April 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Imagine experiencing stunning landscapes and unspoiled villages on a deluxe bike trip catered to your every whim and desire. After sun-filled days of discovery, devour gourmet cuisine and the world's best wines at the charming inns and chateaux that serve as your luxurious accommodations. For ten years, DuVine Adventures has led the pack in offering specialized luxury bike trips in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland. The leading tour operator provides the "insider" perspective to regions such as Tuscany, Burgundy, Provence, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland. Guests stay in distinctive and unique hotels, ranging from stately 18th century chateaux to intimate country inns-- all equipped with the most luxurious of amenities for some rest and pampering after a day on the road discovering the countryside. Dinners are as pleasurable as the surrounding scenery, often at top-notch Michelin-starred restaurants and chic, but comfortable, bistros. What a way to see Europe.
Tis the season. You just can't beat New York in the springtime. The Big Apple is brimming with film festivals (TriBeCa runs through May 7, followed in the summer by Bryant Park's free evening screenings), superb museum exhibits (if you haven't yet seen MOMA after its extraordinary renovation, now is the time), dining options galore, the world's best shopping, and of course the much talked about theatrical debut of Julia Roberts in "Three Days of Rain." Where to stay when you hit the Big City? The Hotel Plaza Athenee, of course, with its superb location within walking distance to Central Park, Madison Avenue shopping, museums and theater. After soaking up the buzz of the city that never sleeps, you'll appreciate the quiet retreat that's very much a part of the scene, but tucked away on a quiet tree-lined street. This European-style haven of calm is known for its stellar, personalized service, fantastic contemporary restaurant Arabelle, and famed (and very romantic and exotic) Bar Seine. Book a suite with a balcony and you'll be swooning (they're gorgeous).
Hotel Plaza Athenee, Five Star Alliance
So maybe there's no availability for the Cannes Film Festival. This baby's been booked for months. But after the film festival struts its stuff from May 17-28, the Hotel Martinez is yours for the taking. This is the French Riviera at its most chic, where you can take in the rays in style (after all, Cannes boasts 300 days of sunshine per year). The legendary Art Deco hotel commands a perch overlooking the largest private beach on the Croisette, though its octagonal pool-- surrounded by towering palm trees-- is an equally inviting spot. The finest accommodations in this award-winning establishment are on the 7th floor: terrace apartments and exceptional Junior suites that offer panoramic views of the sea from private teakwood decks with sunken Jacuzzis. Almost like a personal spa, the marble bathrooms are a heavenly space to relax and unwind. Enjoy the hotel's acclaimed Givenchy Spa--filled with natural light from its solarium-- with a specially designed Spa Package 2006. Starting at EUR 305 per night, the Spa Package includes luxurious accommodations, continental breakfast in room or restaurant buffet breakfast, one 50-minute massage per person, and free access to the fitness center and sauna.
Hotel Martinez, Five Star Alliance
For a world-renowned and fashionable joint such as the St. Regis Resort Aspen-- booked solid through the winter and summer months-- this spring special is unheard of. Your jaw will drop, your eyes will pop… surely this rate is too good to be true? For a limited time, from May 12 to June 13, rooms start at $195 a night, with a third night free. So you can enjoy the perfect springtime temperatures while the Rockies are abloom with color, and the town hot spots (without the crowds) are yours for the taking. With hiking right out the front door, luxurious rooms, restaurant and Spa that are consistently ranked among the top in the nation, what more could you ask for?
St. Regis Resort Aspen, Five Star Alliance
Via Travel and Leisure Hot Deals
Twist my arm. Fine. I'll let you in on a little secret. After a packed winter season with scarcely any availability, the Four Seasons Maui is welcoming the summer with plenty of rooms available-- and tons of value added packages, like Bed and Breakfast, Room and Car, and Romance For All Seasons. Why would this award-winning hotel-- considered one of the world's finest resorts--give us such a break? Well, most folks don't realize that June is an ideal time to visit Hawaii, with days in the mid 80s kissed by delicious ocean breezes and cool, pleasant evenings. But now you can enjoy all the services and amenities that have distinguished this pad as one of the best in the world-- with an even better value. Championship golf, white sand beaches, delicious cuisine, and the largest guest rooms on the island with beautiful views of this Pacific paradise. But shhhh! Mum's the word. Space is filling up fast.
How do we love The Homestead? Let us count the ways. Historic hot springs that have rejuvenated travelers since the 1700s. An obscene amount of recreational activities (want to indulge your inner sportsman? Take to the hills for falconry or fly fishing. Prefer to take it easy? Relax in the Spa and naturally-heated pools). Ten dining options--from the dressed-down casual to elegantly formal. Dazzling guestrooms with oodles of amenities. The scenic setting and surrounding countryside of Virginia's Allegheny Mountains. A superb Children's Program. Golf, tennis and all that jazz. Overall, the best kind of digs to bring your mom to celebrate Mother's Day. Over the weekend of May 12-14, mothers are honored and adored. The Homestead's special Mother's Day Package, starting at $219 per person, includes luxurious accommodations, breakfast daily, afternoon tea and nightly movies in the historic theater, choice of manicure or pedicure, photograph sitting, use of sauna and steam room, and of course the spectacular Mother's Day Brunch. Two night minimum stay required.
The Homestead, Five Star Alliance
A craggy volcanic shoreline jutting up from the deep Atlantic blue. Fields of flowers, lush semi-tropical vegetation, and grapevines. Days defined by balmy breezes and cloudless skies. Welcome to Madeira. The beautiful Atlantic outpost celebrated for its centuries-old wine making tradition, sea-faring days of old, and temperate, therapeutic climate. Here in Portugal's prestigious paradise, discover the legendary-- and newly refurbished-- Reid's Palace, which reopened on April 13 after a multi-million dollar renovation. This is Madeira's creme de la creme of luxury hotels-- situated on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Funchal for over a century. The new Reid's Palace is distinguished by its fresh and salt water swimming pools, brand new Spa (with four treatment rooms, dry saunas and steam rooms, fitness area, and sea-side terraces), conference room, and renovation of 70 hotel rooms in the Garden and Main building. While you're checking out the awesome refurbishment, don't miss Madeira's May Flower Festival. For your enjoyment, the hotel has arranged a five-night package with lots of additional goodies, starting at EUR 934 per person. The package includes five nights accommodations in a classic room, daily buffet breakfast, fruit basket and 5-year old Madeira wine in room upon arrival, one traditional afternoon tea, excursion to Palheiro Gardens and Botanical Garden, visit to Orchid Farm, Dinner Dance at The Dining Room, and flowers on departure.
In the heart of Virginia's picturesque Shenandoah Valley in a storybook setting, The Inn at Little Washington presents a dining experience that is hailed "the gastronomic equivalent of sex." (Thank you, Zagat.) At this splendid country inn, somewhere between the first course of Carpaccio of Baby Lamb with Rosemary Mustard, the second course of Pecan-Crusted Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Italian Mustard Fruit, and the main course of Filet Mignon of Rarish Tuna Capped with Seared Duck Foie Gras on Charred Onions with a Burgundy Butter Sauce, it's not hard to see why this is the country's most exulted culinary destination. Even Alice Waters licks her chops over these entrees. The restaurant's 30 intimate tables are spoiled with an award-winning wine list (the 14,000 bottle cellar includes the finest selections from France and California) and plates that are devised by the legendary Chef Patrick O'Connell, dubbed the "Pope of American Cuisine."
And if you should harbor any doubts about the Inn's gastronomic excellence (God forbid), let's take a quick run through the award list. The first place ever to receive Mobil's 5 stars for its restaurant, and 5 stars for its accommodations. Likewise, a double whammy with AAA: the first joint to earn the prestigious 5 Diamond Award for both room and board. Top 10 Best Restaurants in the World by IHT. Zagat #1 restaurant in the fifty United States. And Travel and Leisure jumped on the band wagon with another #1 in America rating.
Why stay with the mobs in crowded Cannes when Nice's most luxurious seaside palace is just a helicopter ride away? The Palais de la Mediterranee—the historical Art Deco masterpiece (and casino) situated on the Promenade Des Anglais-- has devised an unbeatable Cannes Film Festival Package for movie-buffs, critics, celebrity gawkers and star-gazers. Available from May 14 to May 24, the package includes accommodations in a Superior Room, full American breakfast, round-trip helicopter transfer from Nice to Cannes for up to four people, and unlimited access to the heated swimming pool (with panoramic views), fitness room, sauna and Hammam. Starting at EUR 340 per night. Sea View room upgrade available for an additional EUR 50. (The film festival runs from May 17-28 this year.)
Guests have gone gaga over a mother duck and her expected brood, nesting in a planter box outside the hotel, forcing the chef to remove the succulent duck breast from the menu at Fahrenheit restaurant. Until the eleven eggs have hatched and the duckies depart for the nearby Potomac River, the entree will remain off the menu. In the meantime, the mallard is under 24 hour surveillance by the hotel concierge, who has secured the area with velvet rope, and hotel security makes frequent nest-checks. According to the Washington Post, the duck's getting "bottled Ritz water to drink and cracked corn to eat -- both served in a silver Ritz bowl."
That's not all. As reported by UPI:
Bartenders at the hotel's bar created a special cocktail called the "Duck Duck Goose" with Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, pineapple juice, a splash of Grenadine and a splash of Sprite. And hotel guests now get a small Ritz-Carlton rubber ducky at evening turn down.