May 4, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Conch Republic-- so named in 1982 when Key West seceded from Florida with the motto "The People Who Seceded Where Others Failed"-- is a quirky and magical place. At the southernmost point in the US, charming, white Victorian houses bask in the sun. There's diving and snorkeling, sailing and sunning, deep-sea fishing, and more bars per capita in (possibly) the entire world over. Needless to say, this was a favorite haunt of Hemingway, whose legendary residence still houses the offspring of his six-toed cats. In celebration of the city's most famous resident, Key West hosts an annual "Hemingway Days Festival." From July 18 to July 23, the 26th annual event celebrates Hemingway's work and lifestyle. A week of literary readings, a theatrical premiere, short story competition, a museum exhibit, and fishing tournament. And as highlighted by the Washington Post "What’s the Deal?"-- from now until October 15, the city of Key West is offering half price admission to many of its major sites, including sightseeing tours on the Conch Train and Old Town trolley, Hemingway Home and Museum, and Aquarium. Coupons are available here.
What's next: Toddler Teatime or Tween Scene? Looks like Hyatt has pegged the teenage demographic as crucial for future marketing efforts. Now the sweet 16's can "assert their independence" and mark their celebratory milestone with a luxurious sleepover party, with lots of pampering and chocolate manicures, at participating Hyatt Resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean. The Standard Suite 16 Package includes: Birthday Concierge consultation (lucky kids!!), one night luxurious accommodations in a two-bedroom suite, for up to 2 adults and 6 guests under the age of 18, limo transportation, one plush Kashmere Spa Robe for the birthday teen, use of a digital camera while at the hotel and a commemorative picture frame for the birthday teen to take home, dinner for eight catered by in-room dining, special birthday dessert, bowls of popcorn and candy, movie night in room via On Command, use of Cranium(R) games in room, continental breakfast for eight served in-room. Starting at $2,500, and varies by property.
You're about to head out on a trip to Budapest or Timbuktu and you're thinking of starting a blog. Maybe you just want a space to showcase the gazillions of photos you will take (you're a little snap-happy with the new digital). Or maybe you tend to wax poetic about monuments and museums. Or maybe you just want a cool mapping feature to illustrate your travels. Or maybe you want to glean some advice from the locals about trendy hotspots. TravBuddy is the place to do it. TravBuddy is a travel-networking community that allows you to write travel blogs and review destinations all over the world. The Google mapping features are rad. They offer unlimited photo hosting. And it's super easy to post comments and/or connect with other travelers. And TravBuddy is also useful right from your own backyard-- whether you're an enthusiastic armchair traveler or want to share local tidbits about restaurants or shops in your hometown. Check it out.
We go gaga over all things Philippe Starck. Hong Kong's sexy boutique, Jia, LA's Mondrian (oozing all of that Cali style), Miami's hotspot The Delano, and BA's extraordinary Faena Hotel and Universe. The award-winning celebrity designer has knocked our socks off with pretty much every one of his creations. And now the rumor on the street is that the master has been chosen by SBE Hotel Group to create a signature look for an unnamed luxury boutique brand scheduled to debut in 2008. The deets? Apparently, Starck signed a 15 year, exclusive contract, which will open its first hotel in SoCal, where the Beverly Hills Le Meridien is now. Other hotels in NY, Miami and the Carib will follow-- mostly all conversions. The contract also stipulates the design of nine restaurants and lounges, the first of which will open in Brentwood in May. Bring it on! (This is the father of the whole boutique category we're talking about!)
Dubai is hopping this week with the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the enormous travel and tourism exhibition held at the Dubai World Trade Centre. With the tourism industry booming in the Arabian Gulf these days, the ATM is an important event for the hospitality industry, with oodles of exhibitors announcing new projects, hotels, and airlines. Dubai-based Elite Jets debuts today at the ATM, showcasing its luxury jet travel for VIP clients expecting the ultimate in convenience, luxury, and privacy. Established at the Dubai Airport Free Zone, Elite Jets has been around since November 2004, providing charter services for corporate and leisure travelers in the Middle East. (Its founding partners are National Airways Corporation and JML Investment Group.) The fleet consists of Raytheon Hawker 1000 aircraft, which have spacious, well-equipped cabins that can accommodate 9 passengers. In July, the portfolio will be expanded with the brand new Raytheon Hawker 850XP, which boast the largest cabins for midsize jets. It seems Elite Jets fills an important niche by providing the luxury travel option for reaching the world's fastest growing luxury destination.
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?
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 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The world-renowned architect's new landmark is stunning. Following in the footsteps of his extraordinary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the new hotel incorporates the same materials in its exquisite design, comprised of layered ribbons of colored titanium. As described by the Guggenheim Organization, "his ebullient structure is a response to the unbroken landscape of lush vineyards surrounding the building, while the hues of the colored metal are inspired by the rich tones of the sky and vineyard." The hotel is located in the heart of the Rioja wine region in Basque country, and will debut on July 1. Each of the 43 suites are uniquely designed by the architect, and equipped with luxurious amenities and the latest in technology. Other features to anticipate: the Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa (featuring "wine therapy"), rooftop bar and lounge with open fireplace, wine bar, swimming pool, and a large banquet hall converted from an ancient cellar. Starwood's Luxury Collection-- in joint management of the place with the leading wine company Vinos de los Herederos del Marques de Riscal-- touts its signature restaurant as "set to become one of Spain's leading centers for fine gastronomy, combining traditional Rioja cuisine with modern influences by the well-known Echaurren Restaurant (1 Michelin star)." Bring it on.