February 10, 2011
By: Daniel L. Moses
There are two things I value above all else: Luxury and Romance. Finding each individually is hard enough, but finding them together is nearly impossible. So I did what most people do when they are looking for something. I googled it. I entered simply, “Romantic Luxury Getaways”, and let the computer do the work for me. And I implore you to do the same. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here until you return. Don’t worry, it won’t spoil the ending…
Back yet? Okay, what did we both find? First, it was some of the great hotels of the world. And amongst them, of course, the city that appeared again and again: Paris, France. Not Paris, Texas, nor Paris, Arkansas, both of which I’ve visited and can say are truly unromantic. Paris, France, on the other hand, is, cliché or not, simply the most romantic city in the world. Luckily for us, it also offers some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
Before I get into that, and therefore before I list which of Paris’ finest are my favorites, I want to tell you why Paris is romantic. You may now be grumbling about your last visit, or maybe your last 5 visits, and how you know very well what is and is not true about la belle ville. I’ve been several times myself in the last few years, and in fact lived two years in Paris on the Left Bank in my marauding early-20s. And yes, while I have the advantage of ordering a Domaine Romanée-Conti in heavily accented French, I’ve learned that in Paris anyone can find romance.
Where? I found it on the terrace of a café in an alley at a hole-in-the-wall Moroccan restaurant that no longer exists. The place was run down, the couscous overcooked, and yet when I raised a glass of Burgundy and toasted with the sweet, brown-eyed girl underneath a canopy of stars illuminating the French summer night, I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. Months later, a ring tucked deep in my pocket, I strolled down to the banks of the Seine, heard the muted stir of the river below, and found myself on one knee asking her to be with me forever. We returned for our honeymoon, and several trips thereafter, and Paris never let us down. The gray hair on my temples has never kept the romance at bay, and I still raise a toast with the brown-eyed girl on the other side of the table.
Now, though, when I go to the world’s most romantic city, I stay at the world’s most luxurious hotels. And why not? Luxury and romance go hand in hand, just as my hand goes with hers each and every morning when I wake up, and just as our lips come together each evening to say goodnight.
So make romance yours at L’Hotel de Crillon. This hotel is not for the overnight traveler. In fact, the pre-revolutionary construction is in classic Louis XV style, and will tantalize patrons with a stunning location only steps from Les Champs-Elysees, and make a stay of any length too short.
If you’re looking for a taste of the Belle Époque, seek out the Ritz Paris. Erected in 1898, the Ritz underwent a stunning renovation in 2010, and is known for its famous guests, more recently (Elton John) and a few years ago (Marcel Proust).
Finally, if you prefer views of the Eiffel tower from your flower-filled balcony, charm your loved one with a stay at the Hotel Plaza Athenee. Luxury is a given, romance an absolute, and with four restaurants on site overseen by the eminent Alain Ducasse, you’ll have the best of Parisian dining just steps away.
One final note: If you’re thinking of buying her that ring, or perhaps telling him that you love him all the more after all these years, don’t wait! Seize the moment! Paris may endure and always be waiting, but perhaps he or she won’t. Bon voyage!
By: Daniel L. Moses
February 9, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The A'jia Hotel commands a prime piece of real estate in Istanbul, the city that famously straddles two continents. In a glorious setting on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, a former pasha's mansion has been converted into a sexy boutique hotel. Behind the Ottoman facade, sleek interiors showcase contemporary furnishings and all the latest technology. The 16 guest rooms-- some with private balconies-- have gorgeous water views and spacious marble bathrooms. (Note: There's one room that doesn't overlook the Bosphorus.) No surprise to see a queue of celebrities lining up to stay here. We love their complimentary boat shuttle for cruising between the continents and bypassing Istanbul's notorious traffic on the way to the Old Town for sightseeing.
Hot rates: Book the A'jia Hotel with Five Star Alliance and you'll get breakfast and tax included in your room rate. Simply select the "Five Star Alliance" rate when booking.
February 8, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Come April, royal watchers will be descending on London in droves. Declared a national holiday, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding day promises to fuel royal fever in a big way. Luxury hotels are pulling out all the stops to pamper guests like royalty over the big weekend. Case in point: The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, overlooking Kensington Palace, is offering the "Royal Occasion" package for the royal wedding weekend, which could be the next best thing to holding a wedding invitation in hand. Here's what you get with the four-night package:
• English Breakfast each morning
• A Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea
• A lavish seven-course Royal Banquet Dinner prepared by the hotel's Executive Chef, Ryan Flynn
• Tickets to Kensington Palace
• Two way luxury car transfer from London Heathrow for foreign visitors
• Each couple will also receive a crafted commemorative plate or two mugs by Royal Worcester, made of the finest English bone china.
A range of optional extras will be available including midnight Royal Feasts, champagne sabrage with canapés, picnics in Hyde Park, access to the Royal Gallery and Royal Mews, and a deluxe luncheon hamper on the day of the royal wedding. Rates for the Royal Occasion package are priced from £2,418 for a Superior Queen room to £5,218 for a Master Suite excluding VAT, starting April 24, 2011.
We're happy to report that there's a dazzling new spa in London town. Just opened today, the Chuan Spa at The Langham, London is a sight for sore eyes. Trust us-- we went to gape at it over the weekend before the official unveiling today. One look at the mosaic-lined swimming pool, located in the former bank vault, will make you want to strip down. Soaring black slate walls rise above the turquoise water, and a large painting sparkles at one end. Even non-swimmers (or those who are well aware that a few months remain before non-toned bodies need to be bikini ready) will be jonesin' for a swim.
The first location for the brand in Europe, the Langham's new spa incorporates the ancient principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine into its treatments. This is a unique concept in London. There's even a fully-licensed Chinese Medicine doctor on site for private consultations and specialist TCM therapies, like acupuncture, Ho Guan (cupping), and moxibustion. Treatment rooms are appropriately zen-like; the Chuan Tri-bathing Ritual which starts off each treatment showcases the gorgeous wet facilities. There's also a glowing salt sauna and well-equipped fitness room.
Looking for a decadent wine tasting experience while visiting the City of Light? Le Meurice-- the glamorous palace hotel that's part of the Dorchester Collection-- has just launched Les Nocturnes du 228, a series of monthly wine tasting events at Bar 228 with selections from Chef Sommelier Estelle Touzet, awarded Best Chef Sommelier of the Year 2011 by the Pudlowski Guide. Named for the hotel's address at 228 rue de Rivoli, the bar is a cozy and intimate space, designed by Philippe Starck to be reminiscent of a British gentlemen's club, complete with deep leather armchairs, wooden bar stools, rare crystal decanters, and dark wood paneling. The new tasting event will uncork superb vintages paired with gourmet delights by Michelin Three-Starred Chef Yannick Alléno. Guests will have the opportunity to meet Chef Sommelier Touzet and learn about her experience traveling through the world's top wine regions. Les Nocturnes du 228 events are priced at €90 per person, including a tasting of four wines with canapés. The program runs from 7:00pm to 8:00pm on the first Thursday of select months through 2011. Reservations are strongly recommended:
* April 7 – Wines of Germany, Touzet’s adoptive country
* May 5 – Experience California, Touzet’s first great journey
* June 2 – The Languedoc region, Touzet’s winter escape
* September 8 – Syrah
* November 3 – Riesling
* December 8 – An all-inclusive exploration of Cabernet Sauvignon, at €140 per person
February 4, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Foodies, rejoice! There's a buzzworthy new restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand's City of Sails. Named for its eight kitchens, the new resto at The Langham inspires diners to take a culinary journey through world cuisine. From designer sushi prepared on demand to freshly baked naan bread pulled steaming from the tandoors, the $2 million (NZD) Eight Restaurant has a team of passionate chefs who will serve up what you're looking for. These diverse kitchens were named after different journeys. Think Silk Road (wok and dim sum), Spice Route (Indian tandoori and curries), Tōkaidō (sushi and sashimi), Route 66 (New York style grille), Great Ocean Road (seafood and oysters), Garden Route (salads), Champs-Elysées (pastries, crêpes and cheese), and Dessert Road (desserts).
Langham Hotels is celebrating the debut of Eight Restaurant with a competition where one lucky winner will snag an unforgettable prize: a Global Culinary Journey staying and dining at Langham Hotels worldwide. Each time you dine at Eight Restaurant, from now through April 25, 2011, you'll be entered for a chance to win:
· Three nights luxury accommodation at The Langham, Hong Kong dining at T’ang Court (2 Michelin stars) and also Ming Court (2 Michelin stars).
· Three nights luxury accommodation at The Langham, London dining at the newly-opened Roux at The Landau, the latest restaurant by the famed Roux brothers.
· Three nights luxury accommodation at The Langham Huntington, dining at The Royce by the acclaimed chef David Féau
· Return around-the-world economy airfares for two people from Auckland to Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles. (Full terms and conditions apply)
February 3, 2011
By: Meagan Drillinger
Ready for the next epicurean adventure? We hear Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and The Fat Duck Group have joined forces to create Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, a gourmand's delight in London's Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The new gourmand playground was designed keeping England's heritage in mind.
Blumenthal has a slew of honors under his belt, including the three-Michelin starred The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, The Hinds Head pub and The Crown pub of the same village.
The menu at this restaurant ties a bit of old with a bit of new (think scallops with cucumber ketchup and peas; slow-cooked short rib of beef in red wine juice with triple cooked chips; and tipsy cake, made with spit roast pineapple and jersey cream!).
We love that the restaurant offers floor-to-ceiling glass walls that give way to views of Hyde Park, as well as the open kitchen and a large scale pulley mechanize, modeled after the 16th century pulley system designed for the Royal British Court's kitchen.
February 2, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The big day is right around the corner... Why not high-tail it to the world capital of romance? Boat trips on the Seine past monuments and marvels, meals that are intoxicatingly good, fashion and finery, wine bars aplenty... A trip to Paris is guaranteed to heat things up. Splash out with a stay at Le Royal Monceau, the legendary palace hotel that everyone's talking about, and get treated to all kinds of sweet treats. And we're not talking just eye candy. (There's plenty of that, as the ultra-luxe hotel just emerged from a massive renovation by famed designer Philippe Starck.) The "Romance" offer at Le Royal Monceau includes a sumptuous buffet breakfast in La Cuisine restaurant, a bottle of Champagne, and decadent Pierre Hermé sweets along with your sumptuous accommodations. Priced from 714 euros for two people in an Executive Room, available from February 9-16, 2011.
Read our behind-the-scenes look at this glamorous Paris destination here.
February 1, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Talk about a royal stimulus. The upcoming wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton-- the event of the year in the British capital-- is boosting the local economy in a major way. Declared a public holiday, the wedding will most likely be the most-watched royal event since the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Bloomberg reports:
About 1.1 million people will probably visit the British capital when Prince William and Kate Middleton get married on April 29, according to Visit London, the city’s official tourism agency. That’s going to boost spending in the city by as much as 50 million pounds ($80 million), pushing up hotel room rates and prompting residents to become part-time landlords.
It's not just the hotel sector that will benefit from the royal nuptials. Britons are expected to splurge on food and drink, hosting street parties and other celebrations. In sum, says Bloomberg, the U.K. economy could benefit from 620 million pounds. And royal mania could singlehandedly catapult the U.K. out of the longest recession on record.
January 31, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Planning a trip to Paris this year? What could be better than a plush room at the Ritz Paris and some cocktails by Colin Field, arguably the world's best bartender, at the Bar Hemingway? Here's what: A free upgrade and complimentary Champagne! A stay at the iconic palace hotel on the Place Vendôme in Paris is guaranteed to be memorable. And if you book the Ritz Paris with Five Star Alliance and choose the special "Five Star Alliance" rates, you'll score complimentary extras that will make your stay that much more special: a free upgrade to the next room category (based upon availability) and a bottle of bubbly in your room on arrival.