December 20, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's official. Ski season has begun on the fashionable slopes of Courcheval, where the hip and fabulous flock to the world's largest ski area, situated in the heart of Les Trois Vallées. Where to stay? The ski resort of Le Mélézin, operated by Amanresorts, is an elegant bastion of exclusivity set directly on the slopes overlooking the Alpine village of Courcheval. The 31 guest rooms and suites, finished in red cedar, offer views of the ski slopes and surrounding peaks. (23 rooms feature balconies.) The main salon, with its open fireplace and cozy ambience, is a popular après-ski gathering place for cocktails and conversation (not to mention the mountain vistas). The Turkish-style hammam, spa, Jacuzzis, gym, and pool offer the ultimate in après-ski. The winter season runs until April 10, 2007.
Overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden in the heart of Westminster, 51 Buckingham Gate oozes luxury. Three townhouses, 84 spacious suites and apartments, a team of Ivor Spencer-trained personal butlers: this is central London's perfect five-star address. The flagship property in the West for Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, 51 Buckingham Gate is also the premier example of eco-friendly hotels raising the bar for the hospitality industry with impressive eco initiatives. The hotel embraces the corporate environmental policy-- Eco Taj-- which focuses on energy and water conservation, recycling projects, and the purchase of eco-products. The Spa at Fifty-One, included in Harpers and Queen's Worlds 100 Best Spas, is the only spa in England to offer pure and chemical-free Sodashi spa treatments. The courtyard garden is fully organic. And since 2005, the hotel has reduced energy consumption by more than 22 percent, cut natural gas consumption by more than 32 percent, and lowered water usage and costs by 25 percent. In 2004, 51 Buckingham Gate won two prestigious accolades for its continuing implementation of eco-friendly initiatives: The Considerate Hotel of the Year and the Environmentally Friendly Hotel of the Year for 2004.
Move over, Dubai. Europe's getting its very own seven-star hotel, the Town House Galleria, in Milan. The hotel's developers opened its doors on Friday, December 15 for the general public to view the premises before the March 2007 opening date. Overlooking Milan's Duomo Cathedral and La Scala opera house, Town House Galleria is located in the second and third floor of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan's world-renowned historic shopping arcade. After a large renovation, the landmark building still showcases historic architectural features like the hand painted vaulted ceilings and large shuttered windows. The hotel will feature only 24 suites, and promises the highest level of personal service. Currently the world's only seven star hotel exists in-- where else?-- Dubai. (The sail-shaped Burj al Arab has been the scene of many ingenius photo ops: Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi practicing their game from the helipad, 692 feet above the Arabian Gulf.)
Old-school luxury hoteliers bemoan this latest marking gimmick of the seven-star hotel; after all, there is no standard worldwide hotel rating system, and European hotels officially can only earn five stars. But apparently this is just the beginning of a new flood of "seven star" hotels which will glut the luxury market as the super-rich elite strive to distinguish themselves among the top-tier echelons of high-rollers. Versace fashion house is scheming to open a dozen worldwide.
Dreamin' of ice cream? Indulge in a luxurious Ice Cream Bath Pedicure, now being offered by the Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Create your own personal ice cream sundae formula from the selection of delicious flavors. Select a scoop of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry kiwi, Hawaiian lei, or papaya nectar for the bath bomb-- the flavors are tempting enough to want to eat! Next, enjoy the Sensual Sugar Sherbet Scrub exfoliating lather, available in ice cream flavors. Banish rough heels with a classic ice-cream sandwich and take the pumice stone home with you to guarantee feet look perfect in between pedicures. Then, treat your feet to the luxurious Recovery Wrap in flavors of chocolate, caramel, or marshmallow. Lastly, drench your feet in a selection of toppings infused with Shea Butter and Vitamins A, C, and E during the reflexology-enhanced foot massage. 60 minutes, $130.
Unparalleled luxury is coming to North Carolina's Triangle area. Located just fifteen minutes from downtown Raleigh (and only six minutes from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport), adjacent to the William B. Umstead State Park, the brand new Umstead Hotel is central to all the attractions in the Triangle. Embracing the natural beauty of the surrounding region, the 150-room hotel is nestled alongside a three-acre lake surrounded by 12 acres of gardens and woodland. The luxurious hotel also expresses a profound appreciation for the arts with its vast collection of original art and sculpture, commissioned by Ann Goodnight. The elegant guestrooms feature 42-inch plasma TVs, pillow-top beds, Rivolta Italian linens, writing desks, wired and wireless Internet access, stocked refrigerators, and marble bathrooms with separate shower and deep soaking tub.
Herons, the signature restaurant, will offer modern American cuisine with a Southern flair; the open kitchen and Chef's Table provide a unique culinary theater experience. Here, it's all about regional, organic ingredients from the agriculturally rich Triangle area. The finest local products are incorporated into time-honored Southern dishes. And the exquisite meals will be complemented by carefully selected wines from the 2,500-bottle wine cellar. The outdoor terrace, flanked by a fireplace, features beautiful views overlooking the butterfly and hummingbird gardens. In addition, there's a heated outdoor pool, 8,000 square feet of meeting and event space, fitness studio, and a world-class Spa-- filled with natural light-- complete with 10 treatment rooms, meditation courtyard, sauna, steam room, whirl pools, and relaxation lounges. Get ready for sheer indulgence; the hotel is set to open on January 15, 2007 and is now accepting reservations. Special introductory rates are being offered between the dates of January 15 and March 31, 2007.
The 4th annual Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards winners were revealed at a black-tie gala dinner at the luxurious Pierre Hotel in Manhattan on December 14, 2006. Four Seasons rocked the luxury hotel chain category, with Travel Weekly readers awarding it both the best "luxury chain" and the best "upscale chain." Starwood Hotels and Resorts led the rankings for both Europe and South Pacific regional hotel brand of the year. And Mandarin Oriental grabbed top honors for Asia's top hotel chain. (Domestic chain? None other than Marriott managed to snag that award.) The top resort worldwide was awarded to St. Regis Resort, Bora Bora.
Coming March 4, 2007: The first major exhibition to explore the role of the American West in the development of modernism in the United States. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Modern West will be at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until June 3. View one hundred paintings, watercolors, and photographs from such influential artists as Frederic Remington, Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollack and Ansel Adams. This extraordinary exhibition demonstrates the enormous impact of the Western landscape on American modernism-- a conceit which has long been underestimated.
Clear blue water, lush green hills, magnificent coral reefs... The legendary Polynesian island of Bora Bora has inspired countless artists with its otherworldly beauty. In this paradise, in the midst of Bora Bora's majestic lagoon-- what James Michener called "the most beautiful lagoon in the world"-- Bora Bora Lagoon Resort and Spa is your tropical fantasy come true. Escape the cares of the everyday world in your overwater bungalow, where you can admire colorful underwater marine life through the illuminated glass-topped coffee table. From your private deck, slip gently into the picture-perfect lagoon. Or experience the only treetop spa in French Polynesia, high in the branches of two giant Banyan trees, overlooking the lagoon and Mount Pahia. (Marù Spa specializes in signature treatments based on local plants, flowers and fruits.) Delight in exquisite Polynesian specialties like poisson cru (fresh fish marinated in coconut milk) at the Otemanu Restaurant. Enjoy the entertaining Theme Night Buffets, where guests dine under the stars and watch spectacular local dances and entertainment. Here in paradise, there's scuba diving, cruises, endless watersports, the gorgeous freshwater free-form pool, and two floodlit tennis courts. The possibilities are endless. And with the Stay Another Day in Paradise Promotion at the award-winning Bora Bora Lagoon Resort, stay four nights and receive the fifth night for free! This perfect five night stay includes welcome drinks upon arrival, one three-course table d'hote dinner for two, motorboat shuttle service between the Resort and Vaitape, Bora Bora (the village), and use of tennis courts, fitness center and all non-motorized watersports. Rates in 2007 start at EUR 1,880 in a Motu Bungalow.
After an $85 million upgrade, The Ivy Hotel will open in February 2007 as a "new luxury urban resort" in San Diego. A member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, The Ivy is being billed as a "posh, adult playground...focused on luxury, pleasure, and decadent surprises." Located next to the Gaslamp Quarter at 6th Avenue and F Street, the hotel strives for an unique aesthetic, seeking to combine "New York style and chic, Las Vegas vibe and energy and L.A.'s casual elegance." The original building, once the crown jewel of downtown San Diego, has experienced a makeover; the interior spaces are all about contemporary luxury, with the most up-to-date technology. There will be 159 rooms including two presidential suites and one signature suite (boasting two levels and a spiral staircase leading to a private poolside cabana). Other facilities include the 17,000 square foot rooftop with pool, sundeck, and sultry Eden bar, Envy nightclub, Quartier Kitchen fine dining restaurant, and 10,000 square feet of meeting and function space.
The west coast of Thailand-- including the tourist-adored islands of Phuket and Khao Lak-- took a beating after the disastrous tsunami of December 2004. At the time, The Sarojin was just about to open its doors: a luxury boutique hotel planted on ten acres of gorgeous beachfront. Now, after extensive repairs of the damage sustained by the tsunami's aftermath, The Sarojin has opened as one of the hottest properties of the year. (It's already racking up the awards, including "Asia's Leading Boutique Hotel" from the World Travel Awards 2006, and Conde Nast Traveler 2006 Hot List.) The Sarojin is located an hour north of Phuket, situated inside the Khao Lak National Park, where beaches, cascading waterfalls, wildlife, and spectacular primary forest lure visitors. Just steps from the breathtaking beach and turquoise Andaman Sea, The Sarojin consists of 56 guest residences nestled within expansive garden grounds with winding walkways and lotus pools. If you can tear yourself away from your residence (which boast private sundecks with intimate couples' baths, rainfall showers, and plunge pools), there are recreational activities aplenty: scuba and snorkeling cruises, sea kayaking, sailing, fitness center, infinity pool, Thai cooking classes, and farther afield: elephant trekking and bamboo rafting. Not to mention the beautiful spa.