May 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Announcing an offer you just can't refuse. Book a stay at participating Preferred Resorts with your American Express Card, and receive a gift. With the "I Prefer Spa" package, guests indulge in a signature spa treatment, and get a welcome amenity. Luxurious spas include Napa's Carneros Inn-- nestled in the grapevines of California's exquisite wine country, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows-- the AAA five-diamond winner on Hawaii's Big Island, Las Vegas' Red Rocks Casino, Resort and Spa-- which recently opened to much fanfare and glowing reviews, and the Caribbean's Peter Island-- the luxurious private island in the BVI that is consistently ranked as one of the world's best places to stay.
Ahhh, Round Hill: the elegant Jamaican hideaway, a favorite for Town and Country fashion shoots, a former pineapple, allspice and coconut plantation, where the elite and moneyed few escape for their tropical respites. The legendary resort, not far from Montego Bay, is an oasis of gardens, secluded beaches, private villas and horizon-edge pools. There's a Spa, tennis, diving, and fine dining, a vacation experience enhanced by the best, most discreet service.
The 36 guestrooms in the Pineapple House were recently renovated and designed by Ralph Lauren, with white stone floors, four poster bamboo beds draped in a white net, 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, and upholstered furniture from the Ralph Lauren home collection. The rooms are all-white, evoking tropical beach living, and with ocean or garden views. The bathrooms were also redesigned by Lauren, with deep soaking tubs, freestanding rain showers, and double sink vanities.
You heard that right. The AAA four diamond resort-- in quest of the ever elusive five-diamond rating-- may construct an Old West-style casino with 500 slot machines. Just how that will up the rating is beyond me. Currently, Nemacolin Woodlands is a popular luxury destination outside Pittsburgh, with world-class golf course, excellent restaurants, internationally acclaimed Spa, Equestrian Center, Kids Club, shooting academy, tennis, and endless other activities.
Nemacolin Woodlands, Five Star Alliance
May 3, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Northwest of Bordeaux, bordered by the Atlantic and the Gironde Estuary, lies the world-renowned Medoc region, celebrated for producing the world's most prestigious red wines. Meaning the "middle territory," the Medoc is situated on the 45th parallel, benefiting from an ideal temperate climate and a unique gravelly terroir. These beautiful vineyards produce high-quality grapes of many varieties: Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Situated in the midst of these splendid vineyards on a 135-acre property, the Relais De Margaux is an elegant hotel, graced with the traditions of a rich past but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Originally the chateau of one of the premier wine-producing families of France, Relais de Margaux has been transformed into a comfortable, contemporary resort destination. From your room, enjoy spectacular views of the new 18-hole golf course situated between the Estuary and the vineyards. (The course opened in 2005 with driving range and putting green.)
Rooms are the essence of comfort-- furnished in a traditional French style, and with all the modern amenities of a world-class hotel: flat screen TVs, spacious bathrooms with heated towel racks, large French windows, luxurious linens. Relax in your room or immerse yourself in luxury at the new Spa Harmonia with a treatment a la carte, or full day cares package, to enjoy the Jacuzzi, hammam, sauna, swimming pool, and fitness room.
After a day spent tasting the divine wines of the nearby Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and Chateau Margaux-- all renowned for their premier grand cru classe-- indulge in gastronomic cuisine that will likewise knock your socks off. At both the gourmet restaurant (Ile Vincent is situated in one of the ancient wine cellars) or the Brasserie du Lac, Chef Laurent Costes creates exceptional dishes to match the region's exceptional wines. For dessert, you must order the chocolate pizza: rich melted chocolate over a thick, round crust of brioche. And breakfast is a sheer delight: bountiful baskets of piping hot crossaints, meats, thick yogurt, fruit, and rich coffee.
May 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's been quite a hullabaloo over Mobil's recently announced 2006 award winners. The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental New York made the cut and graduated to elite five star status, its "wow factor" described by the experts:
This sleek hotel marries Asian sensibilities with New York panache, and its 14,500-square-foot spa is the piece-de-la-resistance. Bamboo and natural stone are used throughout, creating a temple of serenity in this most frenetic of world capitals. Chinese, Ayurvedic, Balinese, and Thai healing therapies are the highlight of a visit to this facility, where guests are encouraged to book blocks of time, known as Time Rituals, for a comprehensive relaxation experience.
It joins the likes of the Spa Montage at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, Cali-- the nation's only other Mobil Five-Star Spa. The full list of 2006 award-winners is here. Any dynamite spas that you noticed didn't make the cut?
How's this for a perfect day. A leisurely lunch savored in the sunshine gazing up at the immense ruins of a 9th century church carved from sheer limestone walls. A stroll through winding cobble-stoned streets with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards. A tour through a local wine-grower's chateau, its wine cave built deep into the hill's rock cliffs. A late afternoon glass of pink sparkling wine, accompanied with almond flavored macaroons, in the ruins of an ancient monastery. As the afternoon light fades orange against the city's ramparts and Roman stone archways, you can't help but think… This is the life.
Welcome to Saint-Emilion, 30 minutes from Bordeaux in the midst of the world's most famous wine-growing region. The town is steeped in history-- its name derived from the Benedictine monk hermit who resided in a cave here between 750 and 767-- and the luxurious traditions of art de vivre. The vineyards and township of St. Emilion are UNESCO-heritage protected sites because they've endured-- virtually untouched-- since the Roman poets extolled the virtues of the rich wines.
In such an extraordinary setting, the Grand Barrail Chateau Resort and Spa is the gem to choose for its unrivaled accommodations. Just outside the township of Saint-Emilion, the castle's towers and turrets emerge in splendor from the rolling hills of meticulously planted vines. Even the basic accommodations (Superior) are comfortable, spacious, and tastefully appointed. But the suites are extraordinary, with lavish bathrooms, light-filled rooms, and sweeping views over the lawn and countryside; one even boasts an enormous stone balcony and terrace that comprises most of the castle's second floor.
The new full-service Spa features hammam, Scottish bath, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, and a tantalizing menu of treatments with Ligne St Barth cosmetics. For example: the St. Barth Softness is a nourishing body peeling massage with coconut oil, fresh papaya and an extra-fine sea sand polish complex. (The sand is imported from the Caribbean island, and the Ligne St Barth cosmetics are enhanced with additional fresh fruit.)
Dining is a gastronomic experience, with plates as beautifully presented as the cuisine is rich and delicious. The chef's got quite a few awards under his belt. Compared to your nightly feast, breakfast isn't half bad. It's served in an elegant breakfast room filled with light through stained glass windows; dainty crossaints are served hot from the oven, accompanied with fine fruit jams and other delights from a generous buffet display.
Here in Saint-Emilion at the Grand Barrail Chateau, it's easy to see how the French have mastered the joie de vivre.
So maybe Dubai's got an indoor ski resort, the world's only seven-star hotel, and the MotorCity Autodrome. But Abu Dhabi's getting a Ferrari Amusement Park! (So there.) The UAE's oft-neglected capital city (in favor of the trendy, prosperous tourism mecca of Dubai) is also enjoying fast growth and fashionable revitalization. The Gulf-facing capital sports the super-swanky Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi, which seems to emanate grandeur (and sheer size-- with its enormous ballroom, endless array of dining options, large health club and spacious guest rooms), and the city's other Le Meridien has just announced its massive AED 20 million renovation, adding luxurious guest rooms and remodeling the spa. The capital city's got its fair share of luxurious shopping malls, golf courses, tennis, and watersports on the Gulf. And of course there's the Ferrari amusement park. Starting in 2008, you can test-drive those $500,000 babies around the racetrack. I'm so there.
The rumors are flying. The sophisticated and palatial Dallas landmark-- stacked with awards and with a devoted international following-- is on the market. And this posh icon shouldn't have any trouble attracting a buyer. The Mobil five-star and AAA five-diamond award winner has been distinguished as the top U.S. hotel by Zagat and the world's best hotel service by Travel and Leisure. Rosewood's Mansion on Turtle Creek is the only five-star hotel in Texas, and the management intends to keep it that way: continuing its role operating the property after the new buyer is found. Besides this stellar service and other-worldly cuisine, the hotel features a world-class spa, fitness center and pool.
April 28, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Just south of Cancun on a stunning and isolated Caribbean coast, the Yucatan's prized Riviera Maya, lies a dazzling, eco-friendly resort community. Surrounded by lush forest canopy and beautiful waterways, Mayakoba is a luxury destination with golf, tennis, fine dining, and world-class snorkeling and diving. After the destruction caused by Hurricane Wilma last year, Cancun and the Yucatan peninsula have made a courageous comeback. The Fairmont Mayakoba had to delay its original opening because of hurricane damage, but has finally opened its doors and is welcoming guests to paradise. In addition to its luxurious accommodations overlooking beaches and lagoons, the resort offers a huge free-form pool with swim-up bar, superb Spa, children's programs, excellent dining outlets, and access to Mayakoba's fine golf and tennis facilities. Take advantage of the Only One Way Summer Promotion, starting at an unbelievably low $199 per night (double occupancy). Available from May 15- September 5, 2006.
April 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Halfway between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale lies the pristine Atlantic beachfront of Sunny Isles. Here, situated within lushly landscaped gardens, Trump's ginormous skyscraper of luxury greets you with an incredible slew of activities for the whole family. Frolic on the beach, take to the sea with jet skis, catamarans and kayaks, or recline in one of the 25 air-conditioned beach cabanas, each with entertainment units, restrooms, and sun chaises. The $6 million grotto-style pool complex will knock your socks off: think waterfalls, whirlpools, tropical foliage and cabanas, all overlooking the beach. Take to the 8,000 sq-foot Aquanox Spa for some much needed R and R, knowing that the kiddies are having a blast at the Just Us Kids club, where specially trained counselors lead all sorts of beach and pool games and arts and crafts. Retire to an elegant guestroom with its private balcony offering panoramic views of the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway.