March 7, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Plan ahead for the perfect summer escape to Russia's cultural capital: the magnificent city of St. Petersburg. During the last 10 days of June, darkness never falls and the lively White Nights festival inspires a celebration of ballet, dance, art, and rich history. Where to stay? The Grand Hotel Europe, perfectly situated in the heart of St. Pete's, has completed a dramatic renovation including a complete refurbishment of 200 rooms and suites, upgrade of the hotel's main entrance, and a redesign for the Caviar Bar restaurant. French designer Michel Jouannet also transformed the Grand Hotel Europe's sister establishments, the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Copacabana Palace in Rio. Choose a room on the historic first floor, and enjoy the services of your own personal butler.
Sir Richard Branson has scored another one. A gem of a Caribbean island, that is. The founder of the Virgin group of companies (including Virgin Atlantic airline and Virgin Galactic) purchased Mosquito Island in the British Virgin Islands for $13.2 million and plans to convert it into a luxurious, eco-friendly resort. Accessible by boat from Virgin Gorda, the 124-acre Mosquito Island sits in North Sound about a mile from Necker Island, Branson's other Caribbean paradise, a favorite celebrity hideaway. Plans are in the works for the resort to be environmentally-savvy: the resort will be powered by renewable energy sources (wind, wave, and solar power); the Balinese style guest buildings will be built from sustainable materials; electric buggies will serve as the transportation. Branson aims to make his resort island carbon-neutral, providing an example for other resort properties in the Caribbean.
Never fear: the island was named for the Indian tribe, and not the pesky insect.
Never say never. Disney and Four Seasons have just announced a partnership in Orlando. Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge golf courses (a mere 900 acres) will be converted into a luxury resort and golf community that will include a Four Seasons hotel. So side-by-side with the timeshare homes and a sprawling retail development, Four Seasons will entice guests to check into serious luxury. Slated to open in 2010, the new hotel will be situated in the northeast region of Walt Disney World. Apparently, this project will be comparable in size to Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park. Let the magic begin.
The award-winning Palms, the 72-suite resort on Grace Bay Beach, will be morphing into the new Regent Resort. Now's your chance to enjoy the powder fine sand and azure waters of the Turks and Caicos with an exclusive preview offer. Experience the resort's world-class amenities (25,000 square foot spa, multi-million dollar infinity pool, lighted tennis court, and nearby 18-hole golf course), snorkeling, scuba, and endless surfside activities before the Regent makes its debut on April 2, 2007. Throughout the month of March, enjoy special rates at this luxurious boutique resort: Oceanview Suite (1 bedroom) for $875 a night, Oceanfront Suite (1 bedroom) for $995 per night, Oceanview Suite (2 bedroom) for $1,775, and the Oceanfront Suite (2 bedroom) for $1,600 per night.
The gorgeous Villa Olmi Resort, one of the region's most exclusive properties, is also one of Italy's best kept secrets. Newly-opened in 2006, the Renaissance Villa is situated on an enchanting six hectare estate just outside Florence. Surrounded by beautifully manicured Italian gardens and a lovely heated pool, the Villa embraces its historical setting. The careful restoration enhanced the original architectural details (like the 18th century frescoes that adorn each room) while equipping all guest rooms with the technology and comforts of a contemporary five star hotel: plasma screen TVs, DVD players, wireless Internet, marble bathrooms with jacuzzis. The hotel's furnishings--antiques, Murano glass chandeliers--are refined and elegant. This spring, enjoy some excellent packages at Villa Olmi, like the Morning of Art package, which includes three nights accommodation, bottle of Tuscan wine on arrival, three hours walking tour in the city with private guide, two tickets for the Accademia Museum, wine-tasting with cheese and cured hams in the private cave, and complimentary buffet breakfast. Starting from EUR 330 nightly.
Announcing the hottest new restaurant in South Beach: LA's trendy, celebrity-beloved Table 8 has moved in on Miami's dining scene (recently profiled in the NYT by Mark Bittman). Bon Appetit raved, "It's hard to find a place where the scene is hot, the chef is hotter, and the food is actually worth the hype..." Celebrity chef Govind Armstrong, who launched his career at the tender age of 13 with Wolfgang Puck at Spago, recently opened a branch of his LA hot spot in The Regent Hotel South Beach. The restaurant features a main dining room, private VIP dining room, and a wine room. There is also a cool 40-seat lounge situated beneath the hotel's glass-bottom pool. Be sure to order the salt-roasted Porterhouse Steak, hailed by the Robb Report as the Best of the Best (2004).
Manhattan's chic Bryant Park, midtown's first luxury designer hotel, is stylish, contemporary, and utterly fabulous. The Bryant Park suites are the essence of sophistication: French doors separate the living and bedroom areas, hardwood floors are adorned with Tibetan rugs, Travartine marble bathrooms are outfitted with both deep soaking tubs and separate showers, the technology is state-of-the-art (Bose Wave Music system, iPod docking station, etc). And of course the views from the hotel, housed in the Gothic-Revival-style American Radiator Building, are stupendous. Enjoy a weekend jaunt to NYC and score a fantastic rate with the Suite Escape package at Bryant Park. The package includes luxurious accommodations in a Bryant Park Suite, Raymond Hood Suite, or The Penthouse, chilled champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, full American breakfast for two served in-room daily, welcome amenity upon arrival, and complimentary late check-out at 1 pm. The package, excluding taxes, is priced from $659 until June 24, 2007; $599 from June 25-September 2, 2007; $699 September 5-December 31, 2007.
The kingdom's leading luxury hotel is mind-blowing. First, there's the 875-foot office tower which is the tallest building in Saudi Arabia. There's the gargantuan ballroom, designed to host up to 4000 guests. The on-site stained glass window which is the largest such work ever produced. With dedicated 24-hour butler service, the hotel has proved a pioneer in Saudi Arabia's luxury hotel market with this elevated standard of personalized service. And, last but not least, the incredible Globe restaurant. Encapsulated in the stunning golden geodesic orb that tops Al Faisaliah Tower, the restaurant features staggering views of Riyadh. The three-story restaurant is topped by the city's first cigar lounge while scenic glass elevators and a staircase on the interior rim of each of the three floors bring guests to a truly unrivaled destination. Al Faisaliah, a Rosewood Hotel, sets the standard for elegance in the Middle East.
What's not to love about this gracious London establishment? Situated in the fashionable area of Belgravia, just minutes from Hyde Park and the shops of Sloane Street, The Berkeley is home to the Michelin star-rated Petrus restaurant and trendy drinking spot, The Blue Bar. Indulge in the celebrated afternoon tea at the Caramel Room, with its fashionista motif; Pret-a-Portea adds a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English Afternoon tea, with cakes and pastries inspired by every fashion season's catwalk designs. Relax and be pampered in the rooftop spa, or chill out in your richly-appointed guest room. Lose yourself in luxury at The Berkeley, where weekend breaks are available for as low as GBP 179 per night (Wow). Valid until April 29, 2007.
March 1, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
An American institution that has hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce, The Willard InterContinental was recently listed as one of the most iconic buildings in the US. The Empire State Building and the White House topped the list of America's Favorite Architecture, according to a public poll of the 150 best works of architecture conducted by Harris Interactive and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The only DC hotel on the list, The Willard dominates the Pennsylvania corridor between the White House and the Capitol and was originally built in 1901 on the site of an older Willard property. At that time, Joseph Willard Jr. decided to create one of the city's first skyscrapers to "out-dazzle" anything else on the Washington horizon. The hotel's style? French Second Empire Beaux-Arts, distinguished by vast proportions and great columns, with an interior marked by huge chandeliers, inlaid mosaic marble tile floors, elaborate plaster work and painted and carved ceilings. Truly majestic. The newspapers of the day raved that The Willard was "The Handsomest of Washington Hotels," and today, guests are still dazzled by the hotel's architectural magnificence.