February 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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
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
Head west from the Cancun airport, away from the glass and glitz of Mexico's cheesy Caribbean resort capital, and colonial Mexico will hit you smack in the face. The less touristed towns of Merida and Campeche—with cobblestone streets lined by palms and colorful pastel facades and ornate wrought-iron lampposts—are just a few hours drive from the more crowded Disney-esque capital of booze, surf and sun. Here you can discover the exquisite culinary delights (tacos al pastor are my absolute fave), rich history and stunning and secluded Mayan ruins of the Estado de Campeche. The ruins at Palenque and the jungle-shrouded Calukmul are empty compared to Chichen-Itza and sea-facing Tulum. Where to stay? The Hacienda Uayamon is a gracious colonial masterpiece, its ten villas and two suites complete with terraces overlooking the lush jungle gardens, stone plunge pools and day-beds for dreamy afternoon siestas.
The Hacienda Uayamon, Official Site
The Hacienda Uayamon, Five Star Alliance
January 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The all-suite Conrad London, in a choice spot overlooking the Chelsea Harbour and River Thames, has the perfect solution to banish the winter blues. Give yourself the "Luxury Gift" package, which includes a night in a suite, a 3-course dinner with a glass of champagne, plus a full English breakfast for 2 people and a plush bathrobe for each guest to take away. Available until March 31, 2006; Prices are GBP270 for a city view suite and GBP300 for a marina view suite.
Even the classy and elegant Hotel Meurice has stooped to a new, commercial low. Maybe it's still reeling from the fines imposed by the French government for price-fixing, searching for new ways to lure American pocketbooks. But I'm simply amazed by the latest promotion offered by the classic Parisian hotel. Yes, the Da Vinci Code is a fun read, and the movie (with an all-star cast) promises to be even better. But tours of the best museum in the world catering to the fictional thriller?! It seems akin to the Parisians welcoming McDo to a spot in the Tulieries. If I can't thwart your enthusiasm, here are the dreadful details:
The "Da Vinci Package" includes accommodations, American breakfast (of course), Private guided tour of the Louvre Museum and the St Sulpice Church, and a special Da Vinci commemorative gift. Starting at EUR 702 a night, for a minimum stay of two nights, valid until December 28th, 2006.
Hotel Meurice, Official Site
Hotel Meurice, Five Star Alliance
The best part of winter (besides hitting the slopes or lounges in Aspen, Jackson Hole or Zermatt, of course) are the special offers wheeled and dealed by luxury hotels in order to fight the vacancies of their shoulder seasons. Nothing like a free night at one of the best hotels in Europe to entice a winter-weary traveler for a luxurious long weekend. At the Hotel Majestic, guests are pampered in a destination hotel that is smack in the middle of all that's cool in Barcelona: Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, Gaudi's strange and marvelous architecture. The rule may even apply to the most glorious and fashionable penthouse in the city, with its whopping 3,230 sq ft of space. From now until the end of February, take advantage of the 3x2 Offer, where guests are awarded with a free night after paying for two. And the weather map in the International Herald Tribune this morning seems to suggest that guests could even marvel at the panoramic city-view from the rooftop pool and solarium right about now (Spain is blessed with some remarkably mild winter temps.)
Hotel Majestic, Official Site
Hotel Majestic, Five Star Alliance
Get yourself to the metropolis of music for the 2006 gala for Wolfgang Amadeus' 250th birthday. In Salzburg, the composer's birthplace, the entire city has become a stage, with 55 first performances, 36 operas, 260 concerts, and exhibitions galore. Soak up that culture-- just revel in it!-- while spoiling yourself at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, located in the heart of the city on the banks of the Salzach River. The preferred hotel of statesmen and royal families, the turn-of-the-century Grand Hotel has a long tradition of luxury and style, usually booked solid during the annual Salzburg Festival. Of course, it's the place to stay during Mozart's birthday extravaganza.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Official Site
Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Five Star Alliance
This year, Valentine's specials abound, but this is one of my favorites, found where else… but in the most romantic setting of them all, the City of Light. The very popular Pavillon de la Reine—located in the Marais district in the heart of Paris-- has created a special package this year that would make even a few days trip across the Pond worthwhile. Small and charming, yet offering all the luxurious amenities of a grand hotel, the Pavillon is like an elegant and warm Parisian home. The Valentine's special is a steal at EUR 385 per night in a Junior Suite (compared to the usual EUR 685), and EUR 495 per night in a Suite (how's that for savings from the usual EUR 775?) Includes accommodations, a bottle of Champagne Rosé, Fine Chocolates and Roses, a Continental or Buffet breakfast, and a surprise gift from Tiffany and Co. for your special Valentine. Offer valid from Feb 9th to February 20th, based upon availability.
Pavillon de la Reine, Official Site
Pavillon de la Reine, Five Star Alliance
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.)
January 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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