May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning Marquesa Hotel-- Key West's finest small hotel, a luxurious gem with lush gardens just steps from Duvall Street in Old Town--is home to one of the best dining experiences on the island. The 50-seat restaurant offers Contemporary American Cuisine, with specialties including Seared Brioche Dusted Yellowfin Tuna, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Marinated Key West Shrimp, along with fresh baked breads and desserts. Awards include the AAA four-diamond and the DiRona Award. And Zagat has distinguished the restaurant as one of the best hotel restaurants in the country, identifying its "sophisticated" Key West style, "beautiful" presentations, and "relaxing ambiance" as what "makes her a queen."
Discover this boutique gem in the heart of historic Santa Barbara. With only 23 luxurious guest rooms and suites, the Inn of the Spanish Garden is an intimate and romantic hotel that epitomizes the history and tradition of Spanish Colonial Santa Barbara. Constructed in 2001, the two-storey hotel is of Spanish-Mediterranean inspired architecture, with white adobe walls, red tile roofs, ornate ironwork, courtyard fountains, vaulted ceilings and arches. All rooms are luxuriously appointed with quality, modern amenities including gas fireplace, Internet access, cordless phone with voicemail, deep soaking tub, and French press coffee maker. In addition, each room features a private balcony or garden patio. The Inn has an open-air fitness room overlooking the heated swimming pool and sundeck, and offers in-room spa services. Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast with espresso drinks and newspaper, and evening wine bar.
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
With airfares to Europe skyrocketing, this promotion is almost too good to be true. Maxjet Airways-- all business class and low airfares too-- flies luxurious transatlantic service between London Stansted and New York and Washington. The service is sensational: gorgeous pre-departure lounges, signature gourmet meals, on-demand entertainment, and deep-recline, all-leather seats onboard. From now until June 2, you can fly the luxury airline with discounted fares of just $1,000 roundtrip. Now that's a steal.
The former Pan Pacific has morphed into the new JW Marriott San Francisco. But touches of the classic SF establishment remain: its dramatic atrium lobby (three floors with skylight ceiling), elegant guestrooms with tasteful, contemporary furnishings, and its air of romance and sophistication. Located in the heart of the city in Union Square, surrounded by upscale shopping, fine dining and art galleries, the JW Marriott boasts one of the best addresses in San Francisco. The hotel is just a hop from the Moscone Convention Center, Nob Hill, and countless SOMA museums. There's creative California cuisine and a well-equipped fitness center. For better or for worse, the JW Marriott is definitely a business-oriented, convention type hotel, with 14,000 sq ft of event space and business with state-of-the-art technology. But it's a classy and luxurious spot nonetheless.
Georgia's Sea Islands offer a beautiful and exclusive summer escape. Championship golf, incredible dining, lots of Southern hospitality, and the chance to restore your body and mind. Find the perfect hideaway at The Lodge or the completely new, and absolutely stunning, Cloister at Sea Island. The "Golf Escape Package for Two" includes two nights luxury accommodations, two rounds of golf on Seaside, Plantation or Retreat Course or one round of golf and spa treatment of your choice during your stay, an elegant five-course dinner in the Georgian Room, breakfast each morning at any dining venue, Beach Yoga or a Beach Walk each morning, and welcome gift. Valid until November 1, 2006. Starting at $1,195 for The Lodge, River or Nature View at The Cloister. ($1,395 for Ocean View at The Cloister and $1,595 for River View Suite at The Cloister.)
In a city with a superb culinary scene, Four Season's Chartwell Restaurant shines at the forefront. Recognized as one of Vancouver's finest restaurants, Chartwell has received numerous accolades including the 2006 AAA Four Diamond Award, 2006 DiRoNA Award, 2006 Vancouver Magazine, 17th Annual Restaurant Awards "Bronze - Best Hotel Dining", and 2005 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its "Outstanding Restaurant Wine List."
Four Seasons Vancouver has recently appointed Miami's Rafael Gonzalez as executive chef. He has worked in some of the country's most revered kitchens, starting off in Miami at Le Pavillon, then moving on to New York where he was mentored by David Bouley, chef of the famed four-star Bouley Bakery, Chef Eric Rupert at Le Bernardin, and Chef Jean-George Vongerichten at Jean George Restaurant. His last stint was at The Pierre, where he was Executive Sous Chef. Gonzalez is an outstanding chef, and can also handle a large kitchen; at Chartwell he will be overseeing 1,200 to 2,000 meals a day and managing four sous chefs and 33 employees.
May 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Fodor's recently picked the Top 10 U.S. Golf Resorts, and The Homestead ranked right up there with the best of them:
The resort's Old Course, laid out in 1892, includes the oldest tee in continuous use in the United States. Backdropped by the Alleghany Mountains, the Cascades Course is beautiful during the turning of the leaves in the fall.
Surrounded by stunning mountain views, The Homestead is one of the country's leading historic resorts, known for its luxury spa, excellent recreational facilities, and world-class golf. The Homestead offers a luxurious Summer Golf Special, starting at $249 per night, which includes accommodations, unlimited play (including cart) on the three championship courses including the William S. Flynn designed Cascades Course (ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the world by Golf Magazine in 2005), the Donald Ross designed Old Course and the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Lower Cascades Course, complimentary use of the driving range and range balls and a complimentary sleeve of Titleist golf balls.
May 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia represents the pinnacle of ultra-luxury and elegance. Its classic architecture, sumptuous interiors, gorgeous grounds, excellent recreational activities (including three championship gold courses, indoor and outdoor tennis and a 38,000 sq ft spa), and impeccable service have distinguished the resort for over two centuries. But the National Historic landmark is in need of a little sprucing up, as reported by the Associated Press. The resort will be closing for three months next winter, starting January 2 after the holidays. The project is the most extensive since the 1940's, and is slated for 18 months total. The renovation will include the main dining room, the Tavern Room, Old White Lounge, main kitchen and about 65 guest rooms in the main building, which will be enhanced by new furniture and marble bathrooms. The Greenbrier seeks to restore its Mobil five star rating, which it lost in 2000 after 38 years.
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?