November 28, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After all, the guy turns 400 next year. And the country is going nuts in celebration. Rembrandt 400 is a yearlong party for the artist's 400th birthday. Unique exhibitions and events are scheduled, and travel agents are jumping on the bandwagon with special packages galore. The first of the spectacular exhibitions-- Rembrandt's Mother, Myth and Reality-- opens on December 16 in the Municipal Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden (the artist’s birthplace). In Amsterdam, The Masterpieces opens on January 2, exhibiting 400 exceptional paintings. Why not stake out a room at The Dylan Amsterdam, situated in a 17th century landmark on one of the city's most famous canals? Smack in the city center, but the essence of tranquil.
The Dylan Amsterdam, Official Site
The Dylan Amsterdam, Five Star Alliance
November 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Starwood just announced that it acquired the Le Meridien brand of 130 hotels and resorts for $225 million. For the 24 million Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) customers, this means more choice in markets like Paris, Nice, Dubai and London. Additionally, Starwood will gain properties where it doesn't have them currently, in spots like Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Budapest, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
Looking for a winter respite close to home? Charleston, SC will lure you with its sub-tropical climate, history, charm and beautiful architecture. Tour the antebellum homes, play a round of golf at more than 20 courses in the area (including Kiawah, Wild Dunes and the new Arnold Palmer signature course at Rivertowne), or relax on the white sand beaches just 15 minutes from the city center. And this time of year, there are countless special offers at hotels in the area. My pick? The romantic Charleston Place (an Orient Express hotel), with its two great restaurants, elegant rooms, and Spa with horizon edged pool with retractable glass roof. The staff is all about Southern hospitality. Rates as low as $189 are available from November 27-30, and December 18-December 22. Other great deals? Try Kiawah Island Golf Resort, with its zillion activities and trails through nature preserves. For the end of November, rates are a steal at $117.
Charleston Place, Official Site
Charleston Place, Five Star Alliance
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Official Site
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Five Star Alliance
Read about Charleston in The Washington Post’s Vagablog
Vieques has been declared by travel guides to be among the world's best-kept vacation secrets. I guess if the secret's out-- now would be a pretty good time to jump on this special offer at the Martineau Bay Resort and Spa. (Before the hordes descend.) Situated eight miles off Puerto Rico's east coast, the island of Vieques is quiet, secluded, and breathtakingly beautiful. The Martineau's got it all, with tennis courts, pristine beaches, water sports and a world-class spa. Through December 18, rates are $139 a night (double room). Combined with Jet Blue's ridiculously low fares to San Juan, how could you pass this up?
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Official Site
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Five Star Alliance
November 23, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Can't find a turkey in Japan? How 'bout cooking up a Cornish hen with wasabi? Feasting in Amsterdam? Let your host invite every single guest in the hotel (the more the merrier, right?) No supermarket in El Salvador? Chase down the turkey (and chop off that head) yourself! Our stories pale next to yours. Send 'em in! We’d love to hear about your adventures gobbling down turkey in foreign lands.
The brand voted Europe's Leading Luxury Hotel Brand has announced plans to open a hotel in the heart of the Czech capital. Not new construction-- this jewel will be created out of (count 'em) five historical monuments. The most significant of which is ancient St. Thomas' Monastery, dating from the 1400s. Courtyards, wine vaults, elegant garden squares, and cloistered terraces-- galore. The 101 ginormous rooms enjoy fantastic views over the city. (The Presidential Suite is a measly 150 sq meters.) I'm awaiting its opening with bated breath. (Not til 2007, folks.)
The rumors were too devastating to bear: The Plaza to be gutted and stuffed with luxury condos?!? The fall of New York’s legendary landmark—possibly the most storied hotel in the United States—seemed the end of an era. After 100 years of hosting movie stars, dignitaries, and lots of drunken NYC debutantes… But admirers of Eloise (my all-time favorite childhood book), the legend lives on! Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has just announced plans to manage this National Historic Landmark. After a $350 million renovation, the new Plaza will contain 282 luxury hotel rooms (including those dreaded condo units and heaps of retail space), ready in early 2007.
In the rugged wilderness of West Texas, between Big Bend National Park and the Mexico border, lies a unique destination resort situated on a 25,000-acre private estate. Lajitas is surrounded by the awesome scenery that—as Architectural Digest explains—inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign into law the creation of Big Bend National Park. This exquisite landscape is etched with the history of the infamous characters from the Old West. The lodging? This ain’t tents around the campfire. Along with the resort’s endless array of activities, Lajitas offers luxurious cowboy chic. Of the 92 rooms, no two are alike—each outfitted with plush robes and lavish Agave amenities. (Suites and private haciendas also available.) The resort has designed a host of fun and clever packages. The “Ultimate Golf Package”—with unlimited golf and lunch on the course—is $250 a night. With the optional 19th hole in Mexico, Ambush at Lajitas is the world’s only international course. Unlimited rounds of golf are complemented by unlimited carts, balls, and beverages. My fave is the “So You Wanna Be A Cowboy” package, where guests participate in a slew of activities, starting with a custom-fitting of cowboy boots. Next on the agenda? Learn how to use a gun of the Old West at Greasewood Flats, Lajitas’ very own cowboy action shooting range. After breakfast on Day 2, head out on a trail ride to the Buena Suerte Mine and Ghost Town, then star-gaze by a roaring campfire while enjoying a gourmet feast. Starting at $400 per person.
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Official Site
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Five Star Alliance
The legendary New Orleans establishment has opened again with a full range of services. The Windsor Court is well-known as one of the world’s finest hotels, with overly-spacious suites, superb service and cuisine, and the finest collection of European art in the South. In its 20 year history, the Windsor Court has remained a fixture at the top of all the World’s Best lists (Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway, you name it…) Post-Katrina, the hotel is not only housing clients associated with the city’s rebuilding, but is also offering a “Returning Home” rate for locals who need a place to stay while overseeing home repairs. The rate of $235 a night includes suite accommodation, breakfast for two in the New Orleans Grill, and parking. Additionally, the hotel can stock your refrigerator with groceries and configure the in-room phone line to accept forwarded calls from your home or business.
The Windsor Court Hotel, Official Site
The Windsor Court Hotel, Five Star Alliance
At last week’s World Travel Awards, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality group was recognized as the “Middle East’s Leading Hotel Brand.” In addition, Jumeirah’s hotels in Dubai—the Burj al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, and Jumeirah Emirates Towers—received a bounty of accolades. The Burj Al Arab, Jumeriah’s flagship, was honored as the “World’s Leading Hotel,” not surprising for the hotel most often recognized as the world’s most luxurious. Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, received four awards including Middle East’s Leading Resort and World’s Leading Conference Resort. Additionally, the Emirates Towers won two prestigious awards: World’s Leading Business Hotel and Dubai’s Leading Hotel. (Notably, last February Jumeirah’s business hotel launched the Chopard floor, an entire floor devoted to female business travelers.) Since its establishment in 1997, Jumeirah has won over 130 international travel and tourism awards. Starting in early 2006, Jumeirah will take over management of the Essex House in New York.
Burj al Arab, Official Site
Burj al Arab, Five Star Alliance
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Official Site
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Five Star Alliance
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Official Site
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Five Star Alliance