LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
July 9, 2008
By: Courtney W. May
The Woodlands Resort & Inn is one of only three lodging properties in America to be awarded the Mobil Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond awards for both lodging and dining - in large part to Marty Wall, General Manager and InnKeeper of the property. Mr. Wall took some time to answer our questions below.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Marty Wall: By far the most distinctive characteristic or feature of the Inn is the attitude and desire to serve that exist within the staff. We have blended together personalities from all around the world who enjoy what they do and challenge themselves each day to provide the highest level of service in the most friendly and genuinely sincere manner. The service and facility would be best described as residential versus the typical commercial hotel environment. Our goal is that each guest feels that they have been invited to spend the night with family versus just buying a hotel room. Woodlands is essentially their home away from home.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Marty Wall: Because of our membership in Five Star Alliance, Virtuoso, Andrew Harper, and Relais & Chateaux, as well as our many national and international awards, our guests really come from all parts of the world. Also because of our very celebrated culinary team under the direction of Executive Chef Tarver King, many of our guests are here to experience what has been recognized as one of the top dining rooms in the country.
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Marty Wall: There have been several movies filmed in the Charleston area and as a result we have had a number of celebrities stay with us. In an effort to protect their privacy and in hopes that we see them regularly, we prefer not to mention specific names.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Marty Wall: The Inn is actually located in Summerville, SC which is a charming bedroom community to historic Charleston. The area is rich in history and has also become a very desirable dining destination. Visiting the many historic sights, eating at the many wonderful restaurants and enjoying the numerous outdoor activities provide plenty of options for guests of all ages.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Marty Wall: We believe all of our rooms are special and each one offers something a little different or unique. Because the original house was constructed in 1906 a couple of the rooms in the original section offer distinctive features. The most noted being our 3rd floor suite that is often referred to as the "honeymoon suite". It offers a larger living room area, lofted bedroom, beautiful bathroom with a large Jacuzzi tub and the best feature is the spiral staircase leading to the "cupola" which overlooks the entire house and most of the grounds.
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Marty Wall: In that the original home was built in 1906 there is a lot of history within the walls. The original owners used the house for numerous events to entertain the country's military troops during the war. The house was also regularly used to host lavish debutant parties for many of their local friends and families.
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Marty Wall: If I were checking in I would definitely want to know just how outstanding the restaurant is.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of The Woodlands Resort and Inn?
Marty Wall: After spending several years in large luxury hotels, primarily in large urban environments, and after the birth of our third child, I was searching for a place that would provide balance in the business that I love and with my family which is as it should be, the most important thing in my life. I thought a smaller market and a smaller facility would be the answer. I had no idea I would find a place as special as Woodlands in a community as special as Charleston, South Carolina.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Marty Wall: There is nothing hard about my job... I LOVE what I do!!!
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
Marty Wall: It would be hard for me to choose just 2 or 3 great hotels as there are so many incredible places in the world. Every new luxury hotel being built today is trying to provide something unique or special that you can not find anywhere else. That is what keeps us all on our toes and makes if difficult to pick what is the best... it will change tomorrow.
By: Courtney W. May
Villa Principe Leopoldo and Residence: Discover One of Europe’s Last Paradises at Lake Lugano, Switzerland
The magnificent setting on the Collina d'Oro (Golden Hill) overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Lugano has inspired many visitors, including the Nobel laureate author Hermann Hesse who lived here in Montagnola for 45 years and called it "one of Europe's last paradises." This sunny corner of Switzerland, encircled by softly rounded mountains, offers a magic backdrop for the best kind of European getaway-- and it's not far from Zurich and Milan. The place to stay is the Villa Principe Leopoldo, named in homage to Prince Leopold Von Hohenzollern, for whom the villa was built in 1926. Guests here feel like they are staying in a princely private residence high above the sparkling white city of Lugano; the luxurious suites and sumptuous drawing room are adorned with magnificent art and the service embodies the finest traditional Swiss hospitality. There is a wealth of activities and excursions available in the area- from hiking and boating, to shopping in the lakeside resort of Lugano. A member of the Relais and Chateaux Collection, the Villa Principe Leopoldo is a privileged place made for the joy of living.
Psst. If you book with Five Star Alliance, you'l receive a one-day free pass for boat cruises on the lake of Lugano to discover the region.
July 8, 2008
By: Madelyn Giblin
The Garden Restaurant is now open at Castello del Nero in Tuscany, Italy. Featuring a stunning terrace for outdoor breakfast, lunch, and dinner, guests can enjoy views of the surrounding countryside in the heart of Tuscany outside Florence. Indoor dining features the newly reopened "La Torre" Restaurant with traditional Tuscan fireplace, and welcoming décor featuring local culinary specialties. Beginning next week the dining options will feature a twice-weekly Summer BBQ to offer guests a chance to try market fresh grilled meat and grilled fish, in addition to inviting appetizers and desserts. Guests know they can enjoy the splendor of the Tuscan countryside while still having easy access to nearby Florence. In addition Castello del Nero offers its signature ESPA Spa with 10 treatment rooms, vitality pool, relaxation areas, and special gender specific heat treatments.
Special Offer from Five Star Alliance: Five Star Alliance guests at Castello del Nero will receive an in-room welcome with a bottle of water and sweet delight.
By: Madelyn Giblin
It's hard to beat a price like this at the most elegant hotel in the Big Easy. Situated on world-famous Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter, within close proximity to the city's most popular and unique attractions, the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans has rates as low as $129 per night for the summer including weekends. (There are slightly higher rates from July 16-19 and August 1-9, 23, 31. Blackout dates are July 20-26.) You'll experience traditional Southern ambience with art and furnishings that reflect the graciousness of the mansions in the Garden District's antebellum mansions. Plus, the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans features a newly-renovated 25,000 square foot destination spa and a new signature restaurant. Needless to say, the amenities at the grande dame of New Orleans are almost impossibly luxurious; plush linens and robes and Bulgari bath products in all the rooms, fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, and five-fixture Italian marble baths in the suites.
July 8, 2008
By: Betsy LeTourneau
Overlooking the Grand Canal with understated Venetian Romance 16th Century Style is the Hotel Gritti Palace. Renown for discreet attentive service, elegant luxury and named 2006 Travel & Leisure Top 500 Hotels and 2008 Gold List by Conde Nast, the Hotel Gritti Palace announces their Summer in the City Promotion. Book by August 29th with stays between July 1st to August 31st, stay 2 nights and get 3rd free or book 3 nights and get the fourth free. Both options will also garner double StarPoints. The Hotel Gritti Palace features 91 uniquely decorated luxuriously appointed rooms and suites with precious fabrics, antique furniture and murano glass light fixtures. All rooms blend the old world, elegant feel with today's modern amenities for lavish comfort. Choose the breathtaking views of the Grand Canal or enjoy overlooking the activities of Santa Maria del Giglio Square. With the Hotel Gritti Palace as an elegant base, you can then enjoy a short walk to shopping or take the private motor launch to Venice Lido for use of the use of the private beach facilities, swimming pool, tennis or golf.
By: Betsy LeTourneau
Never mind that some airlines are stopping service to Ft. Lauderdale as a way to cut costs. The luxury hotel scene continues to boom on the sandy beaches of South Florida. Case in point: the brand new Trump International Hotel and Tower, Ft. Lauderdale, ready to open its doors in October 2008. Soaring 25 storeys above the sand, the 298-room hotel will boast breathtaking views of the Atlantic from the oversized windows. Jumping on the signature bed bandwagon (like Westin's Heavenly bed), the condo-hotel will feature the new Trump by Stearns & Foster Plush Pillowtop, the exclusive sleep system of Trump Hotel Collection. Other facilities include five-star dining, the 5,000 square foot Spa at Trump, state-of-the-art fitness center, and roof deck with a mosaic-tiled pool. A nice perk will be the signature services of Trump Attaché. Also slated for October? The W Fort Lauderdale, overlooking the sand and surf on one side, and the intercoastal waterway on the other.
Following the 100-mile diet? So is Breeze Restaurant, the signature resto at Loews Annapolis Hotel, showcasing the Chesapeake Bay region's bounty with produce, fish and meat ingredients picked straight from local farms. Chef Allison Trinkle has designed a splendid Summer 2008 menu with fresh Southern flavors. You'll enjoy lots of Chesapeake Bay blue crab, done in myriad different ways: cream of crab soup, fresh lump crab and watercress oil; crab stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon, cheddar grits and orange barbeque sauce; and Maryland crab cakes, lemon-dill buerre blanc, buttermilk mashed potatoes and green beans with grape tomatoes. Other stand-out dishes include Southern faves like mustard crusted Chesapeake rockfish with tomato-corn relish and fried green tomatoes, and the Southern fried pork chop, with Sawmill gravy and baked applesauce, cheddar grits and spring pea succotash.
Here's a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes—perfect as a starter or side dish—that's been in the Chef's family for more than 60 years. A Tennessee native, Trinkle adds a little spice to the heirloom recipe with the red pepper aioli:
Fried Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli
4 medium, firm green tomatoes
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs or cornmeal (or mix half and half)
1/2 bacon grease
Yield: 6 portions
Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices, season with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour. Dip tomato into beaten eggs, let excess drip off and then coat well with breadcrumbs or cornmeal. Fry, in batches in hot grease (or oil) until golden brown, turning gently (about 3 minutes per side).
Serve immediately, or keep warm at 200 degrees F until ready to serve. Serve with red pepper aioli dipping sauce.
Red Pepper Aioli
2 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 cups red belle peppers, roasted, skin removed and chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Tabasco, to taste
In food processor, combine egg yolks, garlic, red peppers and mustard. Mix thoroughly, while still running slowly add the olive oil to form an emulsion (like the consistency of mayonnaise). Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and a few drops of Tabasco. The mixture should be thick, but not stiff.
July 7, 2008
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Some call it Hippie Chic, others Mod Sixties, Feel-Good Seventies, or Classic Rat Pack Vibe, but whatever you call Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs "The Parker", call it a great place to stay in Palm Springs. After a substantial rethink by lifestyle designer, Jonathan Adler, The Parker is now whimsical and fresh with offerings of golf, tennis, pools, croquet, Palm Springs Yacht Club first rate Spa, and upscale dinner at Norma's. As luxurious as Givenchy days though not as pretentious and far cooler than the Merv Griffin years, staying in either the standard rooms or in the original Gene Autry House is sure to have just the right vibe to please.
Area-Daily says it best: "From the bubblegum pink of the bellhops' uniforms to the outdoor lemonade stand and the refreshingly old-school games such as croquet and pétanque alongside the clay tennis courts and the upscale diner Norma's, The Parker is whimsical and fresh."
Now you can have your cake and eat it too at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, one of the capital's most exclusive hotels, perfectly placed in the fashion district of Sloane Street. The Chinoiserie, with its luxurious feel of the Orient, is a favorite London venue for Afternoon Tea and has recently become inspired by New York's iconic Magonia Bakery to introduce a confectionary collection of cupcakes dressed to impress. These gorgeous creations-- featuring fresh strawberries and blueberries covered with lashings of brightly coloured piped butter cream, retro marshmallow swirls, rice paper flowers and silver chocolate dragees-- are a fine summer addition to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower's famous Afternoon Tea. So you can step off London's bustling streets and relax with a fashionable treat and a pot of tea. Along with finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, you can indulge (with unashamed pleasure) in a little slice of heaven. Choose from Coconut and Blueberry, Chocolate and Mint, Chocolate-Banana and Marshmallow, and Strawberry and Cream.
The Las Vegas of the East welcomes a brand spanking new Four Seasons Hotel. Macao, the world's biggest gaming capital, has seen a slew of new luxury hotel brands from the West staking claim to a piece of this former Portuguese capital. Hot on the heels of the Wynn Macao and the Venetian Macao, the Four Seasons is making its debut in October 2008. There's even a Cirque du Soleil Macau, the first resident show in Asia. Now accepting reservations, the Four Seasons Macao-Cotai Strip has an indulgent spa (where you can adjust to the new time zone with the Revive Jet Lag treatment), a lagoon pool, and Belcanção restaurant offering cuisine reflecting Macau's Portuguese and Chinese heritage Seasons service. You can even watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Step out the door and you'll be seduced by the colourful fusion of culture in Macau (not to mention the duty-free designer shopping and larger-than-life entertainment).