June 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Stockholm's Hotel Rival is the epitome of cool. Hip, lively, colorful, and chic, the city's first boutique hotel is a modern masterpiece of design. (As to be expected of one of Sweden's finest hotels.) On a recent visit to the Hotel Rival, I decided I could camp out there for quite a while. Whether it be in the lobby (swooning over the stylish furniture), on-site bakery (stuffing my face with homemade breads and tasty pastries), the gorgeous bar (pretty-people-watching), or the on-site cinema (oohing and ahing a little bit more), I found the Hotel Rival to be the kind of friendly and exciting boutique that every city should wish for.
On the way to the hotel, flying over the islands that make up Stockholm's archipelago, my taxi driver told me that Paris Hilton much prefers the Hotel Rival to her Daddy's Hilton, right next door. No surprise there. Paris isn't the only one who adores the Hotel Rival. From Pop stars to business-folk, the hotel's clientele keep coming back for the thoughtful service, cutting-edge technology, and careful attention to detail. Of course there's also the star factor. This crib belongs to Benny Andersson, the ABBA legend. The Swedish version of Mama Mia! has recently debuted in Stockholm, much to the city's delight, and CDs (along with ABBA memorabilia) are available for purchase in the lobby.
The Hotel Rival is a major gathering place in Stockholm. The gorgeous cinema--showcasing original historical touches after its lux renovation-- is now the scene of fashion shows, parties, concerts, and film screenings. Indeed, the cinema motif is dominant in the hotel's design: the comfortable bistro features wall paneling with a mosaic of 924 film star images, and each guestroom is adorned with a scene from a vintage Swedish film, the glass-covered canvas suspended above the beds.
Ahhh the rooms. Perfectly comfortable and highly sophisticated, the guestrooms embrace a sleek modern minimalism which hasn't abandoned function over form. The DUX beds are heavenly, with luscious linens, Egyptian cotton sheets, a special pillow menu, and the signature teddy bear from Debenhams. Some rooms feature a windowed wall between the bathroom and bedroom, allowing guests to soak in the tub while gazing out into the room. Of course the guestrooms and suites are loaded with technology, from 32" plasma screen TVs, DVD/CD players (and plenty of DVD rentals), PlayStation2, and wireless internet access.
The Hotel Rival is Stockholm at its finest.
June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago
The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel’s location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Mr. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.
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?
1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting
2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.
3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.
Five Star Alliance:Anything else you would like our readers to know about you’re your property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.
In a city known for endless dining options, at one of the world's most famous hotels, a new trend made waves: guests join the Chef's Table for a tailor-made meal prepared before their eyes. The Peninsula Hong Kong offers an exquisite culinary experience hosted by the Executive Chef, Florian Trento. Witness the inner workings of a busy hotel kitchen and watch in awe as your mouth-watering personalized menu-- comprised of one course from each of the hotel's seven dining venues-- is crafted before your eyes. The gourmet delight of the Grand Chef's Table can cater up to ten guests. Sample cuisine from each of the hotel's restaurants: Chesa, Felix, Gaddi's, Imasa, The Lobby, Spring Moon and The Verandah. It is only available on request with two weeks advance notice and costs HK$48,888 (US$6,268), and includes a special gift for each guest. Also available at The Peninsula: Gaddi's Chef’s Table, which seats only four guests. Three-course lunch $88, five-course dinner $191, ten-course dinner $268. Spring Moon Chefs' Table seats up to six guests, and is available only for dinner. The six-course dinner menu costs $1,071 for one to four diners, with up to two additional diners at $268. Reservations essential.
Situated in the heart of sunny Newport Beach on 15 bayfront acres, the Balboa Bay Club and Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel on California's renowned gold coast. The AAA four-diamond winner offers 136 luxurious guestrooms, each with patio, marble bathrooms with sunken tubs, and feather-top beds. Since 1948, the "Host of the Coast" has welcomed Hollywood legends, honeymooners, and business executives to its luxurious establishment. The "First Cabin" restaurant offers al fresco dining (California cuisine) overlooking the harbor, and Dukes Place features live jazz nightly on the waterfront. The Balboa Bay Club also boasts a heated swimming pool with hydro spa and onsite spa with fitness complex. And from now until December 31, 2006, Preferred Hotels and Resorts is offering "Resort Escapes"-- with your stay at participating hotels, indulge in a $100 resort credit. When you book a two-night stay at Preferred Hotels such as the Balboa Bay Club, receive an added credit of $100 for "mood enhancers" such a warm mud bath or dinner for two. Valid until December 31, 2006.
Luxury resort and spa experts Banyan Tree have opened their Lijiang resort-- their second one in southern China-- to much fanfare and acclaim. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, in China's magnificent Yunnan province, is an 800 year old village of winding cobble-stone streets, canals, and bridges, full of charm, beautiful architecture, and cultural history. This is sacred territory, beneath the snow-capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The 55-villa Banyan Tree Lijiang reflects this rich cultural landscape, built of local materials and traditional furnishings. The highlight, of course, is the Banyan Tree signature Ryokan Spa, with world-class facilities and a spa menu featuring lavish treatments, from ancient Asian healing and relaxation to European rejuvenation therapies. In addition, the resort organizes tours and treks in Lijiang and the surrounding countryside, including such sights as Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
The award-winning Marquesa Hotel-- Key West's finest small hotel, a luxurious gem with lush gardens just steps from Duvall Street in Old Town--is home to one of the best dining experiences on the island. The 50-seat restaurant offers Contemporary American Cuisine, with specialties including Seared Brioche Dusted Yellowfin Tuna, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Marinated Key West Shrimp, along with fresh baked breads and desserts. Awards include the AAA four-diamond and the DiRona Award. And Zagat has distinguished the restaurant as one of the best hotel restaurants in the country, identifying its "sophisticated" Key West style, "beautiful" presentations, and "relaxing ambiance" as what "makes her a queen."
Bali's island paradise is about to get even more fashionable. Following the successful 2004 debut of the Bulgari Hotel Milan, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts has been designing its second luxury hotel masterpiece, this time perched on a cliff in exclusive isolation overlooking the Indian Ocean. The all-villa retreat will wow guests in October with its traditional Balinese architecture fused with contemporary design. The 59 villas are free standing, luxuriously private, and feature exquisite Balinese antiques, open-air pavilions, terraces, private plunge pools, and of course luxurious Bulgari amenities. For the ultimate in exclusivity, choose the 1,300 sq meter Bulgari Villa, with its two master bedrooms, living room with built-in bar, dining room and home theater, along with the outdoor meditation pavilion, lap pool and extensive terrace. In addition, the Bulgari Resort, Bali will feature a dazzling oceanfront spa, two restaurants, private beach, and a Bulgari store.
There's a lot of buzz about New Zealand-- above and beyond the publicity generated by the Lord of the Rings flicks. Everyone's talking about this little island nation on the far south end of the Pacific. (Indeed, Conde Nast readers rated the country the #1 holiday destination in the world.) No matter what the season, New Zealand has it all: breathtaking scenery, recreational activities galore, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Easily the best place to stay on this gorgeous island nation is Huka Lodge, located in Taupo, in the central North Island, and considered one of the world's top retreats. This 20 suite lodge has racked up the awards: Travel and Leisure Top 500 list (the only property in New Zealand with this distinction), Conde Nast Traveler "Best Hotel Rooms in Australasia and South Pacific," Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report "Top 20 International Resort Hotels." And if the awards list seems impressive, you should see the famous guest-list. The guestbook reads like the party of the century.
The setting is magical. Situated in a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is just a short walk from the spectacular cascades of Huka Falls. As can be expected, activities run the gamut from tennis to petanque, hiking to trout fishing, mountain biking to relaxing in the hot pools and outdoor spa. Spacious, light guestrooms are complemented by outdoor terraces and bathrooms with under-floor heating and sunken baths.
As described recently in Stuff NZ:
Huka Lodge is New Zealand's quintessential super-lodge for the globe-trotting rich, royal and famous… Since 2001, all the guest rooms and the Owner's Cottage - the super suite perched on a rise overlooking the first set of rapids - have been rebuilt or refurbished with the difficult aim of combining the comfort of a five-star hotel with a boysy ruggedness befitting its fishing hut origins.
And the dining is exquisite. Hotel rates include pre-dinner cocktails, a five course dinner and breakfast. All meals are communal seating with some private dinning available.
After a year long renovation, the five-star Hotel de la Paix has been restored to its former glory. With over two centuries of history, the landmark building is located in the heart of Geneva at one of the city's most prestigious addresses on the shores of Lake Geneva, overlooking the majestic fountain and backdrop of Mont-Blanc. The renovation reduced the number of guestrooms from 101 to 84, which significantly enhances the space within each room. These spacious guest rooms-- with elegant furniture and an abundance of natural light-- have been updated with cutting edge technology and contemporary touches. Since the March 13th reopening, guests can return again to the hotel that has pampered a long line of royalty, philosophers, and writers over the course of its distinguished history.
May 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Visitors to Ireland who want to enjoy both the excitement of Dublin and the beauty of the countryside can now partake in the ultimate Irish vacation with the "Town and Country Experience" from Ashford Castle and The Merrion. Located on the country's west coast near Galway City, Ashford Castle is one of the most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland. Its setting is magical: the quintessential Irish pastoral of woods, lakes, rivers and mountains. Along with its delightful accommodations, Ashford Castle is renowned for its recreational activities and country sports, including fly fishing, equestrian center, nine-hole golf course, falconry and sporting clay shooting. The other participating luxury hotel is Dublin's finest five-star hotel. The Merrion is comprised of four restored Georgian townhouses, and now houses 123 guestrooms and 20 suites, the Tethra Spa, and Ireland's only two-star Michelin restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud.
The "Town and Country Experience" offers an exclusive stay at both beautiful properties, with transfers available via limousine, airplane or helicopter. There are three levels available. The Silver Experience is priced at EUR 1,550 per person, based on double occupancy and includes: 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at Ashford Castle, 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at The Merrion in the Garden Wing, full lrish breakfast daily, round-trip airport transfers, welcome cocktail at both hotels, tickets for the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and The Merrion's Art Catalogue, a one-hour massage per person at both hotels, limousine transfer between both hotels, a picnic lunch for two during the transfer, choice of a one-hour Falconry lesson or golf for two with club rental at Ashford Castle. The Gold and Platinum Experiences include additional amenities, such as half-day fly fishing excursion and half-day Georgian Walking Tour in Dublin. This package is subject to availability and includes taxes.