December 28, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The secret's out about the charming city of Tallinn, long adored by touring Finns and visitors from other Baltic countries (just a quick 50 mile hop across the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki). Because easyJet started flying to Tallinn in 2004, "the Estonian capital has become the Las Vegas of the Baltics," so says The New York Times, which urges getting there fast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town is a picturesque and well-preserved historical masterpiece full of turreted castles, Gothic spires, and winding cobblestone alleyways. The place to stay is Hotel Telegraaf, the city's only member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Located in the heart of Old Town, the hotel is housed in a 19th century building which used to be the city's telephone exchange station. The facade is elegant; the interiors are luxurious. The Hotel Telegraaf joins the Three Sisters Hotel as the finest in the city (both hotels have the same owners). After an extensive refurbishment, the Hotel Telegraaf opened in November 2006 with 86 rooms, the indulgent Elemis Spa, and the Tchaikovsky restaurant, serving fine Russian cuisine. A word of caution: avoid the booming tourist trap during sultry summer weekends. It's best to travel to Tallinn in the late spring, early summer, or early fall, when the days are still warm, but the tourist droves have vanished.
Noteworthy: This beautiful city has become a tech capital for the region, so you won't have a hard time finding a WiFi spot.
December 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Adrian Zecha's elegant beachfront masterpiece is certainly a South Beach hot spot, beloved by celebs. The Setai is located in the middle of it all on Collins Avenue, close to the area's best dining, shopping, and nightlife. Since its opening in 2005, the hotel has been heating things up in Miami with its intimate ambience, impeccable service, superb spa, and star-studded facilities. Set amidst tropical gardens and turquoise pools next to the ocean, The Setai boasts exquisite accommodations-- 75 guestrooms and 45 suites stacked with amenities: espresso machines, in-room bars, Bose surround-sound DVD/CD systems, deep soaking tubs and rain showers, luxurious bath products, and flat screen LCD and plasma TVs. But perhaps the most exquisite accommodations of all is the palatial Penthouse: 10,000 square feet of heaven with a rooftop pool and sweeping panoramas of the ocean, beach and Miami skyline. It's the ideal spot for receptions, parties and other special events. This regal four-bedroom penthouse goes for a mere $25,000 a night (and that doesn't include tax).
December 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Hip, stylish, and of course the most glamorous rendezvous in town: Felix is Hong Kong's place to see and place to be seen. Created by celebrity designer Philippe Starck, Felix sits on the 28th floor of The Peninsula, long renowned as one of the best hotels in the world. The "Grande Dame of the Far East" is legendary for its opulent rooms, fleet of Rolls-Royce limousines, helicopter shuttle service, and celebrated Peninsula service. The dining experience at Felix is thrilling not only for the contemporary cuisine (try crispy Indonesian crab cakes, grilled Ahi steak, honey tempura King Prawns, and pan fried foie gras with marinated figs) but because of the setting: sexy interiors and lighting, plus sweeping views of the harbor and Hong Kong's skyline. (Did I mention the people watching?) Open daily for dinner from 6 pm to 11 pm; last drinks at 2 am. Dress is "smart casual." Needless to say, reservations are essential.
December 21, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Ice hotels, ice bars, ice spas, luxury igloos... The opulent Four Seasons Hotel George V has jumped on the fashionably-freezing bandwagon. The first ice bar in Paris was opened at the trendy Kube Hotel in the 18th arrondissement. Hipsters flock to this cutting-edge design boutique. Entrance to the Ice Kube GreyGoose vodka bar is EUR 38 for 30 minutes with a limited capacity of only 20 peeps; reservations required. Now the George V has followed suit. According to the NYT:
It's official, freezing is in fashion. Last month in Paris, the Four Seasons Hotel George V opened a luxury ice bar, bringing a Gallic twist to a Nordic novelty. The bar was built entirely of ice in a refrigerated cube in the hotel’s courtyard. Guests are given a black rabbit-fur Kaufman Franco poncho for their 30-minute session inside the boudoir-style interior, which is kept at a frosty 18 degrees. While the hors d'oeuvres won't cure frostbite (ice bars and sorbet), the flavored vodkas (ginger, cinnamon and vanilla among others) served at the glacial bar just might. The bar is open daily, 6 to 11 p.m. until Jan. 15, and the entrance fee of 55 includes drinks and amuse bouches. Reservations are required.
Foodies rejoice! From Sunday, January 7 through Friday, January 12, 2007, gourmands will delight in San Diego's third annual Restaurant Week, where over 125 restaurants will offer special fixed price, three course dinner menus for just $30 or $40 per person. This is a steal considering the participating restaurants are stars on the county's culinary scene. At award-winning A.R. Valentien, for example, guests can indulge in an exquisite menu including such items as the homemade Charcuterie Plate for starters, followed by the Roasted Vande Rose Pork Loin with Red Wine Braised Cabbage, Apple, Frisee and Toasted Hazelnuts, and the Boca Negra with Mocha Cream to finish. For this weeklong culinary celebration, reservations are highly recommended.
It's official. Ski season has begun on the fashionable slopes of Courcheval, where the hip and fabulous flock to the world's largest ski area, situated in the heart of Les Trois Vallées. Where to stay? The ski resort of Le Mélézin, operated by Amanresorts, is an elegant bastion of exclusivity set directly on the slopes overlooking the Alpine village of Courcheval. The 31 guest rooms and suites, finished in red cedar, offer views of the ski slopes and surrounding peaks. (23 rooms feature balconies.) The main salon, with its open fireplace and cozy ambience, is a popular après-ski gathering place for cocktails and conversation (not to mention the mountain vistas). The Turkish-style hammam, spa, Jacuzzis, gym, and pool offer the ultimate in après-ski. The winter season runs until April 10, 2007.
Overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden in the heart of Westminster, 51 Buckingham Gate oozes luxury. Three townhouses, 84 spacious suites and apartments, a team of Ivor Spencer-trained personal butlers: this is central London's perfect five-star address. The flagship property in the West for Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, 51 Buckingham Gate is also the premier example of eco-friendly hotels raising the bar for the hospitality industry with impressive eco initiatives. The hotel embraces the corporate environmental policy-- Eco Taj-- which focuses on energy and water conservation, recycling projects, and the purchase of eco-products. The Spa at Fifty-One, included in Harpers and Queen's Worlds 100 Best Spas, is the only spa in England to offer pure and chemical-free Sodashi spa treatments. The courtyard garden is fully organic. And since 2005, the hotel has reduced energy consumption by more than 22 percent, cut natural gas consumption by more than 32 percent, and lowered water usage and costs by 25 percent. In 2004, 51 Buckingham Gate won two prestigious accolades for its continuing implementation of eco-friendly initiatives: The Considerate Hotel of the Year and the Environmentally Friendly Hotel of the Year for 2004.
Move over, Dubai. Europe's getting its very own seven-star hotel, the Town House Galleria, in Milan. The hotel's developers opened its doors on Friday, December 15 for the general public to view the premises before the March 2007 opening date. Overlooking Milan's Duomo Cathedral and La Scala opera house, Town House Galleria is located in the second and third floor of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan's world-renowned historic shopping arcade. After a large renovation, the landmark building still showcases historic architectural features like the hand painted vaulted ceilings and large shuttered windows. The hotel will feature only 24 suites, and promises the highest level of personal service. Currently the world's only seven star hotel exists in-- where else?-- Dubai. (The sail-shaped Burj al Arab has been the scene of many ingenius photo ops: Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi practicing their game from the helipad, 692 feet above the Arabian Gulf.)
Old-school luxury hoteliers bemoan this latest marking gimmick of the seven-star hotel; after all, there is no standard worldwide hotel rating system, and European hotels officially can only earn five stars. But apparently this is just the beginning of a new flood of "seven star" hotels which will glut the luxury market as the super-rich elite strive to distinguish themselves among the top-tier echelons of high-rollers. Versace fashion house is scheming to open a dozen worldwide.
After an $85 million upgrade, The Ivy Hotel will open in February 2007 as a "new luxury urban resort" in San Diego. A member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, The Ivy is being billed as a "posh, adult playground...focused on luxury, pleasure, and decadent surprises." Located next to the Gaslamp Quarter at 6th Avenue and F Street, the hotel strives for an unique aesthetic, seeking to combine "New York style and chic, Las Vegas vibe and energy and L.A.'s casual elegance." The original building, once the crown jewel of downtown San Diego, has experienced a makeover; the interior spaces are all about contemporary luxury, with the most up-to-date technology. There will be 159 rooms including two presidential suites and one signature suite (boasting two levels and a spiral staircase leading to a private poolside cabana). Other facilities include the 17,000 square foot rooftop with pool, sundeck, and sultry Eden bar, Envy nightclub, Quartier Kitchen fine dining restaurant, and 10,000 square feet of meeting and function space.
The west coast of Thailand-- including the tourist-adored islands of Phuket and Khao Lak-- took a beating after the disastrous tsunami of December 2004. At the time, The Sarojin was just about to open its doors: a luxury boutique hotel planted on ten acres of gorgeous beachfront. Now, after extensive repairs of the damage sustained by the tsunami's aftermath, The Sarojin has opened as one of the hottest properties of the year. (It's already racking up the awards, including "Asia's Leading Boutique Hotel" from the World Travel Awards 2006, and Conde Nast Traveler 2006 Hot List.) The Sarojin is located an hour north of Phuket, situated inside the Khao Lak National Park, where beaches, cascading waterfalls, wildlife, and spectacular primary forest lure visitors. Just steps from the breathtaking beach and turquoise Andaman Sea, The Sarojin consists of 56 guest residences nestled within expansive garden grounds with winding walkways and lotus pools. If you can tear yourself away from your residence (which boast private sundecks with intimate couples' baths, rainfall showers, and plunge pools), there are recreational activities aplenty: scuba and snorkeling cruises, sea kayaking, sailing, fitness center, infinity pool, Thai cooking classes, and farther afield: elephant trekking and bamboo rafting. Not to mention the beautiful spa.