Hot off the press. Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report-- a connoisseur's worldwide guide to peaceful and unspoiled places-- just released the list of 2008 Grand Award Winners. (Subscription to this monthly pub, targeting the affluent traveler, costs $499 per year.) The elite bunch in the U.S. and Canada that snagged the award? British Columbia's Wickaninnish Inn, The Wheatleigh in the Berkshires, Montana's Resort at Paws Up, and the Heritage House in Mendocino, Cali.
In the age when so many hotels suffer deficiencies of design-- weird showers and light configurations, complex alarm clocks, bizarre remote controls-- the new Peninsula Tokyo is absolute perfection. Not only does it have a superb location, spa, and luxurious facilities, but it also offers honest-to-goodness comfort and a true home away from home experience. As the New York Times recently raved,
There is a place, however, where many of these failings have been conquered though intuitive technology and smart design, a place marked by such endemic comfort and ease that home itself begins to seem like a downgrade. It is the newest Peninsula hotel, a 24-story building opposite Hibiya Park in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, with what may be the world's most fully thought-through hotel rooms.
The technology is mind-blowing. Phones which show the time and weather of your hometown when you call to confirm you've arrived. Adjustable humidity levels in the room. Lavazza espresso machines. No-fog television screens in the bathrooms, along with remote controls for light and music (and a unique "spa" function in the tub, which automatically softens the lights and changes the music). Skype built in to the telephones. Portable phones which work all over the hotel, and switch to cellular networks when you take them in the street.
Book the Suite Life package and get the second night free when you reserve a two-night stay. Or enjoy the Winter Escape promotion, from JPY 56,000, choose a room upgrade, or dining and spa credit-- along with complimentary daily breakfast, Internet, and access to the Fitness Club.
Celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken-- the guy who coined the term "fusion cooking"-- has returned to Key West. Recipient of numerous accolades including the James Beard award, the "Founding Father of New World cuisine" is renowned for his South Florida restaurants. Van Aken's newest venture, Tavern N Town, marks his full circle return to Key West, where he opened Louie's Backyard in the mid-80s. Located at the brand new Beachside Resort and Conference Center, the two adjoining restaurants share a two-story space, but offer different dining experiences. Tavern serves up smaller plates and more casual fare, while Town-- not yet open-- is the place for gourmet fine dining. For a true epicurean delight, choose the chef's signature dish, Pork Tenderloin Havana, served with sherry jus, plantain crema, black bean corn-salsa, pickled red onions and pan arepa. Take a seat in front of the theater kitchen (gleaming with new appliances) and get ready for the action.
January 11, 2008
By: Courtney W. May
Last month I had the chance to spend 3 days at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Amazingly, they've totally renovated all of the guest rooms since the last time I stayed (August 2004) and upgraded all of the rooms and the amenities - the older floral bedspreads that are no more. You can view all of the photos I took of my renovated room (23114) and get a better idea of what the new design offers.
The best part of the new look and feel? 2 flat screen televisions, floor-to-ceiling windows, strong wireless internet (for a fee of course), iPod docking station, friendly housekeeping and front desk, great closets and floor space. Plus the rooms generally feel and look nice to be staying in.
The cons? Because the television is so high-tech (multiple interactive channels, internet, etc), it is painfully slow to flip through the channels or find what you want quickly. This is a problem I've had at some of the best hotels - and hopefully is just a matter of time until hotels get wise to a fix. The only other con was that the bed was incredibly soft. I don't just mean kinda soft, I mean fall through the mattress soft. There was a huge down pillow-top on the mattress which was overstuffed and for that reason, pretty uncomfortable. The solution? You can take it off, but that means making the bed again for yourself. Or of course you can ask room service to do it before you arrive - which I highly recommend.
With some of the least expensive rooms on the strip when compared with comparable 4 star hotels, Mandalay Bay was well worth the price - and all guests will appreciate the renovated look and feel.
By: Courtney W. May
We're big fans of Inkaterra's rustic boutique hotel located in the heart of Machu Picchu's Historical Sanctuary. So we were thrilled to learn about the opening of Inkaterra's La Casona Hotel in Cusco, a lovely gem that's the perfect base to explore the "Lost City of the Incas." (Cusco is the gateway town to Machu Picchu.) Built over the palace of Inca Manco Capac (founder of the Inca Empire), the 16th century manor house was beautifully restored as an 11-room hotel centered around a gorgeous courtyard. Showcasing an exciting mélange of Incan cultural tradition and contemporary comforts, La Casona is the the city's first luxury boutique hotel. Amenities include wireless Internet, private butler service, open fireplaces, spacious bathrooms, iPod docking stations, and a private spa. Plus, your stay is guaranteed to be 100 percent carbon neutral. Opening is scheduled for February 2008.
Fans of Star Wars, feel the power of the force with the most interactive Star Wars Exhibit ever, while experiencing the most inviting accommodations in the city. Reserve the Star Wars package at the Loews Philadelphia hotel and enjoy two VIP tickets to the exclusive showing of the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Check out the artifacts (over 80 of them!) and 21 innovative interactive exhibits which provide a unique hands-on way of exploring the fantasy technologies depicted in the films. Then return to a feast at the award-winning SoleFood restaurant, before retiring to your deluxe accommodations at Loews. (And gasp at the views- pictured). Priced at $199, the package includes overnight accommodations for two and two VIP tickets to the exhibit-- including a Sci-Pass, good for admission to Franklin Institute exhibits, live science demos, and one show at the Fels Planetarium (a $14.50 value per adult). Valid from February 9-May 4, 2008.
Israel's leading hotel chain-- Dan Hotels-- has recently acquired a beautiful, new hotel in Jerusalem, and they need your help. The 13th hotel in the chain (along with such sophisticated properties as the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel) is temporarily named "Dan Gardens Jerusalem" but they can do much better than that. After all, this new pad has a lively bar, rooftop balcony with awesome city views, Health Club with sunbathing areas, and film-screenings in the public areas. It's a hip, contemporary spot located just opposite Mount Zion and the Old City Walls. If you're a member of the E-Dan Club, email your suggestion of a suitable name to hotelname at danhotels.co.il by January 14, 2008. If your suggestion is chosen, you'll win an Israeli holiday for two at the new hotel!
Legendary designer Jacques Garcia is at it again. He's designed the swanky new interiors for the newly-remodeled Regent Hotel, set to reclaim its place as the most majestic hotel in Bordeaux after a big restoration. But don't worry, the landmark property has faithfully retained its historic features despite its ultra-luxurious additions. Opposite the Grand Theatre (the Opera of Bordeaux), the hotel is ideally located near the upscale shopping in the Golden Triangle (think Van Cleef & Arpels, Chopard, YSL, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli...) The best part of all is the state-of-the-art spa Les Bains de Lea on the 5th and top floors, that includes a swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, and wellness center (opening later in the year). Also on site: the sophisticated L'Ocean restaurant serving innovative seafood. Slated to open in Spring 2008, the Regent Bordeaux is the best thing to come to the world's wine capital in a long time.
Party like a rock star, or just get pampered like one, at Boston's stylish boutique hotel: Nine Zero. Located just one block from Boston Common, the multi award-winning hotel combines Boston's traditional elegance with a hip vibe. Trendsetters flock to the happening bar and to the city's most coveted dining spot, Spire restaurant, named one of the "Top 50 Hotel Restaurants" by Food and Wine magazine. Book the Celebrity Weekend Package and indulge in some serious luxury in the Cloud Nine penthouse suite, which seems to float dramatically above the city on the hotel's nineteenth floor, boasting breathtaking views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. This cosmopolitan hide-out features electronic drapes, a viewing telescope, plasma screen television with surround sound, a steam shower, and Jacuzzi. This over-the-top package includes two nights accommodation, private jet plane transportation, chauffeur driver at your beck and call, Winston floral arrangement in room, Cristal & Caviar, a personal assistant, a personal hair stylist/make-up artist, in-room 5-course meal with private chef, in-room Relax & Rejuvenate massage, Barney's Personal Shopper to update your wardrobe, Intermix gift certificate, a trip to Cartier, a personal yoga session in-room, and last but not least, a slew of celebrity magazines! Priced from $19,990.
Good news from Fairmont's eco-friendly luxury hotels... Not only is Fairmont Hotels and Resorts committed to energy-efficient practices, but also green kitchen operations. When the trendy talk these days is all about lessening our carbon footprint on the planet, Fairmont is actually taking action. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is devoted to organic and sustainable local menus, as well as finding ways to run an environmentally responsible kitchen. Case in point: Fairmont locations in the Pacific Northwest which partner with Rodney Strong Vineyards, an organic wine producer that operates with solar power and takes steps to ensure soil and water conservation. And Ottawa's beautiful Fairmont Chateau Laurier is connecting local producers with businesses by hosting events such as "Farmer-Chef Meet and Greet." In British Columbia, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport and The Fairmont Empress were the first hotels to join the Ocean Wise program run by the Vancouver Aquarium which promotes the use of sustainable seafood. In Bermuda, the chefs at The Fairmont Southampton and The Fairmont Hamilton work closely with local fishermen to source a variety of line-caught fish. Even the staff cafeteria at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise creates eco-friendly menus focused on locally-grown and organic ingredients. And get this-- starting this year, the Fairmont Newport Beach will hire a "local forager" to visit local organic produce markets to buy choice goods for the hotel. Bravo.