March 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Dubai's got it all. But the mouth-dropping reflex still hasn't been tempered with each new juicy detail I learn about Dubai's growth. (With the progression of developments from the initial underwater restaurant, the globe's unique seven-star hotel, the private manmade islands of The World, and indoor skiing facility at the SnowDome.) Instead, I marvel at the UAE's new craze for speed: the Ferrari theme park slated for Abu Dhabi and the MotorCity Autodrome and Business Park in Dubai. MotorCity is a fully-integrated auto/motor sports facility with racing track, humongous grandstand, surrounding office park with conference facilities, entertainment, dining and retail complex, and-- get this!-- a "destination development" for upscale villas in a residential community called UPTOWN MotorCity. How rad.
Palma de Mallorca-based Barcelo Hotels and Resorts recently acquired the five-star Karmina Palace Hotel along Mexico's Pacific Coast near Manzanillo. The 324 all-suite, all-inclusive resort has long been known as a world-class, premium destination, and the new Barcelo management will surely only enhance that reputation. (Barcelo operates 10 luxury properties throughout Mexico.) This baby-- for which they shelled out $48.2 million-- is rated AAA Four Diamond and offers an 18-hole golf course, swanky accommodations, three restaurants and four bars, eight swimming pools with waterfalls, children's club, fitness center and spa, and a theater. The Barcelo Karmina Palace Hotel is uber-family-friendly, and superior service is not abandoned with the convenience of the all-inclusive plan.
Here in Washington we're already going gaga over the annual flowering of the Cherry Blossoms. The festival doesn't get rocking until next weekend, but the flowers are a-blooming and travelers are enjoying the best time of year to visit the nation's capital. Below I've compiled some articles for your perusal and pleasure:
National Cherry Blossom Festival, Official Website
The Washington Post, "2006 Cherry Blossom Guide"
Fodor's Travel Wire, "Think Pink: Spring Cherry Blossom Festivals"
Fodor’s Travel Wire, "Essential Washington, D.C."
The Informed Traveler, "Luxurious DC Cherry Blossom Package at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington"
Holy week in Seville takes place in the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter (April 9-16 this year): an incredible celebration and melancholy observance at the same time. The cloaked Cofradias (Brotherhoods)-- their eyes and faces hidden by huge conical hats-- process through the city's narrow, winding streets. Some barefoot, burdened with crosses, or huge fantastic floats of the Virgin Mary or Jesus, kneeling in penitence as they circle from their church to the Cathedral of Seville and back-- passing mobs of citizen revelers and eager onlookers. The streets are absolutely packed with extended families (from infants to grandmothers) who gather to watch the processions of 57 brotherhoods carry 116 marvelous floats through the streets. To witness this religious ritual is a once-in-a-lifetime must. Where to stay in the exquisite historical city of Seville? The Hotel Alfonso XIII, of course! Built in 1929, the posh royal palace was inaugurated by the King for which it was named. A fixture on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, the hotel is the essence of opulence. (Hurry, rooms are still available! My pick are the Moorish-themed rooms, with their tasteful and elegant furnishings.)
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Official Site
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Five Star Alliance
Disney descended on Hong Kong last September, and-- in the ultimate symbol of China's newly (and increasingly) ravenous consumer hunger-- is now planning a park on the Chinese mainland as well. Indeed, Hong Kong Disneyland was so mobbed during the Lunar New Year that hordes were denied entrance to the park. As quoted by CNN:
"China has a very large population. We now have 1.3 billion people. The market is very large. As far as I know, Hong Kong Disneyland is now very crowded," said Shao Qiwei, director of China's State Administration of Tourism, whose comments were broadcast on Hong Kong's Cable TV.
The first new hotel to open in Monaco in 75 years, the $260 million Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel has reinvented Monte Carlo, bringing back the chic and legendary glamour of the Roaring Twenties on the Riviera. Set on the edge of the sea, with sweeping azure views, the hotel is elegantly situated within four hectares of Mediterranean gardens and lagoons. Just minutes from Nice. Lounge by the glass-domed indoor swimming pool, or relax in the adjoining spa, a contemporary and luxurious paradise complete with 12 treatment rooms, fitness center and Turkish baths. In the evening, watch the sunset from the sea-view bar, and then indulge in the gastronomic pleasures of four stellar restaurants, including one directed by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. And the nightlife—as expected—is exceptional.
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Official Site
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Five Star Alliance
South Florida's national historical landmark is renowned for its luxurious, Old-World European accommodations, and impressive resort amenities. Located in Coral Gables, the destination hotel features the 18-hole, Donald Ross-designed championship golf course, 10-lighted tennis courts, fitness center, fine restaurants and bars, private wine cellar club, and an enormous pool (the largest in the continental US!) with private cabanas. Reasons to go now? Besides the new and deliciously-luxurious Biltmore Spa--12,000 sq. ft. with spectacular views, wet rooms with hydrotherapy tubs and Vichy showers, connecting specialty suites for couples, exceptional men's and women's locker facilities with steam and sauna rooms, a signature line of Solarte of Provence amenities, and state-of-the-art treatments -- The Biltmore is currently offering a promotion for a free night! Make a booking for four nights, and pay for only three.
The Biltmore, Official Site
The Biltmore, Five Star Alliance
March 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now is the time for an end-of-season hurrah. The biggest ski resort in North America may also be the most fabulous. Whistler boasts the biggest vertical rise in North America (a whopping 5,280 feet) and the most terrain (we're talking 8,171 acres). Additionally, there's a meager 100,000 acres of Heli and SnowCat backcountry skiing on the surrounding Coast Mountain range. Where to stay? The Pan Pac is where it's at, consistently rated the best, most luxurious spot in Whistler. Here's why: the suites offer full kitchens, balconies, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. Resort amenities are world-class: outdoor heated swimming pool, outdoor hot tubs with spectacular mountain views, fitness center, spa and steam room.
Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, Official Site
Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, Five Star Alliance
March 9, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
My home town is getting a makeover and I couldn't be happier. Kimpton-- that most delightful hotelier-- has bought the aged, decrepit Holiday Inn in Old Town, Alexandria and plans a complete overhaul. At long last: the return of glamour and class to this prime real estate in the heart of Old Town's cobblestone streets, flickering gas lamps and gorgeous colonial homes! Kimpton is pumping in $22 million in its conversion; the new Hotel Monaco, Alexandria will have 241 colorful and unique guest rooms, a pool, fitness club, and fine dining. Bring it on.
March 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
March is upon us, and for serious skiers (but those who prefer not to jet to the Southern Hemisphere during the other half of the year), this means the last days of the season on the slopes. And for some of the finest skiing in Europe-- away from Turin's still dissipating crowds-- the French Alps beckon. And the elegance and exceptional location of Hotel de Charme Les Airelles prove temptingly attractive. A grand chalet of the past, this place still embodies the prestigious old-world days of opulence and grandeur. During the 1992 Winter Olympics, Les Airelles served as home to the International Olympic Committee. Basking in its beautiful setting, with ski runs at the door, the hotel boasts an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam and Turkish bath.
Hotel de Charme Les Airelles, Official Site
Hotel de Charme Les Airelles, Five Star Alliance