June 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Stockholm's Hotel Rival is the epitome of cool. Hip, lively, colorful, and chic, the city's first boutique hotel is a modern masterpiece of design. (As to be expected of one of Sweden's finest hotels.) On a recent visit to the Hotel Rival, I decided I could camp out there for quite a while. Whether it be in the lobby (swooning over the stylish furniture), on-site bakery (stuffing my face with homemade breads and tasty pastries), the gorgeous bar (pretty-people-watching), or the on-site cinema (oohing and ahing a little bit more), I found the Hotel Rival to be the kind of friendly and exciting boutique that every city should wish for.
On the way to the hotel, flying over the islands that make up Stockholm's archipelago, my taxi driver told me that Paris Hilton much prefers the Hotel Rival to her Daddy's Hilton, right next door. No surprise there. Paris isn't the only one who adores the Hotel Rival. From Pop stars to business-folk, the hotel's clientele keep coming back for the thoughtful service, cutting-edge technology, and careful attention to detail. Of course there's also the star factor. This crib belongs to Benny Andersson, the ABBA legend. The Swedish version of Mama Mia! has recently debuted in Stockholm, much to the city's delight, and CDs (along with ABBA memorabilia) are available for purchase in the lobby.
The Hotel Rival is a major gathering place in Stockholm. The gorgeous cinema--showcasing original historical touches after its lux renovation-- is now the scene of fashion shows, parties, concerts, and film screenings. Indeed, the cinema motif is dominant in the hotel's design: the comfortable bistro features wall paneling with a mosaic of 924 film star images, and each guestroom is adorned with a scene from a vintage Swedish film, the glass-covered canvas suspended above the beds.
Ahhh the rooms. Perfectly comfortable and highly sophisticated, the guestrooms embrace a sleek modern minimalism which hasn't abandoned function over form. The DUX beds are heavenly, with luscious linens, Egyptian cotton sheets, a special pillow menu, and the signature teddy bear from Debenhams. Some rooms feature a windowed wall between the bathroom and bedroom, allowing guests to soak in the tub while gazing out into the room. Of course the guestrooms and suites are loaded with technology, from 32" plasma screen TVs, DVD/CD players (and plenty of DVD rentals), PlayStation2, and wireless internet access.
The Hotel Rival is Stockholm at its finest.
June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now showing at the legendary British Museum in London: "Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master." The exhibit showcases 90 works created over the 60 years of Michelangelo's life. These drawings-- from only 600 surviving works-- are extremely rare. As explained by the IHT:
Of Michelangelo (1475-1564), the 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari wrote: "Just before his death, he burned a large number of his drawings, sketches and cartoons to prevent anyone from seeing the labors he endured… for fear that he might seem less than perfect." For Michelangelo, drawings were simple tools that could only be seen by his pupils.
Thus the importance of this exhibit. Museum open daily. Exhibit runs until June 25.
May 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
If Wynn's signature restaurant is identified by a first name, the chef must be pretty darn good. Indeed, Zagat describes Alex Stratta as one of the "very best chefs" in Las Vegas, having learned his cosmopolitan gastronomic savvy while working under Alain Ducasse. The luxurious four-course prix fixe menu ($120) is a hedonistic delight-- perhaps the dining experience of a lifetime. His artistic French cuisine combines the freshest seasonal ingredients and includes dishes such as foie gras ravioli in truffle bouillon with duck confit salad. The entrance is dramatic-- descending a grand, hourglass-shaped staircase to arrive in the elegant and romantic dining room, designed in a European style with inlaid wood and crystal chandeliers. Zagat raves:
the staff "goes out of its way to ensure a wonderful evening", and "perfect touches" like "the seat-side purse ottoman" for a clientele "who actually remembers to dress" guarantee a reprieve from "the shorts-and–flip-flops" "Vegas culture."
But don't bring the kiddies (children under five are banned from the premises).
Wynn Las Vegas, Five Star Alliance
May 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
But choosing-- (you see Kenyan safari, s/he sees tequila and tanning in Mexico)-- and planning a honeymoon can be more taxing than the actual wedding planning. Just ask The Post. This Sunday, The Washington Post Travel section is devoted to the honeymoon: top 10 destinations; tips on making it a trip to remember; tales from readers (honeymoons worth telling the grandkids about), and the best of all: 5 Couples, 5 Budgets, 5 Honeymoons, a case study of five DC area couples who honeymooned in different ways (Disney World, anyone?)
And now we're looking to our readers for planning tips, packing advice, ideas on memorable locations and luxury hotels worldwide. Just how do you go about picking and planning the perfect honeymoon?
This is not a joke. And I quote:
The Park Hotel in Weggis, Switzerland, which is hosting the Brazilian national soccer team during training for the FIFA World Cup, is auctioning off a chance to spend a night in rooms once occupied by the team. As of last night, the high bid for Ronaldinho's double room was $415. The hotel is offering fans the chance to stay in the rooms as well as getting signed shirts. (how about signed bed-sheets?) "We just hit on the idea by chatting among ourselves in the hotel management," assistant manager Philipp Musshafen revealed. Normally, the rooms at the luxury hotel go for around 480-780 Swiss Francs. And no, Ronaldinho does not come with the room. Check out the auction on Ebay.
Leave it to Trendhunter to pick up on the latest fad: fashion designers branching out beyond the basics, and "expanding their empires" to include jet interior design (Versace's got it covered: You go, girl!) as well as kitchens by…Armani.
Of course we're all over their big plans to break into the hotel industry with luxury hotels in Dubai. Both the Versace Palazzo hotel and Armani's hotel in the Burj Dubai building are planned to open in 2008.
Armani's hotel is under construction in the stratospheric Burj Dubai building, whose exact number of floors is secret but rumored to approach 200. It will feature subtle hues and a rigorous, sophisticated environment. In addition to offering who-knew-you-needed-it features such as temperature-controlled sand on the beach, Versace's Dubai outpost will be as Baroque as the late Gianni Versace's private residences. At the Missoni hotel, one of a string of global openings, the decor blends the brand's colorful prints with the streamlined architecture of Matteo Thun.
And at luxury hotels across the world, guests are opting for designer suites that reflect a certain lifestyle, such as the Vera Wang Suite at the Halekulani Hotel, and the brand new Bottega Veneta Suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, opening this fall. (1,700 sq ft distinguished by pieces from Bottega's new home line.)
The cat's out of the bag about Playa del Carmen. The cool and classy beach destination on Mexico's gorgeous less-traveled Yucatan peninsula (away from the high-rises, Senor Frog's, and wet t-shirt contests of Cancun) is growing at a staggering pace. Quickly fleeting are the days of uncrowded stretches of white sand beach and evenings at hip beach bars. Among the new hotels popping up as quickly as sand-castles: The new Riu Palace Riviera Maya is the fourth all-inclusive Riu Palace to open in Playa in recent months. And Kor has jumped on the development bandwagon, with the Viceroy Riviera Maya and The Tides Playa del Carmen Resorts and Residences (both slated for 2008), and the recent acquisition of two existing upscale resorts: the 46-room Mosquito Blue and the newly built, 33-room Mosquito Beach. (And the accommodations all promise to be sinfully luxurious...) Flights to Cancun are at a record low right now-- we're talking $129 Chicago-Cancun on United's brand new route-- so best get down there now to see a piece of paradise vanishing fast...
Last year's hurricane season was shocking in scale and scope. And this year, the storms could escalate in strength. As quoted in Travel Weekly:
"The 2006 season will be an active one, with 17 named storms, of which nine will reach hurricane strength, and of those, five will be between Category 3 and Category 5 storms," said William Gray, head of the Dept. of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.Hurricane season (at its strongest from August-October) is thus a big deterrent for tourists to South Florida, on both business trips and leisure vacations. As reported today by CNN, meeting planners are reluctant to book their conferences at this time of year, and thus "Visit Florida last year began offering event insurance up to $200,000 to defray marketing and rescheduling costs if there is a hurricane disruption." Similarly, "to sweeten the deal for leisure travelers, several businesses in the area are offering two-for one packages on diving, sailing and spas." Thus, leisure travelers can take advantage of some excellent bargains promoted by the area's luxury hotels. Many resorts offer guarantees, and hurricane protection, so check ahead. Resources: The Monroe County Tourism Development Council has upgraded its Web site with lots of Hurricane info, including health and welfare issues for travelers, the science of hurricanes, tracking maps, and local emergency plans. Key West Magazine has scheduled an important hurricane feature for their June 2006 issue.
What did I tell you? Abu Dhabi is where it's at. Apparently, the capital of the UAE is aiming for 25,000 hotel rooms by 2015. The latest five-star hotel announcement is the Emirates Pearl, expected to take two years to build and at a cost of $136 million. The coastal hotel's defining feature? A 240 meter high tower (that's 47 storeys) designed by Austria's award-winning architect Dennis Lems:
The tower, which houses 352 spacious rooms and suites and 104 luxuriously furnished apartments all with balconies and Gulf views, sits on a 22 meter high, five-storey podium which features a 20-meter high atrium with five restaurants, service centres, offices, a gym, hair salon, spa, meeting rooms, business centre and shops.
The Emirates Pearl will be constructed with a contemporary twisting glass design. And the hotel's entrance will be marked by a "figurehead sculpture of an Arab hunting scene." How snazzy. And they sure picked a winner of a name for the place.
May 15, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
As CNN reports, the legal battle over designation of "Surf City USA" has officially ended, as Huntington Beach edged out rival Santa Cruz with a federal agency's decision "to grant the town exclusive trademark rights." Easy, dudes! Both spots are world-renowned for their awesome waves. But if you're craving the warmer waters, better head south to Huntington Beach. The town's got an easy-going vibe and quiet elegance, and plenty of opportunities to watch the locals ride the waves in surf competitions.
Looking for lux accommodations? Just a short hop from Huntington Beach in the sun-drenched magnificence of the OC, Newport Beach lures with its recently renovated Fairmont Hotel. It's actually in the final stages of the $30 million renovation, which involves the outdoor area, driveway, and landscaping-- all slated for completion by August 31. The rest of the place is dazzling and new, including the heated sky pool and deck which opens any day now. The Fairmont Gold Lounge and Gold Floor guest rooms-- a "hotel within a hotel" with private check-in and complimentary breakfast and evening hors' d'oeuvres-- will be completed at the beginning of June. The new 8,000 sq ft Spa will open in January.
Take advantage of Only One Way Summer Rates. Rooms are a steal starting at $199 a night.
The Fairmont Newport Beach, Five Star Alliance
Outside Magazine, Surf Guide 2006