January 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Informed by a well-traveled reader, I couldn't keep the secret. For your next perfect business meeting or conference in Europe, look no farther than the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao. Chic, cosmopolitan and itself a figurehead of design, Silken's first five star hotel sits opposite the Museum Guggenheim, incorporating the architecture of its breathtaking neighbor. World-famous designer Javier Mariscal has mastered the design concept, the interior space paying homage to 20th century design with emblematic furniture. The atrium is pretty cool too: a Mariscal sculpture, the Fossil Cypress, stands tall and actually reaches the skylight. The bar is properly swank, 135 guestrooms have gorgeous views of the Guggenheim, and all meeting rooms incorporate the finest in technology (interactive television and audio equipment, wifi and all that jazz.)
How's this for Valentine's magic. Roundtrip airfare to London, three nights in one of Red Carnations unique and wonderfully-located London hotels, welcome drinks and full breakfast each day, all for $620 per person. Added bonus is early check-in and late check-out. My choice? The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, overlooking Kensington Palace, with its intimate boutique environment and superlative service. Can't escape for Valentine's? Breathe easy because this deal is available through the end of March.
The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, Official Site
The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, Five Star Alliance
Discover the "Lost City of the Incas" and the incredible natural beauty of the Amazon Basin while cocooned in luxurious comfort at this rustic boutique hotel. Located in the heart of Machu Picchu's Historical Sanctuary in the cloud forest (formerly known as Aguas Calientes), the hotel consists of 83 rooms and suites set in whitewash cottages spread over 12 acres of streams, waterfalls and lush forest, reached by stone walkways. The hotel itself is the setting for enormous biodiversity: the world's largest collection of native orchids (372 species) as well as wild hummingbirds and butterflies. Rooms are charming yet sumptuous, decorated with local handcrafted Andean architecture, alpaca bedspreads, and deluxe kits of handmade, organic amenities and aromatherapy products. Likewise, the utterly-divine spa incorporates a mystical Andean approach, with 100% natural botanical products.
Consider this. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame without the summer hordes. No line at Andre's in
Atlantic-facing La Rochelle for a sumptuous poisson feast (or other decadent items from the tempting menu du jour), while gazing at the ancient ramparts and centuries-old towers jutting over the sparkling sea, even the gargoyles seeming to smile down in languid contentment. Indeed the crowds have evaporated, leaving the majestic Loire chateaux and even Versailles empty for the taking (and gaping). The icing on the cake? A temperate climate that never sees the ghastly winter lows of Washington DC, so one could even score a bit of a sun tan basking in the sun (while bundled in a trendy winter coat, of course.)
Interested in the pictured Chateau? It's dreamy, and just a hop from Bordeaux and Cognac.
Imagine our delight at hearing the recent industry buzz. After all, the Hotel de Crillon is easily our favorite hotel in Paris, and maybe in the whole of Europe. The perfect location, awash in elegance and history, with dynamite service (these guys know how to take care of you) and pretty swell dining. I'd be happy camping out here for a few days, instead of that Canal St Martin apartment. And this marvelous Palace hotel is to be the flagship of the new Crillon brand, launched by Barry Sternlicht, the former chief executive of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. Their mission is to bring Crillon style European elegance to hotels around the world. God bless.
Hotel de Crillon, Official Site
Hotel de Crillon, Five Star Alliance
January 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
You're invited... to the most fabulous, romantic Valentine's celebration in LA (after you pony up $275 per person, of course). At the Couples Champagne Dinner, served in the private garden room of the legendary Hotel Bel-Air, Veuve Clicquot will be featuring 7 of their high-end vintages, paired with each course. Divine menu items include Maine Lobster, Cream of Peas and Baby Mache, served with Veuve Clicquot la Grande Dame Rosé, 1995.
Hotel Bel-Air, Official Site
Hotel Bel-Air, Five Star Alliance
January 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Alps are melting. According to an important feature in the February issue of National Geographic (RUN, don't walk, to the newsstand for this one), scientists are estimating that "the Alps have lost half their glacier ice in the past century, 20 percent of that since the 1980s; glaciers in Switzerland have lost a fifth of their surface area in the past 15 years." The glaciers are receding—driving some resort owners to drastic measures like buying white blankets to cover 15 acres of glacier during the summer—and the snow has stopped falling. Which isn’t helped by the 12 million trucks and 50 million cars that cross the Alps each year, their fumes trapped in a nasty greenhouse of emissions within the valleys. This is more than bad news for the region that worldwide symbolizes a wondrous winter playground for international jetsetters and local farmers alike. There are 600 ski resorts nestled in this dramatic mountain range that stretches across eight nations, half of which are predicted to close in the coming decades. For those passionate about Alpine adventures, this means adopting a philosophy of environmental sustainability while packing your bags ASAP for St. Moritz. Badrutts Palace Hotel, of course, here in the birthplace of the Alps winter tourism.
Located on the Big Island's Kohala coast, the AAA five-diamond resort is surrounded by a lush volcanic landscape chock full of waterfalls, rainforests, active lava flows and even snow-capped mountains. And Mauna Lani is a destination even among these wonders, recognized worldwide (almost suffocating with accolades) for its 25,000 sq ft spa, top tennis facilities at the Sport and Fitness Club, and white sand beach, where lucky guests can witness the whale migration just offshore. Escape this winter to an ocean view room or private bungalow, and get a fifth night free! In addition, the hotel is offering a $100-$200 per room per night resort credit (depending on room type) for stays March 1-May 30. But hurry! You must book the "Springtime Early Bird Special" by the end of Jan.
Mauna Lani, Official Site
Mauna Lani, Five Star Alliance
27 holes of championship golf in the sultry desert heat at The Phoenician. Nine gorgeous pools overlooking Camelback mountain and the red rock desert landscape. A phenomenal spa. And the city's dazzling culinary display and rockin nightlife. Now couldn't be a better time to visit Scottsdale. If those aren't reasons enough: the legendary destination resort recently completed a $20 million makeover. Guestrooms and casitas are all newly furnished (bed linens, wall hangings, artwork all in earthy desert tones), with divine new beds, and loads of new technology and upgraded bathroom fixures (lighting, floor-to-ceiling Italian marble, oversized tubs.) Of course the lobby, lounges, restaurants and public areas weren't overlooked, and the Spa and Fitness Facility was injected with a healthy $250,000 of new stairmasters, ellipticals, Life Fitness strength training machines and 15" individual televisions in all cardio equipment. The best part of the makeover? The Oasis swimming pool complex with new poolside cabanas, all new surfacing and decking, teak outdoor furniture, and underwater sound.
Via Travel and Leisure February issue
The Phoenician, Official Site
The Phoenician, Five Star Alliance
January 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
HotelChatter gives us the scoop about the Waldorf, just as the Hilton Hotel Corp. announces its new lux brand: The Waldorf-Astoria collection. The timing couldn't be worse. Now the Grand Wailea, Arizona Biltmore, and La Quinta Resort and Club, along with New York's legendary hotel-- slated to be newly managed by Hilton under this exclusive new brand-- will be stained by the very same Waldorf name. Talk about a PR nightmare.