Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces spent a mere $27.1 million for one of the hottest hotels in Sydney. On its first venture in Australia, Taj dubbed the boutique property BLUE Woolloomooloo Bay, an apt name for the luxurious marina surroundings on the Wharf at Woolloomooloo. Indeed, this is a perfect location: a hop from the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the central business and shopping districts. Distinguished among the top hotels in Sydney-- on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List it was among the "Top 3 Best Hotels for Location in Australia/South Pacific"— BLUE also has an acclaimed restaurant and bar. (The Water Bar was named one of the "Top 5 Bars in the World" by Wallpaper mag in 2004 and one of the "Top 10 Bars in the World" in 2003 by CNT.) The 100 lavish guest rooms—including 36 stunning Loft Rooms-- retain authentic characteristics from the renovated historic wharf structure, but emanate urban chic and are equipped with all the latest technology. Not to mention sensational views of Sydney Harbor.
It's not too early to start planning your summer getaway. And why not think the UK countryside? Here's a favorite spot that the mags gush and rave about-- Harpers & Queen (Nov 2005) ranks the Summer Lodge as one of the 100 Best Places in the World:
With deckchairs scattered on sprawling lawns and trays laden with afternoon tea, this wisteria-clad Relais & Chateaux hotel in the beautiful Dorset Downs feels delightfully English – an atmosphere that extends into 24 extremely pretty, individually decorated rooms and suites.
X-factor: The lovely indoor pool, which is housed in a glass conservatory that looks out on the kitchen garden.
The room to choose? Why the master bedroom, of course. Room One was originally designed for famed writer Thomas Hardy and boasts a magnificent open fireplace and four poster bed overlooking the beautifully manicured English country gardens. Though you can't go wrong with the Ivy Cottage and its private hot tub in the courtyard garden.
Summer Lodge, Official Site
Summer Lodge, Five Star Alliance
Leave it to the NYT to spill the secret: Rome in wintertime just can't be beat. Off-season hotel rates, end of season sales means shopping galore, the perfect lack of gawking crowds, and a plethora of (warm) indoor cultural activities. Where to stay? The stunning, historic Hotel de Russie (this is one of Rocco Forte's many European gems) boasts gorgeous terraced gardens and central courtyard, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city near the Spanish Steps. And the Spa—with Turkish steam bath, hydropool, jacuzzi and sauna—ain't too shabby either.
Hotel de Russie, Official Site
Hotel de Russie, Five Star Alliance
This is it. The sports event of the year and fans are already going nuts. Our advice? Get ready, set, and book those hotel ressies ASAP before rooms book up for the June games (scheduled June 9-July 9). The official site is loaded with info about this year's World Cup and its host cities of Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfurt, Kaiserlautern, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich. Our picks:
In Hamburg, head for the Raffles Vier Jahreszeiten which has been the city's symbol of impeccable service for over a century. The furnishings are exquisite: 16th and 17th century Flemish Gobelin tapestries, Baroque cupboards and Renaissance chests. (The mags Travel and Leisure and CNT also love this joint, and its kick-ass spa is listed as a Leading Spa by LHW.)
In Berlin, which is just hopping with trend-setters these days, there are a plethora of worthy establishments, including the Kempinski Hotel Bristol (with its kickin address), the Radisson SAS (with its 25 meter AquaDom cyclindrical aquarium in the lobby), and the beloved favorite, Schlosshotel Im Grunewald, the historic castle hotel that offers only 54 exclusive rooms and 12 suites, designed by the one and only Karl Lagerfeld.
In the heart of Bavaria, you simply can't go wrong with Munich's Mandarin Oriental or the Bayerischer Hof, dating from 1841 and now the country's largest privately-owned hotel (with central location and rooftop pool to boot).
Now get moving.
No joke. Private white sand beach and gorgeous tropical lagoons, luxurious rooms with ocean-view balconies, the Angsana Spa (need I say more?) and that famous Thai hospitality. All for $90 a night at the newly-renovated, newly-opened Dusit Laguna. It's back, and better than ever. Looking for a more active holiday? You name the sport. What don't they offer. Tennis, mountain biking, waterpolo, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, basketball, volleyball, sailing, kayaking, pitch and putt golf, and-- for the Frenchies-- Jeu de Boules. Rates are absolutely unbeatable (have I mentioned that they start at $90 a night?)-- including both breakfast and dinner. Book travel before June 30th, 2006.
Dusit Laguna Resort, Official Site
Dusit Laguna Resort, Five Star Alliance
TripAdvisor reviews are pretty shameful, resounding with sentiments of disappointment about the overpriced little rooms and office park location. Has the hotel slipped since it lost its Four Seasons identity? Or have the negatives always plagued this place? Though certain trademarks—awesome eats, exquisite balcony views (over the Fashion Island shopping mall, the Pacific shimmers in the distance), superior service and a damn good spa—have stuck around, despite the management change. Besides, where else is there to stay in the OC?
Now you can explore the legendary Caribbean private island resort-- considered the best place to stay the world over—by land as well as sea, by exploring the crystal-clear waters of the British Virgin Islands while onboard the luxurious 41' sailing yacht Silmaril. Peter Island, the largest private island in the BVI and accessible only by boat or helicopter, offers an exquisite Ashore/Afloat package, which includes two nights on the yacht, and two or five nights of resort accommodations. Starting at $5,571 for 4 nights stay, from Jan 4-April 30. This is romance and luxurious seclusion at its finest; the island is a stunning natural paradise of lush mountains and secluded white sand beaches. Offering oodles of watersports, divine dining and a spa—150 feet from the water— with extraordinary specialty treatments... what could get better than this?
Peter Island, Official Site
Peter Island, Five Star Alliance
Brokeback Mountain was filmed in Canada? (Ang Lee pulled a fast one on us with this Hollywood cost-cutting maneuver.) This fact doesn't seem to deter the hundreds of callers who have contacted the Wyoming tourism office, who want a little piece of that scenery. The phones are ringing off the hook and callers don't seem to give a hoot when they learn the truthful location for the set. The mountains and rugged wilderness of the "cowboy state" are just too tempting. Do you too want a piece of that scenery? The elegantly rustic cabins of the Jenny Lake Lodge, set beneath the glorious Teton range, are a good bet; satisfy your inner cowboy with trail rides, flyfishing and hiking around the Old Western style ranch. Of course you could always take it up a notch at Jackson Hole's Rusty Parrot, which is one of the country's great luxury stand-outs.
All the paparazzi images of celebs frolicking in the surf has got me thinking about St. Barts. Ah the pangs of separation after a brief jaunt a year ago. If I could have it my way, and winter the entire long, insufferable, light-less winter at this Caribbean hotspot, life would be so grand. I think I would choose Le Toiny as my camp, earning top honors on Conde Nast's 2006 Gold List (93.3 overall isn't a half-bad score, considering the rooms, service and cuisine all score perfect points). The self-contained villa-suites, influenced by the old French plantation houses, are loaded with high-tech amenities: two satellite TVs, stereo, DVD player, Bang and Olufsen telephones, CD player and fax, and fully-equipped kitchenette. From your own private plunge pool, gaze over the hilltop at the rolling green of the island and the sea beyond. Or watch a DVD from your Jacuzzi, before dining at the most magnificent restaurant on the island, Le Gaïac.
Le Toiny, Official Site
Le Toiny, Five Star Alliance
February 1, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
You can't beat the Washington Post "What's the Deal?" for superlative Weekly Travel Specials—this week's highlight a much needed Winter Spa Renewal package in the heart of California's magical Sonoma wine country. The elegant Hotel Healdsburg, set on the historic town plaza, is the setting of the much-acclaimed Dry Creek Kitchen, where famed chef Charlie Palmer goes Sonoma-fresh with local, organic ingredients. Enjoy this brilliant cuisine, gardens and pool with jacuzzi, luxurious spa, and the tranquility of Sonoma's surrounding wine country with discounts of $220 for a two-night stay. The Winter Spa Renewal package includes two nights accommodations, $500 worth of spa treatments, and breakfasts. A steal at $876 for two people, available Sunday-Thursday through March 31.
Hotel Healdsburg, Official Site
Hotel Healdsburg, Five Star Alliance