December 1, 2011
By: Christopher Roney
I’m not sure there’s a city in the world that gets stereotyped more than Munich. While it’s certainly iconic for the fine German beer that flows freely from its taps, Munich is so much more than gardens of alcohol. Long the seat of Bavarian culture, Munich is the center of German tradition. For a lot of us that means fine beer and maidens donning dirndls, the traditional Bavarian dress you’ve seen in every German tourist brochure since Gutenberg invented the printing press. But as much as Munich has been reduced to stereotype of itself by the outside world, once you get beyond that, there’s a real heart to it. The medieval town is remarkably preserved, down to the clockwork performance of the city hall’s belltower. The English garden the accompanies is the royal residence is glorious to walk around in and even boasts its own outdoor Biergarten around a Chinese tower built in the center of it.
Of course, as much as I’d like to get beyond the stereotypes of the beer maidens handing out liters like it’s nobody’s business, I would be remiss if I didn’t go into just how the beer culture pervades this uniquely German city. Munich has embraced its stereotype, and beer houses like the iconic Hofbrauhaus offer everything that you could want out of a kitschy but simultaneously authentic drinking experience. The waitresses can carry at least eight liters of alcohol at one time, and you would be hard-pressed to find a vegetable on the menu that’s not a potato. In many ways, Munich is the distilled essence of all that is traditional about Germany.
The city itself is not large and almost any hotel will give you great access to all that it has to offer. Most of the big brands have left their mark on the city and some great independent hotels like the Bayerischer Hof join them in offering luxurious beds to sleep off your hangover. Munich is a city that revels in its wholehearted kitschiness, and there’s a certain honesty to that that draws you in the ritual of the city.
November 30, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Adrenaline-loving ski hounds looking for adventure should head over to Europe to brave the snow-covered pistes in the Alps. (Tip for travelers: the dollar-euro exchange rate hasn't looked this good in years.) Head to St. Moritz in Switzerland, long considered the birthplace of alpine tourism, to experience the "Holy Grail" of classic downhill skiing-- with 200 miles of groomed runs in four large skiing areas. Book a stay at Badrutt's Palace Hotel-- known for its glam après-ski scene and exceptional facilities-- and you'll be living large in the lap of luxury. The hotel has organized a fabulous “Heli Adventure” package with a helicopter guide through the white peaks to let passionate skiers make their own tracks in untouched snow. In addition to the exclusive helicopter trip, this package includes a three-night stay with half board and a ski pass for the whole region, as well as a classic relaxation massage to help soothe tired muscles. The package starts at CHF 2,140 (approx $2,338 US) per person for a double room.
Just an hour west from Washington D.C., the rolling hills of Virginia's Piedmont make for a fantastic day trip or weekend outing from the nation's capital. A number of vineyards offer wine tastings (in Loudoun, Fauquier, and Rappahannock Counties), and for those seeking adventure, excellent hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains abound. This is horse country (read: you should dress the part) so pick up some threads in the charming stores that line Middleburg's main drag, where you'll also find all kinds of organic goodies at the Home Farm Store (Ayrshire Farm's gourmet retail shop). For a sweet treat and an excellent cup of coffee, Warrenton's Red Truck Bakery is *the* place to go.
Looking for a place to stay in the countryside? Folks make pilgrimages to The Inn at Little Washington in Rappahannock County for some of the best food you'll eat in the US of A. Another good bet: The Goodstone Inn and Estate, recently profiled by the good folks at Daily Candy. To quote: "Pretend you’re visiting a rich uncle’s estate at the welcoming Goodstone Inn & Restaurant. Book a room in the carriage house for breathtaking views or gather a weekend party group to rent an entire house (bonus: A chef can make your meals using local ingredients and freshly picked veggies from the garden). Then unwind in the spa or stroll the grounds to visit with farm animals."
For more information about visiting Virginia, check out Virginia is for Lovers, the Official Tourism Website of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Need to get cleaned up for your company's annual holiday party? Hot-foot it to The Langham London, where you'll get a serious pick-me-up at the swank Chuan Spa.* They've just launched a revolutionary new spa treatment... and jade stones are involved. Long prized in China by the Imperial Court (and crafted into objets d'art by skilled artisans), jade is celebrated for its healing and restorative properties. The 75-minute Chuan Yu Facial is designed for the ultimate in skin rejuvenation, using jade to stimulate and massage facial acupoints with the Ancient Gua Sha technique-- one of China’s traditional national therapies used by Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors for relieving blocked meridians. The facial eliminates toxins and improves blood circulation- meaning you'll look and free great. Starting off with a short breathing ritual to aid relaxation, the treatment also includes a nourishing face mask, a full facial hydrating ritual and ear auricular therapy to help stimulate internal organs. The Chuan Yu facial costs £100.
*The Langham's Chuan Spa opened earlier this year to much fanfare.
November 21, 2011
By: Christopher Roney
We’re proud to announce that the Keswick Hall at Monticello is now offering specially exclusive Five Star Alliance rates, and I, for one, am tickled pink at the thought of heading down there. Located in Monticello, Keswick makes its home in a region fit to hold the house of many a founding father in its rolling landscape. The father found the most around Keswick is Thomas Jefferson himself, the author of the Declaration of Independence and famous as a collector of books. Keswick reinvigorates the 18th century equestrian lifestyle with modern amenities, supplementing hiking, biking, and fly fishing with its very own 18-hole golf course and luxurious spa. Framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll never feel more at home at a traditionally American hotel.
And these special rates just sweeten the deal. We know you love free things, so good through 2012, Five Star Alliance guests who book our rate get a free room upgrade on arrival and a wine tasting for two. The room upgrade is subject to availability, of course, and the wine tasting is subject to your desire to enjoy some seriously fine American wines in the Virginia tradition. So if your idea of a vacation is getting away with that special someone and enjoying a glass of fermented grape, look no further than the Keswick Hall at Monticello.
November 17, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Raise your glass to the days of Prohibition on Repeal Day, December 5. The Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel-- the storied address where Charles "Lucky" Luciano gathered a group of gangsters for the first-ever "Crime Convention" in 1923-- is a fitting place to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. (Al Capone was also a regular at the Blackstone's barbershop and "The Untouchables," documenting Scarface's rise to power in Chitown, was filmed at the Blackstone.) With the "Good to be a Gangster" package, you can snag a great hotel deal in Chicago along with all kinds of goodies. What's more, the Blackstone's restaurant will be serving up all kinds of special cocktails for Repeal Day 2011 (think Mint Julep and gin-based Snowballs). Starting from $189 per night and valid through March 2012 based on availability, the package includes:
* Overnight accommodations * Two tickets to the Gangster Tour where guides named "Al Dente" and "Shoulders" uncover the secrets of the city's most notorious sites * A copy of Get Capone signed by author Jonathan Eig * A copy of Ken Burns' Prohibition on DVD * A Prohibition Cocktail in the hotel's Mercat a la Planxa restaurant
November 7, 2011
By: Five Star Alliance
Let it snow! November means it’s time to take advantage of some early-season ski deals so you can hit the powder fast. Without a doubt, the best place to embrace the winter is our neighbor to the north. Canada’s pristine wilderness is home to the number one ski resort in North America (Whistler), and Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a storybook winter setting in the Canadian Rockies. Here, the wide-open wilderness makes for some epic skiing on what feels like your very own private pistes.
Fairmont offers three legendary resorts where skiers and non-skiers alike revel in luxury while soaking up the surrounding natural beauty. Styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs resort is located in the heart of the park with three pristine ski resorts at your doorstep. With the “Couples Holiday Getaway,” you get a third night for free when you stay for the festive Christmas season between December 17th and December 30th, 2011. Another hot offer: With “Extend Your Stay,” you’ll get discounts until February 10, 2012. Stay two nights and save 25% off each night when you stay two nights; 30% off each night when you stay three nights; 35% off each night when you stay four or more nights.
Also located in Banff National Park, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the ultimate winter playground. Oft described as Canada’s most scenic ski resort, the Lake Louise Ski Resort has 139 marked ski runs and back bowls on four mountain faces. Beyond skiing, the snow adventures are endless-- from dog sledding the Great Divide to horse-drawn sleigh rides through the glacial shadows. Take advantage of the resort’s “Ski & Play for Free” and you’re guaranteed the ski trip of a lifetime. Included in the package: luxury accommodations, two adult Lake Louise Ski Resort passes per room per night OR a $100 Fairmont Chateau lake Louise resort credit (in place of each ski day), plus transportation to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Valid from November 15th, 2011 until May 1st, 2012, starting from $299 CAD per night.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler-- nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain-- offers ski-in/ski-out access, amenities for pets, and a lavish spa. The “Ski for Free” package means you get Whistler Blackcomb lift tickets included with your low room rates (from $269 CAD per night) until November 23, 2011. Or book the “Everyone's An Original Winter Offer “ for double airline reward miles.
October 20, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Autumn could be the best season to visit Tuscany. The sun is shining, the tourist crowds have dispersed, and truffle foraging is in full swing. Not to mention the brilliant hues of the fall foliage. Just outside of Florence, Il Salviatino invites guests for a "Taste of Tuscany" until November 30, 2011. You'll tour a vineyard, taste local wines, go hunting for truffles, and sample the region's best seasonal delights while staying in luxury at the hotel named "Hideaway of the Year" in the 2011 Andrew Harper Grand Award Winners. Nestled in the rolling Tuscan hills, Il Salviatino is housed in a 15th century villa with original frescoes and Italian gardens-- and offers spectacular views of Florence. Starting from 1,920 euros, the "Taste of Tuscany" package includes:
* Two nights accommodation in a Deluxe Room * Breakfast for two daily * A seasonal dinner at Le Serre with a bottle of Tuscan wine * Truffle foraging for half a day * A vineyard tour and wine tasting * A spa treatment each in the award-winning Thai Devarana spa * Service and tax
October 13, 2011
By: Oksana Balytsky
Are you an avid exerciser who doesn’t like to give up working out when you’re traveling and away from home? We definitely understand the need to keep up with your routine while still enjoying the beautiful city you’re in, so we’d like to introduce you to hotels that offer you an opportunity to exercise that’s a bit different from your typical access to a treadmill, elliptical, and a few weights in a hotel gym.
Today’s featured luxury hotel is the NH Lingotto in Turin, Italy, and its exercise facility is sure to be unlike any other you’ve seen. The hotel is situated in the former Fiat automobile factory, and the redesign of the entire space has made the NH Lingotto a striking blend of the modern and historic. The hotel’s first floor connects to a shopping gallery, with various boutiques and cafes, while the top floor houses the incredible Pinacoteca Giovannie Marella Agnelli art gallery. Aside from these luxurious amenities, the NH Lingotto also has 240 beautiful rooms and suites and a 1,030 meter running track on the roof that was formerly a Fiat car-testing track. This track allows you to exercise outdoors while taking in the most magnificent views of Turin, Italy.
So whether you’re a serious runner or simply enjoy going for a walk, consider checking into the NH Lingotto and checking out the outdoor track for some fresh air and a unique exercise opportunity that’s quite outside the norm.
By: Oksana Balytsky
October 4, 2011
By: Oksana Balytsky
We understand that no one aims to come in second place; there is no recognition for mediocrity. We at Five Star Alliance understand better than anyone the importance of offering the most luxurious resorts in the world, so we notice what’s going on in the industry, and it matters to us, because it matters to you. We’d like to welcome you to our new blog series, Best of the Best, where we’ll be featuring the best and most luxurious resorts in various categories. But don’t take our word for it. These resorts have been recognized as the best in the business by the prestigious World Luxury Hotel Awards, so you can relax and stop worrying about your upcoming trip, knowing that it truly will be the best of the best.
Today’s featured luxury hotel is the King George Palace, recipient of the Best Scenic View award in 2011. Located on Constitution Square, just steps from the Greek Parliament, this luxurious resort offers the best of Athens. Not only has the King George Palace received the prestigious award for hotel offering the best scenic view by the World Luxury Hotel Awards, but it has also been distinguished as one of the best hotels in Greece. This luxury boutique hotel has been home to Kings, Princes, and Presidents since the 1930s, and it will surely be your best home away from home. Be sure to visit the Acropolis, see the Parthenon, and stroll through the Agora, Athens’ central market. As your day draws to an end and as the sun is setting, dine at the rooftop restaurant of the King George Palace, and prepare to have your breath taken away by the incredible view of this phenomenal city.
By: Oksana Balytsky