip begins in Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region of northeastern France, continues to Germany, and then returns to France. The tour costs $1759-$1855 per person, until September 23.