May 14, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
News of an over-the-top amenity at Emirates Palace is making the Internet rounds. Abu Dhabi's "seven-star" hotel is now home to an "ATM with a golden touch." The brain child of Thomas Geissler, a German entrepreneur, the vending machine is called "Gold to Go" and dispenses customized coins or small bars up to 10 grams. The AP reports that the machine's unveiling was well-timed because gold hit a record high on Wednesday: "Geissler says he picked Abu Dhabi because of its high-rolling atmosphere and the region's traditional ties to gold in commerce." And the Emirates Palace, we'd like to add, has a reputation as one of the world's costliest hotels, built for $3 billion (or $10 million a room). Oh, and their spa has a "Diamond Experience" treatment that uses real diamond dust...
May 7, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
A little late in planning a special something for mom on Mother's Day?
(Slacker!) Mandarin Oriental to the rescue. The Manhattan hotel is celebrating "Mom's Month of May" so you can treat mom right-- not just this weekend, but for the entire month. The five-star hotel-- located in Columbus Circle's Time Warner Center-- has some fun special offers in May. Treat mom to a decadent weekend brunch at Asiate, catch up over tea and snacks during a signature pedicure (the "Pedicure Package" is perfect for moms and daughters), or shop til you drop with Stacey Mayesh, one of Manhattan's top celebrity and socialite stylists. With the "NYC Stylist" package, Mayesh will accompany mom for a day of shopping at the city's hidden boutiques, couture hot spots, and private showrooms. Priced from $5,515, this package includes two nights accommodation in a Deluxe Room, a style consultation prior to arrival, a day of shopping with professional Stylist Stacey Mayesh, and Mercedes car service during the shopping session.
April 29, 2010
By: Ruthanne Terrero
London is one of the best shopping cities in the world, with unique boutiques in every district. Want a special guided tour with a great host to help you shop?
Noteworthy Group helps organize excursions—especially walking tours—of some of the city’s most famous shopping spots (think Bond Street in central London) and of the up-and-coming areas.
Where to Stay
The Goring Hotel, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, has just been fabulously redone. This one of the largest, privately owned five-star hotels in the world (it has always been run by a member of the Goring family; currently at the helm is Jeremy Goring, the fourth generation to manage the hotel).
Try to snag one of the six newly redone Gainsborough Silk Rooms, they all overlook the property’s popular gardens and evoke a sense of luxury that is never overwhelming—just perfectly comfortable. (The rubber duckies in the marble bathrooms are a good indicator of the mix of fashion and whimsy.)
We hear that Suite No. 52, a Belgravia One Bedroom Suite designed by Nina Campbell (she has tailored homes for the Duke and Duchess of York, as well as Rod Stewart), is one of the best picks in the hotel, with a separate bedroom and sitting room and views over Beeston Place.
The hotel is a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace and, as such, was a popular hangout for the Queen Mum. Other members of the Royal Family too have been among the guests here, as has Lady Margaret Thatcher, presidents and—yes—HM The Queen herself.
Ask Head Concierge John Andrews (firstname.lastname@example.org; 011-44-20-7396-9000) to arrange a private two- or four-horse drawn carriage tour around central London, or perhaps charter an original Dunkirk boat for a ride on the Thames with a picnic lunch and Champagne. Andrews can also arrange exclusive private Verger tours of Westminster Abbey. And, of course, all of these tours would be arranged in the utmost of style: Guests traveling around town can request a chauffeur-driven S-Class Mercedes or Bentley Arnage.
We hear that The Langham's Palm Court has been voted the best place for afternoon tea in London by the Tea Guild. Competing against dozens of other hotels and tea rooms, The Langham clinched the award after judges succumbed to its "light and airy setting, friendly and efficient staff and excellent selection of scones, sandwiches and pastries." The judges toiled for months in their task, sipping their way across Britain and the capital to pinpoint the best spots. Sixteen other London tearooms were also given Awards of Excellence.
On the menu at The Langham's Palm Court? Finger sandwiches like Smoked Scottish Salmon with horseradish or Hens' Eggs with Secretts Farm mustard cress, Valrhona chocolate éclairs and Langham cupcakes. Indulge in the Bijoux Tea and you'll taste pastry selections inspired by jewelry collections (think Asprey diamonds and Chanel pearls). Seatings for this timeless ritual are at 2 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm, and 5 pm. (High tea is served from 5-6:30 pm.)
For more information, check out the Palm Court's official website, www.palm-court.co.uk
Where to Dine
Chef Daniel Boulud is opening a branch of NYC’s Bar Bouloud May 7 at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. The famed chef, known in particular for his three Michelin-starred Daniel in New York, has handed the reigns to executive chef Dean Yasharian and general manager Stephen Macintosh to run the 165-seat bistro.
On the menu: Signature terrines and a charcuterie bar as well as a full bistro menu and an extensive wine list.
For more information visit www.barboulud.com/barbouludLondon.html.
Hot news for cigar aficionados visiting London: The Garden Room at The Lanesborough has acquired a box of the world’s most exclusive cigars, the Cohiba “Behike,” some of the rarest and most expensive in the world. (How rare? Only 4,000 cigar sticks have been produced, each one ceremoniously rolled by Norma Fernandez, the renowned cigar-maker at the El Laguito factory in Havana. That's pretty rare.)
The Cohiba “Behike” will be sold for £1,500 per cigar—that’s approximately $2,309. Even cooler: The Lanesborough will be the only outlet in the world selling these cigars by the stick.
And while a great cigar can be an experience in and of itself, we hear Bar Manager Giuseppe Ruo offers a wide range of pre-embargo cigars and is on hand to advise guests on how to pair their smoke with a perfect drink.
The new Garden Room at the Lanesborough is an urban retreat in the heart of Kingsbridge, and, with space for just 35 guests, is one of the most exclusive spots in all of London.
The dining room has a wide variety of options from Italian antipasti, Moroccan starters and Mediterranean mezze, to oak smoked salmon and steaks.
The bar has also added a "shisha" menu, allowing guests to smoke socially in London's busiest area. There are 15 flavors at Salt. We hear the champagne shisha is a must-try, but the bar also offers the usual fruity flavors.
Nice Touch: There's also a private room upstairs for VIP parties, and, there's live jazz every Sunday.
When to Go
There’s more for foodies—and those who think English cuisine consists of fish & chips and corned beef & cabbage. The 2010 London Restaurant Festival will run from October 4-18 (for the record, last year's was just six days). Last year, the London Restaurant Festival featured more than 500 establishments, including the "pop-up" restaurant of chef Pierre Koffmann on the roof of department store Selfridges, which ran for more than seven weeks.
Other events included the biggest-ever Sunday roast cooked by chefs including Fergus Henderson, John Torode and Mark Hix at Leadenhall Market as well as the London Eye Restaurant Capsules, which saw celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and six other top London chefs transform one of the capsules of the London Eye into a kitchen...Which is really rather impressive, considering how "cosy" the capsules are.
By Jena Tesse Fox and Mary Winston Nicklin
By: Ruthanne Terrero
It's here-- just in time for summer. And it's bound to become a big pedestrian draw in Chitown. The Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago at 401 N. Wabash has opened its public river walk, park, and plaza, encompassing 1.2 acres. The "tallest American high-rise since Sears Tower's completion in 1974," the 92-story hotel and residential tower was designed by the same folks who recently unveiled the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Trump's new river walk is accessible from the Wrigley Building breezeway and Wabash Avenue and offers awesome views. Still in store: the opening of 90,000 square feet of retail space along the river (some 20 shops and restaurants). Here's the word from HotelChatter: "The city scenery isn't the only sight to behold. The river walk path is made of black granite from the Far East and imported Jerusalem gold limestone that was chiseled by hand to create a one-of-a-kind pattern. The walkway also has a water lily pond that's supposed to offer a place of calm in the busy urban center. There's also native trees, prairie grass and more dotting the area." This summer there will be plenty of tables and umbrellas set up for hanging out in the sunshine.
At long last, the Armani Hotel has opened in Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. After years of hype and anticipation, the designer's first hotel is welcoming guests to floors 0-8 (along with 38 & 39) of the soaring, 2,717 foot building. (The Burj Al Khalifa is also home to the world's highest mosque and swimming pool.) To quote the Telegraph UK: "Not content with letting his many collections be a feast for the eyes, the Italian fashion maestro seems determined his hotel should be a feast in every sense of the word. The Armani Hotel Dubai boasts not one, not two, not even three or four - but EIGHT restauarants, ranging from Italian (certo!) and Indian to Japanese and Mediterranean." And Armani himself designed these restos.
The Huffington Post quotes Armani at this week's opening: "Yesterday when I arrived and saw the hotel, I felt really emotional. After five years of working on this project, I finally saw how it all came to life. Working with me is not always easy, I think everyone here would agree because my standards are very high." The hotel features 160 guest rooms, a spa, the Armani Prive nightclub with $800 table reservations, and various shops (including an Armani boutique, Armani Dolci (sweets) and Armani Fiori (flowers). Price tag? Suites cost as much as 40,000 dirhams ($11,000) a night. Next up for Armani? A second hotel in Milan- to be built with partner Emaar Properties PJSC.
April 28, 2010
By: Dave Eisen
If Yankee Stadium (the better precursor to the mall-like structure now sitting in the Bronx) is the house that Ruth built, Barcelona is the city that Gaudí helped build. His capricious designs are scattered throughout this Catalan capital (some must sees: Sagrada Família, its intricate facade and unfinished steeples rising just off Avenue Diagonal; Casa Battló and its melted wax almost skeletal façade; and Parc Güell, a cornucopia of Gaudí work. Hint: Be patient—snapping a photo of the famed multicolored mosaic dragon fountain is a process as it’s always mobbed by tourists).
Like any great city, Barcelona has its share of great stores and restaurants. While Passeig de Gràcia is the 5th Avenue of Barcelona (think Escada, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent), head west to El Born, its Soho, if you will. There you will find some great boutiques. One of our favorites is Ivo & Co. (Plaça Comercial, 3), which, if you are into high-end, retro-vintage home décor, is just the spot for you.
After some hours shopping, you’ll want to head back east to the Barri Gòtic, better known as the Gothic Quarter, with its narrow streets and whimsical cathedral architecture. Despite several changes, many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. A short walk from the Gothic Quarter is the tourist-trafficked La Rambla—a must-see. Make sure to duck into the Boqueria Market for its endless stalls of produce, meat and other delectables.
Food is a major attraction of Barcelona. In the city, tapas restaurants are as ubiquitous as the street performers along La Rambla. While each is similar, Taller De Tapas, with four locations in the city, serves up a mean plate of salt cod fritters. Try Tapas, 24, and Bravo for fried sardines.
One of the wonderful things about Barcelona is that you find something new around every corner. We serendipitously came across a restaurant in Barceloneta that we are still raving about. Walking the desolate streets of this once small fishing town (Barceloneta is on the ocean and close to the W Barcelona), Restaurante Somorrostro (Carrer de Sant Carles 11) captured our eye (later our stomachs!). At first, we were hesitant to go in (not a soul occupied the small dining room). Then we remembered it was Christmas Eve. We have no problem saying you will have one of your most memorable meals here. The restaurant is an intimate affair, where you can watch the chefs toil away at their craft in the exposed kitchen. A Must: If you are lucky, the monkfish draped in béchamel sauce will be on the menu. Do not pass go without ordering this dish. One Word: otherworldly. After dinner, take a stroll down Sant Carles, toward the beach; you will come across Absenta Bar (Carrer Sant Carles 36), where they concoct authentic absinthe drinks. It’s the perfect spot to wrap up an evening in the City of Counts.
If you aren’t into doing everything on your own, check out Made for Spain, which offers bespoke experiences in Barcelona. How about lunch in one of the only places in the city that serves true—and truly good—paella? That’s not all, the lunch is hosted by Jeff Koehler, author of La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Recipes from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. Koehler explains in detail paella’s role in Spanish culture and tricks used to prepare it. Another fun one is a visit to Gaudí’s Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. This isn’t just your regular museum visit: Made for Spain’s good friend María hosts the tour. “Maria who?” you might ask. Maria is Maria Milà, part of the Milà family, which commissioned Gaudí at the beginning of the 20th century.
By: Dave Eisen
April 7, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Singapore's landmark riverfront hotel, The Fullerton, is pulling out all the stops to pamper guests on weekends. An indulgent new package features a dining credit and enticing special perks (free Internet, late check-out, and Champagne in room). What's more-- the "Idyllic Gourmet Weekend" promises an exceptional luxury value because you get all this starting from just S$388 per night. Bask in the luxury of The Fullerton (the outdoor infinity pool is tops), or take the hotel's complimentary shuttle service to shop til you drop around town. Valid for check-in on Fridays & Saturdays until December 30, 2010, the "Idyllic Gourmet Weekend" includes one night's accommodation in a Courtyard Room, a dining credit of S$88 per night, complimentary in-room Internet access, and a late check-out at 4 pm. With a minimum two-night stay, you'll get a complimentary bottle of Champagne, to boot.
While in town, why not check out the hotel's new All-Chocolate Buffet? The chocolate creations prepared by Chef Carl Bertka are out-of-this-world. Here's a sampler of the indulgences on offer: a signature Chocolate Fountain, Chocolate Cremeux with Vanilla Panna Cotta and Confit Cherries, and the White Chocolate and Lychee Tiramisu... Best of all: a cup of thick hot chocolate infused with a selection of seasonings like Rose Petal, Lavender, Szechuan Pepper, Chili, Star Anise, Black Cardamon, Wasabi, Lemongrass, Ginger or Coffee.
March 22, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
We've learned that the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner-- located next to the Tysons Galleria, the exclusive shopping mecca for Washingtonians-- is offering a Bed & Breakfast deal starting from $199. Spend a weekend in luxury, exploring the sites in the nation's capital, hitting the shops at Tysons, maybe luxuriating in the hotel's day spa. Along with your deluxe accommodations (featuring oversized Italian marble bathrooms and newly-installed flatscreen TVs), you'll get breakfast for two and overnight valet parking with this package. In town before Easter? Take the kids to the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner and celebrate spring with Peter Rabbit Teas (complete with peanut butter & jelly finger sandwiches) and Chocolate Egg Decorating Classes. The Bed & Breakfast package is available Friday-Sunday until December 31, 2010. [Map]
March 18, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Spring fever? Why not jet to Milan to get a new look with the new season? Stay in style at the Principe di Savoia, the five-star favorite situated on the Piazza della Repubblica in the heart of the Italian fashion capital. Witness to a recent glam make-over by acclaimed architect Thierry Despont, the hotel is home to some of the best digs in the city, including the Imperial Suite and nine new Principe suites, each appointed with hand-painted frescoes, Murano glass vases, Lasa marble baths, and traditional Italian furniture. Take advantage of the "Spring Package," available from March 22- April 11, 2010, and you'll receive the exclusive Principe Shopping Card, which allows you 10% off the most important designer boutiques in the famous Fashion District, a stone's throw from the hotel. Starting from €295 in a Classic Premium Room, the "Spring Package"also includes buffet breakfast, a voucher for two cocktails at the new Principe Bar, one scrub treatment at the Club 10 Spa, and daily complimentary Limo Shuttle service. Two-night stay required.
December 14, 2009
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
If you're lucky enough to pass through Florence during the holiday season, you'll be treated to endless yuletide delights: the city's sites decked in colorful lights, ice-skating on Piazza della Liberta, a festive market on Piazza Santa Croce brimming with handmade gifts, concerts and performances, and the huge, illuminated tree on Piazza della Republicca. But after New Year's Eve is just as fine a time to visit Florence. The winter sales start on January 7 so you can pick up some fashionable bargains; February's Artisan Chocolate Fair means all of Tuscany's finest chocolatiers descend on Piazza Santa Croce; and new exhibitions include a celebration of trompe l'oeil at the Palazzo Strozzi. Best of all: When you take a winter break in Florence, you can explore the magnificent Renaissance city without the crowds.
Book a winter stay at the Hotel Savoy, the stylish luxury hotel that's part of the Rocco Forte Collection, and you'll find the Duomo just around the corner and the Uffizi just a short walk away. Several packages look enticing:
Festive Florence Package, available from December 19-29, from 420 euros: overnight accommodation, daily Buffet Breakfast, Christmas delights in room upon arrival, and a spending credit of 50 euros per room, per stay, applicable towards Restaurant charges.
Winter Days Package, available til February 28, 2010, from 420 euros: 2 nights accommodation, daily Buffet Breakfast, a hot chocolate and cake served at L'Incontro Bar, and a seasonal dinner at L'Incontro Restaurant.
European Winter Offer, available til March 1, 2010: Book 3 nights or more and receive up to a 33% reduction on the Bed and Breakfast Rate.