May 4, 2012
By: Christopher Roney
What follows are impressions of two of our favorite Orient Express properties, the Observatory Hotel in Sydney and the Casa de Sierra Nevada, in many ways very different hotels, and in more than just their geography.
Observatory Hotel, Sydney, Australia
I'll confess a fair bit of ignorance about why the Observatory Hotel is actually called the Observatory. Perhaps it was the site of a revolutionary astronomical discovery or it used to house the local planetarium in a forgotten back room. Maybe it just has a habit of flowering the walls at a party in order to better watch the crowd. It's a mystery as enigmatic as the stars in the sky, and we may never know. Well, it probably has something to do with the adjacent Observatory Park, but why spoil the hyperbole?
What I do know is that the Observatory Hotel is a perfect luxury hotel to use as jumping off point for exploring Sydney, a city that thrums with the heartbeat of a constantly evolving culture. Not far from the Rocks and Circular Quay, not to mention the Sydney Opera House, you're right in the middle of the action. As a break from experiencing all the city has to offer, you can retreat back to the quiet inner sanctum of the Observatory to enjoy an afternoon tea at the Globe Bar & Brasserie. For more substantial fare, head to Galileo in the evening, and you'll experience their amazing interpretation of fine French cuisine (the mystery of the name is quickly unravelling faster than the flat earth theory). If you're looking to stay in the utmost of style, make sure to book their gorgeous presidential suite, a study in aesthetics that makes extensive use of objects d'Art and features a four-poster bed. The Observatory Hotel is an extra-classy place to stay for the discerning traveler who finds themselves in Sydney.
Casa de Sierra Nevada, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Across the world from the Observatory Hotel, you'll find the Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende. Built in 1580, the Sierra Nevada is one of the smallest hotels in our collection. With just 33 rooms, the hotel is a serene escape from the bustle of everyday life. An inner courtyard is the perfect enclosure to keep the busy noise of the outside world at bay while you relax and refresh in one of the most historic towns in Mexico. Importantly, the hotel allows no children under the age of 11, so you won't be disturbed while you crack open the novel you've never gotten to or just soak up the rays of the sun. The National Institute of Anthropology and History was so enamored with the hotel's repurposed homes that they are designated historical landmarks. The surrounding mountainous landscape seems to be a backdrop that could only be dreamed up in a movie studio, but you can experience the unparalleled quietude and incredible service of the Casa de Sierra Nevada in real life. It's just one trip away.
January 10, 2012
By: Christopher Roney
A beautiful boutique hotel in a cluster of historic buildings at the heart of San Miguel de Allende, the Casa de Sierra Nevada is the paragon of the small hotel experience in Central America. The charm of the 33-room Orient-Express property is practically dripping from the stone arches lining its courtyard space. To preserve the interior serenity, the Casa de Sierra Nevada doesn't allow children 11 or under, so you'll never have to worry about a little tyke with a toy airplane distracting from the last chapter in that novel you've been trying to finish for the last three months.
Each of the hotel's 33 rooms had to be carefully adapted to hotel rooms as they are designated historical homes by the National Instititute of Anthropology and History. Meticulously restored using period furniture alongside the more modern amenities of classic luxury, there is a very homely feel to the luxury at Casa de Sierra Nevada. While larger chain hotels can seem somewhat impersonal even as they offer the best service, in San Miguel de Allende, you'll feel as at home as you would in your own living room, only with the five-star luxury you've come to expect from an attentive and accommodating staff.
Not only that, reserve a room now to take advantage of special Five Star Alliance rates at the Casa de Sierra Nevada. Reserving through us grants a free room upgrade if available on arrival and a welcome margherita. I can't think of a better way to start a vacation than reclining in an extra-spacious room with a tropical cocktail.