LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
The exquisite Villa San Michele, the picturesque Florentine estate managed by Orient Express Hotels, is renowned for its gourmet Cookery School. Located just a few minutes from Florence in the Fiesole Hills, the 15th century Franciscan monastery-turned-luxury hotel boasts a facade attributed to Michelangelo. In this peaceful oasis, enroll in a course at the cooking school where internationally celebrated chefs hold "Great Masters" classes along with the Classic Courses such as: exciting recipes for singles, the cuisine of the great noble houses of Florence and Tuscany, and the essentials of pasta, the star of Italian cuisine. Enjoy the perfect holiday in Italy and appreciate the country's gastronomic culture: take a day trip to Chianti for wine tastings, visit Florence, and cook alongside the talented chefs in the hands-on Cookery School classes.
Plan ahead for the perfect summer escape to Russia's cultural capital: the magnificent city of St. Petersburg. During the last 10 days of June, darkness never falls and the lively White Nights festival inspires a celebration of ballet, dance, art, and rich history. Where to stay? The Grand Hotel Europe, perfectly situated in the heart of St. Pete's, has completed a dramatic renovation including a complete refurbishment of 200 rooms and suites, upgrade of the hotel's main entrance, and a redesign for the Caviar Bar restaurant. French designer Michel Jouannet also transformed the Grand Hotel Europe's sister establishments, the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Copacabana Palace in Rio. Choose a room on the historic first floor, and enjoy the services of your own personal butler.
March 5, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The gorgeous Villa Olmi Resort, one of the region's most exclusive properties, is also one of Italy's best kept secrets. Newly-opened in 2006, the Renaissance Villa is situated on an enchanting six hectare estate just outside Florence. Surrounded by beautifully manicured Italian gardens and a lovely heated pool, the Villa embraces its historical setting. The careful restoration enhanced the original architectural details (like the 18th century frescoes that adorn each room) while equipping all guest rooms with the technology and comforts of a contemporary five star hotel: plasma screen TVs, DVD players, wireless Internet, marble bathrooms with jacuzzis. The hotel's furnishings--antiques, Murano glass chandeliers--are refined and elegant. This spring, enjoy some excellent packages at Villa Olmi, like the Morning of Art package, which includes three nights accommodation, bottle of Tuscan wine on arrival, three hours walking tour in the city with private guide, two tickets for the Accademia Museum, wine-tasting with cheese and cured hams in the private cave, and complimentary buffet breakfast. Starting from EUR 330 nightly.
March 2, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
What's not to love about this gracious London establishment? Situated in the fashionable area of Belgravia, just minutes from Hyde Park and the shops of Sloane Street, The Berkeley is home to the Michelin star-rated Petrus restaurant and trendy drinking spot, The Blue Bar. Indulge in the celebrated afternoon tea at the Caramel Room, with its fashionista motif; Pret-a-Portea adds a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English Afternoon tea, with cakes and pastries inspired by every fashion season's catwalk designs. Relax and be pampered in the rooftop spa, or chill out in your richly-appointed guest room. Lose yourself in luxury at The Berkeley, where weekend breaks are available for as low as GBP 179 per night (Wow). Valid until April 29, 2007.
February 28, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In the heart of Burgundy, surrounded by some of the world's finest vineyards, discover a culinary sensation. In a land celebrated for its gastronomy, this could be one of the best restaurants in the entire pays. Indeed, the Relais Bernard Loiseau has built a reputation as one of France's finest gourmet restaurants. Begin your meal by perusing the menu over drinks in one of the property's fireside seating areas. Be sure to try one of Bernard Loiseau's legendary creations: frog's legs with garlic puree and parsley juice, Pikeperch grilled skin-side down with sautéed shallots and red wine sauce, and steamed fattened free-range Bresse chicken "Alexandre Dumaine" with truffled rice. Executive Chef Patrick Bertron follows in the footsteps of his life-long mentor with his new menu offerings. (He hails from Brittany, so there's lots of tasty shellfish on offer.) There are prix-fixe menus, if you so choose, starting with the two-course "Délice" at EUR 120. The restaurant boasts one of Burgundy's most extensive wine cellars with 45,000 bottles.
And the best part of all? You can sleep off your food coma at one of the exquisite 32 guest rooms and suites! After all, this restaurant/hotel is part of the prestigious Relais and Chateaux luxury properties, and the rooms-- decked out with Burgundy stones and red-clay tiles, period woodworks, and antique furnishings-- won't disappoint. Other premium services include library, billiards room, spa, and swimming pool... all surrounded by beautiful wooded grounds and landscaped gardens.
February 26, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
That's right. The low-fare luxury airline, which offers exclusive, premium class service between London and Newark, is environmentally friendly. The UK-based carrier builds carbon offsetting into the price of every ticket. This mandatory carbon offset contribution is invested by the airline's climate consultancy partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, to ensure that every tonne of CO2 associated with your flight is matched by one tonne saved through climate friendly projects around the world. Examples of projects supported by Silverjet to neutralize its carbon impact are:
Jamaican energy efficient project- subsidises the cost of energy efficient lightbulbs to encourage use. Benefits to the island include less dependence on depleted oil reserves and less power cuts, which in turn promotes the prime industry- tourism. New Zealand wind farm- one of the few gold standard carbon offset projects worldwide, this provides an alternative to non-sustainable power sources. US methane- methane is 23 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and it leaks from many disused mines. This project captures methane and 'flares' it which converts methane into CO2.
Wow. Now if only the other airlines would follow Silverjet's example.
February 23, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Long hailed as a landmark in St. Moritz, Badrutt's Palace Hotel embodies the grandeur of the Swiss Alps. Situated amidst breathtaking scenery, the hotel has been a celeb-hounded hotspot since its opening in 1896. Dine at the hotel's new Nobu restaurant, the trendiest place in town and innovative addition to the storied hotel. After a lip-smacking good meal (legendary dishes like Tiradito, Black Cod with miso and New Style Sashimi are musts), head to the Renaissance Bar, the coziest bar in St. Moritz. Here, Mario, the well-known barkeeper, fixes both classic and creative cocktails. Sip the best Bellini in St. Moritz, or opt for the U2, the signature drink inspired by Mario's celebrity clientele. The shaken creation includes peach juice, cranberry juice, vodka, apricot brandy, a tumbler, and a straw.
The winners have been announced. After much speculation, Michelin has come out with its latest crop of three-star restaurants in France, with a whopping five new restaurants added to the prestigious list. The total number of three-star restaurants is 26. To quote the New York Times:
The new three-star establishments include three in Paris — Le Meurice in the Hôtel Meurice, Le Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne, and Astrance, a tiny, 25-seat Right Bank restaurant — along with Lameloise in Burgundy and Pic in Valence, south of Lyon. Lameloise and Pic each regained third stars that were taken away several years ago; Pic's chef, Anne-Sophie Pic, is now one of only a handful of women ever to be in charge of a three-star kitchen.
But perhaps the most interesting announcement of all: the startling demotion of many top-tier restaurants to two stars, including Taillevent in Paris (bestowed three stars since 1973) and Le Cinq in the Four Seasons George V.
February 22, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
The Grand Regina Alpin Well&Fit Hotel is located at the foot of the famous Eiger and Jungfrau mountains, and is renowned as the winter and summer resort of Grindelwald.
Highlights include - Whirlpool, Sauna, Steam Baths, Beauty Salon, Fitness Center, Massages, solarium with light therapies and oxygen bar, heated indoor and outdoor pools - and that's only in the Alpin Well&Fit Club. Hiking, mountaineering, tennis courts, golf driving range, all winter sports, and an 18-hole golf course are nearby.
But the reason it's a new favorite of mine? It treats each and every guest like royalty - no matter what and no matter which staff member you deal with. Just don't forget to request a "Eiger north face" view room - all of the rooms have mountain views, but the Eiger is definitly the best one - if you can get it.
Dream of staying in a castle? Ireland's majestic Waterford Castle is located on its very own 310-acre island in the middle of the beautiful River Suir. With only 19 premium guest rooms, the castle provides the ultimate in luxurious privacy. Dine at the award-winning restaurant, play golf on the island's 18-hole golf course, and check out the world-famous Waterford Crystal factory nearby. Get pampered like royalty at this stunning estate, only three hours drive from Dublin in southeast Ireland. Take advantage of a special re-opening offer of EUR 70 per person, including Full Irish Breakfast daily. Valid Sunday to Thursday until March 31, 2007. ( Waterford Castle is closed annually for the month of January, and has now re-opened to welcome the Spring!)