I fell asleep on the cold deck of the ferry from Naples, my bag as a cushion for star-gazing at the endless vault above, the night furious with wind, and awoke at dawn to the sight of the looming volcanic island of Stromboli, its conical peak sputtering with ash and red flaming rock. (There are easier and faster means of transportation to these remote islands- namely, the ferry from much-closer Sicily). What a welcome! The Aeolian Islands had long conjured a mythical image in my head; after all, the ancient Greeks described this small string of islands as the home of the God of Wind. (And Homer described the voyage of Odysseus passing through these islands with the help of a favorable wind.) Craggy cliffs covered in vegetation, dotted with white-washed houses draped in brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea, the islands in this volcanic archipelago have a dramatic setting in the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Each island is different, with a distinct personality. And it's easy for visitors to island-hop, as smaller boats and hydrofoils connect between the islands a few times daily. Lipari is the most developed of them-- though hardly bustling-- with a charming town full of cafes and shops. Among the other sites are the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement, the long stretches of beaches, and white cliffs of pumice. On Stromboli, hike to the volcanic crater to see small eruptions of red lava at twilight. Tour the vineyards on the green island of Salina, or escape with the international jet-set to the gorgeous seclusion of Panarea.
Enjoy art from the renowned galleries of Charleston, SC, at the Second Annual Winter Art Show hosted by The Sanctuary. Together with the Charleston Fine Art Dealers' Association and Arts and Antiques magazine, the ultra-lux hotel is planning a spectacular weekend in celebration of Charleston's art on January 20-22. Escape to The Sanctuary—named "The Best New Resort Hotel" by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report—for a fabulous weekend package that includes two nights accommodations in their super-swanky rooms, a Low-Country welcome amenity, the cocktail reception, gala dinner, gallery tour of Charleston, art show admission and reception. Rates from $320 per person (double occupancy).
The Sanctuary, Official Site
The Sanctuary, Five Star Alliance
Where else can you ski the world's most majestic mountains in the morning and sun by the sea in the afternoon? Welcome to the Cote d'Azur of France, where the Chateau Eza has charmed guests at its cliffside location for centuries. A thousand feet above the Mediterranean Sea, the hotel sits within the charming rock walls of Eze, a thousand-year-old medieval village. The ten rooms and suites are enchanting and romantic; most feature private balconies overlooking the sea and are reached by stone passageways and ancient walkways. The award-winning restaurant is likewise breathtaking in its setting atop the cliffs. From now until the end of March, the Chateau is offering a "Sun and Snow Special," which includes three nights accommodations with continental breakfast, hot cocktails in the Lounge Bar for four, and morning helicopter rides to ski Isola 2000 in the Alps, with all lift tickets, ski equipment and lunch included. EUR 2,900 for four peeps.
Chateau Eza, Official Site
Chateau Eza, Five Star Alliance
Kick off those ugg boots and give your cold, scaly, winter feet a break at the Cheeca Lodge and Spa. After all, their motto is "Barefoot Elegance." The resort is set on 27 lush acres on Islamorada, the most perfect little island in the Florida Keys archipelago. Besides its proximity to the only tropical coral reef in the continental U.S., the island is plugged as the sport fishing capital of the world, with 600 species of fish in the surrounding turquoise waters. But this is not just a paradise for anglers and snorkelers; Cheeca's got a heavenly spa with lap pool, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, six lighted tennis courts, saltwater lagoon stocked full of fish, a myriad of water sports, brand new Deluxe Beachfront Bungalows with private balconies and gardens, and award-winning dining.
Hawaii's luxurious Princeville Resort—the gorgeous destination hotel on the north shore of the paradise of Kaua'i—touts their customized Hawaiian Sensory Room Experience, designed to "enhance smell, sight, touch, sound and taste to create a harmonious environment." This means your room is flooded with Maile Mist, an in-room aromatherapy program derived from the Maile vine indigenous to Hawaii, while a CD of traditional Hawaiian music floods your ears. Isn't it enough to be surrounded by some of the most exquisite natural scenery on the planet? Why have to recreate the Hawaii experience in the guestroom too? You might as well be at home in Tucson blasting Hawaiian tunes and slathering Maile lotion after a shower.
Just when I thought there was no more real estate available on the strip. Shangri-La announced plans today to manage a new 400 room hotel scheduled to open in 2010. To quote their regional Vice President:
We believe that Las Vegas offers great potential for us. It is a market that is evolving quite rapidly and radically [and] we are beginning to see brand name hotels coming to Las Vegas.Hmm. But just when will the boom go bust? Can Vegas really sustain this kind of growth? (Hell- where is the water coming from in the middle of the desert? Will LA really continue to put up with this pillaging of water rights? Let the battle begin.)
Act fast. The Sofitel Lafayette Square just announced record-low rates for January. Like $175 low. (That's a whopping 65 percent off!) But hurry- there's a limited number of rooms available! A gorgeous historic landmark building in a killer location, luxurious comfort, and superior service: this is the spot for your next business meeting in DC.
Sofitel Lafayette Square, Official Site
Sofitel Lafayette Square, Five Star Alliance
Is Aujourd'hui really all that? Sure, it's got a choice spot as the dining room for the old-world-elegant Four Seasons Boston, views of the Public Gardens, a French menu as decadent as the decor. And it's one of only two in Massachusetts to receive the AAA Five Diamond Award, Zagat drools over it (#1 in Boston in almost every category), and both Food and Wine and Gourmet magazines claim it's the best restaurant in Boston. I still need convincing.
From now until the end of March, stay at participating Conrad hotels and you'll receive double points. Valid at all 19 of Conrad's award-winning hotels—spread around the globe from Chicago to Bali to Tokyo to Istanbul. Heading to Chitown on business? The latest addition to the Conrad family-- the Conrad Chicago-- awaits on the Magnificent Mile. Desperate for a beach-break? The Conrad Bali is a stunning sanctuary among lagoons, cascading waterfalls, and gorgeous gardens. Or discover the modern luxury of the Conrad Tokyo. The choice is yours.
Bye, bye Fairmont Kansas City. Intercontinental's taking over the AAA four-diamond property. Consistently rated as KC's best hotel, the name-in-transition hotel is opening soon as the Intercontinental Kansas City at the Plaza. The team at IC hotels group has planned all sorts of marvelous upgrades to the property, including room renovations, which will take place throughout 2006 and 2007. It's got a kick-ass location in the Country Club Plaza area, just minutes away from the city's entertainment district with outdoor museum and oodles of boutiques and restaurants. Additionally, the hotel boasts a fantastic fitness center with spa treatment rooms, outdoor pool, fine dining at the Oak Room, and balconies on all 366 guestrooms.