Once owned by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, this spectacular villa was transformed from an agricultural estate into an exquisite country inn and restaurant by legendary celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. Set within olive groves and vineyards, L'Andana Hotel is situated on a 500-hectare estate where gourmet olive oil and divine wine are produced for expectant foodies. The 33 guestrooms are beautifully appointed with views over the surrounding Tuscan countryside, and the suites boast fireplaces. The restaurant, as expected of Alain Ducasse, is excellent. There are recreational activities aplenty: cooking courses, horseback riding, tennis, heated swimming pool, guided tours, mountain biking, and (coming soon) golf. And the newly opened spa is a food-inspired dream, featuring ingredients from the kitchen garden such as olives, lavender, grapes, sunflowers and herbs. Enjoy relaxing treatments overlooking the vineyards and outdoor marble pool.
In the energetic arts capital of Ireland, The g is the height of hip. Let's start with the reception area. Black glass walls frame a tank of seahorses. Philip Treacy-designed concierge wall is covered in white Venetian plaster to look like a seashell. Next stop: the lounges on the ground floor, connected by the signature red carpeted corridor. Golden doorways mark the entrances to the Pink Salon, Grand Salon, and Blue Lounge. Over-the-top or fashionably contemporary? The hotel likens it to "walking through a glamorous dolls house." Moving on to the guestrooms. Extremely original and stylish, the decorative details (wallpaper, lighting, art, and flooring) were inspired by the landscapes of the countryside surrounding Galway. Of course in these sensual spaces, the technology and amenities are cutting edge and sophisticated. The restaurant (serving Italian cuisine) and cocktail bar are likewise decadent and glamorous. But amongst all this theater, the ESpa is certainly the hotel's highlight. Located in the top two floors of the hotel, the spa features four beauty suites, rock sauna, steam room, relaxation room with Japanese garden, and an ice fountain. The architectural design is stunning, with stone, wood, linen and glass blended in luxurious harmony. Extensive treatment list available.
June 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
When in Venice, do like the locals (or visiting celebs) and head to the outdoor terrace at the 18th century Bauer Il Palazzo hotel. It's extraordinary. The cleverly named Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) is a rooftop lounge on the 7th floor, with spectacular panoramic views over the city and lagoon. Here, breakfast is served exclusively for lucky guests, and the entire terrace and rooftop jacuzzi are available to rent for private functions. The hotel has the best spot in the floating city after all, in St. Mark's Basin, with its own private dock on the Grand Canal. In the heart of Venice, the Bauer Il Palazzo is an intimate boutique hotel with a stunning Gothic facade and opulent Venetian aura. The guestrooms likewise boast impressive views of the best of Venice. Many of the 44 luxurious rooms and 38 suites--lavishly appointed with fine furniture, fabrics, and Murano glass chandeliers-- offer balconies and terraces overlooking the beautiful city of canals. (Never mind that it's sinking.)
In June, Bermuda is the place to be. For over 100 years, the legendary Newport Bermuda race has culminated in celebratory frolicking (and rum-guzzling aplenty) at the race's finish. The 635-nautical-mile race is a challenging course raced by sailboats of all sizes, and this year's Centennial has attracted a record number of fleet entrants. This is high season in Bermuda-- by far the best and most fun time to visit the island of pink sand beaches and renowned golf courses. Where to stay? Cambridge Beaches, of course! The romantic hideaway boasts exemplary service and world-class facilities: indoor and outdoor pools, three tennis courts, five private beaches, the world-acclaimed European wellness centre, extensive marine rentals and watersports, putting green, croquet and internationally recognized gourmet cuisine. The resort's cottages (94 guest rooms and suites) are surrounded by blue sea, fine gardens, and long stretches of sandy beaches.
What an excuse to get your fix of the best Southern hospitality and charm. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff--South Carolina's picturesque resort and spa-- embodies all the grace and romance of the South. Exquisite accommodations, delightful cuisine, world-class golf, luxurious spa, and impeccable service… The Inn at Palmetto Bluff has it all. Situated amidst flowering gardens along the May River in the Lowcountry, the resort offers an enchanting setting for your next retreat. Enjoy a relaxing summer holiday at one of the finest of the world-renowned Auberge Resorts, and experience fantastic savings. From June 1-August 30, guests who book a two-night stay receive a third night for free, a savings of over $450.
June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago
The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel’s location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Mr. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Mr. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting
2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.
3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.
Five Star Alliance:Anything else you would like our readers to know about you’re your property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.
June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Situated in the heart of sunny Newport Beach on 15 bayfront acres, the Balboa Bay Club and Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel on California's renowned gold coast. The AAA four-diamond winner offers 136 luxurious guestrooms, each with patio, marble bathrooms with sunken tubs, and feather-top beds. Since 1948, the "Host of the Coast" has welcomed Hollywood legends, honeymooners, and business executives to its luxurious establishment. The "First Cabin" restaurant offers al fresco dining (California cuisine) overlooking the harbor, and Dukes Place features live jazz nightly on the waterfront. The Balboa Bay Club also boasts a heated swimming pool with hydro spa and onsite spa with fitness complex. And from now until December 31, 2006, Preferred Hotels and Resorts is offering "Resort Escapes"-- with your stay at participating hotels, indulge in a $100 resort credit. When you book a two-night stay at Preferred Hotels such as the Balboa Bay Club, receive an added credit of $100 for "mood enhancers" such a warm mud bath or dinner for two. Valid until December 31, 2006.
Luxury resort and spa experts Banyan Tree have opened their Lijiang resort-- their second one in southern China-- to much fanfare and acclaim. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, in China's magnificent Yunnan province, is an 800 year old village of winding cobble-stone streets, canals, and bridges, full of charm, beautiful architecture, and cultural history. This is sacred territory, beneath the snow-capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The 55-villa Banyan Tree Lijiang reflects this rich cultural landscape, built of local materials and traditional furnishings. The highlight, of course, is the Banyan Tree signature Ryokan Spa, with world-class facilities and a spa menu featuring lavish treatments, from ancient Asian healing and relaxation to European rejuvenation therapies. In addition, the resort organizes tours and treks in Lijiang and the surrounding countryside, including such sights as Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Bali's island paradise is about to get even more fashionable. Following the successful 2004 debut of the Bulgari Hotel Milan, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts has been designing its second luxury hotel masterpiece, this time perched on a cliff in exclusive isolation overlooking the Indian Ocean. The all-villa retreat will wow guests in October with its traditional Balinese architecture fused with contemporary design. The 59 villas are free standing, luxuriously private, and feature exquisite Balinese antiques, open-air pavilions, terraces, private plunge pools, and of course luxurious Bulgari amenities. For the ultimate in exclusivity, choose the 1,300 sq meter Bulgari Villa, with its two master bedrooms, living room with built-in bar, dining room and home theater, along with the outdoor meditation pavilion, lap pool and extensive terrace. In addition, the Bulgari Resort, Bali will feature a dazzling oceanfront spa, two restaurants, private beach, and a Bulgari store.
May 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's a lot of buzz about New Zealand-- above and beyond the publicity generated by the Lord of the Rings flicks. Everyone's talking about this little island nation on the far south end of the Pacific. (Indeed, Conde Nast readers rated the country the #1 holiday destination in the world.) No matter what the season, New Zealand has it all: breathtaking scenery, recreational activities galore, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Easily the best place to stay on this gorgeous island nation is Huka Lodge, located in Taupo, in the central North Island, and considered one of the world's top retreats. This 20 suite lodge has racked up the awards: Travel and Leisure Top 500 list (the only property in New Zealand with this distinction), Conde Nast Traveler "Best Hotel Rooms in Australasia and South Pacific," Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report "Top 20 International Resort Hotels." And if the awards list seems impressive, you should see the famous guest-list. The guestbook reads like the party of the century.
The setting is magical. Situated in a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is just a short walk from the spectacular cascades of Huka Falls. As can be expected, activities run the gamut from tennis to petanque, hiking to trout fishing, mountain biking to relaxing in the hot pools and outdoor spa. Spacious, light guestrooms are complemented by outdoor terraces and bathrooms with under-floor heating and sunken baths.
As described recently in Stuff NZ:
Huka Lodge is New Zealand's quintessential super-lodge for the globe-trotting rich, royal and famous… Since 2001, all the guest rooms and the Owner's Cottage - the super suite perched on a rise overlooking the first set of rapids - have been rebuilt or refurbished with the difficult aim of combining the comfort of a five-star hotel with a boysy ruggedness befitting its fishing hut origins.
And the dining is exquisite. Hotel rates include pre-dinner cocktails, a five course dinner and breakfast. All meals are communal seating with some private dinning available.