October 3, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Look out, Four Seasons. Shangri-La, the largest operator in Asia of deluxe hotels (raking in revenue of about $1 billion a year) is coming to Europe. According to a recent IHT article, the Hong Kong-based company is "on a major expansion spree, with 44 new hotels to be developed over the next four years, and the company is still seeking more sites." Indeed, the chief executive, Giovanni Angelini, personally scouted the ideal spot in Paris for Shangri-La's first luxury hotel in Europe: the historic palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte near the Trocadero. The hotel group is also looking at major American cities and European capitals. Significantly, Shangri-La is the largest operator of luxury hotels in China and is planning to double its current 20 hotels by 2010. To quote Angelini:
"By the year 2020, it is expected there will be more than 100 million Chinese travelers," he said. "Can you imagine the impact? Japan has made a tremendous impact in the industry and it never reached more than 17 million travelers.
October 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Adored by Madonna, the super-stylish Blue Bar-- located by the lobby of the Berkeley hotel-- is oft considered one of London's best bars. Designed by David Collins, the 50-seat bar is distinguished by the black crocodile print leather floor, white onyx bar, sunken seat area, and, most of all, by the gorgeous color of the room, which the designer has dubbed "Lutyens Blue." The drinks list includes a wide selection of Champagnes, original and contemporary cocktails, wine by the glass, and over 50 different whiskies. (There's even a Grape and Smoke menu for guests to pair cigars with carefully chosen wines.) In addition to the olives, caramelized nuts, and tasty nibbles which accompany each drink order, guests also enjoy the Asian-inspired tapas menu, which includes delicate and delicious dishes like queenie scallops with wasabi and lime vinaigrette, char smoked salmon with basil and yogurt, lime leaf and chicken on coconut crisp and citrus coulis rice paper, and nori wrapped vegetable rolls.
September 28, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
I recently had the honor of visiting Hotel Fouquet's Barrière before its November 3, 2006 opening date. In a city of superlatives--Paris is the most romantic and beautiful metropolis of them all--the luxury hotel scene sets the standard for elegance, sophistication, and impeccable service worldwide. I was pleased to discover (even with construction underway) that Hotel Foquet's Barrière proudly carves its own place in this impressive roster of opulent Palace Hotels.
The new kid on the block sports two defining characteristics that are hard to come by in Paris-- an enormous Spa with stunning swimming pool-- and location, location, location. Hotel Foquet's Barrière stands prominently on the corner of two fabled boulevards: the Champs-Elysées and Avenue George V. Surrounded by chic designer boutiques (Hermes, Louis Vuitton) and fine dining, the hotel is perfectly situated at the nexus of the Triangle d'Or.
A word about the architecture. Celebrity architect Édouard François has created a contemporary masterpiece by fusing the old and new. Attached to the legendary Brasserie Fouquet's, the hotel is comprised of five Haussman-style buildings located around a central interior garden. The project is extraordinary, years in the making, and destined to become a destination in its own right. All the buildings were not originally connected. As I walked around the outside of the hotel, I noticed how the architect created a faux Haussmann-style façade which has been molded onto the exterior of the newer adjoining buildings: on this grey stone--which is in marked contrast with the sandy colored old buildings it adjoins--the architect has superimposed large contemporary windows which are rectangular in shape and placed perpendicular, against the grain, to the corresponding window cut-outs in the façade.
And the interiors are just as remarkable. Interior designer Jacques Garcia has created 107 lavish guest rooms in a combination of art-deco and empire style. Utilizing rich velvets, leather, gold leaf, shark skin, precious marble, and plush fabrics, Garcia has created posh, imperial spaces that are also extremely comfortable. I've never seen beds so big. Bathrooms are like mini-spas, decked out in marble, with large bath and separate walk-in rainshower room. In the Presidential Suite, the large jetted tub actually overlooks the grand stretch of Champs-Elysées (though these rooms are ultra sound-proofed for peace and quiet.) The Presidential Suite, like all guest rooms, is equipped with the most cutting edge technology: the flat screen TV is embedded in the mirror, totally invisible until turned on.
The U Spa Barriere is located underground, a vast restorative space that includes seven private treatment rooms, fully equipped fitness room, hammam, steam room, sauna, and the hotel's gem: the gorgeous swimming pool. Besides the famous Brasserie, the hotel will feature Le Diane restaurant, overlooking the garden, and Le Lucien bar. Above, an enormous teak rooftop terrace offers the perfect space for private receptions, with views of the Eiffel Tower.
I think I'm in love. 35 days and counting…until we can get pampered in style in the City of Light.
September 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Brown's Hotel-- the stylish boutique from Europe's finest luxury hotelier, Rocco Forte-- is beloved not only for its elegant accommodations but also for its fine dining venue, The Grill. With years of culinary experience at the Savoy, Harry's Bar, and The Ritz, award-winning Executive Chef, Laurence Glayzer, crafts traditional English fare with a contemporary, continental twist using only the best local produce. The ambience is like an elegant club, with wood paneling, 1930s design, and banquette booths. Brown's recently introduced the pre-theatre dining menu at The Grill, for West End theatre goers to indulge in the perfect, light meal before heading out on the town. From 6-7 pm, diners choose from a set menu of two courses (GBP 25) or three courses (GBP 30). The Grill also offers a Sunday Jazz Brunch with a three-course set menu that offers four options per course and 1/2 bottle of house wine at GBP39.50 per guest. Delightful dishes include roast rib of beef off the carving trolley, Eggs Benedict, grilled rump steak and fried egg with corned beef hash, and a selection of other brunch style dishes.
September 20, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Oktoberfest in Munich is in full swing. And the beer-guzzling merriment of the world's biggest beer festival--16 days of revelry--will continue until October 3, 2006. The 14 beer tents collectively seat over 100,000 patrons and over the course of the festival, an estimated 6 million visitors will down 6 million liters of specialty brew, accompanied by the best kind of German grub (schnitzel, sauerkraut and sausage galore). But it's more than a keg fest. There's entertainment, theater and shows, and carnival rides a plenty. Munich is hopping with activity. If a last minute trip to Europe's biggest festival is in the works, stake your claim to a room at the Bayerischer Hof, the city's finest hotel-- its elegance a welcome respite from the frenzy of activity outside. Centrally located, the largest privately owned hotel in Germany boasts excellent restaurants, rooftop swimming pool, spa facilities with sauna, steambath, and solarium, and its own theater and night club. Or start planning for next year's merry-making, scheduled for September 22-October 7, 2007.
September 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The all-business class Maxjet Airways flies luxurious transatlantic service between London Stansted and New York and Washington. Maxjet planes (Boeing 767s) carry half their original capacity, so 102 passengers enjoy double the space per seat. The service is fantastic: gorgeous pre-departure lounges where beverages and canapes are served, multi-course gourmet meals, a Chef's pantry, premium liquor, on-demand entertainment, and deep-recline, all-leather seats onboard. Maxjet Airways features all-business class at affordable rates. To celebrate its first anniversary, Maxjet is offering an unbelievable fare sale of only $999 round trip from either New York JFK or Washington Dulles to London Stansted. Tickets must be booked between September 19 and October 1, 2006 for travel anytime between November 1, 2006 and February 28, 2007. The promotion code for the sale fare is ANNV06 and can be booked at Maxjet's Web site.
The myriad charms of Turin were revealed to the world during the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. And it's no wonder the vibrant city now tops the list of holiday getaways for travelers this year. This winter, hit the slopes near Turin and stay at the chic Le Meridien Lingotto, formerly a Fiat automobile factory. It's a masterpiece of modern design and restoration: loft-style guest rooms still preserve the original Fiat glass walls (lots of natural light) and the rooftop track which was once used to test cars, is now used by guests for a morning run. From the rooftop, gaze out at Turin's beautiful cityscape of churches and castles: the rich culture of Italy at your feet. And be sure to explore the top floor art gallery, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. The hotel is directly connected to the Lingotto Exhibition and Congress Center, designed by famed architect Renzo Piano— its first floor occupied by a one-kilometer long shopping small "8 Gallery" with excellent boutiques and cafes.
Berlin's newest five-star hotel will open its doors on October 12, 2006. Located in the heart of the city, the Hotel de Rome is housed in an historic building originally constructed in 1889 and retains much of the original architectural detail. The 146 guest rooms showcase a combination of classical design and contemporary "Berlin style" glass and steel, with all the latest cutting-edge technology, including Broadband Internet and interactive flat-screen television. Bathrooms feature mosaic marble detailing above double-ended baths, and separate walk-in showers. The 120 square meter Presidential Suite features a gorgeous full-length terrace overlooking Bebelplatz. The hotel also boasts six conference rooms and banquet hall, restaurant, bar, health and fitness center with swimming pool, and Spa with five treatment rooms, steam, sauna, and plunge pool.
To celebrate its opening, the Hotel de Rome is pleased to offer a special promotion: "Hotel de Rome Best Friends." When you make a reservation during the months of October and November 2006, you'll receive an automatic room upgrade, a welcome drink with canapés and a VIP special gift. Please quote "Hotel de Rome Best Friends" when booking. Offer subject to availability.
According to GaultMillau— the influential French guide to restaurants, hotels and wine-- that honor goes to the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, named "Hotel of the Year" for 2006. The iconic landmark has wowed its high-profile clientele with impeccable service since 1861. And Forbes.com recently rated the hotel's new Cinq Mondes Spa "one of the most luxurious spas in the world."
But according to Andrew Harper's Hideaway report, the best international resort for 2006 is the Four Seasons Punta Mita, the Mexican paradise getaway just 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta (gorgeous oceanfront rooms, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, heavenly spa, and all that jazz.)
What's your vote?
Nestled in the gentle sloping foothills of the Pyrenees, the elegant city of Pau is excellently situated for jaunts into the mountains, by foot or on skis. Along the grand blvd des Pyrenees, the rugged mountain peaks emerge majestically through mist and cloud. Indeed the palm-lined promenade, packed with cafes and trendy bars, seems more reminiscent of Nice than the quiet neighboring villages of France's Southwest. This vibrant university town, long favored by travelers and wintering Brits for its mild climate and sweeping vistas, has transformed into a modern and stylish urban center. The nearby Jurancon vineyards lure oenophiles, and Pau natives point out the convenience of the Atlantic coast, just an hour away. Where to stay? On the edge of the Parc Beaumont, the famous public garden in the heart of Pau, the new Parc Beaumont Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel with elegant interior design. Excellent amenities include heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath in the spa, and exquisite gastronomic restaurant, Jeu de Paume. From the terrace in your suite, enjoy lovely views of the Pyrenees.