October 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Americans will spend a record $511 billion dining out this year. And prices at the country's best restaurants are skyrocketing, in part to keep up with the rising cost of high-quality, locally-grown, artisanal ingredients. Forbes has teamed up with the Zagat Survey to determine the priciest restaurants in the US, and topping the list is Masa, the NYC sushi restaurant in the Time Warner Center where the price of dinner for one is about $446. Also on the list? Napa Valley's epic French Laundry ($254 per person), Chicago's futuristic Alinea (12 and 24 course menus are $125 and $175 respectively), Philadelphia's landmark Le Bec-Fin ($120), Alex at Steve Wynn's opulent Vegas hotel ($114), and elegant Virginia establishment The Inn at Little Washington ($141).
From its perch overlooking the largest private beach on the Croisette, the Hotel Martinez reigns over the glamorous French Riviera. The legendary Art Deco palace, the glitzy hotel of choice during the Cannes film festival, is home to one of the few Givenchy spas in the world (and highly-acclaimed top-floor terrace suites that offer panoramic views of the sea from teakwood decks and sunken Jacuzzis). This New Year's Eve, the Hotel Martinez celebrates its film legacy by paying tribute to Bollywood magic. On December 31, the Hotel Martinez transforms the Salon Royal Galuchat to become a fairytale palace reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. There will be a show with dancers, acrobats, singers and musicians a la Bollywood, and a superb dinner with elegant food tastings and wine pairings prepared by chefs Christian Willer and Christian Sinicropi. The "Indian Fairytale New Year's Eve Party" includes the show, gourmet dinner including a bottle of champagne for two, wines chosen by the Master Sommelier, overnight accommodation in a Superior room, buffet breakfast in the restaurant or in-room on New Year's Day, and entry to the fitness area and sauna. The package starts at EUR 915 for two. Extra nights are available from EUR 195 per night, breakfast included.
Hot off the press. Conde Nast Traveler has announced the results of the 19th Annual Readers' Choice Awards—the largest independent poll of consumers' preferences, second in size only to the US Census. (That's a whopping 21,000 travelers voting in this year's survey.)
The number one resort in the big US of A? The perennial preference, our esteemed favorite, the gorgeous Scottsdale resort: Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. The destination spa is surrounded by the magical desert landscape and red rock mountain peaks of the American Southwest, and everything about a stay here is luxurious. An altogether sumptuous experience.
For more info about the other Readers' Choice winners (cruises, airlines, top cities), check out the November 2006 issue of the magazine, which hits newsstands on October 24. Or tune to the Travel Channel on October 25 at 8 pm (ET/PT) for the premiere of the program titled Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards.
The secret's out about Itacaré. The favorite destination of Gisele and Sean Penn—a tropical paradise of white sand, lush palms, waterfalls, mangrove swamps and turquoise waters-- will witness the hottest luxury hotel opening in 2007, with the debut of the gorgeous eco-resort Warapuru. Wallpaper* hails it as a "Bond-style hideaway" that is "set to become the country's most exclusive retreat." And to quote the Fall issue of the New York Times Style Magazine:
While progressively more luxurious eco-resorts have been opening in early-adopting regions, the boom is currently spreading to more surprising destinations — like megapolluting Brazil. "Anyone with any feeling for the world is going green," says the cult interior designer Anouska Hempel, who is at work on Warapuru, a lavish eco-resort set to open next year on Brazil's north coast; made entirely of locally sourced materials, it will have customized spa treatments using native plants.
Anouska Hempel (who did Blakes in London and The Hempel in Amsterdam) has created a modern visual masterpiece, nestled within the rainforest canopy on a unique coastline. Warapuru will have 40 pavilions, beach club, restaurants, and exclusive spa. Opening set for early 2007.
The dream team has been scheming to open a stunning all-season resort in the mountains of Idaho, and now the Fairmont Tamarack development is official. Agassi Graf Development LLC has partnered with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, who will manage the luxury hotel and residences in two locations: Tamarack's village and a mid-mountain site. The terrain is breathtaking (check out the sleek virtual brochure) and the resort promises extraordinary skiing, excellent fly fishing, a challenging Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course (with new Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf), white water rafting and watersports on the nearby rivers and Lake Cascade. To quote the daring duo:
Time together with family is one of the most treasured things in our lives. We value the days we spend together and the quality of the moments we share. We have discovered a location in the heart of central Idaho that creates the perfect backdrop for exceptional experiences and precious memories. Tamarack Resort, with its all-season landscape, provides families like ours an active outdoor lifestyle and a chance to appreciate its surrounding beauty. Fairmont Tamarack is our opportunity to share this extraordinary experience with you.
This "outdoor enthusiast's dream" is scheduled to open in 2008.
It's no wonder that one of the oldest and most exclusive luxury hotels in the world also boasts one of the best restaurants. Like the opulent hotel it occupies, Les Ambassadeurs Restaurant reflects total decadence: from the crystal chandeliers to the lavish marble interior, from the first extraordinary course to the last artfully-prepared dessert. A meal at this two-star Michelin restaurant is not just memorable; it's a once-in-a-lifetime event. This Christmas, Les Ambassadeurs features a special four-course Christmas menu at EUR 415 (exclusive of drinks).
No joke. Starwood has just announced an exclusive launch party for their aloft hotel brand with a "3-D computer generated property inside a virtual world." Preview the virtual aloft hotel in Second Life, the "virtual online world where trendsetters are flocking to exchange ideas, egos and virtual property using "avatars," or highly-customized 3D representations of themselves." Starwood's touting it as a "groundbreaking event," and Ben Folds will appear live at the virtual aloft to play brand new tracks from his upcoming release, supersunnyspeedgraphic, the lp, due in stores October 24th. To attend the big bash, send an e-mail to frontdesk at virtualaloft.com and request a "VIP invitation." The launch party will take place on October 19th, from 7-9pm EDT. You can also check out the development and building progress for aloft on their blog.
October 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Talk about a Grand Slam. Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been racking up the awards lately. It's been selected as the Best Golf Resort in the US by Travel and Leisure Golf. Readers of Travel and Leisure Family recently rated Kiawah as the Top Family Resort in the East. Golf Digest awarded the Ocean Course a perfect 5 stars rating in the "Best Places to Play," and Golf Magazine ranked the Ocean Course as No. 3 in the "Top 100 You Can Play," ahead of Pinehurst and Torrey Pines. And Tennis Magazine ranked Kiawah as the number one resort. Wow.
After $177 million in renovations since 1997, including the addition of the gorgeous luxury hotel The Sanctuary, Kiawah has dazzled its guests with gracious hospitality and superb facilities. Families are attracted to the excellent recreational activities, including beach, biking, tennis, and fabulous children's programs. And golfers are lured to the five world-championship courses, including the famed Ocean Course, recently redesigned by Pete Dye with a $4 million overhaul (the 18th green is now right next to the ocean). There's a brand new, 24,000 sq-foot Club House in the works, with wrap-around porches overlooking the dunes, slated to open in May 2007 in time for the PGA Senior Open Championship. Kiawah has a number of excellent Fall Golf Packages, which include three nights accommodations, breakfast and dinner, and all greens fees for three rounds of golf. Starting from $313, per person, per night.
The moment we've all been waiting for. Come October 14, 2006, the first in a series of exhibits from the Musee de Louvre in Paris opens at Atlanta's High Museum of Art. The unprecedented three-year partnership, dubbed simply Louvre Atlanta, will begin with the Royal Collections, a dazzling array of paintings, sculptures drawings from master artists, that once belonged to the kings of France. The opening day celebrations include art-making activities for children, live music in the Piazza, theater, the French Poodle Parade, classic French mime, and other special performances. The two area Ritz-Carlton hotels have organized a Louvre Atlanta package for visitors to enjoy the fantastic exhibit. The package includes one night's luxurious accommodations, full breakfast for two, valet parking, and a pair of tickets to the museum exhibit. Available through December 2006. Starting at $249 at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, an elegant address in the heart of downtown, and $299 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, located uptown across the street from the acclaimed Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza shopping malls.
The capital of the UAE is glamming it up. These days, Abu Dhabi is experiencing a fashionable revitalization, mirroring the prosperous growth of nearby Dubai. A booming real estate market means a new city convention center, lots of hip restaurants... and five-star hotels are opening their doors. In fact, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts recently announced the February 2007 opening of the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi-- a joint project with the Al Jaber Establishment and Tourism Development and Investment Company. Situated on a 21 acre property facing a 1,000 meter-long private beach, the 214-room luxury hotel will feature CHI (the signature spa), myriad dining options (including poolside bar and a lively souk), health club, five outdoor pools and water sports, and luxurious sea-facing accommodations.