November 4, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Project CityCenter is the super-creative name for the latest Las Vegas development: a humongous entertainment venue planned by MGM Mirage. Located in the heart of the Strip, Project CityCenter consists of 18 million square feet (a whopping 66! acres) of space for a casino, shops, dining and luxury condos. The multi-billion dollar project is slated to open in phases starting in 2009. Mandarin Oriental just announced plans for its 400-room luxury hotel at the entrance of Project C.C. The 37-storey Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas will feature a Sky Lobby located on the 10th floor, where guests will be greeted with a wall of windows revealing a dramatic panorama of the Las Vegas cityscape. Plans include three Presidential suites of over 3,500 square feet each, seven dining and cocktail venues, 32,000 square foot spa, and 40,000 square feet of meeting and function space. Myriad glass-enclosed sky bridges will connect the hotel with the rest of Project CityCenter.
I’m utterly enchanted by the story of Hacienda San Angel, as relayed in an AP article this week. Californian buys vacation villa in Puerto Vallarta. Begins to remodel. Construction takes on a life of its own and—voila-- the place is remade into such a fantastic boutique hotel that Conde Nast Traveler can’t resist plopping it on its 2005 Hot List. (And-- *ahem*-- the owner had no previous experience in the hospitality sector.) The luxurious Hacienda San Angel began enchanting guests in 2003. Located in the quaint, cobble-stoned center of Puerto Vallarta, the hotel conjures dreams of colonial Mexico. Tiled courtyards, flowering terraces, pools and quiet, intimate spaces. Romance abounds. The 10 guestrooms are each unique, and showcase views over the red tiled rooftops of Puerto Vallarta and the sea beyond. Luxurious details include: spa and concierge services, high-speed internet access, and daily cocktail hour in the courtyard complete with serenading mariachis.
For those fools crazy enough to travel (recreationally) with their guitars: Outside Magazine (Oct. issue) recently reported about the Fliptone V.25, a new nine-pound, laptop-size amplifier from Traveler Guitar. Battery-powered speakers, 25 watts for six hours, inputs for two guitars or your iPod. $699.
With its majestic red canyons and rock formations, Sedona lures three million visitors a year seeking desert solitude and inspiration. (Though the town itself may be slightly cheesy, the outlying expanse of desert is worth even a cross-continental trek to reach.) Framed by the towering outcroppings of Red Rock Country, the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa is a stylish sanctuary, distinguished by its other-worldly spa. Opened in June, the hotel incorporates Spanish Mediterranean architecture and colorful Moorish interiors. The 77 sumptuous guest rooms and suites are equipped with high-speed wireless internet, flat-screen TVs and walk-in showers with overhead rainshower spray. Unwind at the full-service Spa, where each treatment is customized to your individual needs. For the perfect romantic getaway, Sedona Rouge also offers seven exclusive Spa Guest Rooms and one exclusive Suite, all with soaking tubs in the living area, luxurious spa amenities, and dramatic Red Rock views.
The Michelin Guide New York City 2006 honored celebrated chef Alain Ducasse with three stars at the Essex House. He is the only dude ever to have three restaurants earn three stars. Damn. (The other two are Louis XV in Monaco, and my fave, the Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee, Paris.)
Finally. This month, construction will begin for the Carlton Savannah, which will be located between the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre and President’s House in Port of Spain. The hotel will be built over a 20-month period and will include apartments and penthouse suites.
Jumping on the blog bandwagon, I’d like to highlight the interesting NYT piece about the ultra-lux perks recently employed by luxury hotels, in order to distinguish themselves and entice repeat customers. Notable extravagant examples include the Four Seasons Manhattan (where a $400,000 Maybach 62 and a $325,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom are parked out front for clients’ use), the Conrad Istanbul (which provides CD players and discs for guests to learn useful Turkish phrases) and the Loews Annapolis Hotel (where guest can “borrow” the hotel’s Labrador retriever, Luke.) Experienced any hotel perk that can top this list?!
In the rugged wilderness of Canada’s Vancouver Island lies the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, its temperate rainforest deemed one of the most important habitats in the world. On show here is a year-round spectacle of some of the best wildlife viewing in the world. Spawning salmon, nesting eagles, otters, porpoises, and migrating whales. Did I mention the bears? Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts offers two luxury eco-resorts within this untouched wilderness. The Quait Bay Floating Resort is Clayoquot’s flagship property, with full-service spa and conference center with gorgeous views. A 30 minute boat ride away, the 18 ultra-luxurious white canvas tents of the Wilderness Outpost at Bedwell River were inspired by late 19th century Great Camps. Who says you can’t get pampered while roughing it? The suite tents are outfitted with Adirondack-style beds covered in down duvets, antique dressers, pressed-glass oil lamps, heirloom accessories, and a plethora of candles. Who needs in-room telephone or flat screen TV when you can lounge in a terry cloth robe, hook up your laptop to wireless internet, and bask in the heat of your remote-controlled propane wood-stove?
The site includes luxurious spa tents, dining tents, and lounge tents. The food is all organic, as regional growers and producers supply cheese, giant oysters and scallops, free-range hens, wild fish and just-picked berries. I’m drooling at the sample Outpost Table d’hote menu: local albacore tuna tartare with grilled vegetable ratatouille. Pan-seared wild pacific halibut with marinated spaghetti squash salad, oven-dried tomatoes and red bell pepper reduction. Or maybe the oven-roasted venison loan with sweet potato tarragon flan? Followed by a white chocolate pumpkin mousse with local organic fieldberry blintz and vanilla sour cream sauce. Mmmmmm. Guided (and unguided) activities abound—from horseback riding, whale and bear watching, salt and fresh water fishing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, Hot Springs Cove day treks, and naturalist hikes.
It’s about time. Bangkok is scheduled to open the new Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006, which will feature a high-speed rail link and five alternative routes to the city center to avoid that nasty Bangkok gridlock!
Every Tuesday, National Geographic Traveler releases their A* list of weekly travel specials. This week, I couldn’t resist highlighting a few of their offers (that just can’t be missed). Even if I can’t jet to Timbuktu, maybe you can!
(Le Meridien Winter Warmers are almost too-good-to-be-true. For a limited time only, thousands of Le Meridien rooms in more than 50 destinations worldwide are selling at ridiculously low rates. Book by 15 November 2005, for stays arriving from 1 December 2005 to 31 January 2006.)