September 11, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Though hardly new— the exclusive private island of Cayo Espanto has been pampering guests since 1998— the ultra-luxe resort has put Ambergris Cay, Belize on the map. Just eight minutes by boat from the town of San Pedro on Ambergris, Cayo Espanto has developed the best kind of environmentally-friendly luxury resort. The five oceanfront villas are sprawling in size and feature personal plunge pools, private docks, al fresco showers, romantic mosquito netting over the beds, and 180 degree wrap-around views of the Caribbean. Here, lucky guests enjoy the ultimate pampered relaxation: spa services are readily available, chefs prepare personalized gourmet fare with the freshest tropical ingredients, and activities include fly-fishing, boating and conching excursions, scuba diving and snorkeling the second largest barrier reef in the world (including the famous Blue Hole), and sailing to deserted beaches for a gourmet picnic. Though Belize is less than two hours from Miami, its sparkling waters are still largely undiscovered. Enjoy your own private island at Cayo Espanto.
September 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Your own pristine private island accessible only by boat and seaplane, Little Palm Island is a lush tropical paradise listed among the top resorts in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. The internationally-acclaimed resort has got it all: romantic, spacious guestrooms (outfitted with ocean facing verandahs, private outdoor showers and jetted tubs), a heated lagoon style pool, natural white sand beach (rare for the Keys!), cozy Great Room library, endless array of watercraft choices, and fitness room. But the best part of all is the candle-lit Dining Room. Recently voted the best Hotel Dining Room in the Southeast by the Zagat Survey and number three in the nation, the Dining Room creates a real epicurean experience, sure to delight even the most discriminating of foodies. Executive Chef Luis Pous and his culinary team serve exceptional French-Caribbean plates served in a magical setting overlooking the turquoise sea. (And the service is really unparalleled.)
Easily one of the hottest new hotels in the world, The Standard shook things up in Miami when it opened in late 2005, created by hotelier Andre Balazs as a hydrotherapy playground with communal spa activities. The hotel represents the advanced spa-hotel concept at its finest, with its incredible and innovative spa. (Mud lounge, anyone?) Located on quiet Belle Island, a calm refuge from South Beach, The Standard, Miami is as creative with the names of its room types-- Missionary, Lush, Dry, Wet, and the Full Spread—as it is with the spa features and amenities. Guest rooms are designed in the simple Scandinavian tradition, with plush features including Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, day beds, private outdoor living rooms, mood lighting, spa showers, outdoor soaking tubs, mini bars stuffed with yummy organic stuff, Kiss My Face amenities, high speed internet, flat screen TVs, DVD library and CD players.
Now couldn't be a better time to check out this higher Standard, with a hot Autumn deal from the hotel. The Holistic Hideaway is a two-night escape for just $395, which includes Accommodations, Limitless use of indoor and outdoor baths, Turkish hammam, sauna, aroma steam room, sound pool, Roman waterfall, hot tub, arctic plunge and gymnasium, Your choice of either one in-room "Standard" massage or two "quickie" massages, An invigorating "Just Pure" herbal bath, Complimentary access to the mud lounge, Two Yoga classes in The Standard's Movement and Meditation Center, Spa breakfasts for two every morning, and a two-course wholesome dinner for two at The Lido Restaurant. Wow.
Via Daily Candy (The package is just $350 for Daily Candy readers)
The leaf-peeping season is just around the corner, and luxurious New England Inns await your stay. Forbes has defined "a new breed of very high-class New England inns, converted country houses and B&Bs"-- inns that showcase the best of top-tier hospitality and ultra-luxurious amenities. Forbes' annual list of Great New England Inns includes the likes of the dazzling, new Mayflower Inn, home to the "best spa in North America," just a few hours from NYC.
September 6, 2006
By: Courtney W. May
I stayed at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia on the night of July 15th in Guest Room 606 (a deluxe room). I admit I got an awesome rate last minute and because I have a travel agency IATA card (for full disclosure I must mention that), I got a nice rate, but it wasn't free and I made no promises about my reviews. Now I'll cut to the chase and just list for you all of the good (and maybe bad) things to consider on your trip to Richmond.
* The rooms (at least all of the ones I saw) are HUGE (ceilings are tall, windows are large, and the closest had tons of space).
* The city of Richmond is not the absolute greatest view to have -I am not saying it's not bad)- but most importantly - none of the rooms at The Jefferson have views that are into walls, parking garages, or anything like that.
* The hotel pool is indoors, which might be nice in the winter, but Richmond is incredibly hot and in the summer a nice outdoor pool would be really, really nice.
* The Sunday Brunch is everything, plus more, that you've heard about.
* Again, let me say, Richmond is really, really hot in the summer.
* The employees are some of the best I've ever come across (they couldn't have been more helpful).
* I was able to walk to all of the locations I wanted to visit while in Richmond, but if I didn't want to the hotel would have provided a town car free of charge.
* Although not associated with the hotel, the Shockoe Slip area of Richmond is a lot of fun and has great restaurants.
* The guest rooms have a strange layout and you can never expect two rooms in the same room category to be exactly equal - but that is because the hotel was built in 1895.
* It is really hard to get reservations for the Sunday morning brunch - so make sure you reserve early.
* Make sure to ask for a non-smoking room if you don't smoke - you're in tobacco country.
The end result is that I definitely want to go back. I traveled from the DC area (which prices for everything are much, much higher) and wouldn't mind spending two or three weekends in the fall, winter and spring in the Richmond area. Rates for this five star hotel are lower then you will find in more places - yet provide you with some of the best services I have experienced. You may not think you have a reason to visit Richmond, but The Jefferson is it.
More candid photos from the trip can be found in my Richmond, VA Photoset on Flickr.
By: Courtney W. May
September 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, standing high on a hill above the River Aude overlooking the Minervois vineyards in Southwest France, appears to be out of a fairytale. Europe's largest fortified citadel is a amalgam of ramparts layered in history, beginning with the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, and added to by the Moors, Franks, and Cathars. La Cite is breathtaking, the dramatic witches' hat turrets and ramparts illuminated dramatically by night. The crowds in the summer can be overwhelming; over two million tourists flock to see Carcassonne's fortified walls every year. Thus the Fall is the perfect time to visit this enchanting historic city.
Hotel de la Cite, the luxurious hideaway from Orient-Express Hotels, has designed a special Autumn Leaves fall promotion that is too good to pass up. Standing between two historic landmarks, the Roman Chateau Comtal and the Gothic Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, in the heart of the old city, Hotel de la Cite is an exquisite structure of stone walls, wood paneling and stained glass windows set amidst gardens and terraces. Each of its 40 guestrooms and 21 Suites is individually furnished, with several boasting balconies and terraces with spectacular views of the medieval ramparts, the Castle, and the narrow cobble-stoned streets of the Citadel. In addition, the hotel's La Barbacane Restaurant offers a heavenly gastronomic experience in a fantastic setting with fireplaces, high ceilings and cathedral chairs. With the Autumn Leaves package, book three nights and get the fourth for free! Available from September 1 to October 31, 2006, the package also includes complimentary daily buffet breakfast at Brasserie Chez Saskia, and one special package dinner for two - The Chef's Choice - at La Barbacane Restaurant (excluding beverages). Savings of up to 40 percent off.
September 4, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The German-born executive chef of The Lodge at Sea Island will be teaching a delicious array of authentic German specialties, including sauerbraten (a savory, marinated German pot roast), spätzle (handmade German noodles), and schnitzel (crispy pan-fried veal cutlets with aromatic herbs). The next session of the Sea Island Cooking School takes place on September 18 and 19, 2006, starting with the Friday evening private reception and dinner with Chef Johannes Klapdohr in The Lodge Wine Cellar. Also includes Saturday morning cooking school with lunch prepared by the participants, Sunday brunch, and your very own monogrammed chef's jacket. The "Cook Together" package starts at $850 per night, with a two night minimum stay. (If you miss the cooking school, there's always the annual Oktoberfest celebration at Sea Island on October 10, 2006.)
"Add some sizzle with schnitzel," Chef Johannes Klapdohr says. And here's a teaser for your next Fall tailgating picnic, for Southern German Potato Salad:
2 lb. Potatoes
1 lg. Onion, finely diced
2 c. Chicken stock
6 tbsp. Vinegar (mild vinegar like apple, with 5 percent acidity)
1 tbsp. Mustard
1 tsp. Salt
4 tbsp. Oil
1 tbsp. Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Chives, finely cut
Pepper and Nutmeg to taste
Boil the potatoes in their jackets and peel while still hot.
Sweat onions with one tablespoon of oil and deglaze with chicken stock. Set aside.
Slice potatoes thinly in large bowl.
Season potatoes with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add mustard, vinegar, parsley and chives.
Pour chicken stock over potatoes and add oil.
Mix carefully and let rest for 1 hr.
September 1, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In the very heart of the French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone is a historic gem, with a long history of exemplary Southern hospitality and a vibrant contemporary flair. Family owned and operated for over a hundred years, the newly-renovated hotel has earned a reputation for excellence in its extraordinary accommodations, world class cuisine, rooftop pool, fitness center, Carousel bar with live pianist, and private spa, Aria. Visit New Orleans before September 30, 2006 and take advantage of the hotel's "Suite Summer Deal." Book a suite for two nights, and the third night is free, with rates starting at $265 per suite, per night.
On the elegant and exclusive island of St. Barts, Le Sereno is a beautiful hideaway designed by famous Parisian designer Christian Liaigre in a modern, minimalist style. Located seaside on the Grand Cul de Sac Beach, the fashionable hotel is an intimate and stylish refuge of only 37 suites. Formerly the Sereno Beach Hotel, Le Sereno reopened to much applause from discriminating travelers and press in late 2005. The makeover was exquisite: rooms are minimalist masterpieces with bare white walls and dark wood floors, and feature beautiful gardens with large daybeds, private terraces, private bars, and ocean views. As expected technology is superb: wireless Internet, plasma TV, two-line phones, personal iPods and iPod docking stations, and the amenities are luxurious: robes and towels especially made for Le Sereno by D. Porthault, Ex Voto Paris amenities, 310-Thread count linens. Enjoy the Beach Club, located on the hotel's 600 feet of palm-dotted white sand beach, and relax by the beachfront freshwater swimming pool. Or for those feeling more adventurous, numerous water sports are available, along with a fitness club. The Spa is currently under construction.
The Plaza Athenee's dazzling Eiffel Suite could be the best in Paris, with a 180 degree panorama of the city's skyline. Located on the 8th floor of the hotel, facing Avenue Montaigne, the suite boasts incredible views of Paris' most beloved landmark. The suite's 1,410 square feet are composed of a large bedroom, living room including enormous corner sofa, a bar and sitting room-- graced by two separate entrances. All rooms feature large picture windows with views of the Eiffel Tower—even the bathroom has a wall of glass to allow the magnificent view (though it can become opaque if desired, for complete privacy). By far the best part of the suite is the 301 square foot terrace, situated on the roof of the hotel just above the suite's living room. From here, lucky guests enjoy unsurpassed 360 degree views of the City of Light.